How Effective are Reddit Ads at Driving Traffic?

Published by
James Parsons
on August 09, 2016
Written by ContentPowered.com
Posted in Traffic Generation

Reddit calls itself the front page of the internet, and for many users that turns out to be true, as they have Reddit set as their browser homepage. It’s one of the largest communities out there, and one of the largest web forums in existence, though its format is a little unorthodox. Primarily used by young males, it nevertheless has subsections for pretty much every possible interest, and covers just about every demographic. It’s far from unknown as well, given that the “ask me anything” Q&A section has had many famous folks from around the world participate, including Barack Obama, Gordon Ramsay, Patrick Stewart, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk.

Reddit is also one of the few places on the internet where a lot of original viral content is created. A lot of the common memes and viral stories that circulate on social media were either created or popularized on Reddit. George Takei’s famous Facebook profile shares a lot of links from sites like AllDay.com, the Daily Buzz, and others, which largely just pull their content from Reddit threads and add in a few gifs like Buzzfeed.

Reddit has ads, but it is not friendly to marketers. There’s a sort of double standard, however. If you’re very casual at marketing, posting your own content in the appropriate subreddits because it’s valuable, you can get a lot of organic attention. As Reddit says in their terms of use, “It’s perfectly fine to be a redditor with a website, it’s not okay to be a website with a reddit account.” The idea is that you have to be a contributor first and a marketer second. If you’re posting your content as a way of trying to tap the Reddit fount, you’ll end up roasted where you stand. Then, if you decide to pay for promoted posts, you loop back around to okay again, purely because you’re giving Reddit money.

Hail Corporate

It’s undeniable that Reddit is great for traffic. Going viral on Reddit can absolutely thrash web hosts, take down sites from purely organic DDoS effects, and earn people thousands of dollars in ad revenue or more. On the other hand, going about it the wrong way can wreck your brand reputation in a way that the internet will remember for years to come. You’ll always be known as that company that failed on Reddit.

As I said, it’s pretty unquestionable that Reddit can work out very well for you. Reddit advertising, both organic and paid, can be extremely lucrative. The best part is, they both work more or less the same way. Sponsored Reddit posts are just like organic posts, only they’re given temporary top spots and visibility. Everything about creating the content is the same. Therefore, I can give you a bunch of tips for organic marketing on Reddit and they will apply to paid marketing just as well.

One thing you should note is that Reddit is a website that was founded by and for tech-savvy users, many of whom prefer to use adblockers. There has been a bit of a dialing back of blocker usage in the last couple years, as people start to whitelist sites they like – like Reddit – but there will still be a good chunk of users who won’t see your ads. Luckily, since they don’t actually load the ads, they don’t eat up your ad spend.

First, Learn Reddit

The first thing I want you to do is go create a Reddit account. You don’t have to make one for your business right now, I want you to make one for your personal use. I want you to spend at minimum three months using the site. Don’t try to post your own content. Just look for and locate subreddits that interest you. Lurk in /r/Marketing and /r/SEO. If you’re into gaming, find the general /r/games sub and a few individual subs for your favorite games. If you prefer sports, hit up the /r/teamname subs for those given teams you like. Trust me, they exist.

Don’t worry about posting new content. I know it’s hard to avoid as a content creator, but it’s worth it to learn how Reddit works. Read the rules and watch interactions. Learn how people post, the acronyms and references they make, the memes they use. Learn how to respond and use the site appropriately.

During this time, I want you to make a special effort to look into some of the worst posts on the site. Scroll down in discussions and look at posts that have been hidden for their low rating. Look at the posts ranked controversial. Look for what people are doing wrong, and figure out why they’re wrong in what they’re doing.

As you go, gradually start contributing to discussions. Learn the lay of the land. Don’t out yourself as a marketer or a CEO, don’t try to use your reputation for anything, just be a normal user among normal users. Define a role for yourself and learn how you fit with the rest of the site.

Growing a Reddit Account

This will give you insight into how people view posts on Reddit, and how they view marketing. You’ll start to see what kinds of posts and titles are given attention and what are downvoted into oblivion. Only then will you be ready to start trying to market on the site.

Eventually you can start making posts. I highly recommend that you avoid posting your own content right away. Take the time to post interesting links you find from marketers on Twitter or from influencers on Instagram, or whatever source you find such content. Make sure, before you post, that you’re not just re-posting something someone else already posted in the last week. You’ll be downvoted for the repost.

The Rules of Reddit Marketing

Reddit does have actual rules regarding advertising and promotion on their site, but I’m not talking about those here. I’m talking about the implied rules, the rules you learn when you’re a Reddit user.

