Over the past 30 days at Process Street, around 11% of the traffic to our blog came from social bookmarking sites like reddit, Inbound, and GrowthHackers.
That’s tens of thousands of visitors landing on our blog this month because of social bookmarking, with an average session duration of around 8 minutes. It improves our brand visibility and helps us get in front of people we would have never attracted otherwise.
The thing is, we don’t even promote on social bookmarking sites that often. We’ve posted around 10 times this month on reddit, most of which are either posts that mention us or guest posts, so these wouldn’t show on our analytics dash.
Still, we’ve had our good and bad times on these sites as we learn (in a hit-and-miss way) what resonates with different communities and what they despise.
We’ve had everything from intense hate and negative upvote counts to hundreds of comments and votes, and learned a whole lot on the way.
So, while we’re still on our way to perfecting social bookmarking promotion, here’s what we’ve learned about it.
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How to promote your content on popular social bookmarking sites
Posting on Reddit
Ah, reddit. You are the 31st most highly trafficked site in the world, and a tough nut to crack.
The difference between reddit and other social bookmarking sites is that reddit was never supposed to be a directory of links. Instead, it’s divided up into distinct communities called subreddits.
Some subreddits, such as /r/startups and /r/entrepreneur, don’t even allow users to just post links. That’s the tricky thing about reddit, as opposed to something simpler like Inbound: you’ll often have to write original, conversation-provoking content, targeted at the community to avoid having your post deleted.
Subreddits we use, and are active enough include here:
- Startups (97,716 readers)
- Entrepreneur (175,161 readers)
- Technology (5,002,737 readers)
- Business (194,105 readers)
- Productivity (94,870 readers)
- User Experience (13,299 readers)
(Warning: Make sure to read the rules on the right-hand sidebar of each subreddit before posting. If you don’t, you’re going to be in trouble.)
Here’s an example of a post I wrote for /r/startups promoting my piece on customer success:
The formula’s pretty simple, and one I find myself naturally following each time.
- Bullet-point summary
Aside from pageviews and that other stuff marketers like, I got questions that would make great topics for other blog posts in the future.
Since reddit is the toughest place for promotion I’ve come across, I drafted up a few guidelines for the marketing team when promoting there:
- Reddit visitors don’t want to have to leave reddit: submit valuable content on site, and don’t make users click through for it.
- Find the most relevant subreddits for your content. Searching keyword site:reddit.com in Google should give you a solid list
- Watch how others post on those subreddits. For example, if there are no link posts, don’t do it.
- Be an active user with your personal account, not only for promotional reasons.
- Read the reddiquette.
- Submit content that provokes conversation, because people will click onto submissions just to read the comments and then end up on your site afterwards.
Note: the numbers and stats below are based on patterns we’ve noticed, and not hard and fast rules. For example, you won’t automatically get your post tweeted by an official account once it reaches 20 upvotes, but most tweeted posts do have at least that amount.
Sharing on Inbound.org
Founded by Rand Fishkin and Dharmesh Shah, Inbound.org is an online community of marketers. The topics are broad, from web development and user experience to SEO and copywriting.
Second only to reddit, we get a good chunk of our referral traffic from Inbound because a lot of the content on our blog targeted at the full-stack marketer, like this submission on guest blogging opportunities.
On Inbound, newest submissions go to the “latest” tab and fall off unless they get over 7 points within 10 hours, in which case they’ll make it to ‘trending’, which is the default front page of Inbound. The venerable “Top” section includes posts from years back which got the most upvotes in history — this means around 250 at a bare minimum.
The entire point of Inbound from the perspective of the team is to get the marketing community engaged.
They send out emails asking for people to join discussions as well as regularly starting conversations around interesting topics.
Some submissions get tweeted to Inbound’s 26k followers, but these are (as far as I can tell) discussions with over 20 upvotes.
So, some key points from what we’ve noticed on Inbound:
- Like reddit, starting a conversation with your content is the most important thing you can do. Low comments almost always equals low upvotes and low exposure.
- I probably don’t have to spell this out, but “7 Reasons Why Our Digital Marketing Agency is the Best Digital Marketing Agency” won’t fly.
- Inbound is where marketers come to learn from each other. That’s why there’s such emphasis on discussion. Content shouldn’t be eyeroll-inducing, recycled material. Getting a reputation for posting sub-par content can be risky in tight communities.
Experimenting with Hacker News
We’ve had fleeting success with YCombinator’s Hacker News, since it seems to be extremely fickle.
