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How to promote content on Reddit for free (...and without getting banned)

Helloooo content connoisseurs.

It’s Perrin from Content Bites.

If you can figure Reddit out, you can get great, engaged traffic for free. And sometimes lots of it. But it’s absolutely not easy. Today, we’re going to talk about the pros, cons, risks, and raw power of using Reddit to promote content (for free and without getting banned).

  • Appetizers: Links from Hubspot, Marketo, Russ Simmonds and more

  • Main Course: 4 ways to promote content on Reddit for free (without getting banned)

Let’s dig in.

Appetizers: Content about content 🤯

  • 22 Brutally Honest Landing Page Critiques (link)

  • The Ultimate Copy Checklist: 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy (link)

  • 12 Things to Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post (link)

  • Is Instagram Shopping Driving Sales? The Results Are In: Brands Report +1,416% Traffic, +20% Revenue (link)

  • How to Start a Video Content Campaign the Right Way (link)

What I’m reading

I’ve been glued to The Newsletter Operator recently.

I really, really believe in the power of newsletter as a content channel. It’s the reason I started thing thing. For my money, it’s the single best channel for content distribution because you can form a real, long-term connection with your audience.

If you’ve ever thought about growing a newsletter as a content channel, I cannot recommend Matt over at The Newsletter Operator highly enough. It’s a free, weekly email just like this one, and it’s absolutely the best in that niche.

Main Course: How to promote content on Reddit for free: 4 tactics

Whether you love Reddit or hate Reddit, odds are, you probably hate Reddit. 

It sure as hell is great for content marketing, though. 

I once built a waiting list of 6,000 people for a SaaS product with a single Reddit post (for free) using tactic #3 below.

I also once generated about 11,000 pageviews in 48 hours with roughly 45 minutes of work (also for free). I did that using the last 3 tactics below. 

It can be bonkers, but you gotta get it right.

And getting it right is not easy. 

Reddit is smart. It’s a cool place most of the time. But the culture of Reddit also drips with cynicism, skepticism, and anti-marketerism. 

And because of that, it’s very easy to piss everyone off. Promoting content on Reddit is not at all for the faint of heart.

But if you do manage to create something on Reddit that people love, they can be hands-down some of the most engaged people you can attract. 

So before the tactics, some ground rules.

The only two promotional approaches that work on Reddit. 

Here’s what doesn’t work: “Do you have back pain? Want it to go away in 30 days or your money back??!! Enter discount code BACKPAINFREE30 below!!”

Neither does this: “Hey Reddit! We’re the Wendy’s marketing team! Join us for a hamburgery good time at your local Wendys, just for Reddit users!” 

You’ll get butchered. 

There are literally only TWO promotional approaches that work on Reddit. 

Deep native promotion: promotion that looks like real users on the platform. The “deep” part of this means that you’re promoting your content as close to as naturally as possible – even if it means expressing cynicism about your own brand or not even linking to your content. More on this later. 

Maximum authenticity: ultra-transparent, “leveling” with users that this is your business and you make money from it — but then providing lots of value. 

Both work, and you’ll have to decide what’s best for your business based on which tactics (below) you want to use. 

Alright, on to the tactics.

Tactic #1: Deep native commenting 

  • Reach: Low

  • Audience quality: Very high

  • Pros: Can lead to immediate sales/leads/etc., good reputation & brand builder, under the radar

  • Cons: Kind of sketchy, takes lots of time

What is it? Finding posts relevant to your content/business and then commenting with lots of value + recommendations for other resources (spoiler alert: it’s your content). Importantly: the idea is to recommend stuff as a native third-party user who’s unaffiliated with your brand, which is what makes it kind of sketchy. 

My opinion & experience. This works surprisingly well. Better than you’d think for sure. 

This can work even to drive traffic to products and services, but it’s very, very good for content – mostly because content is easier to recommend, and people are less likely to have their guards up. 

I actually tried this for this newsletter. I asked a freelancer to lurk on marketing, content, SEO, and entrepreneur subreddits; we looked for discussions where we could add value, and she commented with value-add comments, offering Content Bites as an additional resource. 

