Transcript of Neil Patel Podcast with Eric Enge on Digg Marketing

Podcast Date: April 30, 2007

Neil Patel

The following is a written transcript of the April 30, 2007 podcast between Eric Enge and Neil Patel. This is part II of a two part series on how to win at Digg.:

Eric Enge: Hi, I'm Eric Enge, the president of Stone Temple Consulting. You can see our website www.stonetemple.com. I am here today with Neil Patel the CTO of ACS and we plan to talk about Digg. This is actually the second part of a two part series that Neil and I have been doing on that topic. You can see the ACS website at www.acsseo.com, and ACS also has a blog at www.pronetadvertising.com. Hi, Neil.

Neil Patel: How are you?

Eric Enge: I'm doing great. So, just to follow up on the discussion that we had last time, which was a little more focused on the technical aspects of putting together the right content in the right articles, and right titles and things for a Digg article. I want to talk a little bit today about becoming a top Digg user or doing the right things to get lots of Diggs for your articles from a promotional point of view. So, let's start with a discussion about how you become a top Digg user?

Neil Patel: The best way that I know of becoming the top user is just to suggest great content. One thing that I like doing is to go to the BBC.co.uk, CNN and all those popular sites; subscribe to the RSS feeds, and if you see anything great, submit it to Digg. By doing that you are going to get a lot of Homepage stories, and by getting tons of Homepage stories, you are going to get tons of users who will friend you.

Eric Enge: So, as we talked about last time, now the key is you want articles that fit the Digg audience; the young, male, technical audience. So, you are not putting random news up there; you are putting up something that has a little bit of spice to it, or maybe its anti-George Bush or anti-Microsoft, or something like that. I mean you have to pick the right content.

Neil Patel: Exactly. One great way to figure out if you are submitting something interesting, is to do a Digg search on the topic to see if anything has made the Homepage. If something has made the Homepage in the past, that is similar to some extent, you can try submitting it. If it hasn't or it barely got any Diggs, it will probably tell you that hey, the Digg audience isn't interested in those types of stories.

Eric Enge: Right. So, then you can bag that strategy.

Neil Patel: Exactly.

Eric Enge: Alright. So, how long does this process take, I mean how many times do you have to succeed in getting something out there before you start making your way up the ranks?

Neil Patel: I believe you probably have to get a hundred plus stories to the homepage before you are a top user or something close to that. Because, there are so many users, and they keep on submitting; it just gets harder and harder to get; to be a top hundred user. At one point you may have only needed ten stories to be a top hundred user, but now it's quite a bit of stories.

Eric Enge: Right. So, since we are using the term, why don't we define what we mean by a top Digg user?

Neil Patel: So, what I define as a top Digg user, is anybody who has quiet a bit of homepages, and is in the top hundred users. Anybody who is not in the top hundred is not a top user.

Eric Enge: Okay. So, is there another aspect of this that when you become a top user, when you submit a story, other people just sort of naturally look at your profile to see what stories you've submitted. And, in fact it kind of has an accelerating effect, doesn't it; where now that you've succeeded in getting all these stories out there, now your stories get out there just because you submit them.

Neil Patel: Definitely. I think it does have something to do with who is submitting it, so as a submitter, if you have a solid reputation that you've been submitting great stories for let's say three months or four months, and everybody is seeing your stories at the homepage, not your personal stories but just random stories that you are submitting, that are great. And then, you start submitting even more stories later on; you are a top user now, the chances of you getting stories to the homepage just go higher, because you've built that trust with the community that you are not giving them garbage.

Eric Enge: Right. And, the target basically is to get a hundred or so stories up there or more; that's not something that's going to happen in thirty days.

Neil Patel: Yeah. It usually takes quiet a while; I think some people have actually done it in thirty days. These are people who spend pretty much all their time on Digg, but it usually takes three months to get up there.

Eric Enge: Well, and that's a fairly hefty commitment of time, it seems to me. But, obviously as we talked about last time, there is a pretty good payoff. Now, isn't there also an aspect of using the friend's mechanism to build relationships with other people?

Neil Patel: Yeah. So, another easy way that people try to become a top user is that they friend a hundred, or two hundred other members. By doing this, they are hoping that those users will just vote on their stories blindly, which will help get some of those submissions to the homepage. You can also do this, and to some extent it is fairly effective, but to the key to the friend thing is you want those users to friend you back. It doesn't matter if you are friend of thousand people; it matters how many people friend you.

