Transcript of Podcast with Neil Patel

Podcast Date: April 4, 2007

Neil Patel

The following is a written transcript of the April 4, 2007 podcast between Eric Enge and Neil Patel. This is part I of a two part series on how to win at Digg.:

Eric Enge: Hi, I am Eric Enge, the president of Stone Temple Consulting; you can see our website at www.stonetemple.com. We are here today with Neil Patel, the CTO of ACS, and we plan to talk about Digg. Neil is known as an expert in this area, and it should be very entertaining. You see the ACS website at www.acsseo.com, and the ACS blog at www.pronetadvertising.com. So, with that let's get started. So Neil, why don't you start by giving us an idea of your thoughts on how big a role Digg should play in sites Web Marketing Strategy?

Neil Patel: Alright. It should actually play a big role; if you want to go after organic rankings; it is a great source to get a big boost of traffic, which hopefully will end up leading to quite a few natural organic links. And if you can get quite a few organic links, you can start getting ranking for all the major terms that you are trying to go after. So, it's a great and quick way to get a quick boost in organic links compared to purchasing text links; or doing reciprocal links; all those methods are great and should be considered in a marketing strategy. But leveraging Digg and sites like that, such as Netscape and all these other sites can give you a quick boost and they could be quite a bit more effective.

Eric Enge: Right. Now, if you're just starting out with a brand new site, and you literally have just gotten up live, and you've got some things that are Digg able; how does that work given that your site doesn't have a lot of trust in the search engines yet, and suddenly this burst of links come in? Is there a time delay effect you see in a situation like that, or is that affect that Digg strategy in any manner?

Neil Patel: It does quite a bit, and I too experience that quite a bit with my own blog at ProNet Advertising; what ended up happening is, we have ranked on Digg like twenty-five, thirty times or something like that. And, when we started the blog was pretty new; it only had let's say ten links, fifteen links, and then it started getting thousands and thousands of natural links because of the Digg Homepages and stuff like that. And, what ended up happening is; I wasn't really getting much search traffic from Google Yahoo. But, six months down the road after getting on the Digg front page about 10 times, all of a sudden I started getting a burst of Google traffic. And, they just started happening organically, because I think what ended up happening on the search engines initially was they saw too quick of a growth, especially with a brand new site.

Eric Enge: Right. Now, so that makes a lot of sense. And how about with different kinds of sites? There must be something to what's the right type of site to pursue this strategy with.

Neil Patel: So, you are saying what types of sites actually do fairly well on social sites such as Digg, Netscape?

Eric Enge: Yes.

Neil Patel: For tech sites and, political sites, you can pretty much get almost all topics on social media sites other than things like Forex Trading and stuff like that. Some topics are quite a bit harder to get on. But there is always a social network or social site out there that you can target for that specific type of content. So, although Forex Trading may not do too well on Digg, it may have a better chance on Netscape for example. So, look at what topic your website is on, and then trying to find out the social sites or social media sites that are most relevant to you.

Eric Enge: Right. So, it's matching the social media site to the type of content that you are trying to get Dugg.

Neil Patel: Exactly. It's just like advertising, right. So, if you are going to place a banner ad on a hundred sites or if you have a thousand dollar budget, you are going to place them on the most relevant sites. And, it's the same thing with social media sites; if you are going to go up to them and try to get on their homepage; you are on try to leverage the most relevant sites. Even if they don't grab the most traffic, they are going to be the most beneficial because you chance them getting on the homepage or quite a bit higher. Plus, the ratio of those users actually linking to your site, which is probably the most important thing for SEOs is quite a bit higher compared to, if you got on their homepage of a random social media site; that's not related to you.

Eric Enge: Right. And, the links of course, you get that way a more relevant as well.

Neil Patel: Exactly

Eric Enge: Right, right. So, just how big can getting the front on the front page of Digg be in terms of getting the links and traffic to your site?

Neil Patel: I have seen it where in rare cases some people have had a hundred thousand plus visitors from Digg. And, these are stories that received four thousand or five thousand Diggs which is rare, but they've been very popular. In most cases, I have seen anywhere from ten thousand to lets say thirty thousand in traffic from Digg. And, sometimes it is even less; it depends what time of the day you get on the homepage, and what topic did you get on the homepage for.

Eric Enge: Right. How about in terms of links; third party links that materialize in this process?

Neil Patel: And, in terms of links depending on the topic as well; I have seen anywhere from a few hundred links all the way up to few thousand. Ideal cases is like you get two thousand links, and the thing about Digg; the whole Digg effect is, it drives so much traffic, and so many links such as, if you get a link to by a Wired magazine; other people are going to end up seeing it. And then, the chances are, one of those visitors actually link seeing it, and then linking to you, is quite a bit higher than someone from Digg, linking to you.

Eric Enge: Right.

Neil Patel: Its basis whole a chain reaction, but overall I believe Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz did a study with quite a bit of stories, and overall he saw two thousand links by getting on the Digg homepage.

Eric Enge: Yeah. It's very, very impressive, and it's hard to ignore if you have been in the process of trying to build links organically to be able to do something so quickly; it is just amazing.

