I Survived the Digg Effect (And So Can You!)

(Learn how you can survive the Digg effect below.)

A number of you trying to access my blog last weekend may have encountered a big, fat “ACCOUNT SUSPENDED” notice instead. No, I was not delinquent on my bills. I was dealing with the Digg effect.

What is the Digg effect, you ask? Digg is a social media site where users share and promote content from all around the internet. The most popular articles get “pushed” to the front page. This results in the Digg effect, where thousands of visitors suddenly surge onto your site in a relatively short period of time. If you have a dedicated server with plenty of bandwidth and memory resources, it is not a problem. But if you are on a shared server, like I am, your server host can shut you down for consuming too many resources.

Well wouldn’t you know it! Friday afternoon a post I wrote last summer got picked up and featured on the front page of Digg (Map of the World’s Religions — 1,200 Diggs and counting!). My blog was immediately overwhelmed with visitors, and my server host shut me down. Of course I was away from my computer at the time and didn’t discover any of this until late Friday night.

I immediately called my host. They agreed to re-open my site and temporarily increase my allotted memory resources. I also made some tweaks to my web page (explained below) to decrease the load on the server. As soon as they re-opened the page, the visitors started streaming in once again. The web page held until about 10:00 Saturday morning when it went down again. I called my host, suggested some more tweaks to streamline performance, and convinced them to open me up again. They did, and my site held through the afternoon before it collapsed again at 4:00 p.m. This time they did not re-open my site until Sunday afternoon when traffic had finally slowed down a bit.

So just how big is the Digg effect? Well, my little website normally receives about 1,800 page views a day. With the Digg effect I was suddenly deluged with 6,000 hits/hour. That’s 100 hits a minute, over one and a half hits every second. You can see the jump in visitors on the graph below. Remember, I still got this jump even with downtime on Friday and Saturday.

Blog Stats | RayFowler.org | June 9-14, 2008
                                (Click on the graph for a larger image.)

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREPARE YOUR SITE FOR DIGG? (or an onslaught of traffic from any of the other big media sites like StumbleUpon or Reddit, etc.) Here are some of the things I learned from my experience.



  1. Plan ahead. I never expected to hit the front page of Digg, so I never prepared for it. Although I got a lot of new visitors, I estimate I missed another 100,000 because of downtime on my blog. (Ouch!)
  2. Bandwidth won’t help if you have limited memory resources. I thought I was all set because I had 5000 gig bandwidth with my hosting account. But all the bandwidth in the world won’t help you if you have limited memory resources. I am on a shared server, and I learned that I am only allotted 10% of the server’s resources (CPU and memory) at any given time. I got shut down the first time because my site was using 12.56% of the server’s resources. When I called tech support, they agreed to increase my limit to 25% for the weekend. That helped keep me afloat for most of Saturday until my site eventually peaked at 27.4% of server resources.
  3. A shared server will not handle the load. If you are on a shared server, know up front that you will experience problems with a huge traffic spike. There is just not enough memory to go around. So, should you switch from a shared server? The main advantage of a shared server is price. You can purchase hosting on a shared server for about $7/month. A dedicated server will cost you closer to $250/month. Some people recommend a Virtual Private Server (VPS) as a midway solution at about $50/month. However, a VPS may not fare much better than a shared server with a large influx of traffic. The price point fixes it for me anyways. I can’t pay $250/month for a personal website. But if you are making money off your website, it may make sense to upgrade to a better server.


  1. Streamline your website as much as possible for quick loading times and efficient performance.
  2. Remove any unnecessary plugins.
  3. Avoid large image files and animations. You may want to host your videos and images offsite at places such as YouTube or Flickr.
  4. Install one of the following plugins to cache your pages and ease the load on your server (if you have a WordPress blog).

    The first thing I did after tech support put my blog back up was install the WP-Cache plugin. This kept my blog afloat for most of Saturday. Of course if I had installed it before the Digg rush, I would not have lost those high traffic hours on Friday night.

