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SEO lessons from Reddit: Takeaways for your own content strategy

Author: Abby Gleason

An image of author Abby Gleason accompanied by various search-related iconography

Fact: People want advice from Reddit. Searchers have been appending [Reddit] to Google search queries at an increasingly high rate (especially since late 2021), and Google has been rewarding the platform with massively increased SERP visibility.


Google Trends screenshot of search volume for “Reddit” from 2009 to March 2024
The search demand for [Reddit] from 2009 to March 2024.

But what is it about Reddit that searchers (and Google) like? As an SEO, I’ll admit I didn’t think forum sites had the potential to be SEO powerhouses: 


  • There’s no clear, immediate indicator of contributors’ expertise.

  • Spam and sometimes offensive speech crops up.

  • The content itself doesn’t follow typical on-page best practices, like scannable headings and summarization. 


Despite all of this, it turns out that forum sites like Reddit are exactly what some searchers are looking for. Put simply, their content is incredibly human. Reddit threads exist for nearly every topic, filled with helpful, firsthand advice and the signature candid remarks of frequent forum lurkers.


With AI-generated content and “SEO-ed” affiliate content flooding the SERPs, users are getting wise and turning to the realest corners of the internet when they need advice they can trust.

This is why it’s more important than ever to have a human touch in your content strategy


In this article, we’ll dive into: 




The meteoric rise of Reddit’s SEO


Reddit hasn’t always been an organic powerhouse. In fact, prior to mid-2023, SEO traffic had been incredibly flat since the site launched in 2005.


Ahrefs organic traffic data for Reddit.com from 2019 to 2024. The chart is mostly flat, with a massive spike in traffic in mid-2023.
Reddit’s organic traffic surged far above historic levels beginning around June 2023.

In June 2023, Reddit was attracting about 80 million monthly visitors from Google, according to Ahrefs. In March 2024, it brought in nearly 500 million monthly visitors. That’s more than a 500% increase in less than nine months.


In addition, Reddit shows up 97.5% of the time in Google Search product review queries and takes up nearly two-thirds of the space reserved for Google’s “Discussions and forums” SERP feature.


Put simply, Google is heavily prioritizing Reddit in search results.


Why did Reddit’s traffic increase so dramatically? 

Google announced its “Hidden Gems” helpful content update in May 2023, right before Reddit started seeing the traffic increase. 


In Google’s own words, it tweaked its search results to “focus on content with unique expertise and experience… created from a personal or expert point of view.” Reddit is chock-full of these “hidden gems.”


“Helpful information can often live in unexpected or hard-to-find places: a comment in a forum thread, a post on a little-known blog, or an article with unique expertise on a topic. Our helpful content ranking system will soon show more of these ‘hidden gems’ on Search, particularly when we think they’ll improve the results.” Google, May 2023

My personal hypothesis is that Google’s Hidden Gems update occurred in part due to more searchers appending [Reddit] to their queries over time.


For example, see the increase in popularity of searches for [best protein powder reddit]. 


Keywords Everywhere trend data for the query “best protein powder reddit”. The volume increases steadily since 2019.

I, myself, add [Reddit] to quite a few queries, primarily when I want advice from real people. I want to avoid affiliate link-filled articles written by generative AI—basically, I want to read suggestions from experienced people who aren’t incentivized beyond wanting to help.


Others feel similarly. I asked folks on  why they add [Reddit] to queries and got some similar responses.


A tweet from Ryan Law. It reads, “filtering, peer review, consensus-seeking, wisdom of the crowd :) blog post: written by one person, reviewed by one person (if we're lucky), obvious bias attachedreddit: written by many people, reviewed by many people (upvoting/downvoting), less obvious bias”

A tweet from Sarah Fuller. It reads: “I only do this when I’m looking for a lot of opinions on a topic (e.g. if customer reviews of something aren’t informative) or if I’m trying to find answers to something very niche and haven’t had success on Google otherwise”

A tweet from John Bonini. It reads: “Objectivity. I assume most blog posts are written to be subjective toward a specific product or other interests (affiliate links, etc.) If I google “best hiking daypacks” I’ll get a bunch of listicles hawking their own products or products of those who have paid for their placement. If I check Reddit, I’ll find a forum specifically for hikers and a thread discussing this very thing.”

Generally, searchers prefer Reddit when they want an unbiased opinion, social proof, or are searching for a particularly niche topic. In terms of topics, this can span pretty much anything from product recommendations to life advice and everything in between.


Google itself even gave “product recommendations” and “travel advice” as examples of two key topic areas in which searchers frequently turn to Reddit.


Side note: The reason I think people search on Google for Reddit threads (instead of searching directly on Reddit) is because Google’s algorithm does a better job of surfacing relevant threads—not necessarily because users want more Reddit in all their search results. 


How to use Reddit’s best practices in your own content strategy


You don’t have to run a forum to replicate Reddit’s best SEO plays for your own website. You can add unique, human elements to your content to instill trust with users the way Reddit does by:


  • Hiring writers/editors that have firsthand expertise

  • Adding a rating system for your content

  • Fostering a healthy comments section

  • Prioritizing UX by getting to the point quickly

  • Writing with a distinct voice


Hire writers and editors that have firsthand expertise with the topic

I’m not burying the lede—this is the most important tip in this article, and the number one reason why I think people turn to Reddit: users with a variety of real experiences can share their experience to help others learn.


