Reddit has generated 8 billion page views from nearly 234 million unique monthly visitors. It has thousands of targeted communities organized around every conceivable topic. It’s the largest, most influential and most engaged community/platform/website on the entire Internet. It’s the self-proclaimed Front Page of The Internet – and the home of the Internet’s tastemakers with the people most likely to talk and voice opinions.
Reddit has cheap traffic. It has tons of very targeted ad inventory.
Based on stats alone, it should be a marketer’s dream…but marketers (still) aren’t really showing up like you’d expect. There are a lot of reasons for this – from it’s raucous and controversial reputation to its ugly interface to its odd subculture. It’s also not a safe, censored, walled garden like Facebook, and doesn’t have the mass culture buzz of Twitter. You may think advertising on Reddit is an uphill battle and not worth it – just like all too many of the advertisers out there.
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published in 2013 and was completely revised in 2018 (though most of what was true in 2013 about Reddit still is). Enjoy!
The fact that so many advertisers ignore Reddit represents a huge opportunity. Reddit is a wide-open platform for advertisers willing to spend time doing Reddit advertising correctly.
That’s because (compared to Google Ads or Facebook Ads) no one knows how to advertise on Reddit.
And often the advertisers who think they know how to advertise on Reddit… don’t actually know how to do it well (and often end up hurting their brands in the process). Back in 2013, The Atlantic & HubSpot wrote about this issue….and it’s even more true today in a world of Fake News, bot networks, tracking pixels, ad blocking, an new advertising options.
With everyone else failing on or ignoring the opportunity – those who can do it well stand to benefit even more. Reddit needs advertisers – and is working to make their ad platform even better. They did a huge redesign in 2018 with new tools, and they are continually improving. And the audience keeps growing month after month.
Now again, there are still no shortcuts to Reddit. The businesses that succeed are the ones who will do research, read the full manual, run test campaigns and scale up appropriately.
I did my first Reddit ad campaign back in 2013. I’ve never become or claim to be an “expert” but I do repeatedly go back to the platform for my properties and clients for targeted campaigns.
Here’s a walk-through of best practices on how to set up your campaign, my experience with a short, targeted campaign (skip to my experience), and some ideas that I’d love to see other advertisers test and report on (skip to Reddit ideas) plus some next steps for how you can try Reddit out now.
How To Advertise on Reddit
Here are the best practices and steps that I walked through before running my Reddit advertisement (or “promotion” in Reddit jargon).
1. Understand the opportunity and downsides
Reddit is a site where people submit links (to a specific subreddit that pertains to a certain topic, such as “Gaming”) and users vote it up or down.
A submission receives more visibility if it receives more upvotes than downvotes, and can receive even more if it rapidly gets more upvotes in comparison to downvotes.
Every Reddit user also has a “Front Page” – which is the top posts at any given moment from all their subscribed subreddits. The Front Page of Reddit is known as the “Front Page of The Internet” because the pieces of content that get shared and circulate around the Internet are often first found and shared from the Front Page.
Your opportunity to advertise on Reddit is to pay to have the top post/link spot on any given subreddit (or the Front Page).
The big opportunity of Reddit is that there are subreddits organized around every conceivable topic and interest. Every. Conceivable. Topic.
Not only is the targeting amazing – but Redditors are known as the tastemakers of the Internet and some of the most influential opinions online.
Want to advertise to golfers? Forget trying to guess with Google Ads. Go advertise on the /r/golf subreddit where people are actively talking about golf, like this:
That’s the opportunity – lots of targeted, potentially influential pageviews.
But there are potential issues that can be a major downside or opportunity depending on your outlook.
Redditors have a well-known and active disdain for marketers and advertisers. They are very, very opinionated, and they are very culturally aware and often highly conscious about products and companies.
If your product is awful or if you are a direct-response, sales-driven type – then Reddit is not going to be a good fit for you.
