Diggers Can’t Handle The Truth (About SEO)

It’s been a busy day, with me trying to provide some more balance and education about search engine optimization in today’s Why The SEO Folks Were Mad At You, Jason article. About two hours ago, I noticed it drew the attention of those on Digg. It jumped to the Tech News popular page, in fact. And about 30 minutes after that, it was gone.

Gone? Flagged as spam by some, which seems to be a euphemism for some on Digg to mean "I just don’t like a story that I didn’t bother to read." Let’s see some of the ignorance and absurdity, shall we?

Check out the story post on Digg. I’ve been in there replying to many of the comments made. If you’re unaware, many on Digg hate any mention of SEO, since their experience of it is mostly with people trying to promote sites through Digg.

As my original article explained — as Greg Boser explained even better today — much of that Digg spam isn’t actually down to SEO. But just as many bloggers have assumed that SEO = trackback and blog spam, you’ve got many Diggers also making mistaken assumptions.

It was kind of nice to see the article make Digg. I’d actually joked with someone that if I wanted to really try and educate many on Digg about mistaken notions of SEO, I’d need to redo the article next week into 25 bullet points. Then it became popular and I thought wow — maybe people at Digg will actually read it.

Clearly not. Clearly from the comments, it was a case anger toward an industry — much of that due to ignorance and misunderstanding — getting in the way of getting closer to the truth.

The comments speak volumes. RadiantBeing wrote:

SEO is a load of shit. Or, to put it finely, it is trivial next to the challenges of creating great content, designing user-friendly interfaces, writing code, managing a server farm, etc.

Sigh. My response:

Dude, read the article. Scroll down to the part where you’ve got the sex bloggers trying to figure out WTF with Google. Ah, but it’s so trivial. I mean a monkey could do this stuff. No idea why Google itself has to provide loads and loads of information and help. Answer? Some of it is trivial, and some of it ain’t. And when things go beyond the basics, suddenly having some skill to understand that search engines interact with sites in particular ways is useful. Not snake oil.

carguy84 wrote:

Marked as inaccurate, and would mark as spam if I could vote twice.

He disagrees with my article. That’s fine, though I have a strong suspicion he’s simply agreeing with what Jason said rather than reading anything I wrote. So, I don’t know how much to trust his view that what I wrote was "inaccurate." But at least he didn’t go with calling it spam.

Spam? Go back to the top of any story on Digg.  You’ll see a button called Bury. If you click on it, options appear:

Digg Bury Button

Here’s a closer look:

Digg Bury Screen

The choices?

  • Duplicate Story
  • Spam
  • Wrong Topic
  • Inaccurate
  • OK, This is Lame

You can only use one of the options. carguy84 went with Inaccurate. If they read it, disagreed, I’m cool with that. If they thought it was lame — fine as well. But spam? I didn’t spam Digg with this. I didn’t submit it, nor was it even written with a Digg audience in mind (remember, no number in the headline, no bullet points in the story). At worse, I added a Digg button after I noticed it was getting some significant votes, exactly as Digg itself tells you to do.

The majority of the comments are like those of RadiantBeing and carguy84, people who clearly didn’t read the story and pretty much seem to know all they know about SEO from bad experiences on Digg. I’ll continue on.

mtekk wrote:

The problem with the entire field of SEO is that many in the industry use practices that are considered unethical to achieve said results …. Continuing on this statement, most in the SEO ‘industry’ do things that tip-toe on the line of web ethics.

Wow. Clearly they thought a lot about the points I made in the article. Hehe – clearly they did not. From my response:

Really? I mean are you just pulling this out of thin air, like Jason did? If you actually read the article, it cites how Google (which sees a lot of SEO) does NOT say that most SEO work tip-toes. It says most SEO is just fine and that only a few give the industry a black eye. But what would they know, eh?

Well, no big deal if mtekk wasn’t that educated about the topic. After all, Digg describes itself as a "digital media democracy" That’s true enough, in that many democracies let anyone vote, not matter how uneducated they are. But then again, Digg also calls itself a "collaborative editorial process" where people are encouraged to Digg "the stuff that you like best."