Neil Patel: Definitely. And, and then one thing to know what that is; although if you may see lets take two thousand links if he you get on the Digg homepage; a lot of those links are going to drop off, because a lot of them are going to be from Digg.com themselves. So overall, I would probably expect a thousand or so links by getting on the homepage if you are lucky.

Eric Enge: Right. So, you kind of have to take the short term link boost you see and divide it by two or something like that.

Neil Patel: Exactly.

Eric Enge: Interesting. So, related to this, there has been lot of controversy of late surrounding Digg, and the Digg clubs and the top user list disappearing. Do you think Digg is losing any of its luster or is it shining as brightly as ever for people who know how to use it?

Neil Patel: It is losing some of its luster with a lot of the top users. But the thing is that there are so many users out there who haven't heard of Digg yet. There are lets say a hundred top users or a thousand top users. Everybody else is not really effecting the results that much, so Digg is still growing and its growing at a rapid pace. They continue to implement cool new features, and are still growing at a rapid pace.

Eric Enge: Right. So, what's the type of content that is most likely to succeed on Digg?

Neil Patel: On Digg I would say, if you talk about YouTube, My Space; you can talk about Digg themselves any political type of content does pretty well; Linux topics, Apple does really well. If you say like, how you hate Microsoft that might do pretty well. Digg's not a big Microsoft fan; so the quick thing I would do is, if you are trying to get on the Homepage for example; if you are a website on politics; what I would do is, dig out what type of stories that you are trying to get on the homepage. Do some quick searches to see who in the past have actually made the homepage writing on those types of topics. And then, based on that, you can get a rough idea, what makes the homepage and what doesn't.

Eric Enge: Right. And, what's type of content that typically gets buried?

Neil Patel: If you say you love Microsoft; or you are business oriented such as Forex Trading. The main thing to keep it mind with the Digg audience is, they are very young. A lot of the people that I talk to, they all range from ages such as fourteen to the thirties and what not. But the majority are young, they are in high school or they are still in college, or they just graduated from college. So whatever you are submitting, you got to relate to them, because the problem is most of these guys don't know too much about politics. Netscape is a lot more political than Digg, and most of these Diggers are tech oriented. So, if you've seen that stuff that's not related to them; you're going to probably get buried and have a lot of harder chance of getting on the front page.

Eric Enge: Right. So, I've seen for example, that if you do sort of raw news type of stuff that really has almost no chance unless you are truly breaking something about one of the topics you mentioned before. Breaking news about My Space, and you bring it there; maybe you get somewhere, but other types of news; it seems to; that's the wrong environment.

Neil Patel: Exactly, because if you think about the audience, a lot of these guys don't even watch the general news or general news channels. So, they don't really care about hey, a teenage girl got abducted; although it is very important to read about that or understand that. But, it doesn't necessarily appeal to the Digg audience. But then, breaking news stories such as a dog in London took down the power of the whole city because he peed on some power lines or what not. That actually, would get on their front page; why, because it is foolish; it's humorous; it's true and it relates to the Digg audience.

Eric Enge: Right. And, I guess that's an important another aspect of what the Digg audience likes; they'd like that kind of humor or that irony, right. I think they are really unusual sort of thing, and it seems to appeal to the audience a lot.

Neil Patel: Exactly. They don't want the ordinary stories; they want something that's extraordinary stuff.

Eric Enge: Right. Now, I've also seen it happen sometimes that; that something gets on the front page of Digg, and then it just seems like to disappear and I've learned later that; there is this process of burying stories that basically gets them kicked out of the whole process. So, what's going on there?

Neil Patel: They base it off on percentages and all that kind of stuff; they have a complex algorithm that determines that the story should be removed. But, they pretty much do it; they just remove it from the front page. And, a lot of things that they look at is, what type of burying feature are they using? Are they marking it as spam; are they marking it as duplicate, inaccurate? So, there is a few options, and I don't know this for a fact, but based on what my observation is; someone marks it as spam, it hurts more than if someone marks it as inaccurate; or if three people mark it as inaccurate; it has a higher chance of getting removed, then if one person marked to spam, one marked is as duplicate, and one person marked it as inaccurate.

Eric Enge: Oh, interesting. So, it's the common nature of the votes that causes them to carry more weight.

Neil Patel: Exactly; because if everybody is marking as inaccurate; the story is probably inaccurate. But, if there is all these random markings; yeah, there maybe something wrong. But, it's less likely to have a bigger effect compared to if everybody is just marking it as the same thing.

Eric Enge: Right. I suppose you could argue that the distribution of what it's being called inaccurate, spam whatever, is somewhat random, and it just means that there is the group of people who don't like it, which doesn't necessarily mean that it shouldn't be there.

Neil Patel: Exactly.

Eric Enge: Alright; very interesting. So now let's start to think about, what it takes to do a good job of prepping a story for Digg. One of the things I understand that's incredibly important is to write a good title.