The Oatmeal has a great comic here that lays the ground rules of how to advertise on Reddit. So if you want a cheap, valuable way to get exposure and get in front of a very interested audience – let’s move on to the basics of how to advertise on Reddit.
2. Understand the basics
Here’s what you’re buying.
It’s unobtrusive, but it’s also the top post on the subreddit you’re advertising on – which dovetails into what you’re really buying – a Reddit post that will instantly be at the top (ie, you should write the ad like a Reddit post, which we’ll get to in a second).
Reddit has a full list of FAQs over here. But the basic rules are – just be cool. No weird redirects, no misleading headlines, no rush (it takes 48 hours for ad approval), no targeting multiple subreddits at the same time.
You run a “campaign” which is 1 promotion on 1 subreddit (or the Front Page) for a set amount of time.
Plus, unlike Facebook where you are advertising to people who are might “like” your topic…but might not be interested at the moment, advertising on a subreddit allows you to get in front of people who are not only interested in a topic but who are also actively thinking about that topic when they see your ad.
It’s a happy midpoint between Google Ads that have maximum intent to buy…but are very expensive and Facebook ads that are cheap but may or may not have intent at the moment. In my mind, Reddit sits squarely with Pinterest and LinkedIn in that you can assume that even though your audience might not be looking for you they are interested in your stuff in general at that moment.
In other words, I might be generally interested in hiking and interested in a camping equipment special. But, I’m not open to buying equipment all the time – usually only in the weeks preceding a hike. With Facebook interest targeting, you may or may not hit that window.
However, with an ad on /r/WildernessBackpacking, you’ll get in front of me when I’m actively researching a trip.
The Dashboard does provide CPC stats and a CSV export for analysis. Minimum budget for a campaign is $5 up to $9,999.
3. Set up an advertising account
Don’t run a campaign with your personal Reddit handle. You should use a new username because it allows you to keep business and personal personas separate. People can click on your username to see what you’ve been viewing and upvoting while logged in, plus you’ll be using that username to interact with comments on your ad.
So go get a new username (get one here) to run your campaigns with. Don’t make it weird – preferably make it transparent since anecdotally Redditors have become allergic to affiliates running branded ads. So, in my opinion, it helps to have an extra aura of transparency and legitimacy.
4. Find your audience
Unless you are a blockbuster movie or an agency for Nike trying to “maximize spend” – don’t advertise on the Front Page. It may be cheap – but it won’t be targeted at all. Redditors go to the Front Page looking for something, anything crazy, funny, or interesting to click on, so you will quickly go through the budget without a ton to show for it.
Redditors go to subreddits though to find things on specific topics. It’s on subreddits that you’ll get a chance to get exposure to a very specific, involved (and often influential) audience.
The problem is that you have to find them – and hit 3 criteria to create a good campaign.
- You have to find the topically correct subreddit
- The subreddit has to have enough pageviews to meet the minimum spend
- The subreddit has to be small enough to be relevant
Finding the topically correct subreddit
Subreddits can be created by anyone about anything. They have no naming conventions, and create a huge universe of communities. It can be daunting to browse and sort.
What I would not do is use only bundles or 3rd party tools. They can help do general sorting, but you’ll still need to use some human judgement. When in doubt with Reddit advertising – always go for more custom or more researched option.
In addition, Reddit is in many ways a microcosm of the Internet…and has all the not so cool stuff that exists on the Internet in general which automated processes have a hard time sifting. If you try to automate the process…you might end up somewhere you don’t want to be.
Reddit has a quirky culture and a lot of inside jokes that matter to advertisers. For example, /r/BigSEO is *very* different than /r/seo. The /r/trees subreddit is dedicated to marijuana while /r/marijuanaenthusiasts is dedicated to trees and forestry.
Don’t ask me why – just do your research and don’t make assumptions.
Instead – complement the tools with general Reddit searches and follow the links. Nearly all subreddits link to other subreddits, and recommend other communities. With search, you’ll quickly find the big ones – like /r/technology – but will be able to click and dig up a few communities that look interesting.
