Driving Web Traffic With Reddit

Hosting a successful life sciences blog isn’t easy. It’s not the writing, it’s the reaching out. How many Pulitzer-prize worthy blog posts are languishing out there in cyberspace, with no audience to read them?

I recently launched a fitness blog that received 100,000 unique visitors in the first week – with one post.

Given that there are over 2 million blog posts published per day, and that most of those posts go unseen, how was it possible for me to stand out from the pack? The answer is one word: Reddit.

Reddit is a tool that is largely neglected by science marketers because it’s non-traditional and there are barriers to entry. Redditors don’t appreciate marketing or excessive self-promotion, so marketers need to develop a thorough understanding of the platform to be effective.

The real value of Reddit is that it allows for direct interaction with your target audience. As redditors like to joke, “there is a subreddit for everything,” and it is extremely likely that you will be able to find people that care about what you have to offer.

Understanding Reddit

Reddit.com is a discussion-based, anonymous social network that receives over 1 billion visits a month. Two systems are critical to understanding how Reddit functions: karma and subreddits.


Karma is a relatively simple system that is used to determine which posts appear at the top of a page. If a user likes a post, they can give it an upvote (that increases karma by one). If they do not like it, or think that it does not contribute to discussion, they can downvote (decreasing karma by one). The difference between upvotes and downvotes is the post’s total karma; high karma means your post will be bumped to the top of its subreddit and be seen by more people.


Subreddits are pages within Reddit that are devoted to particular subjects. My blog, for example, is fitness related, so I posted in reddit.com/r/fitness. I could also have posted in /r/gainit, /r/loseit, /r/running, /r/weightroom, /r/GetMotivated, or any number of other subreddits. In the life science world, subreddits include /r/science, /r/chemistry, /r/bioinformatics, /r/microbiology, and /r/genetics — the list goes on. As you think about using Reddit for marketing, you will want to identify subreddits relevant to your message.

Using Reddit for Marketing

With an understanding of the basics, you can start building a presence on Reddit. Here are the steps I followed to develop targeted content and promote it on Reddit.

Step 1: Become an Active Redditor

As with other social platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn, promoting yourself on Reddit, requires you to first be active on Reddit. As stated in Reddit’s self-promotion guidelines: “It’s perfectly fine to be a redditor with a website, it’s not okay to be a website with a reddit account.”

Reddit provides other benchmarks as well – if more than 10% of your content is self-promotional, you’re likely a spammer. The various communities will penalize you for blatant self-promotion, downvoting your posts, ignoring them, or even reporting you to the moderators. Maintaining an active presence, posting links that are not your own, and appropriately commenting on others’ links will help you avoid being reported for self-promotion.

My approach: I had been an active Reddit user for over 3 years before I posted anything self-promotional. Some subreddits have rules about minimum account age and karma, so creating an account and contributing early is important. Late to the game? It’s likely that some members of your organization are active on Reddit; you may be able to solicit their help in understanding the website and your target subreddits.

Step 2: Understand Your Audience

You may think that you already understand your audience, but I can assure you that Reddit is different from other outlets. The anonymity of Reddit leads to some unusual writing styles and inside jokes that can vary from subreddit to subreddit, and learning those tendencies can help you appeal to redditors.

This direct involvement in a community makes Reddit a fantastic vehicle for market research. Before I wrote my first post, I spent two weeks scrutinizing Reddit comments to determine what my audience really cared about. What are their major pain points, and what exact words do they use to describe those pains? Every goal, hope, dream, fear, and challenge that I included in my final draft was a slightly modified quote from a real person. As a result of that groundwork, my blog received comments such as, “this guide covers almost everything I’ve ever thought about fitness.” Your life science audience may not be that forthcoming, but it still pays to reach out to them using the language and style they relate to.

Note that Reddit is explicitly against market research. That is, you shouldn’t go posting a survey or soliciting responses from people. However, there’s nothing wrong with reading what people write. A little strategic searching will reveal plenty of people discussing their problems and goals, valuable information that you can use later.

Step 3: Posting

You’ll notice that I’ve skipped the step of actually producing content; although you should use your insights from Reddit to inform your content creation, that creation does not actually require the use of Reddit. Make sure that your content is extremely high quality, as high quality content is what survives on Reddit. Beyond that, you know your message best.

When it comes time to post, you’ll have to start by selecting subreddits and looking at their specific rules. Reddit as a whole allows two kinds of posts: links to other content and text posts that are hosted on Reddit itself (but can also contain links). Some subreddits, like /r/fitness, do not allow links on their main page. In that circumstance, you can create a text post with a description of your content and link to your website from there. Other subreddits have more specific rules about self-promotion, which you should read closely to avoid being reported.

If you do need to submit a text post, provide a thorough description of your content. You should summarize its major points, as well as the value proposition. Include images and graphics where possible. Reddit wants to prevent users from going off-site to get content, so you should include some valuable info and more teaser highlights to compel them to seek the rest of your article.

Finally, Reddit headlines are a little different from typical headlines. Reddit explicitly does not want sensationalized or editorialized headlines. Redditors are fairly disparaging of listicles, so it’s probably a bad idea to include those elements in your titles. For example, my article was titled “Don’t Just Do It – A 5-Step Technique to Consistently Get in the Gym,” but my Reddit headline was “I wrote a guide to help you stop being lazy and consistently get in the gym.” Trends may be different on your specific subreddits, but Reddit generally prefers a personal approach over a click-bait/marketing one.

Step 4: Promoting

Karma is what increases the visibility of your posts, so all you need to do is make a few more accounts and upvote your own content, right? Wrong. Reddit, using an unreleased system, knows when you are applying fake upvotes and will automatically balance the scales with a downvote.

You can also be banned for vote manipulation. This includes asking for upvotes, paying for upvotes, or forming a group of people that upvote all of your posts.

However, it is possible to naturally drive traffic to your post. When I was drafting my article, I asked some redditors if they were willing to look at a first draft and provide feedback. This was a win-win: they got to see the content early and I got to make the content better.

When it came time to post, I messaged them a link to the Reddit thread to let them know that the final post was live. I didn’t ask them to upvote or comment; I simply invited them to look at the final draft, which they had made a contribution to. Many of them decided to comment anyway because they had pre-formed perspectives and were actively involved.

Once your post begins getting attention, reply to comments. This is incredibly important. Not only does it allow you to continue adding value to your audience, it’s actually a requirement in many subreddits. A focus on providing value makes your post seem less promotional and will lead to greater success.

Reddit is a fantastic tool that science marketers often do not use, or use poorly. More common Reddit methods like AMAs and native advertising can be useful, but nothing can drive high-quality traffic to your site like consistently upvoted posts in targeted subreddits.

    hbspt.cta.load(469813, '48b7bef9-6598-4914-8590-7774b80d8575', {});