Eric Enge: Right. And, when they friend you, that doesn't mean that they automatically Digg your articles, right?

Neil Patel: Exactly, yeah. It does not mean that they are automatically going to Digg your articles; what ends up happening is, there is a little green star that appears on stories when any of their friends Digg or submit them. So, it just increases your chance that your friend is actually going to vote on the star, because it pops out.

Eric Enge: Right. Now, is there a way for a friend to tell whether you are voting on their stories back?

Neil Patel: There is. Under the Digg friend section, you can actually see what all your friends are voting on and, what stories your friends are actually even submitting. So, in that way a lot of people just go to their friend submit section, and they just vote on all the stories that their friends have submitted. Its kind of; let me just submit this, and I think you actually could potentially hurt your profile by just voting blindly all of your friends stories, because I think the Digg algorithm is sophisticated enough to know if someone is just looking to gaming it. They want someone who actually reading the story and voting on what they are like.

Eric Enge: Well, yes. There is an aspect of trust here, right. In an ideal world, the people you have friended with are people you trust, and maybe you don't blindly vote for all of their stories, but it's an indication that you trust their submissions. So, you would be more likely to vote for their stories, right? Even in the ideal world, I think.

Neil Patel: I agree with that; when I first started up using Digg, I had tons of friends and I would just vote blindly on a lot of their submissions. And, what ended up happening is; by doing that, I personally and I have no proof of this or anything like that, I just thought that it was getting harder for me to get stories to their homepage. But, they want to stop voting on tons of stories; I could have probably voted on twenty thousand to thirty thousand stories. What I'm doing now is, I just started voting on great stories that I actually liked and I read. And, by doing that I think, my percentage of stories that were hitting the homepage when I submitted them, increased.

Eric Enge: Right.

Neil Patel: And, I have no proof of it; it was just a trend that I saw. But, there could have been many other variables that are factors that cause all these newer stories to make their homepage ignore some of the older ones.

Eric Enge: Right. Now conversely, if you start a Digg account and you make the mistake of just self promoting everything; and like the content is in fact great. Did you sort of dig a little bit of a hole for yourself; no pun intended in terms of reputation with the community?

Neil Patel: I think you do, and a lot of people have made that mistake. I think the easiest thing to do when you do dig a hole is, start over, create a new account, and follow the rules, and the unwritten rules, such as you are not supposed to submit your own stuff. And, by starting that way I think you can do quite well without having to dig yourself out of that hole.

Eric Enge: Right. So, if you wanted your own stuff to go up, you really should get one of your friends to put it up there, and not do it yourself.

Neil Patel: Exactly. So, what I usually do is, if I have a great story on one of my own personal blogs, and I want it on the homepage of Diggs. I wait for either someone to submit it, naturally, or if I know someone that might like it, I might say "hey, check this story out, if you like it, submit it. If you don't like it, no pressure; you don't have to submit it".

Eric Enge: Right. I mean it's really important to remember for all its great strengths and its flaws, this really is a social media type site. And, you are in a community, and you have to behave like you are in a community, if you want to prosper there in the long term, it seems.

Neil Patel: Yes.

Eric Enge: Alright. So, what do you do when you are not a top user, and you want to get stories to the front page of Digg?

Neil Patel: The easiest thing to do is friend people that have similar interests to you on Digg, such as look at their voting patterns, and what stories that they actually mark as their favorite stories. And, see which users will have similar interest to your friends as you, and hopefully they will friend you back. And then, that way when you start submitting stories, you go and get some of your friends to vote on them, thus increasing the chance that these stories are going to make the homepage or anything you submit, makes the homepage.

Eric Enge: Right. But, now I'm talking about the situation where you are in fact self promoting, but you don't want to self promote. Should you get one of those friends that you have a closer relationship with and say "hey, I have this article over here you might like", and ask them to vote on it if they like it, like you said before, except you are not a top user yet. But, this way you are working with someone who is more watched on Digg, and have enough of a friendship with that they'll submit it for you. Does that make sense?

Neil Patel: Yeah, it makes sense. So, you are pretty much asking, what would you do or if you are self promoting before, and now you don't want to self promote and you want to get someone else to submit. How would you get one of the other friends to submit?

Eric Enge: Yeah.

Neil Patel: So, the easiest thing you can do is, find some other users on Digg, a lot of them as you list their AIM info as well as email info. Same way, talk to them just like you would do in the real world, right. If you can build that relationship with other user online, and then you can actually get a lot of those people to submit your stuff, if it's good. They are just looking to submit great content.

