The Digg Coup

It’s been said many times that Digg users don’t click on ads so webmasters shouldn’t brother trying to game the system because they’ll just end up losing money due to extra bandwidth cost. I can see why this is being said because I’ve experienced it first hand when this blog received its first few Diggs. You may recall this post:

The Tuesday Digg set a new traffic record of over 15,000 page views. That was broken with Wednesday’s Digg, where traffic hit a record 16,500 page views. What does this mean to blog income? Almost nothing! The blog served over 23,000 Google AdSense ads but received only got enough clicks to make $18.96. Now let’s see, that works out to 80 cents eCPM.

With results like that, it’s understandable that people think you can’t make money on a Digg. However, I’m here to tell you, Digg is a big money maker if done correctly. You just have to know how to optimize the advertising and target it to the Digg user. If nobody made money on a Digg, then there wouldn’t be so many sites trying to game it and for sure there wouldn’t be any paid Digg services running. Let me show you what kind of money a Digg can make if done correctly.

The Digg Coup

Two days ago, The TechZone posted a review on the Samsung SyncMaster 960BF LCD Monitor. As monitors goes, this one is quite good. Its main selling point is that it appeals to Apple users because it was all white like a Mac Mini. Normally, a simple review of a monitor won’t make the Digg front page unless you give it a twist. The twist in this case was it hits the Diggers’ love for all things Apple.


When it comes to getting a story on the front page of Digg, the title is everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s the hottest story in the world, mess up the title and you’re not going to make it. The above story was submitted at around noon and it made the front page a little over 3 hours later.

There are two ways to make money on Digg. The first is the run CPM (cost per 1000) ads that don’t require users to click. A front page Digg generates a lot of traffic but Digger don’t generally click on the ads. If you’re running all CPM ads, then you don’t need to worry about that since you get paid based on ad impressions, not ad clicks.

The second way to make money off a Digg is to present Diggers with a super targeted ad. The following is the ad Digg users saw when they clicked to read the review of the Samsung SyncMaster 960BF LCD. The ad was provided by TTZ Media Network.

Current Real Time Pricing

Samsung SyncMaster 960BF LCD

You really cannot get better targeting than an ad that shows the readers where to buy the very item that is being reviewed. Google is successful with AdSense because they are targeted to the content. However, even Google cannot offer the perfect targeting that TTZ can pulled off.

The Results

As Diggs goes, this one was about average – it sent about 10,000 Diggers to check out the review. However, those Diggers clicked the TTZ Media ad over 500 times. That’s a 5% click rate. Add in the CPM advertising and this one Digg made The TechZone an extra $450. That works out to an eCPM of $45.00! With results like that, it is any wonder so many webmasters try to get on the Digg front page? Of course, the above results are not typical of the average Digg. However, with tweaking, careful placement, and targeting, you too can pull off a Digg coup.

26 thoughts on “The Digg Coup”

  1. Happy Mind says:

    Really nice insight into the physiology of digg and how to make it work for your site. You are right, the title is everything, if you don’t have an eye catching-let me read more title, not even the best story in the world will get dugg, nice tip right there bro!


  2. Mayo says:

    John, do you think it’s wise to invest into copyright courses? I have mailing list from Craig Garber from kingofcopy (this is not a commercial for him because he’s rather spammy – not too much but enough for me to call it spam)and don’t know if such ‘copyright’ geniuses can return a buck you invested in their pitch???

  3. You forgot the third monetization aspect of Digg users flocking to a webpage – usually receiving a noticeable increase of inbound links, and consequently further traffic (increase in both inbound from other websites/blogs, and likely also in the long term, due to search engine ranking improvement).

    I realize this was not the focus of your post, and has been covered prior to this, but felt it worth mentioning.


  4. This got me thinking of creating a system where i serve different kinds of ad’s or networks depending on where the user came from. This could easily be created with a PHP script. What do you think about that John?

    For example, Digg users or Slashdot users should generally be more concerned of what they click on (i know i am). They are professional tech users and can probably spot an ad a mile away. Then maybe different kind of ads (than AdSense, for example) should be more apppealing and more profitable for those kind of users?