Searchers want to trust that the content’s writers and/or editors have firsthand expertise in the topic they are writing about. For example, if you are searching for [best travel backpacks], you want advice from someone who has personally tested out several travel backpacks and can recommend the best ones based on price and quality.


Do your due diligence—hire writers and/or editors that have firsthand experience in what they are recommending. It’s obvious when advice is generic, and your audience will sniff that out right away.


If you don’t have a writer with personal experience in your topic, you may be able to find other ways to crowdsource that expertise. For my previous client, for example, my team crowdsourced ideas from the client’s Facebook group and embedded them into the content.


In one blog post that we applied this tactic to (about what to bring a friend in the hospital), the comments really added value for our audience because they knew they could trust other people who’d been through the same thing—it developed instant trust and rapport.


Screenshot of advice from a CaringBridge article about what to bring a friend in the hospital. A popular suggestion is toilet paper and soft things, since the amenities at the hospital might be less comfortable.

You can also interview subject matter experts and include their quotes in your content. Whether your writer has the expertise or you source it elsewhere, ensure that the reader knows why they can trust your advice.


Add a rating system for your content

The comment rating system is something I love about Reddit—even though I can’t prove that the commenter has expertise, I gain trust from others upvoting (or “liking”) and replying to the comment.


Screenshot of Reddit thread about gifts for backpackers. The comments are sorted by most upvoted and most replies.
A Reddit thread about gifts for backpackers. The comments are sorted by most upvoted and most replies.

Social proof builds trust. Sorting content by “likes” provides additional validation that the advice is sound. Sure, I’d be willing to trust one person giving me advice if they clearly had experience… But I’m more willing to trust the advice when I have other readers’ endorsement as well.


In your own content, you could allow readers to “like” the sections in your listicles. Next to each list item, you could either show the number of likes or clearly mark “#1 most liked” to prove its been validated by other readers. Consider setting the post to automatically sort by the most liked sections, or frequently update it manually. 


In its simplest form, try including a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” button on your articles so readers can see how much others liked it. This can also help you learn about what types of content your audience prefers.


Foster a healthy comments section


Meme with chonky cat looking attentive with popcorn and text that says “I’m only here for the comments”

Reddit is basically one giant comments section. Reviews and article comments can be a great way to add relevant on-page content that provides additional expertise.


For example, the New York Times Cooking recipes have one of the best comment sections I’ve seen. Recipe testers share their feedback and offer tweaks that worked for them. It adds a lot of value to the content and is one of the reasons I subscribe.


Screenshot of comments section on a chicken Perloo recipe on the New York Times cooking website

Or take The Sill, an eCommerce plant company. In its plant care guides, the brand features a comment section where readers can ask additional questions—the company answers nearly every question.


Pro tip: The questions your audience asks in the comments can provide helpful insights for your product or future content as well.


Screenshot of comments section on a Montsera care article on the Sill website.

Get to the point—fast

Reddit gives you answers, fast. The first answer in a thread is often the most upvoted and may give you the advice you need.


Strive to provide a similar experience with your content. We all dread the recipe blogs where you need to scroll for half a minute to get to what you’re looking for. So instead of burying the answers and frustrating your readers, include clear answers and takeaways that they can easily scan.


A screenshot of an Axios article. Sections are labeled “The big picture” and “Details” with bullet points underneath.
News publication Axios organizes the most important information at the top of the article, then outlines supporting details.

You should also evaluate the design and experience of your page. Reddit has minimal interruptions, like ads or pop-ups, making helpful comments the main content on the page.


Write with a distinct voice

Reddit is notorious for featuring snarky voices. The witty, humorous responses make for an entertaining reading experience. The storytelling and raw, “real life” anecdotes certainly add some flavor when looking up product recommendations.


A reddit subthread headline that reads "What things are 100% worth the money?"

screenshot of a reply to a Reddit post that asked “What things are 100% worth the money?” The person responded in a humorous tone to someone who suggested a Dutch oven that they got one for a dollar at a yard sale last year, and that they felt the need to tell people they got one for a dollar.

Obviously I’m not suggesting you add cuss words or emojis to your brand’s messaging. But consider the essence of what makes Reddit readable: 


  • Straightforward advice

  • Personable tone

  • Not afraid to have a bit of fun


Brand voice will differ for every business, but don’t be afraid to use the language you know your audience resonates with. That’s what makes your content not just informative, but memorable.


Take a page from ‘the front page of the internet’


Searchers love Reddit’s content so much they search for it by name. By incorporating human elements, like firsthand expertise, into your content or fostering a healthy comments section, you develop trust with your audience—and trust is the real SEO best practice.


 

Abby Gleason

Abby Gleason is a content-focused SEO with 6+ years experience leading successful organic search strategies for SaaS and eCommerce brands. She loves to share her learnings and has been published on Moz, Semrush, Search Engine Land and more. Twitter | Linkedin 

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