A Web Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

Disclaimer: Reddit’s relationship with the SEO/web-marketing community could best be described as ‘irreconcilable.’  Many Redditors take offense at the idea of agencies pumping garbage into their favorite subreddits and resent the fact that some have even stooped to buying Reddit votes.  At Distilled, many (most?) of us use Reddit on a daily basis and have been members of the community longer than we’ve been practicing SEO.  A select few of us are even Gold members!   In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this now if it weren’t for a Reddit post.  This guide is in no way an attempt to game Reddit’s merit system and I would strongly encourage those utilizing this manual to contribute to Reddit by submitting only the most thoughtful, interesting, hilarious content you can get your hands on.  To be honest, spamming Reddit rarely works anyway and you’d probably be wasting your time trying to sneak your horrible content onto the front page as Reddit rewards quality and can typically smell bad marketing pitches from a mile away. </disclaimer>

These days publishing a blog post means far more than simply writing an essay in Wordpress and hitting the publish button.  As professional link builders, web marketers and SEOs we know it takes a lot of hard work and cleverness to take content from nothing to something.  The web is awash with articles on every subject imaginable so how do you make sure your original, quality content soars above the competition?  The answer to that question is too complex to tackle in a single article but what I can offer you today is a single, effective arrow for inclusion in your web-marketing quiver.  If you’ve never considered Reddit as an engine for driving traffic or building links here’s your chance to give it another go with the information that can be found in this handy guide!

The Basics

Most of you already know what Reddit is but for those of you who’ve managed to avoid it all these years here’s the TL;DR:  Reddit is a content-sharing community where users vote up or down on various links, original ideas, pictures, videos and any other piece of content they find share-worthy.  With an Alexa ranking in the Top 100 websites on the internet and a Domain Authority of 100, the site is so popular that it often crashes due to over-activity.   Reddit calls itself ‘The Front Page of the Internet’ and for many people- it is just that.  Though most redditors would rage at the comparison, the concept is similar to that of the once-popular ‘Digg’ in that the community itself choose which stories, funny videos, and memes make it to the front page on any given day.  Users are given a ‘link karma score’ associated with their username for each “up vote” one of their submissions receives.  They’re also given a separate ’comment karma score’ when one of their comments is given an upvote.  Often the top ranked comments are more popular than the article itself and that merit-based interaction is a huge part of why this community is so powerful and why the content making it to the front page is so great.

Who are these people?

The idea of summing up the intricacies of a 10 million user/day community is a bit silly but in general the Reddit populace as a whole could be described as trending: young, skeptical, liberal, geeky, internet-literate, and ever-so-meta (image right).   Many of Reddit’s users are in their 20’s and 30’s and are using Reddit as a tool for obtaining and digesting the daily news, interesting articles and connecting with like-minded individuals.  The community is so strong that much of Reddit’s content is about Reddit itself including references to Reddit by celebrities, posts poking fun at other various sub-Reddits and memes so meta that even experienced Redditors have no idea what they’re referencing.  In sum- Reddit’s community is a diverse gathering but it has developed autonomously into an unstoppable meta-force due in large part to the loyalty and love generated by its user base.

How to Submit

Okay so you’re still not sold on the idea of Reddit as ‘the front page of the internet’ but your ears perked up when you heard “10 Million Users per Day,” right?  That’s a good thing!  It means that your marketing sense isn’t in complete disrepair.  Submitting to Reddit couldn’t be simpler.  You can submit anonymously by entering a ‘dummy’ username and any password OR you can establish your own presence by choosing an appropriate handle and trying to garnish ‘karma’.  I’d typically suggest the latter because if one of your stories hits the front page people will inevitably click on your username to check out other links you’ve posted and you do want all of that traffic do you not?

Above you’ll find the uber-simple Reddit submission form.  You’ll want to choose a catchy title (as if your article wasn’t using one already!) as Redditors tend to skim through their favorite subreddits with alarming choosiness.  There are so many items to browse through on any given day you’ll want to stand out from the crowd.