Submissions disappear off the “new” page of HN sometimes as quickly as 10 minutes after they’re submitted, and after that it’s like the old joke goes:
Where’s the safest place to hide a body? Page 2 of Hacker News.
If your submission does catch on, however, it means an absolute ton of traffic. A submission of my analysis of 250 SaaS pricing pages, for example, got 299 points and 101 comments and stuck to the front page for at least a couple of days.
To get on the front page and stay there for more than a couple of hours, you’ll need to get upwards of 50 points, even in slow times.
That aside, Hacker News has a very specific audience, and all content should be around the areas of:
- App/web development
- Network security
- 50 marketing tips from the pros
- …Anything without a tech/science/math angle
Check out the HN guidelines for more info.
Promoting on GrowthHackers
GrowthHackers isn’t for lists of tools, overviews of product features, business articles, IT content, or landing pages.
While you might get away with posting this type of stuff and not getting it removed, it’s really not recommended. It’s an absolute waste of time.
In fact, before we truly ‘got’ GH, we had close to 0 visitors from there. Since then, we’ve had some success, like this:
Lesson learned: read the guidelines and lurk before you post.
Content that does best on GrowthHackers is original data, A/B test results, case studies, and things relating to the hard analytics of product and content marketing. Check out the “Must Read” tab to get an idea of the high standards of quality needed.
Submissions fall off the ‘latest’ page after 5 hours, unless they get over 5 points in 1–2 days. If that happens, submissions make it onto the much busier Trending page and get a personal tweet from Sean Ellis to his 300k+ followers, the official GrowthHackers Twitter and, if relevant, GrowthHackers SEO.
Here’s what happened when we hit the trending page on GrowthHackers:
The Surprisingly Interesting Reason Amazon Killed Sears #startup https://t.co/USroU3JHEi pic.twitter.com/rcfzPshgOY
— Sean Ellis (@SeanEllis) February 9, 2016
The best of the rest
The above are the main traffic sources for my content, and I’d guess for a lot of the marketing audience reading this, too. There are, however, some that you might be overlooking…
Have you heard of Voat? It’s a not-at-all-close competitor/clone of reddit, and can get you a nice amount of traffic if post on the popular subverses.
Why? Because it has a relatively high traffic to submission ratio, meaning that content submitted to one of the few popular subverses can sit there for days, amassing views and comments for longer than it would otherwise on any of these other sites.
What we’ve personally found is that Voat has active technology and news communities, but elsewhere is pretty dead.
Voat’s easy for posts that fit into these categories because you don’t need to write anything, posts can just go up as links.
- Technology (61,653 readers)
- News (62,942 readers)
- TIL (53,444)
- Programming (17,430 readers)
Obviously, Designer News is a niche one. Even more niche than Hacker News If you run a design blog or write about usability, design tools, or front-end development, Designer News will be an awesome traffic source for you.
Personally, I don’t write too often about design, but have had great reception on Designer News when I have. Check out their guidelines here.
BizSugar sits in that weird web 2.0 realm of looking older than time itself. Its awkward interface and layout almost fooled me into thinking it wasn’t a particularly good place to hang out.
However we found, like a lot of the other places I’ve mentioned here, it has an algorithm you can crack to drastically increase exposure and get on the first page of a site that gets around 2,000,000 views a month.
Here it is:
Each category has a recent page and a popular page. Its default state is the popular page, so it’s a fair bet that drastically fewer people see content which doesn’t make it onto the popular page.
To get to the popular page of any category, you need to get around 16 upvotes.
To get to the main front page (an aggregation of popular content from any category) you’re looking at around 18 and at least one comment. Once you get onto the front page, you’ll stay there for around 4 hours.
One of the most important factors for getting onto the front page is picking the right category. You’ve got 25 to choose from, including sales, online marketing, startups and technology resources, so it’s likely there’s something there for you if you’re running a business blog.
An interesting side-effect of getting on to the front page of BizSugar is being included in a piece on Small Business Trends. Since BizSugar and SBT are owned by the same person, some SBT articles will collate popular BizSugar posts, giving you a quality backlink and decent exposure.
What’s the secret?
On the surface, these social bookmarking sites seem to operate on the same principles, but they’re all drastically different.
Knowing the right content to post on which is important, not just because you could get in trouble for making repeated mistakes, but also because when you get it right, it’s a big win for traffic and social shares.
It’s also useful to know what to expect and what you need to achieve to hit the front page or get tweeted to the site’s followers.
With 11% of our traffic coming from social bookmarking already, we’re planning on making a more in-depth strategy to tackle the sites above (and share it with the community, of course!).
Have any other places you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below.