Like any marketing campaign, the extra bit of leg work and planning is what will really set your campaign up for success.
The subreddit has to have enough pageviews in order to run promotions.
You can also use some of Reddit’s “interest bundles” that will pull several with enough inventory for you.
A campaign has a minimum spend of $5 – and costs $0.75 per thousand pageviews. You can purchase up to 3 months out.
What this means is that you have to find a subreddit that will have 6,600 pageviews over the course of 3 months to run a campaign on it.
You never really know until you go to set up your campaign if a small subreddit can pass minimum muster – but you can take note of the stat found on the right sidebar of all subreddits – “### of users here now”
To get 6,600 pageviews in 3 months – a subreddit will need 73 visits per day. If there’s only 5 users lurking on the subreddit – it’s not going to make minimum. I’d make sure a subreddit has at least a couple dozen users online at any given moment to make your shortlist – or more than 5,000 subscribers (ie, subscribers don’t necessarily visit every day).
Make a list of subreddits that you’d want to run a campaign on
Make a note about what types of posts show up on each subreddit. Note the phrasing of posts that perform well. Note the expertise, skill level, and overall knowledge of the posts. For example, the /r/technology subreddit links to several tech support subreddits. Each caters to either a specific type of platform – or a certain skill level.
If you’re running a contest to win a new desktop gaming motherboard, then you will not want to advertise on a subreddit with beginners getting help on basic computer issues.
Would your advertisement fit? Just because a subreddit covers your topic doesn’t mean that the audience is your target audience. Note the questions and responses to get an idea of fit. Sometimes a subreddit will be purely questions and answers – and no submissions of outside content. You can look at the upvote count to the left of each post to get a sense of what types of posts do well.
Once you have all that figured out – you can go and create your campaign.
5. Set up Your Campaign
Reddit has dramatically improved their self-serve ad platform since 2013. It’s straightforward and user-friendly. Here’s how I set up a small test campaign for this post.
Start by visiting Reddit Advertising. Click on Create an Ad.
You’ll be sent directly to the create new promotion screen. Follow all the instructions.
Be sure to spend time on imagery – and build out a URL that you can track in Google Analytics (guide here).
Write a conversational title. Allow comments.
There are plenty of Reddit ad examples (see this case study). But remember that there are few best practices. Create a couple different ads to experiment.
Here’s an ad that has worked well for me on my first test run.
After creating your first ad, you’ll return back to the Dashboard to choose your targeting and/or create new ads.
Like I mentioned earlier, you can choose bundles or manually enter subreddits.
When you go to type in your subreddits, they have a handy search function built in.
Choose your platform and budget. Do not send mobile traffic to a mobile unfriendly page.
After that, you’ll confirm your campaign and send to the Reddit approval queue.
6. Wait for launch – watch your Dashboard
To keep an eye on your promotions – you just use the self-serve advertising tab in Reddit once you login. You’ll also get an email when your ad is live.
Once your ad is live, you get hour by hour impression and click data.
9. Monitor, Analyze, Test, Iterate!
While your ad is live, be sure you watch for comments that you need to respond to, watch Google Analytics to see what the traffic is doing once it’s on your site (mine had a lower than expected Bounce Rate, but only 1 sign up, which I’ll get to in a moment).
Come up with ideas on how you can improve the campaign, implement the changes, and repeat the process.
My Reddit Advertising Experience
My goal with Reddit advertising in 2013 was to simply try it out. I had some expectations of conversions – but did not dedicate a ton of budget (I ran with $30), and only built 1 promotion.
My ad’s landing page was my homepage (which is a landing page anyway), so that I could compare bounce rates and conversions directly with other sources. And the goal was newsletter signups. The newsletter is written for people designing their own site who are also interested in the marketing/analytics side of things – so I figured I had good tabs on a target audience.