Hopefully you’ll be able to manage filling out the url input without further instruction but choosing a subreddit is quite possibly the most important part of the Reddit submission process.  If you’re new to Reddit it might be worth the effort to browse each of the subreddits found at the top of the reddit home page.  On Reddit, there’s a place for almost every type of conversation imaginable but these at the top of the page are the sections that are the most popular and have the most readers.  Submitting to Reddit’s SEO subreddit might seem appropriate for your article but you’ll never get enough upvotes from its 2,134 readers to make it to the front page.

The solution is to pick an on-topic sub-reddit that has enough readers (over 20,000 seems like a good minimum) who will be impressed, fascinated, or tickled-pink by the article or link you are submitting.  This is where you’ll have to do a bit of research if you’re not familiar with Reddit’s meta-sphere.  Take a look at a few subreddits such as IAMA, where famous and/or interesting people answer questions from the community; TODAYILEARNED where Redditors share interesting factoids with one another; or even FFFFUUUUUUU where Redditors rage at their various first world problems.  You can even create your own subreddit (if you have the time to moderate a new community) or consider submitting to local subreddits such as /r/Seattle when appropriate.  You’re able to post to more than one subreddit but the community typically frowns upon it.  You can post to multiple sections of the site by including the tag [xpost from r/nameofsubreddittheoriginalwaspostedto] and most people won’t down-vote you on principal as they normally might.

Get creative and try to copy what some of the other top articles have done.  Redditors appreciate wit, intelligence and humor more than anything.  It also doesn’t hurt if coincidentally your content directly references the Reddit community directly.  Many attempt to game the system by buying upvotes, reposting old content or simply spamming Reddit but even if this works once eventually you and/or your domain may be banned and the entire community is worse for it.  If you consistently post honest, legitimate, contributing links to the community (with your own stuff sprinkled in) you will succeed.

Alright young adventurer, I think it’s time.  Go ahead and open that chest over there:

Alright so you’ve finally equipped yourself with your newly acquired Reddit arrows and you’re just itching to try these puppies out for the first time.  Understanding the general nature of the Reddit universe is one thing; getting a story onto the front page is another entirely.  There are several things to consider when submitting a story to Reddit.

What to Submit

Reddit isn’t just another ‘Like Button’ or ‘+1’ module for your blog or article.  An auto-submit from your ‘Sharing is Sexy’ Wordpress plugin has a very slim chance at success.  In fact, Reddit moderators will flag your URL as spam if you attempt too many submissions from a single URL to a single subreddit (not that I’ve had the honor!).  So you want to make sure you’re only marketing items that Reddit, or a subreddit thereof, will find irresistible.  Once you take the time to explore some of the more popular subreddits you’ll find yourself thinking things like: “This would make a great IAMA!” or  “I should post this infographic as a TODAYILEARNED!”  Even if the Reddit culture just isn’t your style you should be able to cater to their wants and desires.  It helps to be a redditor yourself as the nuances of the community are subtle but chances are you’re good friends with one even now!..  I know, it’s scary.

Use the same principals you do when creating link-bait.  Is this article truly fascinating?  Is this something I would post to my own Facebook page?  Is this story funny, outrageous, provocative and/or appealing to young, liberal, skeptical, male geeks?  Okay so that last bit was a horrible stereotype but you get the idea.  Don’t go into this trying to find ways to sneak your link onto Reddit because it probably won’t work.  Redditors defend their homepage with stalwart vigilance (unless it’s a cute cat you’re talking about, then they’re defenseless).  Come with the attitude that you’re trying to contribute to Reddit with something worth their time that they haven’t seen yet.  This will not be the case for every infographic or article you produce.

Reddit’s ranking algorithm is based on time among other things so be sure to submit at normal internet prime-times (4PM EST on weekdays, Sunday evening, ).  Upvotes literally count-for-less after a mere five hours.

Feed them something that will start a conversation.  Reddit’s algorithm takes into account how many quality comments are being posted and favors those that are heavily talked about.  Feel free to comment yourself with a dummy account or the same one that submitted the article.  Your username will appear in bold blue if you choose to do the latter so make sure you’re saying something that adds to the conversation!