Keep your posts relevant. Unlike social media, where you center your posts around your brand and your concept, Reddit centers around the subreddit you’re in. This means you need to find the right subreddit for your content, and you need to post the right kind of content in each subreddit. Look for subs that are relatively specific in nature, but also populated enough to get you traffic. There’s no sense in posting to a sub that only has 25 users, right?

Only post excellent content. Reddit is not a place where you can post every blog article you write. It’s a place where you post the single best article you’ve written this month. It’s the place where you share your new ebook, because a ton of work went into it. It’s where you share flagship content, not normal content.

Don’t overdo it. A rush of traffic from a good Reddit post can make you want to repeat your actions quickly, but users of the sub will very likely notice that you’re trying to spam them with your own content, and they’ll backlash against you. Be sparing with your own content, and make sure you’re posting other content as well, to break it up.

Reddit Post History

Build a robust post history. Reddit keeps all of your posts in a nice, easy to read format for anyone who wants to see them. There’s no way to hide them. Your post history should be made up of four things.

  1. Posts in response to other posts on content you didn’t post originally; insightful comments, funny comments, and general contributions to discussions.
  2. Posts of content you didn’t create, looking to share value with the subs you frequent.
  3. Posts in response to comments on posts you have made about your own content. This is your engagement, the responses to people commenting on your posts.
  4. Posts of your own content. These should be few and far between; remember, you’re just sharing your content because it’s relevant and valuable, you’re not trying to market on Reddit.

If people suspect you of being a spammer or a marketer, they’ll browse your post history looking for signs that you’re not a normal user. Then they’ll downvote you. If you’re particularly bad, you might even make it into a #fails roll, or you could even earn dedicated haters who downvote everything you post out of spite. Thankfully, that one is rare.

Respond when people comment on your posts. This applies to posts of your content and posts you’ve made in response to other content. In other words, carry on discussions. If you post something long and insightful, and someone else says “hey that was pretty insightful” it costs you nothing to reply with a “thanks.” More than any other social network, Reddit absolutely requires active engagement with your audience, who will often be your peers.

Don’t over-optimize. Remember, Reddit users are some of the most savvy folks online. They can smell over-optimization, keyword stuffing, and blatant advertising from a mile away. They’ll also downvote it from a mile away, and your reach will tank to nothing almost instantly. There’s no leeway here; be a redditor or be removed.

Using Paid Advertising on Reddit

Paid advertising is an option, but as I said, it’s still very similar to organic posts. You have to know how to make a compelling title and post content, regardless of how much you pay for it. If you don’t spend the time to learn how posting works, even your ads will fall flat.

The first type of paid advertising is the self-serve promoted post. These are exactly like organic posts, and are very much like boosting a news feed post on Facebook. They’re normal posts, that are just given a preferential space at the top of a sub, in a slightly blue box with a “sponsored link” label. Links can go to Reddit text posts or to external links, though I often find it better to make them direct to Reddit posts, where you can convince readers to click through. You may have a lower CTR to your site that way, but you’ll have a higher conversion rate because the people who click are the people who are convinced they want to.

Self Serve Ads

Interestingly, Reddit self-serve ads are flat rate regardless of targeting. There’s a minimum buy of $5, which will get you a small handful of views, but it helps you get your feet wet.

Unfortunately, the flip side to this is that there’s a cap to the quantity of ads available in given time slots for individual categories. If you don’t act quickly, the slot can sell out, and you’re left with less valuable time slots or less valuable categories.

One final note: ads on Reddit can take up to two days to be approved, on top of all the other restrictions. If you want to launch an ad, get it set up well in advance.

The second type of ad is more of a sidebar banner, and it’s much more like a traditional ad. It’s powered by AdZerk, which works very much like other display ads.

I frankly think these ads are a lot less useful, because they’re outside of the strengths of Reddit, which lie in the discussion threads. The only interaction a user can have with one of these display ads, other than to click them, is to either upvote or downvote them.

The third type of ads are the Ask Me Anything sponsored Q&A sessions. They’re a lot more intensive and, frankly, not very useful unless you’re very much in a position to be questioned. There has to be something unique about you and your situation, your product, or your history. In those cases, you can often just do an organic AMA to gauge interest before paying for a larger one later on.

You can get an account representative to help you manage your ads, but in order to do so, you need to have an advertising budget of $30,000 or more. It’s a pretty steep price, but when you realize that Reddit has advertisers along the lines of Apple and Microsoft, you can see why they aren’t going out of their way to cater for tiny businesses.

As a final note, the last element you need for advertising on Reddit is luck. A huge part of going viral is being in the right place at the right time, and it can take a long time to get that lightning to strike. It’s glorious when you do, but don’t rely on it to make or break your business.

Written by James Parsons

James Parsons

James is a content marketing and SEO professional who enjoys the challenge of driving sales through blogging while creating awesome and useful content.

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