Did Matt Cutts Expose a Hole in Digg

Last week Matt Cutts made a post about how to connect your Linux computer to a Wii balance board using Bluetooth. This post happened to make the Digg homepage, however what was really interesting is the way he did it, which has exposed an exploitable hole in Digg.

First off to be clear this post is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only and should not be used as a plan to exploit Digg or any other social media websites, however if you try it be sure to let me know how it works out. Second as I have comments now turned off there’s no chance for Matt to offer his side of the story, Matt if you want to add some comments email me I’ll add them in their entirety to the post. UPDATE: comments from Matt Cutts at the end of the post. Ok now onto the details ….

First of back on April 26th Matt changed his domain from MattCutts.com to Dullest.com. He’s doing some experimenting and nothing better than some first hand data.

Next on May 22 he posted the “how to” for the Wii balance board and the Linux connection.

Here’s where it gets interesting when he submitted the post to Digg (you can see it’s his submission) he submitted the domain MattCutts.com domain NOT the Dullest.com domain. (screen shot below)

Why is this important? While Digg vehemently denies they have a white list or moderate based on the domain name, everyone who has plays the Digg game long enough sees it in action and figures it out. Simply put there aren’t many good, or believable explanations for why the Digg homepage is stacked with so many main stream media websites, except that it’s heavily moderated.

Back to the case at hand, since the domain MattCutts.com has made the homepage of Digg before I’m suggesting that it’s white-listed, and the human/algo at digg didn’t catch that a redirect to Dullest.com was in place and let the story get promoted. How do you use this to your advantage? If you can arrive at some sort of “agreement” with an owner of a trusted white-listed domain to redirect to your domain, you can submit your story under their domain increasing the likelihood of it reaching the front page, especially if you modify your template to resemble the submitted domain.

Want to do this without breaking any existing search engine guidelines … all you need to do is have them do a redirect using a non spiderable solution like JavaScript or bounce page, remember you’re not really interested in link from Digg itself, but the links that result from the attention of getting to the homepage.

Think about it for a second … newspapers who are in very serious danger of going out of business right now could get a quick shot in the arm of ad revenue selling search engine compliant advertising redirects. As long as you use a non spiderable re-direct I can’t think of any search engine guidelines that currently exist that this is technically violating. Is it violating the spirit and intent of those guidelines, absolutely. Is it unethical well I don’t think violating Digg guidelines is unethical, but there is a bit of deception involved. However at the end of the day your content has to be good enough to stand on it’s own, and that’s the mantra that all the search engines have been pushing on us for years.

Do I think this was Matt’s intent … I don’t know for sure … but I’m confident he didn’t set out with the intent to intentionally deceive anyone … however I bet there was a bit of testing going on here.

If this is something you are going to try I’d be pretty careful and consider this a high risk tactic, and try to stay as under the radar as possible, both Digg and Google have been known to kill domains in stealth without letting you know and it’s nearly impossible to get these penalties reversed or lifted.

The following comments come from Matt Cutts on sphinn re-used with his permission:

I certainly didn’t intend to probe Digg’s url handling or do anything untoward on Digg. The simple explanation is that I was planning to move my blog back to mattcutts.com this weekend (which I did). So I submitted the url where I knew the permalink would be in a few days. All my blog content is back on mattcutts.com now, so it made sense to me to submit using the link where the article would be by the end of the weekend.

As far as how Digg handles urls or redirects (esp. with the Diggbar) that’s their code. I can see pros and cons to handling redirects on Digg in different ways.

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