This is a guest post by Muhammad Saleem, a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
By now most of you have probably seen the site 'Why Digg is Blocked'. For those that haven't come across it, the site is on a mission to convince webmasters and content producers to reject social media traffic. Here's a look at the incredibly flawed logic the site uses to justify its purpose.
1. The Ad-Block Plus Argument
The first argument that the site makes is that social media sites endorse the use of ad-blocking software which allegedly infringes on the rights of site-owners.This argument is flawed for several reasons. First, none of these sites endorses the use of ad-blocking software. Yes, there was a time when Digg used to be technology-centric and a majority of its user-base was tech-savvy enough to use ad-blocking software to improve their online experience. However, as the site has grown, and as social media sites in general (i.e. Reddit, Propeller, StumbleUpon and so on) continued to grow and develop a more mainstream acceptance, the demographic has expanded to the point where it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that a majority of the traffic from the sites is not actively blocking advertisements.
Without any hard numbers, I would guess that the ratio of ad-blocking to non-ad-blocking users from these sites follows the 80-20 rule. The 20% of users that are actively engaged in finding, submitting, commenting on, and promoting the content to these site's 'popular' pages probably have ad-blocking software installed, whereas the 80% that are simply browsing these sites for interesting content to read (or reading front-page news via RSS), have no such software enabled.
2. The Insignificance Argument
This argument really does more to hurt the author's case than any of the other ones (though I'm not saying the others are any less stupid). The author argues that the social media demographic is an insignificant percentage of the internet and an even smaller percentage in terms of online spending, so blocking them shouldn't matter to site-owners. But then the author goes on to argue that "users who don't click on these ads are stealing bandwidth without paying for it". Well, if the demographic is so insignificant, why block them at all? It's not as if you're losing much in the way of ad impressions or clicks, right?
Furthermore, as you will see in the next section, this 'insignificant' traffic is what actually helps put most unknown sites on the map and helps them develop any significant kind of Google traffic to begin with. Oh, and how much bandwidth are these users really stealing? At my old blog, i got dugg 7 times in a month and got 250,000+ visitors that month, while the entire bandwidth cost was just $20.00 (Media Temple + WP-Cache). So no matter how small the scale on which you're operating, as long as you're smart about your operation, social media traffic should be a godsend, not something to complain about.
3. The Low Click Through Rate Argument
The final argument the site employs is that according to a sitepoint.com survey, Digg users are 3 times less likely to click on an advertisement. What this site and Sitepoint both fail to factor in, is that even in the best case scenario (for search) Digg traffic usually comes in numbers 80-90 times more than Google traffic to the same content. Once you consider those numbers, even at 1/3 the CTR, the total number of clicks you get are still 30 times as many as you would get from Google traffic.
Furthermore, where social media sites really shine is in giving increased visibility and otherwise unattainable exposure to relatively unknown sites. For a site that is generally unknown, has little or no PageRank and no inbound links or RSS subscribers, you may be lucky to get 10-20 Google visitors a day. Once you get submitted to social news sites, however, not only can you expect tens of thousands of visitors in the next 24 hours from those sites, but your average long-term search traffic and visibility will increase dramatically. So even if you completely discount the social media traffic and the low CTR there, the fact that your Google traffic may quadruple following social media success, is alone worth the effort.