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SEOs, You Should Be on Reddit

SEOs, are you reaping the benefits of the Reddit community? Don’t miss out on the honest feedback from real people and dive into the culture.

It’s hard being an SEO on the Internet. The old people on Facebook can’t understand what we do, we’re not famous enough for Twitter and our forums are more shady than that alley behind the Arby’s. So where can a search engine optimizer go to hang out and talk shop with his or her compatriots?

The answer is Reddit. Yes, other communities exist. You can praise the latest Moz blog post in its comments. You can congratulate yourself on the links you’ve bought in BlackHatWorld’s forums. And you can tweet into a great void until there’s no more SEO to talk about. But Reddit has everything if you know how to use it. To prove it, Clayburn Griffin and I started a brand new SEO subreddit (a “subreddit” is a community!) and it’s off to a great start.

This isn’t about using Reddit to bring traffic to your website.  People have written about that.  It’s not about how to use Reddit when you have no idea what it is either.  People have written about that, too.  We want to convince you that being on Reddit is good for you, as a person first and foremost, and as a marketer second.  Reddit is opportunity waiting for whatever part of you needs it most.

redditors are painfully honest

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. – Thomas Jefferson” – Michael Scott

The truth is there’s a lot of dishonesty in marketing.  The irony is that honesty is a very effective marketing tactic.  It’s especially effective in the digital space.  When you look at the success of something “viral” like the Old Spice Guy campaign, it was the foundation of honesty that made it well-received.

The brand had fun with its fans and celebrities.  No overt ulterior motive needed.  They didn’t even mention a product in some videos.  Compare that to the Terry Crews Old Spice Guy.  This Old Spice Guy has a message, and it’s something to do about power?  Why?  I don’t know, because it’s not an honest message. It’s a marketing attempt to connect Old Spice with Power for some reason.

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Good marketers have to learn to be honest.  Reddit will force it out of you. If there’s one thing that Reddit excels at it’s keeping people honest. For instance in 2010, Reddit called out a History professor’s hoax when he had successfully deceived the Internet. In Reddit’s infamous /r/IAMA subreddit, where scientists, movie stars, and the President all come to answer questions, Redditors never shy away from asking the things that make PR professionals cringe. Take the now infamous Woody Harrelson AMA. Some PR agent probably thought it was a great idea. They even had studio interns asking tough questions about Harrelson’s upcoming film Rampart. Except Reddit didn’t care much about Rampart and called Harrelson and his PR team out for not only planting questions but also lacking transparency.

If posts, promotions, comments, discussions want to succeed and gain traction on Reddit, they need to be honest. As marketers who want to bridge the gap between search and marketing, and more importantly convince traditional marketers that we have something to offer, we need to do more “Real Company Sh*t”.

Reddit has natural hostility towards SEO and marketing. It’s overt at times and for good reason. Marketing, in Reddit’s eyes, tends to subvert communities, influence actions, and cheapen interaction. And Reddit has no qualms about calling this out. You want to know how X feels about Y? Ask a Redditor.

interact with real People

“What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?” – Adam Ewing

Redditors are great people to know and interact with.  You never know what someone might bring to the table.  They’ll challenge you, educate you, maybe just insult and/or annoy you.  This engagement might be Reddit’s greatest gift.  Whatever person you need at any given moment is on Reddit.  They’re sitting at their computer just waiting for you to ask for them.  Ever wonder why taking a shower makes your hair pliable?  Redditors have the answer.

These individuals, anonymous and not, come together to make Reddit what it is: a community of communities.

According to Reddit, as of 2012, there were 8,400 subreddits with 100 or more users. Over 100,000 exist in total. These subreddits vary from discussing Starcraft and Guns to Philosophy and Home Remodeling. Soccer moms and Hackers occupy the same domain but create distinct communities. Redditors are driven to act, interact, and mobilize for a greater purpose. No better example of mobilization exists than Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity. In short, guy writes a post about making a satirical rally in the guise of Glenn Beck’s Rally for Honor. Article gets posted on Reddit. Redditors “charity bomb” DonorsChoose.com to get Colbert’s attention. Two months later, the Rally is a reality and Colbert credits Reddit as the catalyst. And who said neckbeards don’t take action?

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Subreddits like /r/Startups offer genuine feedback for founders. /r/ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5) translates complex questions into simple analogies and explanations. /r/ShitRedditDoes compiles a list of the amazing acts of kindness Redditors are capable of – just another example of real people using Reddit as a vehicle for good.

understand Audience Culture

“I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was.” – Abe Simpson

Old Abe wasn’t on Reddit, and society passed him by. Now he doesn’t understand what anything is.  Don’t be like Abe.  The landscape is rapidly changing, and you can easily get left behind.  Being active on Reddit will keep you immersed in the latest that digital culture has to offer.