  5. Good strategy creative ideas for conquest of the arrogant and jealous gang at digg. The Tech Zone may soon fall victim of this jealous gang, and as a result, may be ‘banned’ with burial of its submissions as it happened to our daling

    Ride on and congrats on that $450 cool in 5 hours.

  6. HMTKSteve says:

    Yes, you can monetize a Digg in the way you have described but… The item being Dugg (a review) is essentialy an advertisement for the product.

    How do you monetize a Digg when you do not have related afilliate marketing links?

  7. Eliza says:

    I must say I agree with what Matt says, another reason to Digg is to drive traffic. Yes, it is great to earn money but getting a few new subscribers never hurts either.

    John, thanks for the insight on how much you can possibly make if you do it right. I’m kind of surprised that you would write something so positive since they banned you from the site, but it shows what a great blogger you are. WTG.

  8. Wes Mahler says:

    Love the ideas, and suggestions. Love the blog. keep up the smart work!

  9. Tony says:

    Well I think that Digg (and Slashdot, Reddit, other social media) have a low clickthrough because they are there to get the details on the posted story, and are quick to move on, _unless_ the story continues via the ad – as per John’s excellent example.

    This could actually lead to an interesting tweak to choosing what ads to serve. Referer info can easily be grabbed from the page request, so I propose:

    Organic inbound – contextual (AdSense?)
    Referer – as targeted as possible (hand selected preference?)
    Referer (Digg, Slashdot) – highest CPM you can get a hold of!
    Direct – depends on your regular visitor’s preference.. possibly a mix of contextual and CPM as you have now.

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  11. Ya nice screen shot of my name submitting the review to digg!

  12. Leonard says:

    It’s unfortunate you’ve been banned by Digg. Otherwise, something tells me this post would get quite a handful of diggs.

  13. HMTKSteve says:

    So tell me John, how would you monetize this post if it were to appear on Digg?

    It is geared towards the Digg audience but nothing is being “sold” by it.

  14. HMTKSteve says:

    Dang… your wordpress comment system broke up the link…

  15. John Chow says:

    Mayo – A copyright course? I’m not sure I follow.

    StrangeProgress – Yes, backlinks are a very good reason to get on Digg. I added that to the post but removed it at the last minute. I wanted to just show the income potential.

    HMTKSteve – I fixed your link. When I don’t have targeted offering, I rely on CPM ads. However, you can still get a return with CPC if you place them correctly. Diggers are pretty much ad blind but if you place a Google inline with what they’re reading, you’ll find the click rate is still acceptable. The click rate from the Google ad on the TTZ article didn’t drop at all.

  16. Geiger says:

    When I see the prices, displayed in a professional style and notice that the lowest price is FAR lower than the next, it drives up my interest! I’m a black-Dell desktop kind of guy but seeing such a deal really made me desire the monitor even though I’m not an Apple guy!

    I would love to add this to one of my lower traffic sites! Are there ever exceptions to the 250,000 page views per month? Maybe for personal fans of John Chow! 🙂

  17. Grant says:

    I think Mayo means copy as in the text of a advertisement, not copyright as in a trademark.

  18. John Chow says:

    Geiger – We’re in the middle of revamping the egine that serves those ads. Maybe after the revamp, I will lower my requirements for entry into the network.

    Grant – Ah, could be. In that case, I recommend the book Winning results with Google Adwords.

  19. Geiger says:

    Please keep me in mind after the revamp. Is the 250,000 page views for a single URL or can it be across a few? Sorry if I seem anxious, it’s that damn Adult A.D.D.

  20. water drop says:

    I had a post on my site dugg and received 7,000 hits that day. I had maybe 5-10 adsesne clicks.

  21. Sharopn says:

    Digg users are what you would call a target audience of 10 – 12. They are readers, not buyers, or clickers…..

    I learned something in university in between the drinking binges.

  22. Mayo says:

    Winning results with Google Adwords book, is it still relevant today??!

  23. That was a really interesting post! I bet it will make your top post list for December for sure. Nice one!

  24. Geiger says:

    Waterdrop, that is typical. AdSense does not do well “usually” with Diggs. What you need is content that is EXTREMELY well targetted to your article. John’s TTZ ads and product reviews are are great combination.

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