Social Media Traffic Thieves

SMS Text

This article is not about a hacker adding a piece of code to your site to divert traffic from your site to his own affiliate program. The post is not about spamming the social media sites to “generate traffic” to your own site. This information is about what some social media sites are actually doing to your content, and how they want to repay your good faith and your contribution to their businesses.

Think of your content and the work you put into it as a work of art. Now imagine someone walking into your studio and walking out with your painting. This is what some social networks are doing, right now, under your unsuspecting eye.

The truth is that every time you submit a story to Digg, StumbleUpon, reddit, Del.icio.us, Twitter and so on, you are actually contributing to their sites. Your gain (traffic and some links, sometimes “nofollow”) is smaller than theirs: your contribution improves their content database, and your very presence on the site boosts user metrics, site usage, traffic, search engine rankings and ultimately helps these “free” social networks get venture capital and other financial gains.

So, instead of being thrilled to have such active and generous users like yourself, some social media networks want to exploit the users even more, to gain even more by virtually stealing content and traffic from other publishers. Digg and Facebook are desperate to sell: as popular as they are, they hardly manage to generate the revenue to justify their current VC or other investments. They had to find a way to prove their sites “worthy” of funding, and sadly they found one of the most repulsive of all: hijacking other websites.

Digg hosts your content in its frame and steals traffic by redirecting users to Digg instead of to your site.

Digg hosts your content in its frame and steals traffic by redirecting users to Digg instead of to your site.

The buzz started a few days ago, shortly after Digg announced the DiggBar, a new tool created – as Digg would like us to believe – to improve user experience.

What caught my attention from the start was the first point on the bulleted list describing DiggBar’s features and benefits:

Digg directly on the destination site: No more awkward toggling between the story page and Digg.

In free translation, Digg is actually announcing to us that instead of going to the story page, the “diggers” will never leave Digg. For the multitude of Digg enthusiasts this is a dream come true. But, for a content publisher, the nightmare is just beginning. Having a story make the first page at Digg becomes pointless without the traffic benefits: publishers who depend on traffic for profit are concerned that Digg is stealing not only traffic, but content as well, since the content is now hosted directly on Digg through this “ingenious” iframe system.

Back in the 90’s framing websites was a popular trend with content thieves who would use frames to trap visitors inside their sites, even while linking to external content. So, Digg is not doing anything new, but what worries me the most is that the rip off has found some advocates.

Some of these supporters try to put our minds at ease with the mention of the “share” buttons present in the DiggBar; buttons that allow users to share Digg links via Facebook, Twitter and mail. Apparently these buttons would help “improve” traffic to the publishers’ sites. The question is how, when what is being “shared” are Digg links?

The SEO community reacted vehemently against this new flagellum – Digg is not the first, nor the last to use a trapping toolbar. Other social media networks joined the party: Facebook, Hootsuite (for Twitter), Krumlr (Twitter again), and some blogger networks like TheGoodBlogs have as well.

Hootsuite - the ultimate Twitter toolbar wannabe.

The solution to stoping the rip off is quite simple: insert the following piece of code before the tag.

<script type=”text/javascript”>
<!–
if (top.location!= self.location) {
top.location = self.location.href
}
//–>
</script>

In conclusion, the best SEO practice in situations like these, is to not take everything at face value. Many claims are made by many companies, websites, blogs, social networks and so called experts. The key to protecting your content, data, and most of all investment, is to find sources of information that can be trusted, apart from services that need your work to thrive.

Think how much time you spend creating user profiles, creating a network of “friends” and for what? To find out, in the end, that the joke is on you, that the service you trusted so much is a double dealing pickpocket.

Mihaela Lica Butler
Mihaela Lica Butler is senior partner at Pamil Visions PR and editor at Everything PR. She is a widely cited authority on search engine optimization... Read Full Bio
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