We are pleased that our article on Google the other day reached the home page of  digg .  As this is something we hope some of our customers will be doing, we thought we would share what we did in preparation to get it there and what the results were. 

For those of you new to digg, it is a social bookmarking site where thousands of readers/users (v. a couple of professional editors) submit and vote on the stories they think are good with the most interesting ones rising through thousands of others to the home page.  What is interesting about getting a blog article on digg's home page is that there are many people reading it, so you end up getting thousands of hits to your article per hour while you are there.

Here are some of my thoughts on what we did with the article prior to it getting to the home page of digg that might have contributed.  Like in many things in business, I think digg is a game of inches and we had just enough votes to get us over the "tipping point" that delivered thousands of extra visitors to our site.  In my mind, it is the sum total of several little things we did right that enabled us to get to their tipping point.
  1. I do not think the article would have made it to the home page of digg unless we had spent three months attracting 600 RSS subscribers and 20 email subscribers.  I suspect it is these folks who are most likely to submit your article to digg and to vote it up on digg.
  2. The content of the article actually took quite some time to come up with and then pull together.  The pieces of the article came from our analysis of our own data, our thinking/discussions about Google internally, and John Battelle's "Search" book got some juices flowing.  In other words, the article was not something we just came up with and wrote in 10 minutes.
  3. The nature of the article was that it "took a stand" on a topic that polarized people in opposite directions which is rather unlike most of our posts.  This polarizing stance was the result of an offhand remark by Patrick Fitzsimmons, a development lead of ours.  Going to dinner one night, I was casually talking about how our blog had moved steadily from 1k unique visitors per week in the first month, to 2k unique visitors per week the second month, to 3k unique visitors a week the third month.  I commented that in the fourth month, I wanted to do something to create a step function increase in traffic.  He offhandedly said something to the effect of "take a stand…people will react one way or the other."  He was right!
  4. The title of the article was written and changed twice before submitting.  Some of the articles we write rather quickly and really do not expect the social bookmarking sites to pick up, but we thought this one was pretty interesting, so wrote a "headline" that we figured would catch people's attention without being untrue to the content within the story.  Some of the commenters on digg thought the title was sensationalist and as I look back at it, it was a bit dramatic.
  5. We posted it at 11am, an hour we think is the best for a few reasons explained in an earlier  business blogging post .
  6. We posted it with a Digg button on the screen similar to the one on top of this article.
  7. When we posted it, I emailed it out to about 20 colleagues of mine who I thought would be interested in it, to our staff, and to the 20 email subscribers to the blog. 
  8. The article automatically went to the RSS inboxes of our 600 subscribers.
  9. The article was submitted to digg within 10-15 minutes after I posted it and within 30 minutes it got to about 5 diggs as I suspect some of the 20 people I emailed it to would be kind enough to digg it for us if they liked it.
  10. From there, it (very) slowly and linearly made it from about 5 diggs at 11:30am to about 30 diggs at midnight.  The traffic slowly declined up until midnight (as you will see below). Along the way, when comments came in, I tried to respond to the ones where the people were civilized to create a bit of a dialog.  Just after midnight, it went from 30 diggs to 120 diggs in the blink of an eye -- it made it to the home page which was the tipping point that drove thousands of additional visitors to our site.

Here is the graph of our traffic this week.  As you'll note, the article did relatively well on the day it was published (11am on Monday), but hit a tipping point on the day after it was published when it hit Digg's home page a little after midnight on Tuesday.

On the day we published the article 36 out of 1735 unique visitors came from www.digg.com that day.  On the day after we published the article 3430 out of 7116 visitors that day came from www.digg.com .

-- Brian Halligan.

Originally published Dec 11, 2006 11:56:00 AM, updated October 18 2015