Every once in a while, a new source of traffic will become all the rage.
It’s like finding a new oil deposit. For a time, it’s kept a secret, but as soon as it becomes known, everyone wants a piece of it.
Reddit has become the latest oil deposit.
Marketers everywhere are trying to leverage the massive platform to build brand awareness and drive traffic to their websites.
For example, Ryan Luedecke was able to use 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 10 years old, it is currently one of the biggest sites on the Internet.
Its global Alexa rank is 30.
I’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 and commented on.
So what kind of traffic are we talking about here? Luckily, Reddit makes its traffic stats public:
With almost 20 million unique visitors per month and about 150 million pageviews, Reddit dwarfs Quick Sprout, which is considered to be a big site by most.
The most interesting part of Reddit is that it’s different from the majority of 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.
I 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
The first time you visit Reddit, you’ll probably have no clue what’s going on.
It looks complicated, and many say it’s ugly as well, but its functionality is great.
I’m going to break down some of the most important concepts that you’ll need to know to successfully market your business on Reddit.
Concept 1: Karma
Everything on Reddit is driven by “karma,” which is the individual positive and negative point (called upvotes and downvotes) given and received by each member of the site.
Every link or discussion posted on the site can be voted on by everyone. Everyone’s vote counts for the same amount, so it’s essentially 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, there’s one more factor that controls the flow of submissions: timing.
Newer posts don’t need as high of a score as older posts to rise up in the rankings. This keeps the content from growing stale.
Concept 2: Subreddits
If you go to the homepage, you’ll see a list of highly upvoted submissions. This is called the “front page,” which contains submissions from most subreddits.
The way Reddit works is that it’s divided into thousands of different categories called subreddits.
The URL structure looks like this:
For example, if you were interested in nutrition, you would go to:
In the nutrition subreddit, you will see submissions only about nutrition.
As a user, you have two main options. You can either visit each subreddit you’re interested in individually, or you can subscribe and unsubscribe from subreddits that you are and aren’t interested in.
Then, when you go to the front page, you will see links that are only from subreddits you are subscribed 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. For example, someone who is politically liberal might automatically downvote a submission that speaks highly of the Conservative Party (one of the main parties in the US).
Since the content is controlled by users, they shape Reddit (especially the default front page) by their opinions and beliefs. This naturally attracts more like-minded people and fewer that are different.
Today, we see a very distinct average type of Redditor:
- 20-30 years old
- Likes technology/gaming
- Values intelligence (hates seeing “old news” on Facebook/Tumblr, etc.)
Of course, there are exceptions, but this persona has dominated Reddit for a long time.
Why does this matter to you? When a large number of people get together, groupthink is inevitable. The same topics are discussed over and over again with little else because people don’t want to go against the grain. If you do, you get downvoted.
Post something positive about Tesla, and it’ll shoot to the top:
Post something positive about Comcast, and it’ll never be seen.
When we eventually get to posting our own submissions, it’s important to craft them for this demographic.
The really neat thing about Reddit, however, is that each subreddit is a little bit different. Each subreddit has its own distinct personality and style that you will have to study and understand if you want to drive traffic to your website from it. Each subreddit is essentially a miniature version of groupthink.
Concept 4: Reddit for SEO
I wanted to get this out of the way because I know you’re wondering about it. 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’s has over 702 million backlinks:
Another good thing about the site is that it’s set up to prevent spammers, which is good for marketers like me and you, who actually try to create valuable content.
To prevent people from just mass-posting links across the site, not all links on Reddit are made dofollow.
All links are automatically nofollow on Reddit until they get a certain number of upvotes. It’s usually not many, only two or so:
Since spam or low-quality posts will either get downvoted or won’t get any upvotes, they never become dofollow and therefore have zero or very little value.
Submissions to most subreddits can be either a text submission (html) or a direct link to a page. The same rules apply to both text submissions and links. If the overall submission receives a few upvotes, all the links in the text will also become dofollow.
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 in comments are nofollow. They can still drive significant traffic in the right places but won’t help your search rankings.
I can tell you’re getting a little excited now about getting some fairly authoritative links, but in my experience, it’s not worth focusing on getting 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: I’m going to 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 be posting links to your site, but it needs to be done in the right way and at the right time.
Step 1: Find relevant subreddits
How many times have you read that you need to find your target audience in order 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 going fishing for salmon and all the fish separate themselves into groups so that you can only target the ones you actually 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. I suggest trying all of them so you can create the most comprehensive list possible.
Method 1: 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 subreddit search function by typing in a few keywords that describe your website (one at a time).
For example, if I was looking to drive traffic to my nutrition case study site, I might type in “healthy.” Afterwards, I might try “eating” and “fitness.”
You’ll likely see a few relevant results along with a few irrelevant subreddits. 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 subreddit has, the more people regularly see the submissions posted there.