Neil Patel: Yeah. The title is very important because if you actually look at it; a lot of users just end up voting on a story based on the style and description and don't click through. A lot of people think that hey, if I have a great piece of content; it's going to get on the Digg homepage. No, that's actually not true, because you are going to have a large group of users, who are actually just going to digg something without even reading the content or potentially even bury it without reading the content; so you have to make sure that you are using a very attractive title and description if you are trying to get to the front page. And one thing to keep in mind with the title is, a lot of Digg users like resources, such as how two guides, lists, sure fire tips and stuff like that. So, stuff that's more everlasting and that can pretty much last forever and that's entertaining.

Eric Enge: Right. So, what's the best way to come up with a good title for your particular article?

Neil Patel: Well, I actually like brainstorming with a few people and just trying to come up with the most creative title that you can. The other thing I like doing is see what actually made the homepage in the past, and try to find their very popular stories, and analyze their title and description. Even if that story has nothing to do with your story, you can still see the elements that they use and try to carry that to your story; such as if you noticed that most of popular stories on Digg use how to in their title, you can try to incorporate how to within your title.

Eric Enge: Right. So, how to pick the title for Digg users; could be a sample. So, the other thing, I think you need to do is look at the audience. and I think this is why looking at the example titles is such a good idea, for the past titles that have succeeded can teach you about the audience. And, you have to remember who the audience is that, which as you said before is the fourteen to thirty male techy type users, and it's a way of studying your audience; and then stepping back and figuring out how to deliver your content to that audience.

Neil Patel: Exactly. And, if you really want to understand how important the title and description is; a few months ago I submitted a story, or someone else submitted it, on the first seven days of blogging, and what should you do as a blogger; as a brand new blogger. And, my server went down right after it was submitted. It didn't reach the homepage; it probably had like five votes or six votes. So, it wasn't due to the Digg traffic or anything like that, and the server was down for literally a day to two days, and it was just a bad outage that I had.

Eric Enge: Right.

Neil Patel: What's happening is this story still made the front page; why, because the title and description were great, and that one hit the front page, and it got thirty plus more Diggs before it hit the front page and the server was down. And, everybody was like oh, the Digg effect, that's why the server went down. So, that means people were voting or thirty plus people voted based on that title and description without even reading the story because they couldn't read the story, the server was down.

Eric Enge: Right. And, they just assumed it was the Digg effect, although it sounds like it was something else that was actually going on.

Neil Patel: Exactly. It was like a bad hard drive or something.

Eric Enge: Alright. So, expound upon that issue a little bit; if you get on the front page of Digg, it is in general a good idea to be prepared for the traffic. So, let's say we talk about one of these posts that gets a few thousand links; and may be twenty thousand, thirty thousand visitors in a short period of time. What should a webmaster anticipate in terms of demand, and how do they make sure they are ready for it?

Neil Patel: What webmaster should do is, make sure they are on a really big server with a lot of RAM; a CPU is important. But the problem is; or with the Linux server, Apache is how many hits per second can you really take? So, it's not necessarily the overall traffic; because you can get thousands of visitors within a day. But, it's when your server gets hit hard and you're let's say getting two hundred requests a second; that's when your server starts croaking because there is not enough RAM and Apache needs to restart and all that kind of stuff. So, you need to make sure that you have a lot of RAM in your server; I like using dedicated servers with at least four gigs of RAM if you are trying to get on Digg and actually stay up, and then the other thing I actually like doing is making sure you are running at least dual Zeon processors.

Eric Enge: Right.

Neil Patel: And, the easiest way is, if you don't have any of this; Media Temple has a hosting package called the Grid or something similar to that, for something like fifteen dollars a month. They have this big old cluster environment which allows you to put your website on there, and it can pretty much sustain Diggs, and that's what they create the whole environment for.

Eric Enge: Right. I have heard of hosting companies like that; it's essentially guaranteed to survive the Digg effect.

Neil Patel: Exactly.

Eric Enge: Yeah. That's very interesting. So, similar to the title, it seems like the description is also very important, although it may not be quite as important as the title; the description; maybe the rest of the story that the person reads. So, you have to do good job with that as well, don't you?

Neil Patel: Yeah. Description is very important, and you want to make sure that it's still somewhat appealing and that people actually; you want to entice them actually to click through to your website. Because, yeah you can get four thousand Diggs; but what's the point if a small percentage only clicks through to your website. And, that means that you are going to get less links. So, you want to entice them so that the description is attractive; plus it makes them want to click through and read more. Thus, hopefully more people will end up linking to you because of that.

Eric Enge: Right. And, description basically backs up the title; I mean you sort of made a promise with the title, and then with the description you begins to show that you are going to fulfill the promise.

Neil Patel: Exactly. And, one thing I like to do quite a bit is, take a little piece from the article itself; pop it in as a description and entice them; so that's like hey, this is what the article is about; it's like a little taste.

Eric Enge: Right.

Neil Patel: If they like it they are going to click through.

Eric Enge: Excellent. So, this is actually the first of two parts that Neil and I are going to do in talking about Digg and the Digg Effect and how to win a Digg. We are going to do a second part in the near future, and thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Neil.

Neil Patel: No, problem.

About the Author

Eric Enge is the Founder and President of Stone Temple Consulting (STC). STC offers Internet marketing optimization services, including SEO, Social Media and PPC optimization, and its web site can be found at: http://www.stonetemple.com.

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