Every once in a while, a new traffic source will become all the rage.
It’s like finding a new oil deposit. It’s kept a secret for a time, but everyone wants a piece of it as soon as it becomes known.
Reddit has become the latest oil deposit.
Marketers everywhere leverage the massive platform to build brand awareness and drive website traffic.
For example, Ryan Luedecke used Reddit to make $2,200 in revenue for his new beef jerky company.
But for every Ryan, there are many more who can’t seem to grasp how to harness the power of Reddit.
The good news is, it’s not that hard…at least not as hard as everyone is making it out to be.
What Reddit is and why marketers should care about it
Reddit.com is a website that was started in June of 2005.
Despite being just 18 years old, it is currently one of the biggest sites on the Internet.
You may need a few moments to absorb this information — Reddit’s domain authority is 92, their brand authority sits at 88, and the page authority is 88. To round things up – 7 million linking domains and 16.4 million ranking keywords.
We’ll get into more specific details soon, but the gist of Reddit is that it’s an aggregator site. Users submit links to other websites, which can then be voted on and commented on.
So what kind of traffic are we talking about here? Luckily, Reddit made its traffic stats public:
With over 1.7 billion visits, Reddit dwarfs Quick Sprout, considered a big site by most. Most websites can only dream of having that much online leverage and audience base. We can only imagine how massive their servers are to handle that level of traffic.
Reddit’s most interesting part is that it differs from most large sites. Most other sites are strictly controlled by a team of moderators or editors. Reddit, on the other hand, is controlled by its users.
We believe that Reddit is the finest example of permission marketing working on a large scale. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, permission marketing was the term coined by Seth Godin several years ago:
“Permission doesn’t have to be a one-way broadcast medium. The internet means you can treat different people differently, and it demands that you figure out how to let your permission base choose what they hear and in what format.”
Let’s move on to how this actually works on the site.
The inner workings of Reddit
If you have previous experience with Reddit, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at their new interface.
A once complicated and ugly home screen has been given a makeover — it now has a dark mode option which is a personal favorite.
We’ll break down some of the most important concepts you’ll need to know to successfully market your business on Reddit. Additionally, we’ll bring you up to speed on a recent shift in their slightly controversial removals of APIs.
Concept 1: Karma
Everything on Reddit is driven by “Karma,” which is the individual positive and negative points (called upvotes and downvotes) given and received by each site member.
Every link or discussion posted on the site can be voted on by everyone. Everyone’s vote counts the same amount, so it’s a democratic process. An upvote means that you believe it’s a good post, while a downvote means the opposite.
Submissions with the highest score (upvotes minus downvotes) will rise to the top. However, one more factor controls the flow of submissions: timing.
Newer posts don’t need as high of a score as older posts to rank. This keeps the content from growing stale.
Concept 2: Subreddits
Now we delve into one significant overhaul in Reddit’s site update — the subreddit function is dead.
Its replacement is categories, and they act in a similar way to subreddit posts.
To help the transition for any old-school Reddit fans, we’re showing the classic Reddit interface displaying the subreddits.
The way Reddit works is that it’s divided into thousands of different categories into specific groups per niche interest.
There are thousands of interest groups within these general categories you can join and receive updates from.
Content creators should use keywords and some trial and error to locate their potential traffic.
The URL structure looks like this:
For example, if you were interested in nutrition, you would go to:
You will only see submissions about movies and the industry in the above example. Off-topic comments are subject to removal, and you can be kicked from the subgroup if you don’t comply with their guidelines and rules.
As a user, you have two main options. You can either visit each category and subpage individually or subscribe and unsubscribe from posts that you are and aren’t interested in.
Then, when you go to the home page, you will see links only from posts you subscribe to. It’s your personal front page, and it’s different for every user.
Concept 3: The “hive mind”
While users of Reddit are overall more educated and intelligent than the average Internet audience, strange things happen when you get this many similar people together.
Upvotes and downvotes are meant to be used to identify good and bad posts. Unfortunately, they are often used to express opinions.
Since the content is controlled by users, they shape Reddit by their opinions and beliefs. This naturally attracts more like-minded people and fewer who are different, which is similar to X (Twitter).
Today, we see a very distinct average type of Redditor:
- 18-29 years old – 64%.
- Male – 71%; Female – 29%.
- Higher education amongst users – 63%.
- Largest usage location – United States – 48% of all Reddit’s visits.
Post something positive about Comcast, and it’ll never be seen.
You’ll need to craft them for this younger audience of educated, tech-savvy users.