We ran a two-week test. We worked for about 15 minutes a day, and we generated about 50-70 subscribers (it’s difficult to tell exactly because we sometimes didn’t use hyperlinks). My landing page converts at about 50%, so I probably generated 100-200 eyeballs.

This is the basic process:

  1. Find niche communities where discussions related to your best content might be happening

  2. Find EITHER trending discussion with few comments OR discussions that have already blown up and are getting lots of active visibility (for both, you want <12 hours old)

  3. For new discussions with few comments, add a good, relevant, top-level comment as if you were a third party user unaffiliated with your brand

  4. For discussions that have already blow up, reply to the top comment and do the same thing

  5. Get 3-5 friends to upvote to give it some a lil nudge

  6. Link to your content as a good resource

Example: This comment drives tons of traffic to a recipe post. As far as I can tell, this is a legit comment. But this is exactly what it should look like (doesn’t need to be that long, though, and your resource should probably be mentioned at the end). Using the rough estimate of 1 upvote = ~4 eyeballs, that post probably drove about 8,000 people to that post.

Tactic #2: Deep native value-add text posting

*There are three kinds of posts on Reddit: images, links, and text. Here, we’re talking about text posts

  • Reach: Low-very high

  • Audience quality: Very high

  • Pros: When this goes right, it can be the absolutely nuclear combination of reach and audience quality

  • Cons: Tough to really get right, takes a lot more time/energy to do (each of these is essentially it’s own piece of content, really need to understand the communities you’re posting in

What is it? Making extremely value-driven posts (usually long-form) that are hyper-relevant to the communities they’re posted in.

Think: massive tutorials in a DIY subreddit or guides or detailed posts about how someone made a fitness transformation (like the one below). 

These are almost always framed as one person trying to share critical information and/or relevant stories with the group. 

Usually, at the end, when max value has been added, there are links to tools that helped or resources for folks to learn more.

My opinion & experience. This is part of how I generated 11k page views in 48 hours. 

I was helping run a website about education at the time, and we’d built some content that compiled free online courses. 

So, on Reddit, I chopped a section of those that were specifically related to astronomy and posted a massive list of free courses in the r/Space subreddit. Then, I added more content to it (a quick summary of each course). 

It was long. Like 2,000 words or something. After it got a few upvotes, I added a link at the bottom that was like, “Edit: here’s a much bigger list of free courses with links” and then linked to our content. 

That reddit post was responsible for about 3,000 pageviews. 

The basic process: 

  1. Find niche subreddits relevant to your best content

  2. Sort those subreddits by top > all time

  3. Look at the top text posts in those communities

  4. Ideate & structure a text post that is similar to the top posts but can link to your owned content as a resource

  5. Post it

  6. Get 3-5 friends to upvote to give it some a lil nudge

  7. Wait to see how it does

  8. If it starts doing well, edit (fairly quickly) & add your links

It’s long, personal, and helpful. At the end, he links three tools. 

Again, this is a legit post (not a marketer as far as I can tell), but it’s exactly how it should look when done well. 

Tactic #3: Ultra-authentic value-add posting

  • Reach: Low-very high

  • Audience quality: very high

  • Pros: If you really do this right, you can win the good will of Reddit as a true representative of your brand, which basically buys you permission to promote there indefinitely

  • Cons: If you’re not cool or people don’t like your product, you will get crushed

What is it? Create value add posts (usually long-form content or images/video) – but be extremely transparent about what you’re doing and that you are promoting.  

Think: “I built an app to help HR managers track employee retention. I wanted to share some of the data that came from the first 100 customers.”  

My opinion & experience. This is how I built a waiting list of 6,000 people for software I hadn’t even built yet. 

It was a long time ago (before Discord), and I realized that gamers needed a better way to communicate while they were playing games. The options at the time were annoying. 

I posted in r/LeagueOfLegends with a post that was extremely transparent. 