As a result, if you have a mistaken, uneducated view of a topic — you aren’t likely to learn much through Digg. It’s sometimes touted as a replacement for Google News. Sure, to the degree that I might replace a balanced newspaper with a heavily slanted one. See the world as you want, and don’t learn anything to challenge your views.

Am I exaggerating? Across all of Digg, perhaps. On SEO, certainly not. Look further at the comments for proof. BrainInAJar wrote to explain to someone what SEO stands for:

You know when you accidently mistype a URL and get to one of those f*ing typosquatting spam sites? Or the shitty blogspam on the "upcoming stories" page about foot cream or whatever? that’s SEO in action

Sigh. The education attempt continues. I responded:

Actually, those domains are called Google AdSense For Domains, largely. They don’t get traffic from search engines. They get direct navigation traffic from people typing directly into the browser. Nothing to do with SEO at all, and easily killed if Google and Yahoo would better police the sites.

Again, if you actually read the story (I know, it’s hard. No bulletpoint, lots of references and explanations in an attempt to try and educate people), blog spam is not necessarily SEO. Some people do it entirely not for SEO reasons. But hey, you know when you get that email spam? That’s all email marketing, right? Let’s characterize and entire industry by one bad practice.

Now you know when you try to find some company, and you can’t get to them because they accidentally blocked their entire site from Google with a bad robots.txt file? Fixing that is SEO. Or you know when someone explains to you that giving each of your blog posts a unique title will make them more relevant to the search engines? And you do it? And that "simple" tip that was simple to someone who knows search engines but not you causes your traffic to skyrocket, causes people to find more relevant content in search engines? That’s SEO as well.

There Cynoclast wrote:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a euphemism for link spam in -all- cases.

That took me back to the entire "did you bother to read anything at all" question? My response:

Gosh, let me check what Google says about SEO again. I think they have a definition. In fact, it was in the actual article that you’re commenting on. You read the article, right? I mean, comments on Digg aren’t just a euphemism for I spouted anything I thought of based on reading just a headline and a one or two line description. I’d like to think you’re contributing to the conversation. But in case you missed it, good old Google says:

SEO is an abbreviation for "search engine optimizer." Many SEOs provide useful services for website owners, from writing copy to giving advice on site architecture and helping to find relevant directories to which a site can be submitted. However, a few unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to unfairly manipulate search engine results.

Guess I missed the section on SEO as meaning link spam.

mpeters13 did read the article, apparently. Sadly, all they took away was the idea that I somehow tried to use women to say SEO is honest. I didn’t, but here’s what they wrote:

lulz. I love how that article sites the fact that the SEO hires women… like that’s the deal maker to the legitmacy or honesty of a business. PLEASE accept my token of appreciation at your nasty attempt to build pathos using women as your crutch. Marked as spam.

Spam. Nice. You disagree with a point of the article, so you choose an entirely incorrect option on Digg? Lame — Inaccurate, but don’t call me a spammer. My response, for those that care:

Thanks. Yes, I wrote this long look at SEO and really hoped that one sentence about women being part of the industry would really redeem SEO in the eyes of many. It was the backbone of the piece. Definitely deserves being marked as spam. Hey, thanks for the considered read that you clearly gave it.

Finally, I saved the best comment for last. masona3 wrote:

Well, here’s the thing. If you don’t know how to optimize your own website for search engines, you DESERVE to get screwed… because you probably shouldn’t be in web design in the first place. It’s not that hard to tag things.

Again, it’s hard to see anyone making a comment like this — unqualified – if they either read the article or actually knew much about SEO. masona3 clearly does not, as I explained in my response:

No, it’s not hard to tag things. Of course, only Yahoo uses the meta keywords tag, and it carries little weight. So if you’ve been thinking tagging your pages have been helping, um, you’re pretty screwed.

Look, I’ve spent 11 years now dealing with site owners big and small, with great content, who make lots of basic mistakes with even the simple stuff. They don’t necessarily build their own sites, and being a site designer doesn’t mean you are a marketer or an SEO or a conversion expert or many other things. People have all types of different skills. If you lack certain ones, you find someone that can help. And you don’t deserve to be skilled because you don’t know every single thing under the sun.