  5. Give your visitors a way to subscribe. It’s great to get lots of visitors, but you also want them to come back. I use the What Would Seth Godin Do plugin to give every new visitor the opportunity to bookmark my site or subscribe to future posts. During this Digg rush my subscriber base increased by 15%!


  1. Call your server’s tech support immediately. Tell them what is happening and ask them to temporarily increase your allotted memory resources. If my host had not increased my resources to 25% I would never have made it through Saturday.
  2. Disable plugins that are not absolutely necessary.
  3. Streamline the page where the Digg visitors are arriving. In my case, they were being directed to my home page. I normally show 10-20 posts on my home page, so I cut this down to two.
  4. Re-direct incoming traffic to the correct post if necessary. Digg users often link to an image rather than a post. On my blog all image links come straight to my home page. Visitors arriving at the home page had no idea where to find the actual post. So I put up a short post at the top of the home page with a link to the original post. (See example here.) I actually had two Diggs going on simultaneously, so I provided both links. I kept moving this post to the top of the home page for several days after the Digg rush for any continuing traffic.
  5. Continue to monitor progress as much as possible during the Digg. If your site goes down, call tech support and see if they will put it back up for you.


    I am experiencing some great residual effects from Friday’s Digg. The post has been picked up by multiple websites, my stats are up, and my subscriber count has increased by 15%. (Welcome new readers!) But if I had been better prepared, I could have seen even better results. I believe by applying what I have learned from this experience, I will do much better on my next Digg. But at least this time around I can still say, “I SURVIVED THE DIGG EFFECT (And So Can You!)”

For further reading:


  1. Sharon Gamble says:

    Thanks for the explanation!! It was fun reading all the responses from readers as well.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Sharon – You’re welcome! And thanks for checking up on me when the website was down!

  3. Alex says:


    First of all – I appreciate you linked to my post. Thank you for noticing my humble effort.

    Second: I don’t know what is happing on your blog but I have already approved the pingback from your blog and still get pingbacks. I think I had to delete like 6 of them so far … something within your blog in not functioning right and it sends continuing notifications…

    Just an FYI.

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    Hi Alex – Sorry about the multiple pingbacks. You are the first I’ve heard from on that, and I am not sure why it is happening. Please let me know if it happens again, and I will try to trace down the source.

  5. Nce tips dude! askin hosting support to allocate more memory is a good solution but I don’t think every host’s gonna do that..

  6. Alex says:


    Thanks for response – I get about 4-5 pingbacks from your post on daily bases. I’m not sure what generates those pings but it is definitely comes from your blog.

    Let me know if I can assist with anything to trace this one … you got my email in comment.

  7. Ray Fowler says:

    Alex – Yikes, it’s still happening? I am so sorry, but I think I know what might be the culprit.

    I am still getting traffic from the original Digg, but they all arrive at my home page instead of the post they are looking for. So I created a separate post to direct them to the correct post and keep moving (bumping) that post forward to keep it at the top of the blog when they arrive.

    I have a link to the “moving post” on this post (#4 under FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO DURING A DIGG) that I keep editing each day so that it correctly links to the bumped post. All I can think is that every time I edit this post, you are getting a new pingback. But I only change it once a day, so I dont know why you would be getting so many.

    I will go ahead and turn off pingbacks for this post, but I don’t know if that affects things on your end or not. At any rate, Digg traffic is finally slowing down, and I won’t have to keep bumping the other post much longer.

    Thanks for your patience!


  8. Alex says:


    Yep, that would explain it. Try “Ultimate Plugins Smart Update Pinger” plugin. That one will quite nicely address your issue – you are not alone!


  9. Ray Fowler says:

    Alex – Thanks, I will look into the plugin.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Map of the World’s Religions at Ray Fowler .org
  2. I Survived the Digg Effect (And So Can You!) | WebLaunches
  3. Digg - World Religion Map and Other Posts at Ray Fowler .org
  4. Blog is Two Years Old at Ray Fowler .org

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