It was long and detailed, but the summary would basically be: “I have an idea for voice chat software. TeamSpeak is annoying. I have an investor ready to commit $10,000 to building it [(and I really did)], but first we need to prove people even want it. Here’s the idea [outlined the idea in detail]. If you’d use something like this, would you please tell me what you think in the comments? I also created a waiting list, which is the best way I can prove to our investor that people want this.”

The post was much longer, well-formatted, introduced myself, etc. 

We got 6,000 people to sign up for the waitlist, and that investor did commit $10,000 to getting the software built. 

Unfortunately, I was a dumb kid and had no idea what I was doing lol. 

The idea flopped, and Discord came out about a year later, immediately bogarting the whole market. 

But it’s still a pretty powerful illustration of how well Reddit can work. 

The basic process: 

  1. Find relevant niche subreddits where self-promotion happens at least sometimes

  2. Read the rules, skip if they have strict self-promotion rules

  3. Otherwise, message the moderators, pitch your post, and ask if it’s okay to include a link to your own content

  4. Create the post & lean into transparency

  5. Get 3-5 friends to upvote to give it some a lil nudge

  6. Field comments as they come in and lean into transparency even more

Example: OxenForge’s whole Reddit history is worth looking at. They sell woks, and they do an amazing job of posting authentically.

**A link post is a type of reddit post that only consists of a title and a link to an external website. If a user clicks on the title, there is nothing in the post except a link to external content. 

  • Reach: Can be extremely high

  • Audience quality: Low

  • Pros: This is really the only kind of Reddit promotion that can yield 6-figure visibility, can yield residual press elsewhere on the web, by far the best brand builder of the four

  • Cons: Audience quality is low

What is it? Using link posts on larger, more general subreddits to draw large amounts of raw traffic to your content. 

This has to be done on subreddits that are, at least in part, about link posts. Examples are: 

The major, major benefit of this tactic is that it does not take much time at all. You just have to write good titles and post the link. 

It’s also much more of a crap shoot, but it’s definitely super easy. 

My opinion & experience. This is the other half of how I generated 11k pageviews in 48 hours. 

With our evergreen content, I was taking content that already existed on our site, pulling interesting data, and posting on r/TodayILearned. I was mimicking popular title structures and linking to content that had interesting facts or data. 

But we also experimented with timely, news-style content and posted to r/News and other relevant news communities. 

This accounted for probably 7,000 pageviews in the 48 hours. 

The basic process: 

  1. Make a list of general subreddits in which link posts are common and accepted, starting with r/TodayILearned, r/News, and r/InternetIsBeautiful

  2. Pull facts, data, and anecdotes from your best content

  3. Post in those communities

  4. Get 3-5 friends to upvote to give it some a lil nudge

  5. Repeat daily for each community

Example: This post titled, “TIL When threatened, a female quokka may drop her joey from her pouch to divert the predator's attention while she escapes.” This post generated over 10,000 upvotes, and as of the time of writing, it was only posted 5 hours ago. It links to Mental Floss, an ad-driven publisher specializing in viral content (which should give us a clue). Using the rough formula of 1 upvote = ~4 pageviews, this post has probably generated 40,000 pageviews in 5 hours (and counting)

Extra bonus secret sauce

If you’re using a tactic with a post instead of a comment, if you see it start to get a bit of traction, you can currently drive posts to the tops of subreddit by buying awards

Awards are little badges you can gift to people. You can only buy them with Reddit Coins and Reddit Coins were discontinued, but if you have any (or if you can find someone who is willing to let you buy them / pay them to use them), it’s a powerful way to drive visibility.

How to actually deploy this

**I really recommend a testing phase for these. Reddit is weird and fickle and works at very different levels for various niches. Reddit is free, testing is easy, and consequences can be wild (getting your entire domain banned, outsized negative press, etc.), so there’s no reason not to test. 

  • Pick 3-4 of your best pieces of content

  • Try all 4 tactics at a pace of about 1-2 hours per day for a month, worked into your normal content marketing activities; or, better yet, hire a strong freelancer to do it for you, which is what I did to test the commenting tactic

  • Measure results

  • Double down on what works

That’s the issue. If you missed last week’s issue, you can read it here.

Go forth & conquer.



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