A lot of attention on the web this week surrounded the digg.com toolbar and what it represents. Concerns about publisher rights and content stealing through “iframes” have been raised. Digg even wrote a blog post (http://blog.digg.com/?p=636) to defend itself on the issue.
Finally, someone has the balls to analyze the code in detail. Why Has Digg added this feature? Why does it benefit Digg? Does it pose a threat to Associated Press and other News publishers?
Welcome to the world of Adapt or Die Marketing, only here, will you will find the unmasking of the code behind the Digg toolbar.
To analyze this properly, we need to click on a link on any article submitted to Digg.com and we see the source code. Since the actual content on the page is in an i-frame, we will see Digg.com’s code where we are still under their watchful eye. All the html in the page still belongs to Digg: Meta Tags, body, and any tracking tags they choose to use. For our study, we will be using the following page: http://digg.com/d1oIkJ
The first thing we need to look at about the source code is the Meta information that Search Engines use to categorize the page in their index:
Meta Robots tag:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex"/>
The Meta Robots tag with a “noindex” description in the content attribute basically tells search engines that they should not include this page in the index. This is great for the publishers, as it will not allow the page to compete with the original in the Search engines results. Digg went to a lot of trouble to make sure they got this right with Google (as stated in their blog post), as they wanted to make as little a ruckus as possible. But today, with the Associated Press constantly attacking Google, Digg figures no one will pay attention to them.
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/sns-health-breaking-habits,0,4763864.story"/>
This is Digg’s way of telling search engines “Hey Mr. Search engine Bot, the original source of the story contained in the link: http://digg.com/d1oIkJ belongs to this page: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/sns-health-breaking-habits,0,4763864.story”.
The canonical tag was introduced a couple of months ago by Google and announced by Matt Cutts to allow webmasters control over duplicate pages their CMS may produce. This tag, tells search engine bots that the page is a duplicate of another page and supposedly gives the “link juice” of any links pointing to it towards the URL contained in the tag. The only issue here is that this only works within a domain, and not through cross-domains (See explanation here), so essentially were it not for the sole link on the nav bar pointing to the originating source, Digg.com could be considered a Blackhole website.
If you are logged in, once you are on that page, Digg will track your login username with this code:
So that they can now track how many links you visit on the external site (notice how you can navigate the external site and the short Digg URL remais the same) while attributing that behavior directly to your user name. Why is this important? If you are a user that is more prone to click on “science news” then the Advertising presented to you on Digg could be targeted more specifically to you.
Digg is gathering information about your behavior on other sites to better target personalized ads by profiling your username.
Quantcast is the internet advertising equivalent of the Television Nielsen Ratings. The more pageviews and visits your site has, the more your “channel” or website is appraised for advertising purposes. By adding this tag to all loaded pageviews that were previously external to Digg.com’s site, they now appear to have a lot more pageviews.
Conclusion: overnight, Digg.com will appear to have a significant amount of additional pageviews per visitor without having really done anything other than adding a toolbar.
When we consider that Digg’s popularity has dropped within the past 12 months:
We see that this quantcast tag could be their savior by artificially boosting their pageviews:
Internal code for Digg use
Here we find a whole bunch of code that is the bread and butter for users of Digg. You can see comments, bury, share, digg etc without clicking the back button of your browser to vote the story up after having read it.
Now, and for the first time, Digg can actually measure if you were on the page long enough to read it before digging it up.
Can this help with their algo? Of course. Users digging a story after having been on the page for a mere 2 seconds may not count as a vote to get to the home page as much as a vote that saw the page for 1 minute and 32 seconds. This way Digg assures itself that the vote was more of an honest push than one that may have been solicited by a friend and is not really read by the voter.
Digg advertisement on toolbar?
While currently there is no advertisement on the toolbar, there is part of the code that looks like this:
<div id="sourceWhoop" class="whoop"> <div class="t-contents"> <div class="ad">advertisement2</div>
This has absolutely nothing to do with the publisher source code, and is included outside the publisher’s iframe. Does Digg.com have the intention of Advertising on the toolbar? This would be crucial in understanding Digg’s intent with the toolbar, seeing how they are blatantly using a third party website’s content, taking up valuable fold-over space on the publisher’s page while benefiting from advertising revenue? Sketchy indeed.
Their own tracking: Omniture code:
Digg’s Omniture code. Nothing is left behind, Digg is tracking all of your behavior on the external site.
What Else is There?
Other than the code, we should take into consideration that a large percentage of web users which want to share their favorite articles with friends will no longer link directly to the publisher’s links. Instead, they will be linking to the new short Digg URL, and seeing how the canonical tag does not work cross-domain, it will be denying publishers from well deserved link-love which would help the publisher sites appear higher in the Search Engine results for their own content.
Digg’s Intent with all this:
- Instantly increase the internal traffic and Pageviews on your site which equals more Advertising Inventory.
- Profile your users through their login username to better target ads.
- Improve Digg algorithm by measuring time on external site (did the voter actually read the article?)
- Keeping link love towards itself which increases the website’s authority in all the search engines.
What have you found in the Digg Toolbar code?