Digg changed their ranking algorithm - Tips & tricks

Digg changed their ranking algorithm, in such a way that now upcoming stories need even 100+ diggs to make it to the frontpage. And since Digg doesn’t offer an official FAQ (the reasons are the same why Google doesn’t offer an official algorithm FAQ - so people can’t abuse), I decided to write a few of my findings along the way. These are unofficial, unsupported points and are purely my personal ramblings. So if someone has any objections, please do comment.

This post wants to show you guys my findings about Digg’s ranking system as well as how many diggs you need to reach the frontpage, for each of Digg’s categories (please do note that this post doesn’t represent a method to let users know how they can trick Digg’s system, but a way to let users know about how the ranking system really works). What will get you a frontpage:

1. The rapidity of the votes. If you get 40-50 votes (no matter what users digg) in the first 30 minutes, you’re probably on the frontpage. If you get 60-70 in the first 18 hours, you’re probably still on the frontpage. If you don’t get at least 60 votes in the first 24 hours, you’re nowhere.
2. The rank of the users that vote the article. The highest it is on the top list, the better (enter the user’s profile, and his rank will be shown). You can also see the number of promoted stories for each user that voted your article by watching the number in the brackets beside the user’s name. Digg also has a Top Users page, and you can sort it by Diggs, Promotions etc.
3. The number of comments, and the positive diggs that each article receives. If you have a lot of negative rated comments that can hurt more then help actually. If you have 30 comments, and 20 are rated below -4, you’ll probably not make it to the frontpage. This function might not be implemented yet, as Kevin noted in one ZDnet interview, but it seems to me that it is.
4. The number of buries your story gets. You can get buried whilst being in the upcoming section, or whilst being on the frontpage. The number of buries that your story needs to receive to be buried really depends, but I think it’s related to the rank of the user who issues the bury, the type of burry (Duplicate Story, Spam, Wrong topic, etc) as well as the number of Diggs the story received. So if you story is in the upcoming section and receives 3 buries, it might get buried. But if it’s on the frontpage with 1000 Diggs, it will take more than 10-15 buries for it to disappear (yet still accessible from Digg, but not beeing present n any category - just by direct linking, or searching with “buried stories” included).
5. The submitted / promoted stories ratio of the users that vote. If 12-14 users with at least a 70% ratio, vote your article, you can make the frontpage much easier. You can find this ratio in any user’s profile.
6. Make friends. Mutual Friends usually digg your stories, so those 10-20 extra diggs can make the difference. You can add a maximum of 4 friends per hour (for spam reasons, and way to go Digg). You can add as many as you would like, and hope that they will add you too, so you will be mutual friends. After that, help your friends (and hope they will do the same) by watching the Submitted by Friends section.
7. Update: Very Very Important: If you have a LOT of friends (50-100 or more) you will need 2X or 3X as many diggs as a new user, to reach the frontpage. This is proven and 2 of the top10 users confirmed it to me. It’s natural that Digg implemented this for powerful users, because their friends dug their articles, so they have an advantadge over a usual starting user with just a few or NO friends. So if you are a very new user with no friends, you can still get to the frontpage with 30-40 diggs.


Now about the aprox. number of diggs you need to get on the frontpage, for each category:

1. Technology (and the sub-categories) - about 50 diggs required, but it may go up to 90.
2. Science (and the sub-categories) - about 65-70 diggs required, but it may go up to 85.
3. World & Business (and the sub-categories) - about 80-90 diggs required, but it may go up to 100.
4. Sports (and the sub-categories) - about 30-40 diggs required, but it may go up to 50.
5. Videos (and the sub-categories) - about 55-60 diggs required, but it may go up to 80.
6. Entertainment (and the sub-categories) - about 50-55 diggs required, but it may go up to 70.
7. Gaming (and the sub-categories) - about 35-50 diggs required, but it may go up to 60.

They also increased the timeline that stories have to make it to the frontpage. If up until now your story needed a maximum of 18-20 hours to make it to the frontpage, now you can see frontpage stories submitted 26-28 hours ago.

They also added a Popular Stories Archive, with popular stories by month. I would suggest Digg some sort of pagination, because some pages (in some months) have 2000 links. The page loads forever and remember Google recommends a maximum of 100-200 links per page



Common Myths

A great many rumors and myths have been circulated regarding what it takes to be successful on Digg. Some people think Digg is completely controlled by a small, elite group of powerful submitters. This is an exaggeration. Others believe they will eventually succeed by luck of the draw via brute-force submitting. This is possible though unlikely. Still others see Digg as a way to get a trickle of traffic even if they can’t make the front page. This simply isn’t worthwhile.

1. Myth: Only Digg users with clout or Digg friends can make the front page.
Certainly, much of the content that makes the front page of Digg is submitted by veteran users with a great deal of influence on Digg. These users are well known for submitting quality content - be it funny or newsworthy - and many other users look at their submissions daily for interesting new material to consider voting on.