Here’s the results from 2013…(the /r/webdesign is still running though)…
I ended up with 2 conversions (so a $12 cost per conversion). The CTR is not what I had hoped, but the CPC was very cheap for my market. From my limited experiment – if you put it as a direct response medium – Reddit is going to be pretty poor – no matter how well you run your campaign.
However, if you put it closer to the top of funnel – building awareness – then it can be really effective. I got a lot of clicks for a good price (and no, they didn’t all bounce – which was my experience with StumbleUpon last year). And there are several instances where it would be a really effective channel (we’ll get to those in a second).
I did discover a bit of a secret to advertising on Reddit, which is that you can buy up inventory for really cheap – especially on smaller, targeted subreddits. In fact, you can buy up the maximum amount of inventory on a subreddit for fairly cheap.
I bought up all the inventory on /r/webdesign until next February. For my site, it won’t be world-changing. However, I will definitely pay $10 to be there anytime someone is browsing old web design discussions (not to mention being in front of people who can link to me from their sites).
Buying up a subreddit’s entire inventory is definitely something I will be exploring, and am surprised more brands aren’t doing it already.
I had learned to run many targeted campaigns since 2013. But for this post update, I decided to run a very similar one to the original test in 2013.
Here are the results –
Traffic was even cheaper now than it was back in 2013 – though that might be because of my better targeting. Either way, the CPC was cheaper than my current Facebook direct response campaign – and certainly cheaper than my Google Ads Display Network campaign.
But what’s even more interesting is that traffic was higher quality. I had much higher session duration AND much higher signup rates.
My CPA ended up a bit more expensive than in 2013, but looking at the email addresses – they seemed more legit this time around.
The catch for me is that the subreddits that send good traffic do not have enough inventory. Every time I try to broaden my campaign – I fall short. But I’m also more in B2B with a very specific audience (DIYers and Freelancers).
Companies that do consistently well on Reddit have a product with broad, consumer appeal. If that’s your audience, then you should have the opportunity to scale out your campaigns.
Overall, Reddit is still a quirky PPC source. It has a lot of opportunities, but still belongs at top of the funnel. With that said – here’s some ideas on using Reddit advertising effectively.
I have since closed out my newsletter and haven’t run a similar test for ShivarWeb as the one in 2016.
But two of my clients have run regular experiments and I have reports from readers who regularly use Reddit Ads for their T Shirt business.
The Dashboard looks different, but the core audience, opportunities and challenges remain.
The audience on Reddit does not necessarily buy, but they absolutely do share and provide feedback. Reddit Ads are a cheap way to complement a PR or product research campaign.
Reddit Advertising Ideas to Experiment With
Reddit advertising (still) isn’t mainstream yet, but it does already have a certain style that is defined by the platform. And again, it’s also not a direct response (ie, click the ad, make a sale) type of channel. That said, there is a lot of room for experimentation – and figuring out how and where it can fit into your marketing plan. Here’s some ideas that I would like try – or see the results of someone else trying it.
1. Content promotion
Do you have genuinely interesting content? Redditors generally frown upon submitting only your own stuff to a subreddit, but taking an ad out and getting a placement at the top is much approved.
You get cheap impressions, cheap clicks, exposure to an audience who is likely to re-share it and promote it. And beyond that, hopefully, your content serves its purpose well.
If you’ve found success through content marketing – using Reddit to promote your content can be a solid, cheap complement to your Facebook/Twitter/everything else strategy.
2. Short campaigns & lots of testing
One thing that Reddit doesn’t allow is changes to your ad during your campaign. I ran my campaign for a week. I’d be interested to see what it looks like to run multiple short campaigns for a single promotion – testing out different headlines, images, etc.
It’s standard practice on most online advertising networks to have multiple versions of the same ad – but it’s something that’s a bit difficult on Reddit’s platform. They give you excellent by-the-hour and impression data – but hacking an A/B test together would be interesting.