If you don’t understand this culture, it can be very difficult to succeed online.  As an example, just look at Microsoft.  They were innovative once.  Bill Gates is the epitome of what you might find on Reddit, give or take a few billion dollars.  At one point in time, Microsoft “got it,” but they took it and focused on making money, creating products and marketing those products.  They forgot to keep their eye on society. Now they have Bing.  Did they ever think to ask what people want in a search engine?  No.  They decided a picture on the homepage would be “cool.”  Did that come from knowing the Internet community or from an internal need to be exciting, fresh, dynamic and other adjectives some marketer wrote on a whiteboard during an hour-long brainstorming session.  Look at Xbox, though.  Here you have a successful brand from Microsoft where marketers got it right.  They took the time to understand the gamer community, to create not only a console that could fit their personality but an original video game to match.  Halo was smart marketing because it was a product informed by the culture of its target demographic.  A product like that makes marketing easy.

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Marketers often look for cross-sections of a population to figure out their target markets. We often hear about creating marketing personas and targeted messaging. These personas are often based on keyword research, search behavior, demographics, etc. We compile these into names like “Technical Tim – the IT Admin that uses his off time to rock climb and kayak.” How many times have we actually found a Technical Tim in the wild to engage with and see if our personas even check out? Reddit provides you a vehicle to find these personas, in real life, and interact and learn from them. Think of yourself as Jane Goodall, observing ape behavior in nature. Your marketing could use more anthropology.

So, when you’re coming up with your next great strategic vision for the digital space, don’t forget about the culture.  If you’re not in tune with it yourself, how can you expect to strike the appropriate virtual chord?  You can’t.  You have to understand the Internet.

And what better way than reading “the front page of the internet.”

Conclusion

Anonymity brings out the best and the worst in people.  As marketers, we’re used to plenty of self-aggrandizing or publicly stroking the egos of “big wigs” in our open online communities.  Behind the mask of a Reddit account you get real opinions.  Ideas, not personalities, rise to the top. If you want genuine discussion, aren’t afraid of feedback, can withstand the occasional troll, and want to grow as a marketer, then you should be on Reddit.

Quick Edit: This article was a collaboration between Clayburn Griffin and me. I’d be remiss to not give credit where credit is definitely due. He kicks butt and his knowledge of memes and how to best use them in semi-legitimate articles on very legitimate blogs is unrivaled.

 

  • http://nickpierno.com/ Nick Pierno

    I couldn’t agree more with this. It’s something I’ve always felt, but struggled to put into words. I think you nailed it though. It’s honesty.

    For whatever reason it seems like folks who are engaged with reddit just have a sense about internet culture, and that sense seems really important in internet marketing, or anything that requires engagement with the online world.

    Great article, and keep up the good work with r/bigseo!

    • Yuriy Yarovoy

      Thanks Nick we’re trying. Apparently the community we’ve made is so anti self-promotion that this post currently has 10 upvotes and 9 downvotes. We’ve raised them well haha.

      Jokes aside I wholeheartedly wish marketers took to reddit to really learn about their audience and vet their ideas. The amount of honest discourse and cat pictures you get beats many targeted quantitative and qualitative studies.

  • http://www.20milesnorth.com/ Rob Jenkins

    Well you got me back on Reddit after a year or so away, I think my old account got deleted somehow nice forum you started there.

  • George Musson

    Interesting Post Yuriy.

    I think the most important part of posting on Reddit is that you actually take the time to understand it before posting on it. A lot of people discount the idea of engaging with Reddit for business purposes as they believe the traffic is not applicable. However, it’s a social bookmarking website that i think has the highest rewards if done right.

    I wrote a post just this week demonstrating the power of Reddit, which you can find on http://www.adtrak.co.uk/blog/the-adtrak-blog-reddit-and-increasing-search-traffic-by-1000/ . It reflects on how Reddit helped not only the referral traffic for our agency, but the organic traffic as well; generating links on industry forums, social media and more.

    • Yuriy Yarovoy

      Thank George!

      I look at reddit as a real community, fairly indistinguishable from the physical world aside from the anonymity. I feel that it’s the only way to minimize the “discount effect.” Once you delve deeper and begin to understand the culture within each subreddit, you can get very concrete information about what you want to know straight from the people that engage within your area of interest.

      It’s a treasure trove of information but you can’t treat it as a marketing channel overtly.

  • http://www.leapfroggr.com/ Dennis Seymour

    I guess ill be seeing you guys on Reddit then. Ive always wanted to spend more time there since most are no BS but the other communities like those on google+ have kept me busy. Oh how do i manage…lol :) thanks for the post Yuriy

    • Yuriy Yarovoy

      Ha, we’ll welcome you with open arms over at /r/BigSEO. I will tell you though, if you stray into other subs, you may get lost. Hope you’ve got some time to kill :)

  • Heather Ferris

    Whelp, that quick edit made me laugh pretty hard. No tl;dr? ;)

    • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

      I assumed the Quick Edit was the TL;DR.

