The DiggBar Controversy

Digg recently released DiggBar to a wave of criticism normally reserved for Facebook whenever it rolls out a new piece of functionality. What has gotten folks, in particular SEOers and content producers, all riled up?

To the uninitiated, the DiggBar is an attempt by Digg to make their site as sticky as possible. With DiggBar, Digg has come really close to making that happen. In short, DiggBar allows users to interface with Digg without having to leave the “story page” or source site. It comes with it’s own URL shortner that people can use within Tweets/emails/IM’s/etc, and it even serves up related stories from other sites. To me, this sounds cool and really useful. I’m partially lazy and I really don’t want to have to bounce between the site I’m on AND Digg in order to vote on something or submit content. Too much work.

That said, I do see a potentially huge problem with how the shortner functions. The DiggBar URL shortner pretty much works like every other URL shortner out there. It takes a long URL and shortens it. What the DiggBar doesn’t do is redirect you to the site being shortened. Instead, it keeps you on a domain accompanied by the DiggBar along with the content from the target site.

Telegraph Example

SEO gurus seemed to be unanimous in their disdain for the DiggBar shortner and I can understand why. I’m not an SEO guy, but perhaps Brian Chappell can also add some insight into this. The problem, as I see it, is that the DiggBar URL shortner doesn’t do a 301 redirect to the target site. Rather, it spits out a 200 message. If a 301 were used, then this would ensure that traffic from the shortened URL would permanently end up at the target site’s URL. In other words, a 301 yells out “Hey, you are not supposed to be here. Go over there instead!” A 200 code, on the other hand, shouts “Success, you’ve made it to the right URL! No need to look anywhere else.” The result is that, with the DiggBar shortner, you never see the URL of the target site – you only see the URL. Given the large Digg userbase, I can see how this would ruffle some SEO feathers – and rightfully so. With this setup, you run the risk of missing out on a lot of “link juice,” as the SEOers say.

As a content producer and SEOer, what alternatives do you have? Well, Endgadget has come up with a solution that works for them. It basically forces a redirect to the original Endgadget site, therefore bypassing DiggBar altogether. There are already ports of the John Gruber solution in Rails, Django and WordPress. Firefox users who want control over what they see online have access to a Greasemonkey script. So, in a relatively short amount of time, people have developed all sorts of ways to get around DiggBar.

Hmm, after writing all of this, I think I just convinced myself to stick with Reddit.

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