A9 recently largely died off. Why? Because few people talked about it, and it never gained any real traction. Google, on the other hand, even has people talking about their ads. Rand recently noted that he doesn't believe it pays to game Digg, while Loren notes that people are willing to game it for you for as little as $20.
If you game Digg, you get none of these benefits. The visitors might click, they might even start reading, but if you don't have truly exceptional content, you're spinning your wheels - no one is going to remember you or your site as being anything other than a waste of their time; that's not a positive brand association.
If the content wasn't good enough to make the top of the link sites naturally, there's little hope that anyone who manages their own content will link to it.
Rule #1: If people enjoy it and vote for it then it is not spam.
I have seen average (or slightly below average) content become remarkable and Diggworthy through appropriate formatting and heavy use of Instant Messenger to seed the idea. If you can get the idea half way to the homepage (about 15 - 20 votes) before the general Diggers start voting you stand a good chance of making the home page.
Rule #2: Exposure leads to more exposure.
And in spite of the fact that you will not get many links to cheesy content, I have seen somewhat cheesy content garner high trust links from old school media sources. You really only need one of those types of links for the Digg spam to pay for itself. And those links are going to be hard for competitors to replicate (unless they know how you did it).
Is it wrong to pay people for exposure? If so then why do search engines teach content publishers to blend their ads into the content?
Rule #3: Most members of the media are overworked or lazy.
Another thing to think about, is that many of the people at mainstream media sources are lazy, underpaid, or overworked cogs. In the same way that some journalists have swiped ideas from bloggers before, many of these journalists may rely on these social news sites to find new things to mention or link at. And I have seen anchors at one social news site submit one of my stories to their site only because they found it on another one.
Read more about the relationship between public relations and the media.
Rule #4: New typically means easy to spam.
The newest systems are generally going to be some of the easiest to spam.
Rule #5: Older systems are typically more expensive or harder to spam.
A year or two ago it was far easier to spam Google using mini domains and keyword rich anchor text, but since then the algorithms have been placing more and more weight on citation based authority. Newspaper sites are reporting a large increase in online exposure. The publish the same old bland content and are competing with more and more sites. I don't think I would be in error to assume that a large portion of that increase is due to bias shifts in Google's (and other engines) algorithms.
Rule #6: To be successful, you have to be a bastard to somebody.
In an interview with Rolling Stone (available free via iTunes), John Lennon stated that you don't get to make it big without being a bastard. And The Beatles didn't get to become The Beatles without being serious bastards.
Rule #7: Almost everybody spams.
Any for profit system has rules set up that help it make money at the expense of others. If you are starting from nowhere you really don't have much to lose by being a bit aggressive. After you establish a strong brand then overt spamming may not look as appealing on your risk to reward ratio scale, but off the start it shouldn't hurt to be a bit aggressive, and if people are going to hold that against you forever, then screw em.
You have to spam somebody to get people to grant you enough authority to influence other markets. After you gain enough influence you keep pushing after other markets:
Google's Eric Schmidt predicted that "truth predictor" software would, within five years, "hold politicians to account." People would be able to use programmes to check seemingly factual statements against historical data to see to see if they were correct.
A statement like that makes you wonder if a Google ad campaign might help determine what truth is perceived to be.
Even after you have lost touch with your core purpose businesses keep pushing for growth:
TRUSTeâ€™s Fact Sheet (2006) reports only two certifications revoked in TRUSTeâ€™s ten-year history... According to TRUSTeâ€™s posted data, users continue to submit hundreds of complaints each month. But of the 3,416 complaints received since January 2003, TRUSTe concluded that not a single one required any change to any memberâ€™s operations, privacy statement, or privacy practices, nor did any complaint require any revocation or on-site audit.
TRUSTe has only a small staff, with little obvious ability to detect violations of its rules. Rule violations at TRUSTe member sites have repeatedly been uncovered by independent third parties, not by TRUSTe itself.
Is there a single profitable well known online business that doesn't spam or at least pay others to spam for them? And, at some point, did they spam to get where they are?
I linked to this before, but I love this audio file.
Here a down and out. There a game fighter who will die fighting.
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