Oneupweb Reviews: DiggBar, a New Social News Site Toolbar

For those of you who haven’t heard. Digg released a toolbar called DiggBar last week. Its purpose is to help share social news by making it easier to Digg content and post it to Twitter and Facebook.

DiggBar is accessed in a few different ways: a bookmarklet (courtesy of ReadWriteWeb), clicking on any shared content appearing at Digg.com or typing “Digg.com/” before any URL.

DiggBar makes it easier to see popular articles from a single source or from other keyword related content submitted to Digg. Toolbar users can also click the random button to visit web pages that are highly rated.

Clicking the random button showed me a story about President Obama on The Onion’s website, and you’ll see that clicking on “related” shows keyword related popular stories from Digg. Below that screenshot, you’ll see what it looks like to sort by “source,” which shows stories Digg users liked from The Onion.

Businesses with popular content on Digg could see their material show up in keyword related or random clicks made by DiggBar users. And while exposure is a possibility, the number one benefit to DiggBar is convenience.

This toolbar uses a nested I-frame to keep users in Digg, which means you don’t have to leave the webpage to share a story. Not only can you digg a story using the toolbar, you can post a shortened link from Digg on Facebook and Twitter.

DiggBar users automatically receive a shortened URL. Accessing the above TechCrunch homepage gave me this shortened URL: http://digg.com/d1h9W6.

Since Digg launched the toolbar, established bloggers have gone back and forth on whether the DiggBar hijacks link juice. In addition, Michael Arrington raised the point that a frame was an “unnecessary step” most URL shortening services, such as TinyURL don’t have. There were also valid points raised against DiggBar offering automatically shortened URLs, which could cause broken or misdirected links.

Digg’s Vice President of Engineering John Quinn reassured the SEO community and content publishers in yesterday’s company blog post, saying Google and SEO experts were consulted to “ensure we adhered to the leading best practices, as we framed and linked directly to source content via the DiggBar.”

While the links in the framed content point to the source material (redirected to the Digg URL, when clicked in the frame, via JavaScript), so they’ll be “seen” by the engines, it’s safe to say that at least a portion of outside links will point to the DiggBar URL than the original source.

Even with Quinn’s reassurances, the launching of DiggBar should also raise additional questions, the first being “isn’t this just a cheap way for Digg to raise traffic numbers and sell more advertising?”

The less cynical among us, however, may wonder whether shortening URLs is good idea in the first place. Though many people use shortened URL services to make it easier to share links in Twitter, email and IM, it would be wrong not to keep a watchful eye on the impacts of these shorter URLs.

Call me a purist, but while sharing a full URL is less convenient, it reduces the likelihood of broken and misdirected links. Further, building an effective, consistent link strategy creates SEO momentum. Sharing shortened URLs leaves more room for broken or misdirected links, which frustrates users and decreases that web page’s potential visibility in the search engines.

Just look at all the problems TinyURL users have experienced with broken links and outages. Last fall, ReadWriteWeb blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick reported people experienced issues with links being broken or down for at least one day or two every month with this service.

While not all URL shortening services are destined to have these same problems, there are inherent issues with sharing these changed URLs. And while Kirkpatrick sees URL shortening services as necessary for everyone’s convenience, I say what’s popular isn’t always what’s right or best. Easy, in other words, isn’t always better. So the fact that DiggBar is “easier” is great for convenience, but I can’t help but be leery of shortened URLs as a whole.

Oneupweb Official Review: Oneup Thumbs-Sideways.