The neat thing about Reddit is that each subpage is slightly different. Each category has its distinct personality and style that you must study and understand to drive traffic to your website. Each subpage is essentially a miniature version of groupthink.
Concept 4: Reddit for SEO
We wanted to get this point out of the way. Reddit can be useful for link building, but building links shouldn’t be your primary goal.
First off, Reddit is a highly authoritative site. It has over 4.4 billion backlinks:
A brief side note – Check out Quick Sprouts guide to backlinks.
Another good thing about the site is that it’s set up to prevent spammers, which is good for marketers like us and you, who actually try to create valuable content.
To prevent people from just mass-posting links across the site, all Reddit links have the nofollow tag.
You can’t leverage any traffic authority since every Reddit link has a nofollow tag. That means content is king (or queen), and you’ll need to attract and persuade members of each subpage.
Finally, as we’ll look at later, there’s sometimes an opportunity to leave a link to your site in the comment threads of a submission. All links have the nofollow tag. They can still drive significant traffic in the right places but won’t help your search rankings.
We can tell you’re getting a little excited about getting some fairly authoritative links, but in our experience, it’s not worth focusing on backlinks alone. The value of large amounts of highly relevant traffic easily outweighs the value of a few decent backlinks.
Also, remember that there are several other links on each page, and unless you reach the “top” page of all time for a subreddit, a single link will have limited power.
Now you understand quite a bit about why Reddit has the potential to drive massive amounts of traffic to your website and how it works.
The trick to Reddit is that there is no trick. You have to genuinely contribute and become a member if you want any results from your time.
Here’s the game plan: We’ll show you, step by step, how to identify which subreddits could be the most helpful to your business and how to use them to drive traffic. You’ll eventually post links to your site, but it needs to be done correctly and at the right time.
Step 1: Find relevant categories (subreddits)
How often have you read that you must find your target audience to find potential subscribers?
Probably a lot because it’s a fundamental part of any marketing strategy.
The great thing about Reddit is that your audience automatically segregates itself. Vegans go to /r/vegan; general healthy eaters go to /r/nutrition; and frugal eaters go to /r/EatCheapandHealthy.
Isn’t that useful? It’s like fishing for salmon; all the fish separate into groups so you can only target the ones you want.
So, the first step is to find subreddits relevant to your blog (they contain your target audience). Note that sometimes you’ll have many more than just one relevant subreddit that you can target.
You have a few different ways to do this. We suggest trying all of them so you can create the most comprehensive list possible.
Search on Reddit
Ideally, this would be the only step necessary. Unfortunately, Reddit is known for having a terrible internal search engine. While it sometimes pulls up what you’re looking for, it often leaves out quality results.
We’ll start with this method and then fill in the blanks.
Use the category dropdown menu function by typing in a few keywords that describe your website (one at a time).
For example, we might type in healthy if we want to drive traffic to a nutrition case study site. Afterwards, search for eating and fitness.
You’ll likely see a few relevant results, along with a few irrelevant subpages. Ignore any irrelevant results, and copy down the addresses of any potentially useful subreddits and their subscriber count.
Look for subreddits that are not just relevant but also have at least a few thousand subscribers. The more subscribers a subpage has, the more people regularly see the submissions posted there.
Ideally, a highly relevant subreddit will have at least 2,000 active subscribers.
Search on metareddit
Now for the bad news part of the article. Reddit has effectively removed API access for third-party apps.
This somewhat controversial decision wasn’t well-received by Reddit’s core users.
Hopefully, this decision will change soon. Third-party apps are vital to any frequent user’s strategy to save time and access better analysis data.
Step 2: Study your chosen subpages
Next up is to discover how the Redditors in your particular subreddits think.
The best place to start is with the top posts of all time. You can sort the subreddit by clicking on the top option above the submissions and then sorting it to all-time or the past year.
Read through all of these threads (the more, the better), and learn the popular opinions on common subjects in your niche. This will help you relate to them better and fit in (yes, it’s like high school all over again).
We recommend noting down any particular opinions that stand out. This is especially important if you’re targeting multiple subreddits because they will often have different opinions on controversial subjects.
After you’ve learned a little bit about the subreddit’s past, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the current state of the subreddit. While they mostly stay the same, opinions and behavior of subreddits can change a bit over time.
Spend 10-20 minutes daily for a week or so just browsing current hot posts on each subpage. Notice which ones get upvoted the most and which types of comments get upvoted and downvoted the most.
Step 3: Become an active community member
Time to post a link to our site, right?
We’re not quite there yet.
First, you need to create an account. Just click on the link (at the top of any page) to create a new account:
It’s a very simple signup process. The hardest part will be finding a unique username. You’re welcome to include your name or part of your business name if you’d like, but you can also choose a completely random name—it doesn’t matter.