Eric Enge: Yeah. Or the other thing you can do too is; because you've learnt something about these people, you can do them a few favors before you ever ask them for one. And, you buildup a relationship, and they get a sense of trust and they know that you'll do things for them. And then, you turn around and you ask them a favor. It seems much more likely that they will do it at that point.

Neil Patel: I agree with you on that, and I think that's actually the best route to take. Provide more than you ask for, so if you want one favor, make sure you do two for them.

Eric Enge: Right.

Neil Patel: So, always do more.

Eric Enge: Build up some momentum. So, where can you still find the top user list for Digg?

Neil Patel: I believe that they have removed them all; one of that; I believe one of the old Netscapers used to create a top hundred list. And then, Digg sent them a cease-and-desist letter from my understanding. So, as far as I know, there isn't any top hundred user list out there.

Eric Enge: Right. So, you kind of have to work your way into the community to figure out who the real players are.

Neil Patel: Yeah. What I do is just look at the homepage, and look at the users who are getting a lot of stories on the homepage; chances are, they are one of the top users.

Eric Enge: Right. Because they are up there, many times a week.

Neil Patel: Exactly. And, sometimes you see them two to three times a day, maybe four times a day on the homepage. So, in most cases that's a top user.

Eric Enge: Alright. The definitely have something going if they are on the home page two to four times a day.

Neil Patel: Yeah. I think sometimes even three on the homepage at the same time within one day.

Eric Enge: Right. And, hopefully you don't have two to three for your own site on the homepage at one time; that would be…

Neil Patel: Yeah. They are often random sites like CNN or News.com, but that's the key, it's similar other peoples stuff.

Eric Enge: Right. So, let's talk a little bit about some common Digg mistakes?

Neil Patel: I think the most common mistake that I know of is, people try to leverage the community before they try to participate in the community, right. Who doesn't want to be on a homepage; but before you try to get on the homepage, sign up, participate in the community; learn what it's all about. And then, you are going to have a much better chance of even getting your own stories on the homepage or any story as a matter of fact, whether its yours or not on the homepage, because you understand the community and how they react, and what they are looking for. I think that's probably one of the major mistakes, and other than that, and I believe we talked about this in the last Podcast, people often write a great story but a crappy title and description; and when they do, you have pretty much burned the story. Because, not too many people click through; a lot of them just vote blindly, and if they get enough votes; you get to homepage. So, they are the two biggest mistakes I see going on.

Eric Enge: Right. And, you mentioned in one of your blog post not too long ago, the scenario with Market Wire submitted many of their press releases.

Neil Patel: I believe there was over a hundred or two hundred to three hundred or something. It was a very large amount, and none of them made the homepage. And, the thing is that like after you even submit ten and many of your press releases are not making the homepage, you should reevaluate it. Because, in most cases there is something wrong, but I think Market Wire whatever, that company was a PR company; they were just submitting it for high PR links. And, the thing is, I don't think it's too effective to get two hundred links from Digg. The value is not the same, because you have already been linked to by that site.

Eric Enge: Right, yeah. I mean it's interesting; you think there is some good general life advice there if you try something ten times, and it has been rejected all ten, maybe that's a hint.

Neil Patel: Exactly. It's like time to put in a new strategy or something, because whether you have a power account or not, you should be able to get at least one story out of ten stories to the homepage.

Eric Enge: Right. And, that makes sense. So, are there any other aspects of succeeding from a promotional standpoint in building your profile standpoint on Digg that you think we should cover?

Neil Patel: That's pretty much one or two of the key things that you should always keep in mind that A, you want to provide value so I'll think about the community first, right. Whatever they are like, that's what you want to feed them; because if you feed them that, chance are as can you get to the homepage.

Eric Enge: Right.

Neil Patel: And B, you want to make sure that you understand the audience. A lot of these people are; now they are young, they are in their twenties, and high school, and some of them are even younger than that. You need to cater to the audience; a lot of them are not a sophisticated audience like people at Harvard, MIT, or anything like that. So, if you start writing a post on how MIT is great, and if you don't go to college, you are dumb, probably you are not going to make the homepage. So, you really indeed understand the audience just like with any other advertising campaign. If you are going to buy banner ads you want to target them, it's the same thing. If you are going to promote something to the Digg audience, make sure you actually target the audience, and understand what they are all about.

Eric Enge: Well, it sounds great. Well, thanks a lot Neil, that was great.

Neil Patel: No problem. Thank you!

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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