The Toolbar Factor: Engagement’s Role in Social Voting

Since their infancy, social news sites have been trying to stay one step ahead of social media users trying to artificially promote content to their front page. has been the center focus for spamming and gaming in social media because a front-page promoted story equates to thousands of visitors and hundreds, or even thousands of links. In order to combat the gamers and filter out spam, Digg has created an algorithm that is very complex in nature. Never do they cease to fine tune it, in an effort to try to stay ahead of people trying to artificially promote content to their front page.

Social voting: then

Social news sites rely on the community to downvote or bury spammy content, and while the community does a good job, it’s not always enough to keep an organized promotion effort from succeeding. Traditionally, organized social community members have voted on each others’ content to get enough votes to promote to the front page. While there are measures in place to prevent organized efforts, like enforced Terms of Service rules, natural behavior recognition, reciprocal voting pattern observation, etc., it hasn’t been enough. Thus, social media sites have looked for another solution to help them with their epidemic.

Users heavily involved in social media are constantly being pinged all day long from other users in solicitation for a vote on the content they are trying to promote. Frequently, social media users “blind vote” without even viewing the content. Social news sites caught on and established a behavioral metric of content click through to make the vote weight heavier towards the promotion of that content. Social users then just started clicking through and leaving quickly before they voted.

Social voting: now

Recently, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Reddit have all released options for their users to shorten their URLs to share with their friends. These shortened URLs frame the content below a bar at the top of the page. The bars allow users to vote on the content and explore related content if desired.

StumbleUpon’s URL shortened bar

StumbleUpon bar

Reddit’s short URL bar

Reddit URL link

Reddit Short URL bar

Reddit’s FireFox Socialite bar Reddit's Socialite Bar

Digg’s URL shortened bar

Digg bar

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think there’s a deeper reason StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Digg have all recently released URL shorteners and framed bars for their content. We now are approaching a new era in the world of social voting and organized promotion. An era of measuring user engagement on content to analyze natural behavior in order to determine if the vote for that content, from the social media user, is genuine or artificial.

Framed content allows social news sites to move beyond the click-through to measure behavioral metrics.  Now social news sites can analyze:

  • How long a user was on the site
  • If the user scrolled below the fold
  • If the user interacted with media objects like Flash or video
  • What the average time spent on the site was
  • If the content intrigued the user to explore further within the site
  • What the user clicks on, copies, bookmarks, prints, etc.
  • How many visitors came to the URL and didn’t vote

This opens up gaming to a whole new level. Now social users need to have their voter rings either engage more heavily in their content or emulate fake user-behavior. This is a new level of cat and mouse that gamers will be playing with social news sites. Personally, I always engage in the content, and no longer blind vote, to prevent my social profiles to be viewed as natural and not part of a voting “favor” ring.

For the social communities, this is a great step in the right direction. The analytics should help filter out a lot of the garbage that enters the frontpage of many social media sites. Time will tell how if social news sites are actually analyzing and utilizing this data correctly in their benefit.

Your sites are being framed

As of now, the Diggbar shows only to those Digg users that are signed in and haven’t opted out of the Diggbar. I’m sure if Digg had it their way everyone would use the framed content. However, they caught a lot of flack from webmasters for doing so. There are some fundamental issues with these frames that have upset webmasters. Social frames:

  • Prevent canonical URL bookmarking
  • Prevent canonical URL sharing
  • Prevent cross-pollination on social sites (for example, you can’t Stumble the canonical URL upon visiting a framed Digg URL)

There is a solution. Add this code to the top of your pages or install this WordPress plugin. However, some webmasters are happy because there are benefits from shorteners like, by StumbleUpon, allows statistical analytics of your users and encourages them to checkout other popular content on your site. Ultimately, it’s up to you which route you want to take.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social | Toolbars & Add-Ons


About The Author: is the Senior SEO Manager for the agency, Red Door Interactive.

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