When you first log in, you’ll see that your inbox icon is lit up because you got your first message.
You automatically get a message with some basic information and links (we recommend reading the site rules). If you haven’t validated your email address yet, click the link in the message to do so:
All new accounts are pretty limited in what you can do with them. You can only post a comment once every 10 minutes and submit something once or twice an hour.
When you validate your email address, the limits are relaxed but still there.
How to post with a new account
If you start by trying to make submissions to various subreddits, you’ll likely be flagged for spam either by a moderator or the spam filter (which is strict on new accounts).
Instead, start by making a few comments. By now, you know your categories and subpages pretty well, so you should be able to find a few current submissions to comment on. Feel free to reply to other comments as well:
Again, you’ll be limited fairly quickly at first. The limitations will decrease as you make more comments and get more upvotes. Eventually, you will have a trusted account and no limits on your posts’ frequency (it doesn’t take that long).
What not to do
There are many ways to waste your time and account. I’ll go over the most common now.
First, most marketers new to Reddit have a realization. If we can upvote posts, why not create 10 accounts and upvote our own stuff? That way, it will rise to the top every time, and more people will see it.
But the guys at Reddit aren’t dumb. When a new upvote on a submission is registered, it is compared to the others. No one knows for sure how it works; at least it hasn’t been publicly revealed, but if two upvotes share an IP address or some other identifier, Reddit will automatically apply a downvote to balance it out.
You may be able to get away with it on a small scale (one or two upvotes), but it’s not a reliable strategy. It’s better to follow the strategies We’ll lay out in this article.
The second most common mistake is to jump in and start submitting links. If you do, you likely end up tagged as a spammer, and there’s a good chance that no one will see the links you submit in the future.
Finally, many users only post links to their own sites. It is very important to understand what Reddit does and does not consider spam.
Posting links to your own site is fine as long as they are legitimately useful, and you also submit links to other sites as well. Basically, make it obvious that you’re not just trying to game the site and steal its traffic.
If you get caught, a few different things can happen. We already talked about getting caught in the spam filter. Additionally, users can catch on.
One thing you need to know about Redditors is that they hate marketing with a passion. If they get a whiff of you trying to manipulate them into visiting your site, they will downvote with gusto and make their opinions public.
Additionally, some users matter more than others. Each subreddit has moderators—the users that either originally created the subreddit or were added to the team by the creator.
If they catch you continually submitting links only to your own site, they can set any submissions linking to your site to the spam filter. This means you’ll never get any more traffic from that particular subreddit, which would be a shame.
If you do it enough, on a large enough scale, it will catch the site administrator’s attention. They have the power to shadow-ban you.
If you get shadow banned, everything will still appear to be working fine on your end, but no other user on the site can see your submissions and comments. Additionally, your upvotes and downvotes won’t have any actual effect.
Use this free checker tool if you ever need to check if you’re shadow-banned.
Step 4: Post your own content, but only if it meets this criterion
Navigating the Reddit waters safely is its own challenge, but once you have that down, you can finally start to think about posting your own content—it’s about time.
Take a minute now to look at the top posts of all time in one of your target subreddits, and tell us what you see in common:
Every single one of them is considered great by the majority of that subreddit. This isn’t an accident; the users made it this way.
If you submit the standard junk article of “10 tips to eat better,” your post will be downvoted immediately.
Creating great content is the only way to drive much Reddit traffic.
Bonus tip – Digital creators can promote products by soft-selling. You can leverage inbound traffic from quality posts and comments while dropping the occasional promotion as well.
Remember, you need permission from the site users if you want them to click through to your site, and the only way you can get that permission is to make something they like.
The great thing about this strategy is that you don’t need to worry about gaming the system if you actually create good content. Additionally, you’ll get valuable feedback that you can use to improve it.
Step 5: Speaking to Reddit in a way it understands
When it comes to making submissions, the same submission can receive wildly different upvotes and engagement.
Look at how the same link received different points (upvotes minus downvotes) every time it was posted, even if it was on the same subpage.
Four main factors determine how a piece of great content will do once submitted.
Factor #1: Time of submission
Like with any website, certain times of the day will have more activity than others. Ideally, you want to time your submission to be at the top of a subreddit by the time it gets really busy (to maximize upvotes).
There’s always a bit of luck involved, but you can have a good idea of the best time to submit a post by using Reddit Later.
This tool looks at when past top posts were submitted in the subreddit you are interested in. This information will help you identify which submission times are the best. Usually, it will be during the day (US time) when most American users are active, as they make up most of the Reddit user base.