Ideally, a highly relevant subreddit will have at least 5,000 subscribers.
Method 2: Search on metareddit
Since everyone knows that the internal Reddit search engine isn’t great, third parties made tools to help out.
One of the most well-known such tools is metareddit. Again, search your keywords one at a time in the search bar on the right side of the site. Then, click on the “list” option, and you will see a list of results ordered by size.
Warning: Be careful when selecting subreddits. It’s really tempting to pick a giant subreddit like /r/food, which has over 3 million subscribers. However, the /r/food audience is different from my target audience even though they are both in the same broad niche.
It’s better to target smaller but highly relevant subreddits where your content will get more upvotes, and therefore send more traffic, than large subreddits where your posts won’t rise to the top.
Method 3: Expand your list with the Reddit sidebar
Some subreddits will contain your target audience, but it isn’t obvious at first. You may dismiss them when searching, or they might never come up.
Luckily, Redditors create their own sort of subreddit directories. When you go to most subreddits, you can scroll down the sidebar (on the right) and see a list of recommended subreddits. These will be highly related to the subreddit you are on.
Since most of those subreddits will also have recommended subreddits in their sidebars, you can find even more options. Dig around for 10 minutes or so, and you’ll have a comprehensive list.
Step 2: Study your chosen subreddits
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.”
These submissions are here because they represent what this particular subreddit appreciates the most. This is going to be really important in the future.
Read through all of these threads (the more the better), and learn what the popular opinions on common subjects in your niche are. This will help you relate to them better and fit in (yes, it’s like high school all over again).
I 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 a day for a week or so just browsing current “hot” posts in each subreddit. 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 my 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 (I do recommend you read 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 they’re 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 subreddits 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. As you make more comments and get more upvotes, the limitations will decrease. Eventually, you will have a trusted account and have no limits on the frequency of your posts (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 I can upvote posts, why don’t I just create 10 accounts and upvote my 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.
I’ll be honest, you may be able to get away with it on a small scale (1 or 2 upvotes), but it’s not a reliable strategy. It’s better to follow the strategies I’m about to lay out in this article.
The second most common mistake is to just 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 that link to your site to go into 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 attention of the site administrator. 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 literally no other user on the site will be able to see your submissions and comments. Additionally, your upvotes and downvotes won’t have any actual effect.
If you ever need to check if you’re shadow-banned, just use this free checker tool.
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 me 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.
The only way to drive a lot of traffic from Reddit is to create great content.
Remember, you need permission from the users of the site 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 exact same submission can receive a wildly different number of upvotes and engagement.
Look at how the same link received a different number of points (upvotes minus downvotes) every time it was posted even if it was in the same subreddit.
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 so that it is 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 I would enter for the nutrition subreddit:
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 a little bit more 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 AM, my local time.
I would post any links to my own website in this window.
Factor #2: Headline
Just like any other part of content marketing, the headline can make or break you.
But on Reddit, you have to be careful about using overly obvious clickbait headlines. Remember when I 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
The ultimate guide for writing a good headline, however, will be those top posts you had identified earlier.
If you’re ever stuck coming up with a good headline, just look at what you know already works.
Based on those top posts, here are a few headlines I’m 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 come up with your own.
Factor #3: Text/html (sometimes)
You already know that you can submit links to your site directly, but you can’t do that in all subreddits. Sometimes, moderators will feel that there are too many links to blog posts in a subreddit. To combat this, they only allow “self” posts or text posts.
In these, you write a headline the same way, but when someone clicks it, they are simply taken to the submission discussion.
The nutrition subreddit is one of these subreddits:
While that scares off some marketers, it shouldn’t. You can still drive traffic to your website through the description.
Your description should contain the most valuable parts of your article. It should also include a link to the article on your website that people can visit if they want to read it with better formatting and pictures or if they want more.
Here’s an example of doing it right:
Notice that there’s no bullshit here. If you try to get too coy and it looks like you are trying to use clickbait tactics to get Redditors to your website, they are going to notice and downvote you.
Remember, they will give you their attention if you give them something of value.
The marketing subreddit has many more examples of good text posts (since marketers are great at detecting marketing).
Factor #4: 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 just submit your post, it’ll often appear high on the subreddit homepage for a few minutes. If it gathers a few upvotes, it’ll stay there or go higher. 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 it’s important to respond to all posts in order 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 Reddiquette 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 is getting no traction at all when you first post it, you can delete it.
If you think you simply 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 need to 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 simply 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 in a subreddit 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.
I’m 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.
Just like with the Skyscraper Technique, we’re going to take the concepts behind the top posts and make them better.
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 more and more popular, you’ll start adding 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 even get a chance to.
I’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 150 million monthly pageviews.
Before you do that, leave me a comment below, and let me know if you’ve tried to market on Reddit before and what your results were.