One method would be to find a subreddit with plenty of pageviews to run a 1-day promotion. Then set up several 1-day promotions with each alternating your A/B test. Run the promotions for several days, then take the CSV files and run an analysis on click-through rate. It would be far from perfect, but something worth testing in and of itself.
3. Events, Contests & Giveaways
Reddit advertising is very “top of the funnel” – which is why it would work well for content marketing. However, if you’re on a tighter budget with a focus on direct response & last click conversions – something like event registrations and contests would be an interesting route to take.
You wouldn’t need a hard sell (something that’s not going to work anyway), but you would at least get to have a follow-up interaction – and possibly get an email, like, or follow out of it – some way to get an opt-in.
4. One-off Promotions
If you’re really looking for direct-response, one-off promotions might work depending on your product, conversion rate, and margins. I’ve seen niche brands and niche tools run fairly frequent ads on Reddit – often enough to where I assume that they must be making money – or at least generating awareness that pays off later.
Either way – test, analyze, repeat.
5. Being a “permanent sponsor”
As I noted at the beginning of the how to advertise on Reddit section – finding a good subreddit is the majority of the work. Once you’ve found one that has the right audience – check to see what it would cost to buy all the inventory. I mentioned buying up all the inventory of a specific subreddit at the end of my experience, and want to reiterate it.
It may very well be worth buying all the inventory of a subreddit that’s very relevant to your business. I know I did it for/r/webdesign. You can buy up to 3 months of pageviews. So whatever the impression data is x $[your bid] – and it can be yours.
In any other medium (especially in the physical world), advertisers would typically jump at the chance to be the sole sponsor of a community made up of people interested in their product. And there are dozens of targeted subreddits waiting for an advertiser to find them and advertise on them for a very cheap rate.
After a while, you can use it to engage with moderators and be involved in organic marketing.
6. New Product Feedback
Do you have a new product or service that you want to get feedback on without paying much for an expensive focus group? A landing page + Reddit ads or a Google Survey + Reddit ads may very well work. Or at least give you some good initial feedback.
7. Copywriting by the Numbers
Tim Ferris crafted the title and subtitle of Four Hour Work Week by split testing Google search ads. He’d try different headlines – and the ones with the highest click-through rate won.
Reddit ads would also be a great way to test product names, headlines, and unique sales propositions. It’s cheap and measurable. Write a headline for a book, product, etc and run short promotions just to test the CTR for each from your target audience. You’d have to be careful though to set it up properly given the 1 promotion, 1 subreddit limitation.
Retargeting on landing pages used to be against Reddit TOS. I couldn’t find anything about it now that they have updated their ad platform. It’s also a moot point with the ability to build audiences in Google Analytics. They do have a new conversion pixel that allows you to run campaigns with different objectives.
Either way, I would definitely build out a specific retargeting audience for your campaign…especially because they are going to need a very specific message and tailored frequency to not have it blow up in your face. But have it nonetheless – if only to exclude your Reddit visitors from your general retargeting campaigns.
9. Soliciting comments
Reddit ads are interactive! If you have the time and wherewithal to monitor and provide responses – I would explore directly soliciting for comments on the ad either in the headline or on your landing page. Feedback and conversation is always a good thing.
For less than $100 – I was able to get 75,000 impressions in front of my target audience, with 347 clicks, and 5 conversions. Plus, I bought up 3 months of inventory on a very targeted community of exactly the people I want to be in front of.
You don’t even have to spend that much. All it takes is $5 to run a promotion on Reddit.
1. Head over to Reddit, and click around. See what it’s about. See if you can find a relevant subreddit for your market.
2. Get a username, and set up a test promotion. It’s $5 – and you have a huge upside to getting in on a medium that many advertisers ignore while Reddit’s traffic and communities keep growing.
And let me know via Twitter any experiences you’ve had with Reddit advertising! If you found this useful, please link to it from your website or share it out :)
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