Like I said, this article wasn’t written for Digg. It was written especially for Jason Calacanis (who found it helpful and educational, he told me), plus anyone else who wants to comment about SEO from a position of being better educated, rather than being a kneejerk reactionary.

Sure, it would have been nice if more on Digg had a chance to be exposed to it, and even better if they actually read it. Of course, I’ve been through this occasionally before. Last year, when my 25 Things I Hate About Google article made Digg, I was amazed at the people who didn’t read what I wrote or flat out were wrong in their comments. Heck, poor old Matt Cutts from Google had to jump in on another post once to try and give me some backup to Diggers that rather than being some spammer, I was actually someone "worth listening to." (Thanks again for that, Matt).

In the end, seeing the story get dropped of the popular page at Digg was sad – but much sadder for Digg than myself.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Search Engines: Digg | Search Engines: Social Search Engines | SEM Industry: General | SEO: General | Social Media Marketing


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.jarrodhunt.com Jarrod Hunt


    On one hand I commend you for getting involved and trying to educate some of the morons who post over at Digg. On the other hand I think it’s just a waste of your time.

    Not all Diggers are morons, but there are plenty of Diggers who make bold comments without any prior knowledge of the subject matter. I seriously wonder how old some of them are. 12? 15?

    Anyways, it was a very entertaining article none-the-less.

  • http://www.cameronolthuis.com Cameron Olthuis

    I echo what Jarrod said. Half these kids barely know their ABCs, let alone their SEOs.
    I Used this comic in my last SES speech, gotta love the irony.

  • http://MatchTo.com Steve Morsa

    …like trying to teach calculus to a room full of crying first graders, Danny…you never had a chance.

  • Ethan Giffin

    I am so proud to be a full time digger. I am lucky my grandmother does my laundry cause I am so busy in the basement working.

  • http://mcanerin.blogger.com Ian McAnerin

    I’m confused.

    How is digging something up or down based on personal bias rather than the quality of the resource different from spamming?

    If you digg something for the wrong reason, then YOU are the spammer, not the author, IMO.

    We have email spam, we have search spam, and now we have digg spam – it’s all the same stuff with different tactics.

    I wonder if these guys realize that spamming something down for an unworthy reason is at least as bad (in essence, censorship) as spamming something up for an unworthy reason.

    Oh, sorry, I guess they are the “honourable spammers” who are “helping” the system deal with it’s flaws by manipulating it for their own purposes – all for everyone elses good, of course.

    Hey, I think I’ve heard that arguement somewhere before…


  • http://www.paulshort.com Paul Short

    Diggers have been conditioned over time to only read the title and first 2 sentences of any story or article, then make their own assumptions based on what the hive mind is saying.

    I used to think Digg was great, but lately I’m not so sure. Hate to admit it, but I’m getting close to agreeing with the Netscape model where they have editors. *cough, sputter, clenching teeth* Jason Calacanis may have been right about it…

  • http://www.searchmarketinggurus.com Li Evans

    Another great post Danny, but like Jarrod said, I guess some of its lost, cuz these diggerz are what… 15, 16?

    Cameron – that comic is hilarous! :)

  • http://www.seofox.com WilliamC

    Danny, while it is commendable attempting to educate diggers, I have to echo the feeling of tilting at windmills there.

    Now maybe if your comments were in the form of top 10 lists, they might have had a better chance there :)

  • http://www.giggg.com Giggg

    Well nothing works better than showing simple data to 15 year olds. So i’ve got a point to prove at http://www.giggg.com

    You’ll know that 10% of the users are responsible for more than 50% of all popular stories. Digg is nothing more than a playground for 15 year olds and an ego trip par excellence.

  • http://www.impact-direct.com contentmuse


    Your post yesterday was phenomenal. I am fairly new to the SEO world and I printed it out as a solid piece of reference.

    This is coming from a high school teacher:

    I commend you on this post as a follow up – hopefully some of the diggers who didn’t ‘dig’ yesterday’s post will be aware enough to seek you out in the future. Obviously you are very passionate and very educated about what you do and that speaks volumes in and of itself.

