How to beat the Digg auto bury algorithm

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  • January 11, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Following Mondays article about how the Digg auto bury algorithm is getting much harder to detect I’ve had a lot of feedback from people who are pretty annoyed about their stories being continually buried. It seems that a lot of you didn’t realise that Digg had internal moderators who put sites on a blacklist just because they didn’t like them.

I’m not talking about blatant spam here, I hate spam on Digg as much as anybody and believe Digg should employ people to delete it as soon as it is submitted. The problem I have is when quality sites get blacklisted just because they keep hitting the Digg homepage. Sites with huge followings like JohnChow.com and Copyblogger hit the homepage on a regular basis before they were blacklisted.

Why should Digg have the right to blacklist these sites when they are clearly just posting what the Digg audience wants to read?

How to get round it

First of all you can probably guess that Digg frowns on people trying to bypass their auto bury list. If they spot you then your new domain will probably be banned and you might lose your Digg account too so be careful. The key with this method is that if you do it right nobody would ever be able to tell.

The first thing to do is register a second domain. You could try something totally different or you might want to choose a country specific tld for example I could choose blogstorm.com rather than blogstorm.co.uk.

Next you should point the second domain at the same nameservers as your real domain.

Once the domain is set up so it loads up exactly the same content as the first domain you need to do some php wizardary to make the site work under the new name. If you run WordPress this is simple, just install the domain mirror plugin and you can run two identical sites under different domains off the same WordPress database. This plugin even allows for selection of a second theme to make your site totally different to the blacklisted one.

For those of you running php sites the solution is a bit harder (unless you are using relative urls in which case they should work straight away). You need to change your urls so that instead of having the site url hard coded it is called using the HTTP_HOST variable like so:
<a href="http://<?php print $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST']; ?>/somepage.html">Some Page</a>

If you want to be really clever you can use the HTTP_HOST variable to pull in different header and footer templates so your site doesn’t look the same.

At this point you should have a site that works in the same way as your real site but under a brand new domain.

The next step is to alter all your Digg bookmark buttons so that your users submit content from the clean domain rather than the blacklisted one.

Finally you need to make sure that search engines are not being served duplicate content using htaccess. Make sure you test your htaccess as it works differently on some servers.

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yournewsite.com [NC] RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^Slurp/ [OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^Googlebot/ [OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^MSNbot/[12] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourbannedsite.com/$1 [L,R=301] RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !FeedBurner
RewriteRule ^feed$ http://feeds.feedburner.com/yourfeed [R=301,L]

The first part of the code sends search engines from the new domain to your real domain and the final part will redirect anybody subscribing to the new feed to your real Feedburner feed.

Any questions?

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