DiggBar: The Plot Thickens

I previously talked about the controversy surrounding Digg’s new DiggBar. It continues, and gets more interesting.

Digg claims that the DiggBar is not a bad as people are making it out to be:

We took several steps to ensure that search engines continue to count the original source, versus registering the DiggBar as new content. We include only links to the source URLs on Digg pages to allow spiders to see the unmodified links to source sites. These links are overwritten to short URLs in JavaScript for users who have this preference.

That sounds like a good idea. I checked the source code, the article links point to the original URL rather than the Digg short URL. While that’s nice of them, it doesn’t change the fact that the Digg URL is being propogated around the internet instead of the original URL, and that URL points to a page on Digg’s servers, rather than doing a simple 301 redirect, which instructs search engines to ignore the first URL and go directly to the original source. More PageRank for Digg, and none for you.

We always represent the source URL as the preferred version of the URL to search engines and use the meta noindex tag to keep DiggBar pages out of search indexes. For those of you interested in the technical details, we also include link rel=”canonical” information to indicate that the original URL is the real (canonical) version. Additional URL properties, like PageRank and related signals, are transferred as well.

While that’s nice, Google is really the only search engine that understands the canonical URL meta tag. And when a search engine accesses a DiggBar URL, it will recieve a 200 “File Found” response, which tells it “the page you’re looking for is here,” rather than the “it’s not here, go look over on this page” message from a 301 response.

Search engine issues aside, framing off-site links still seems like a tacky 1996-era trick. And I certainly have a problem with Digg displaying ads on others’ websites. Doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it?

Further Reading

  • http://techzilo.com Sumesh

    I would also add that DiggBar's rel canonical tag directs to the actual page, although Google's docs suggest that canonical tag can direct search bots only towards a page in the same domain.

    In other words, unless Digg has a secret agreement with Google, even Google does not obey canonical tag, making a Digg engineer's claim that "the canonical tag helps mitigate SEO concerns" complete bullsh**t.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/redwall_hp redwall_hp

      "although Google's docs suggest that canonical tag can direct search bots only towards a page in the same domain. "

      Correct. I checked recently to be sure, and you're right. Canonical tags don't do anything cross-domain. Either the Digg people don't know that, or it's just public relations crap.