    • Yuriy Yarovoy

      Yea we spaced out and should have named the conclusion “TL;DR” Woops!

  • Ben

    Interesting article. I was part of the original wave “defectors” from /r/seo to /r/bigseo, and for about 2-4 weeks, the content, questions and debates on /r/bigseo was great. But as anything that gains popularity, the quality began declining. I started posting less and less and now I’m at the point where I only check it maybe once a week if I even remember to. The influx of beginner questions and “is this black hat” or “will i be penalized” week after week just became too much for me. Most of the time, you can tell on specifically /r/bigseo and /r/seo if an article submission was posted by either the author or someone affiliated with that specific site. These also get spammed far too much on both subreddits. I’m all for the community and helping people, but at some point, you realize people are not even trying to search for an answer and just resorting to posting a question to get a response from those active contributors. These issues led me back to sites such as SEL, SEW, SEJ, and SER.

    • Yuriy Yarovoy

      Thanks for the feedback Ben! This is what we want to hear. Clayburn and I are working on creating theme days as well as building out the Wiki even more. Our challenge now is empowering those that we’ve given editorial access for the wiki to actually go and add and change the content.

      We feel that /r/SEO acts as a lightning rod for most of the simple questions you mentioned above. Yes, we’ve also noticed a decline in quality but it is by no means what you see in the old SEO sub. I feel that the current /r/BigSEO audience does a great job downvoting and reporting questions they feel belong in the old sub as evidenced by the downvoting of a few high quality articles from SEJ a few weeks ago even though they were riding high on Inbound.

      Hopefully we keep these processes in place long enough to instill a culture of collaboration into the new members. We’ll see in due time.

      • Alan

        I think the whole premise of bigSEO was wrong. it was like a couple of kids thought lets do /seo but lets make it BIGGER. Things like calling the subscribers SEO Rocksta’s is just one case in point. Seriosuly, SEO Rocksta’s?

        The premise you should have started with was lets make it Different! not Bigger! I moved over to /bigseo for a while then moved back to /seo and now I don’t bother with either. So little time too much garbage to wade through!

        • Yuriy Yarovoy

          Hey Alan,

          Thanks for the feedback. The premise behind calling it “Big” SEO was more of a way to say Professional. What we see for this community is a place to get away from the “Where do I get 10k links” or “Meta Keywords: Yay or Nay?”

          That being said, the post was not about /r/BigSEO, it’s about how reddit can help marketers – online and off – get in touch with their niche audiences in a honest and insightful manner. The market research capability within reddit is far better in my opinion than any focus group you can assemble.

          • Alan

            I agree that Reddit is a great place to start building communities etc, in fact I encourage all my clients to grab their company name as a subreddit even before making a G+ account.

            I work with quite a few startups and have had clients succeed based only on the following they garnered from Reddit so i am a big believer in Reddit.

            I just think it is not a great place for SEO’s to gather. Why? Because we are all fighting over the same pie and as much as Reddit pretends to be democratic it is actually extremely autocratic. As evidenced by the subdrama in politics and atheism.

            What do I mean by this? What I mean is as an SEO I want to control any sub I am a part of and I don’t mean just be a mod I mean I want to be the founder and I always want to have enough mods on my side so that other mods that come in never get the chance to evict me. Sounds a bit dog eat dog but thats life and I pretty sure you are totally aware of this fact and that is a big part of why you started bigseo.

            What you will find Yuriy is that is what all the good SEO’s will want, so they stop participating and then only the newby type questions start coming through. Why would I participate in a community where I have no real control?

          • Ben

            I do think Reddit is a good place to start a community, but for new marketers or SEOs entering the game where they are in an already-defined industry and a specific niche, it is very hard to get through to Reddit from what I have personally seen. I have been through the subreddits related to my particular niche and I’ve seen attempts by both competitors and people within my organization posting marketing ads in an attempt to gain visibility. The backlash was not vicious so to speak, but those who posted were outed almost immediately with references to /r/hailcorporate. I am in an industry where peer review is the de facto standard and targeted advertising does not work as well so it all depends on the appeal and quality of your product. With that said, Reddit may be good for SEOs, but it heavily depends on your niche. I’m better off focusing my efforts on actual work and having a redditor come across it naturally to link to my content rather than trying to work Reddit for some pageviews.

          • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

            The purpose of joining Reddit should not be to promote you or your business. It’s about getting to know your market (Internet users) and learning from communities. If you’re joining any community to get traffic to your blog, then you’re not really interested in the community aspect.

          • Alan

            So you do this just for altruistic reasons? not to gain anything from it?

          • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

            No. You gain a lot from it, but traffic to a website is the least of what Reddit has to offer. Any community should benefit you in some way. You don’t go to church for the eternal salvation; you go for the socializing, the free wafers, the feelings of inclusion. Community has its own reward, and Reddit happens to offer a kind of reward particularly helpful for growing as a digital marketer.

          • Alan

            You do it right and traffic is the best thing Reddit can offer. Like I said I have worked with startups that were made because of Reddit. Of course if you are overtly selling something there will be a backlash but like I said do it right and the traffic can be insane. I have had sites that have gone from 1000 to 6 million uniques a week because of the Reddit affect.

            I understand what you are trying to do but really, Reddit is not a great community for SEO’s. We are all marketers by trade so we are all trying to sell something and so we are inherently distrustful of other SEO’s having control of the platform. Like I said eventually it degenerates into newbie type questions, because the bigger SEO’s don’t really want to be there if they don’t feel like they have ownership.

            I said earlier I have hung out at both /seo and /bigseo. If /bigseo ever gets to a level that is worth talking about, the other problem is that Reddit is easily manipulated, accounts are so easy to make and bots are rife. So I can see a time when the moderators are going to be so busy trying to stop people from self promoting the subreddit into oblivion.

            Like some else said recently inbound is probably a better more structured way to get your SEO news and info anyway, for now.

          • Yuriy Yarovoy

            /r/BigSEO isn’t the focus of this article. Our community was created for reasons mentioned in numerous threads on /r/SEO.

            The point of this article can be boiled down to one single point,”Interact with your target audience in an honest way and validate your ideas without being sales-focused. If you do both of those things, you’ll learn more about your niche than you will from pretty much any other source.”

            If you use that point to learn about your audience’s habits, language, etc, you can craft your complete business presence around these personas in order to resonate better, convert higher, drive users deeper. Will those be redditors converting, driving, and resonating with your message? Probably not, they’re fickle people. But you aren’t doing this to drive traffic from reddit, you’re doing this to drive qualified traffic based on validated information that you’ve obtained through reddit. Where are you driving this traffic from? That is for you to decide. The reddit plan was only the research phase.

          • Yuriy Yarovoy

            This is very true. As with all SEO and marketing, what works for one niche does not work for many others. My main point wasn’t so much about getting traffic from Reddit – most of the time it’s a flash in the pan and the retention rates suck – it’s to engage with the audience and find out what you can develop organically to make them stick around.

            What does your niche talk about? What are hot button issues right now? How does the audience speak about your niche? What kind of language do they use? Etc. It’s really a beautiful thing when you crowdsource your market research by posting a simple question or insightful article (Not your own, just something that relates to what your own site may be about) and then sit back and watch the conversations unfold.

        • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

          It’s Rockstars. Looks like maybe there’s some CSS issues that makes the R kind of hard to see.

          Regardless, it was just the first thing I thought of. I was a bit busy with more important things, so I didn’t put that much effort into what we’d call ourselves. “SEOs” is a bit boring, though.

          I’m open to suggestions.

    • James

      Think this was partially because the people who would ask interesting questions are probably intimidated about asking them. Who here likes saying “I don’t know” or admitting ignorance.

      This has lead to the repeat of the vague “How do I SEO” questions on throwaways that blighted r/seo

  • igl00

    Love the raptor meme :)

  • James

    “Problem” with redditors is that they don’t really want to be sold to and are actively hostile about anything even close to this.

    At least for SEO topics, I believe people have steered clear of linking to useful content outside spammers who don’t know better. Is it the response rates? Is it because it’s too much work to build a relationship with a relatively small community?

    I get my daily links from inbound and other sites.

    • Yuriy Yarovoy

      While there are communities on reddit for SEOs, one of which Clayburn and I created, the post is more to explain that reddit is a treasure trove for market research and persona investigation. A place where a business can not only find out more about their target audience but also get feedback and potentially validate much larger marketing initiatives. Take a look at /r/startups for instance and you’ll find several successful startups that seeded their audience through reddit after doing intensive market research in various subs, validating their initial idea. That’s where I think most marketers miss the point of reddit. The traffic and links you get are tertiary at best to the value you get by understanding your audience.

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  • Spook SEO

    Reddit definitely has its advantages. I for one like the fact that Redditors will take the time to give you their take on the ideas you’ll share. It’s an awesome place to get feedback.

    • Yuriy Yarovoy

      This is exactly the point of this article. Yes, there’s the community aspect of it and we should be there but that’s not the point. The point is we, as SEOs and more importantly as Marketers, should use Reddit for the amazing research opportunities. Launching a product? Validate in a related subreddit. Have questions about a specific niche? Chances are there’s a subreddit for it. It’s a goldmine.

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