Nonetheless, users who discover new content, create compelling headlines and descriptions and/or submit breaking news can make the Digg homepage without any preexisting clout or influence on Digg.
2. Myth: If I keep submitting my own content, maybe it will make it big.
If all you do is submit your own content you will likely not get very far on Digg, assuming your content even registers with other Diggers. Submitting your own content to Digg is perfectly acceptable and consistent with Digg’s Terms of Service. Still, so long as you view Digg as a platform for self-promotion above all else your content will likely never make it big on Digg.

Like any community, people may be interested in what you have to add to the mix, but only if you’re contributing to the overall quality and success of the site. Find original content to submit to Digg beyond your own material. After you have built a reputation via a rich variety of quality submissions, people will start to look more seriously at your own content.
3. Myth: I might not make the homepage, but at least I’ll get a few votes.
The difference between making the front page of Digg and not doing so is gigantic. 80 votes may sound like a lot, but if the story doesn’t become “popular” and reach the homepage, 80 votes will likely translate into at most a few hundred visitors.


Practical Tips

It is also extremely important to understand the life cycle of a Digg article. When articles are first submitted, they are entered into a sizable pool of submissions which is, to say the least, difficult to sort through. Some people browse by section, though many look first to what their Digg friends have submitted - people known by others to submit quality content - hence the important of building relationships with other Diggers. Others look for stories that are ‘almost popular’ in the upcoming section, displaying the page by ‘most votes.’ Digg has a few systems in place for determining whether or not something makes the front page in the allotted 24-hour period after it is submitted.

1. Tip: Votes count in relationship to clout.
Fortunately, Digg has algorithms aimed at preventing system-gaming, which helps newer Diggers by requiring fewer votes (to make the homepage) on articles submitted by those with fewer friends. However, an article that gets a great many votes gets displayed on the ‘most voted’ page of ‘upcoming‘ articles, which puts it in front of more potential voters more easily.

Also, if you have Digg friends, you may want to factor in their active times in relation to your submission times. If not, you may want to submit late at night or at another ‘off’ time when there is less competition.
2. Tip: Votes count in relationship to category.
Some categories (like Offbeat or Tech Industry News) get flooded with submissions every day. Other categories (such as Other Sports or Space) receive fewer submissions. The less competitive a category, the more likely something is to frontpage in general.

However, submitting something in an inaccurate category to gain a competitive advantage may result in the story getting buried. So, it might be worth seeking out stories to submit in less popular categories, so long as they fit the category and would be of interest to others.
3. Tip: Votes count in relationship to time.
Extremely interesting or newsworthy Digg submissions often get a great many votes in a short period of time. In order to bring this pressing content to the front page sooner, quick successive votes can frontpage an article faster. As such, keeping an eye out for breaking news can put you on the Digger map!


Practical Tricks

Submitting to Digg requires more than just finding content you like. Digg is a news outlet, albeit somewhat different than the New York Times, which has its own audience with particular tastes and of certain major demographics. Also, Digg has subpages and categories, much like a newspaper has sections related to different interest. Well structured news on Digg also, like mainstream media sources, relies on solid headlines and introductions to grab a reader’s attention. Here are some tricks for understanding how Digg is both like and unlike other news sources.

1. Trick: Understand your audience and their interests.
At one extreme, Digg is filled with stories about Ron Paul, FireFox and especially the iPhone. At the other extreme, anything not negative about Bush will never make it onto the front page.

If this seems unfair or unreasonable, it is worthwhile to remember: as with any news source, no one should expect to get something published that runs against the predominant interests or beliefs of that source. Know the topics that interest or amuse other Diggers. Don’t play to the crowd, but don’t submit something you know they aren’t interested in reading either.
2. Trick: Select good content and the right category.
Your content may be good, but I’ll bet you find a lot of other good content online too. Submit your own if you wish and if it is original, but submit other content as well. To see what works, check out what is already popular daily on Digg.

Selecting a category is equally important. Sometimes this requires creativity. There is no category for Art on Digg, but there is one for Design. As mentioned, Offbeat News is a particularly overused. Look carefully: something from a popular weblog that seems ‘offbeat,’ like building jumping or guerilla gardening, might fit better in other categories like Other Sports or Environment.
3. Digg Headline SwappingTrick: Choose your headline and description carefully.
Many people default to submitting content with the headline of what they are linking to, and then use the first few sentences as the description. Sometimes this is appropriate, but not always. Headlines are often written with search engine optimization in mind, not to grab the attention of non-regular social news readers. For this reason, the first few sentences may or may work to describe the content.

Try using a catchy Digg headline (for example: “11 Reasons Why the Darwin Awards Were Created [PICS]“) instead of the original headline (in this case: “Where’s OSHA When You Need ‘em?“) to make it grab more attention, but without overly sensationalizing the issue. Adding [PICS] or listing an unnumbered list numerically can help capture the attention of other Diggers.

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