For example, here’s what we would enter for the nutrition subpage:
The minimum vote threshold is what tells the tool which posts to consider in the calculation. If you set it too high, only a few posts in the subreddit will qualify, which is a useless sample size. Set it at about 20%-40% of the number of upvotes you hope to get (based on other top posts).
The tool will give you a graph like this:
Ideally, you’d want the graph to look a bit smoother, so I’d drop the minimum vote threshold slightly to get a better sample size.
However, for the sake of this example, it’s clear that submissions on Monday and Wednesday do the best when they are submitted around 10 or 11 a.m., our local time.
We would post any links to our website in this window.
Factor #2: Headline
Just like any other part of content marketing, the headline can make or break you.
But you must be careful about using overly obvious clickbait headlines on Reddit. Remember when we said Redditors aren’t too fond of a few things? This is one of them. It’s a good way to get a few spite downvotes no matter how good your content actually is.
Other than that, you want to follow all the other principles of a powerful headline:
- Induce a bit of curiosity
- Use specific numbers and data
- Make the topic clear
However, the ultimate guide for writing a good headline will be those top posts you had identified earlier.
If you’re ever stuck coming up with a good headline, look at what you know already works.
Based on those top posts, here are a few headlines we’re confident would perform well:
- X Cheap Cooking Tips Infographic
- Vegetable grow guide: How to pick the best food to grow at home
- “One pan wonder” Cheesy-tomato-lasagna makes 10 servings for $6!
You won’t be able to model your headline after all of them, but you should have enough examples to work with to develop your own.
Factor #3: Early votes and comments
Remember that there are two main factors that influence how high your submission ranks: how young the post is and what its score is.
When you submit your post, it’ll often appear high on the subreddit homepage for a few minutes. It’ll stay there or go higher if it gathers a few upvotes. If it doesn’t, it can fall down and never recover.
Additionally, the more comments a post has, the more intrigued the other browsers become. This is why responding to all posts is important to boost your early comment count.
By now, you should really know what a good comment looks like. Be nice, be honest, and have decent grammar. If you find that your comments often get downvoted, review the Redditiquette guidelines a few times.
Finally, there’s one more questionable tactic that you can use. It can be really effective, but it borders on manipulation. If your post gets no traction when you first post it, you can delete it.
If you think you had bad luck, you can repost it later or on another day. Additionally, you can also try it with a different headline or description.
Don’t abuse this, but once in a while, using this tactic should be safe.
Step 6: Create custom content for Reddit
Submitting your best existing content is a good place to start. But to really take advantage of Reddit as a traffic source, you need to start creating content specifically for each subreddit.
Think of it like guest-posting on another site: you write an article for that particular audience.
To get content ideas, there’s one place we need to look at. Can you guess where?
That’s right, the top posts in the subreddit you are targeting.
I’ll let you in on a secret: if you resubmitted the top posts in a subreddit (assuming they were at least six months old), they would rack up quite a few upvotes.
This is because the people on a subpage change all the time, and the same ones who saw it before might not remember it and still give it an upvote. It’s unlikely that your submission would do as well as the original, but it could get close.
We’re not advocating that you repost content, but you can use the principle to create content that you know will get a lot of upvotes, which will send traffic.
Like with the Skyscraper Technique, we will take the concepts behind the top posts and improve them.
Let’s look at the top posts in /r/EatCheapAndHealthy again…
How could we create new content that improves upon the old successful content? Here are a few examples:
- A helpful chart that shows when fruits and vegetables are in season
- 51 Food Tips Infographic: The Complete List
- 1 week till payday: 4 different meal plans that cost less than $20
- What poor students should eat: A breakdown of the cheapest foods and best recipes made with them
All four of these have the potential to get more upvotes than the originals.
In this case, you will also notice that you will need to create images or take photos for your content. If you don’t already have one, hire a designer. I’d recommend submitting a text post so that you could also link to similar posts on your website to drive traffic.
Don’t become a member who just posts once and then disappears.
Incorporate Reddit as part of your overall marketing strategy. Continue to comment and post links to resources that aren’t your own to add value to the various subreddit communities you belong to.
As your posts become increasingly popular, you’ll add piles of Redditors to your website’s email list. Once this happens, you’ll find that your readers will start submitting your new posts before you can.
We’ve laid out a complete strategy here to get you started. All that’s left is for you to take action if you want your slice of those 1.7 billion monthly pageviews — a truly stagging bit of data to comprehend.
Before you do that, leave a comment below and let us know if you’ve tried to market on Reddit before and what your results were.