A very interesting debate has sprung up in the last couple of days about whether or not Digg.com entries belong in Google. The original article (which was buried in digg) that spawned the debate can be found at centerworks.com. In it, Allen Stern put forth this argument:

My belief is that this is not enough to warrant a listing in Google. Since at its most basic sense Digg only offers a link to the actual story, then that story should occupy that position within Google, not the Digg link. I believe content publishers actually lose the chance to see that visitor because the person has to click twice and even understand that they must do that.

Techulate.com’s William Burns responded to Stern’s ascertions with a post of his own. Burns’ position is essentially that:

Digg.com is acting as a gateway to the great content which would (usually) have been lost in Google’s monolithic index, never to be found or stumbled upon by searchers. Additionally, as a counter to his “the person has to click twice and even understand that they must do that” statement, the Digg.com interface is very easy to use, it’s almost an exact clone of a Google result (a big blue link/title with description underneath) so the user will already be familiar with it, as a result the user would not be confused by it and will find their way to the content they were looking for; that’s if the content still appeals to them after reading the accompanying description.

Muhammad Saleem then weighed in with his post (which incidentally enough made Digg’s home page), “Of Course Digg Should Be in Google Search Results“. Saleem states that:

This is because content on Digg is not derived from a single source, rather the popular content is often from hundreds of entirely different sources, each of which doesn’t produce content of good enough quality with enough consistency and regularity to warrant a PageRank higher than Digg.

And furthermore that: By allowing Digg results to appear in Google, the search engine actually allows people to access the good content on lesser known sites, without requiring the site owner to have a substantially high ranking in the Google system.

While I agree that Digg offers value to its visitors, I must emphatically disagree that the Digg listing is MORE valuable to a searcher than the original content that Digg links to. As I commented on Saleem’s blog, if I searched for the title of his article, I’d obviously be looking for his article, NOT the Digg.com listing of his article. And, to make matters worse, people have on occasion, copied the entire post into a Digg comment “in case the site goes down” due to the extreme traffic Digg brings. On the surface that seems innocent enough until you realize that the comment not only plagiarizes the author, but also effectively eliminates any reason for a searcher to click through from the Digg listing to the original content.

So, how can Google (and the other search engines) allow Digg (as well as other social bookmarking sites) listings in their search results while still offering the searcher and author maximum benefit? Simple, place the Digg listings directly below the original content in the search engine result pages (SERPs) as a sub-listing. (For an example of a sub-listing view this Google Search for CNN). That would allow searchers to clearly view the original content, and also see all the different social bookmarking sites the article is listed in.

Problem solved right? Not quite. Allen Stern followed up his original post with another article about Digg. This one calls into question the practice of Digg allowing its members to discuss the content that is submitted. Stern points out that Search Engine Journal’s summary article of the Stern and Burns debate made Digg’s front page and received more than 80 comments on Digg and more than 30 comments on Search Engine Journal’s article, while Stern’s original post has a whopping total of 1 comment. The discussion, Stern argues, should take place on the original sites rather than on Digg.

While that would be ideal, one Digg commenter brought up a very good point, to comment on several articles in Digg you just have to remain logged in to one site . To comment on each article and each individual site, often times you would have to first register, and then login, in order to comment. That simply is not as easy or efficient.

But wait, once again I have the fix. Why not allow users to display the comments made on a Digg article on their post? This system would work exactly like the system that allows people to display how many Diggs their story has gotten. A site owner could place a bit of code in their template or page and when the discussion heats up on Digg, the author’s site is kept up to date on all the conversation. That would allow Digg to keep the social nature of their site intact and the site that provides the content would receive the benefit of that communal interaction that Digg has become famous for.

Have a better idea or disagree with me completely? Feel free to weigh in. Also check out our discussion of this topic in our SEO forums.

And just for the sake of irony:
Digg!

UPDATE: Burns wrote a follow up article discussing why my suggestion wouldn’t work. He argues that it would lead to increased Digg spamming. I would argue that A) Digg is already spammed quite a bit and B) they need to get better anyway. As Digg becomes more and more popular they are going to be spammed more often anyway so while it might require a bit more work for Digg and Google, if they are truly out to offer their users the best experience possible, the work would be well worth it.