That being said your content doesn’t have to be a meme or an inside joke or about Reddit itself.  The community appreciates quality content just as much as the next.  They simply speak a slightly different language but it shouldn’t be too hard for anyone reading this article to speak a little geek.

Why to Submit

“So tell me again why I should bother submitting my content to Reddit?  Isn’t this just one of now hundreds of nodes I’ve been told are ”essential“ to submit to?”  True, there are several marketing choices out there for publishers looking to share their work.  And as I said before, Reddit might not be the place for your client’s article on stemware or European history but at some point you’ll want to market an article that, with a great title, placed in an appropriate subreddit, will get a ton of traffic flowing towards you or your client’s domain.

Much has been said about web influencers and their ability to shape the landscape of the web.  Much like Twitter, many of these influencers read reddit or at least follow a subreddit that relates to their field or specialty.  This means potential for major linkage that you may have otherwise overlooked.   Reddit truncates into other social media as it is many people’s literal “front page of the internet”.  People find things on Reddit and share them on their personal Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Google + pages.

Even if your item doesn’t make it to Reddit’s coveted front page you can still grab a ton of traffic and links from a submission garnering only 30-100 upvotes.  Often times, I’ve personally seen thousands visits via Reddit from a submission that barely made it to the front page of a moderately sized subreddit (20-50,000 readers).

A front page article could bring you so much traffic you’ll need to make sure your caching system is ready for prime-time.  There are few social networking sites as powerful as Reddit yet so simple and open that any person on the planet to submit quality content.  What’s made Reddit better than say, the ‘Digg’ system is a distinct lack of separation between “power users” and “everyone else”.  You could theoretically submit an article today with a brand new account and make the front page if it appeals to the Reddit community.  Your karma does not affect Reddit’s ranking algorithm.

Obviously Reddit isn’t a marketing ‘strategy’ in and of itself but, when used properly, is certainly one of the more powerful arrows in your ever growing social marketing quiver.  If you managed to read this guide in its entirety and have taken a little time to get to know Reddit I am confident that sometime in the future you will come across an article that would be a home run.

As SEO’s and web-marketers we are often only as effective as our ability to use our finest tools.  Forgive me as I close by taking these self-gratifying Zelda references right over the edge of acceptability:  In The Legend of Zelda, our hero ‘Link’ doesn’t simply get stronger or bigger or more handsome as the game progresses.  His strength lies in his ability to acquire new tools and learn how to use them more effectively to defeat ever more challenging opponents.  Hopefully you’ll find this latest tool to be particularly useful out there in the real world.

Still not convinced?  I’ll just leave this here:

Cant get any of this to work for you?  Consider advertising on Reddit.

Jacob Klein

Jacob Klein

Jacob spent the first 18 years of his life in the Columbia River basin of Washington State. In order to escape the confines of this rural existence he developed a healthy love affair with technology, especially preferring to explore the outside...   read more

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  1. David Sottimano

    I LOVE this post. If you can get something to go hot on Reddit will pretty much guarantee your 15 minutes of fame.

    I see too many people trying to sneak crap content, hoping that their infographic will magically become popular (#AbsoluteFailures with a side of doublefacepalm). To fully understand the community on Reddit, I think you need to need to have at least 100 rick rolls under your belt ;)

    Great job Jacob!

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    • Yuriy Yarovoy

      Only 12% of the earth's population can solve this in 30 seconds. Say the opposite of these words 1. always 2. coming 3. from. 4. take. 5. me 6. down.

      But on a serious note, reddit is an amazing resource for linkbuilding. However I believe that the biggest takeaway from reddit are the hundreds of thousands of case studies of what is viral-worthy and what isn't. When to submit for maximum impact, why submit in a particular niche, etc. The market research that can be obtained in a few hours of browsing comments is also much more valuable in my opinion than the linkbuilding opportunities. Reddit can teach you about scalability in a way that most search marketers haven't even begun to understand.