    I have two quotes to relay:

    As far as the the critical diggers go:

    “Children have to be educated, but they also have to be left to educate themselves.”

    In relation to the insightful post:

    “Education is that which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.”

    Keep up the excellent work

  • http://www.pocketsynch.com PocketSynch

    I think the problem is that diggers have grown to be proud of their reputation for being immature. It shows in the snarky rude comments you see on EVERY story that makes it to the front page.

    Now is that 13 year old logic? Being proud of being bad? Well of course it is. But at the same time it has it’s place. I personally go on digg almost every day for the pure hilarity of it. I have seen some of the greatest one-liner comebacks and responses ever seen anywhere and I firmly believe that some of those guys need to be doing stand up.

    But hey, it is what it is, and some people you can’t make feel bad about something they’re truly proud of no matter how hard you try.

  • http://www.redcardinal.ie RedCardinal

    Unfortunately for your one excellent voice of reason there are many, many quiet voices whose actions speak volumes – all the guys who are constantly trying to spam there way to an extra dollar.

    It’s very hard to defend the ‘good’ SEO and to make the distinctions between the creative work of good SEOs and the contemptuous crap otherwise know as SPAM.

    Spam affects so many people that you can hardly blame the average folk when they think that SEO = spamming?

    At least you’re creating a dialogue on the issue. Please keep shouting because I’m quite sure people are listening.

  • f-lops-y

    hey Danny,
    take my hat off to you. great posting, and you know what – those little buggers will grow up and become seo’ers (generalization and no offence intended for any little buggers who happen to be reading this comment) …

    …touchy little blighters arent they… :), and for those of you interested (please move along if you’re not), my humble take on all this is – SEO is bloody hard work. SEO has been given a bad rep by the x% of spammers, there are a LOT of us who DON’T spam, have legitimate clients, who fork out a lot of money on SEO (millions – actually billions according to latest Outsell research) because – shock – it DOES work, – it DOES provide for branding exposure – and careful application of white hat seo methodology does drive targeted, qualified traffic to websites which convert – which is the point of having a website .. so yes, good design, easy navigation, content of interest to visiors – all very NB – , but if they can’t find you among the however many billion webpages out there, you’re a bit stuffed really….

    hence… WHITE-HAT SEO people who know their shit, get results and contribute positively towards the SERPS because they know that maintaining quality sites and listings is what makes the search engines and the searchers (who actually are relatively important) happy…

    ..And I’m a woman too – (yes, yes there are some *relatively* successful female seo-ers… why would that be playing on the female thingey?) i assume there are these days women in most industries… we can multitask you know – like have babies, cook barefoot in the kitchen with the cell phone in one hand, baby on the apron strings and free left pinkie finger tapping away on the laptop…what the hell did women have to do with the price of eggs and how was your (Danny’s) comment so misinterpreted… *sigh* – I’m done now… back to the pinkie finger typing and I’ll put some socks on – its bloody cold on my bare stone floor – jeez

  • http://www.seopractices.com seo beginners

    I would call it “Jason Calacanis: Mad SEO link bait”

    Is the SEO word turning to be a “bad word” like viagra, pharmacy, etc.,?

    “I’d actually joked with someone that if I wanted to really try and educate many on Digg about mistaken notions of SEO”

    Maybe is time for us to question ourselves, as much as we think others need to be educated on what SEO is, we need to reeducate ourselves too.

    Thanks for taking up the SEO Flag.

  • Rose Water

    I guess this really means that digg is now as dumb as slashdot, and as big as a waste of time.

  • http://devjunky.wordpress.com/ Matthew Bertulli

    I am fairly new to the SEO world as well, and yesterdays post was unbelievable. I’ve been fighting a lot of battles at work in the last little while about building my company’s online presence and your article was a great piece of reference material for me.

    You’ve just earned yourself one more subscriber/reader.

  • http://controltheweb.blogspot.com/ Dave

    Nice marketing focus group moderation on SEO and the upcoming generation, Danny! What lessons learned on how to market SEO to this generation?

    Time for a different acronym? Had you asked, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Site Optimization With Helpful Access Tactics” were suggested :-)

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