      Once you go beyond the pun threads and trolling attempts, there lies a treasure trove of valuable information about the why's of "viral-ness" which in my opinion is much more valuable for a long term strategy than shortsighted linkbuilding opportunities

  2. Wow. This is incredible! Love the Zelda metaphor, too. :) Thanks for all the tips!

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  3. I have always heard of Reddit but never really played around with it. Thanks jacob for a great post and giving me the push to try it out for myself :-)

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  4. Really great article, I will def have to spend some more time int he reddit community!

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  5. Jacob Klein

    Thanks David! I should have emphasized that the best way to understand Reddit is to post, comment and contribute regularly! Just don't become addicted... no seriously.

    Thank you for the kind words Stacie and Josh!

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  6. I'm a huge dorky Redditor - basically read it 5X a day (often from my phone). Loved this blog post - addresses the challenges of marketing to a community that hates push marketing while showing off the real value and opportunity of the channel.

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  7. The one thing I would add (or at least clarify) to this post is that the awesome part about promoting something on Reddit is that with proper Subreddit targeting, you don't HAVE to hit the front page.

    My friend and I make comedy videos and post them on our Youtube channel, Laughpong. When we launch a new video, Reddit is the main place we go. We could launch a new video in /r/funny, which would have a huge payoff (1.1M subscribers) - but it's super difficult to pop to the front page of that subreddit (note - this is NOT the same as the Reddit front page). As I'm writing this comment, the LOWEST number of votes on a thread on /r/funny is 677. It's just a crapshoot.

    However, if we launch on /r/videos, which has about 500k subs, the lowest voted thread is 23. It's MUCH easier to pop to the front page of /r/videos than it is /r/funny. And r/videos still has the possibility of driving tens of thousands of hits.

    The other important thing to consider is the secondary effects. A lot of people go to Reddit for their daily funnies, but a lot of people also go to Reddit to find content for their site. When we'd launch a new Laughpong video, our REAL strategy was to stay on the top of a subreddit for half a day so other sites and blogs see and repost it.

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  8. @Zach Great point and I don't highlight that fact the way I could have. In fact most of the Reddit traffic I've gotten is from simply ranking well on a subreddit with 30K subscribers so you're absolutely correct that the 'front page' isn't necessary.

    It's the same case with sites like Digg and Newsvine, right?

    To your second point: True, that's sort of what I was getting at when I wrote about "Influencers on Reddit". I tell people the same thing about Twitter, influencers are disproportionately reading these sites to find, as you said, content for their own blogs and rundowns. I know I've found images, memes and off-the-beaten-path articles on Reddit that you'd never find on Google News. Social Networks aren't just a way to drive traffic they're a great way to build links!

    Great contributions to this conversation, Zach I appreciate you taking the time to read through the guide.

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  9. I have only had three posts that have made it all the way to the front page, only one of them was meant for promotional purposes and none were paid for. But you just can't sniff at 200K views in a day...

    That said I agree with a lot of the above. Targeting subreddits is the smart way to do things.

    I was part of the Reddit secret santa this year and have been on it regularly for two years. Love the community and frankly the majority of what I see.

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  10. What a great post, I have learned a lot! I have jammed a few articles nobody liked up there a few times, but now I think it's time to find a way to "contribute to the discussion".

    In the last week I have learned to listen first then contribute, I heard this message again in your post.


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  11. @charlie Yeah there are just so many opportunities to connect with people who influence the web via Reddit.

    As you said.. you just cant sniff at facts like those.

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  12. It is for sure that Reddit is not equally good for every niche. It takes a lot of efforts and thinking to pull some decent traffic to your site. Today I learned something new about Reddit, for sure, I will try it to get more traffic from Reddit. Thanks!!!

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  13. Great post. I've been a Redditor for 4 years, and it's one of the best places to find and submit news, stories and just about anything. It's a must use site for every web marketer.

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  14. I received huge amounts of traffic from submitting my posts to a subreddit but then I kept getting banned from that sub reddit for basically submitting my own articles. So it doesn't always work. Since then I've not used it.

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