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Reddit’s SERP dominance and what it means for your brand

Reddit’s SERP dominance and what it means for your brand

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Reddit’s presence in search engine results pages (SERPs) is nothing new. Although the social platform’s content has recently gained more prominence via Google’s shiny new “Perspectives” tab—which focuses on people-generated discussions—Reddit has appeared in the “In the News” box (now “Discussions and Forums”) for almost a decade.

What is eye-catching these days is how often Reddit threads are showing up and the breadth of keywords Reddit content can facilitate high on the SERP. Reddit results on the SERP are encompassing both branded and non-branded search queries, covering all levels of the customer funnel—Knowing, Thinking, Planning, Doing, Feeling—and spanning across industry verticals, including YMYL categories (Google’s “Your Money or Your Life” criteria; topics that can potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety).

Using SEMrush, our analysis of the reddit.com domain on the US keyword database shows a +207% increase in total ranking keywords. To put that in perspective, that’s +110 million additional keywords the Reddit domain is ranking for now compared to the spring of 2023. If you look at only Page 1 queries, it is a +322% increase, or an additional +29 million keywords. For the top three positions, it’s a +266% increase, or an additional +7.2 million keywords.

A year ago, Google announced that it would “soon” start showing more “hidden gems” content as part of an update to its helpful content system. We didn’t hear anything else about “hidden gems” until Danny Sullivan posted on the Google Search Liaison X account that it had been “live for months” and was not part of the helpful content system.

As the above chart shows, the prominence of Reddit threads on Page 1 started increasing in the late summer and early fall of 2023. This coincided with Google launching an unprecedented seven confirmed algorithm updates, including three Core Algorithm System Updates, a reviews update, spam update, and a helpful content system update. Then, in March 2024, Google announced another spam update and another core update, with the latter incorporating the helpful content system. The longest core update rollout ever—taking 45 days—targeted spammy content, AI-generated content at scale, and parasite SEO. This came on the heels of Google announcing an expanded partnership with Reddit in which Google would use Reddit to train its AI systems.

Reddit’s SERP prominence in numbers

SEO specialists often play the role of a CSI, looking back in time and trying to piece together what has transpired. It doesn’t take much of a reach to see that last year’s algorithm updates started to reward Reddit posts and threads. As of today, the combination of Google’s helpful content update, reviews update, “hidden gems” signal, and expanded partnership with Reddit means that Reddit content will continue to appear prominently on SERPs for the foreseeable future. The search giant itself has said that it will continue to surface Reddit threads because users seem to find this content helpful.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Google’s decision to display “Discussions and Forums” content so high on the SERP seems to be at odds with its own guidance on YMYL topics, and SEO professionals have called Google out for surfacing Reddit threads for queries relating to medical, financial, and other sensitive topics. DAC’s own analysis of Reddit’s domain shows that topics like blood pressure, insurance, medication, and diet are showing up for hundreds if not thousands of keywords on Page 1—sometimes within the “Discussions and Forums” box, sometimes as one of the traditional “10 blue links”, and even within AI-generated overviews. The “Discussions and Forums” module particularly prominent, often appearing above the fold ahead of the “People Also Ask” section, which is also now accommodating Reddit content.

To dig a little deeper, we analyzed a few major brands and their closest competitors. Using the SEMrush keyword gap analysis tool, all domains were shown to be overlapping for tens of thousands of keywords—and Reddit captured 50% or more of ranked demand.

Non-branded keywords are not exempt from this trend, and most of the keywords we analyzed increased by triple-digit percentages year over year. As the chart below shows, reddit.com has experienced a huge growth in Page 1 keyword appearances between April 2023 and April 2024. These non-branded keywords cover all stages of the customer journey, from buy, sell, and purchase to deals and offers, reviews, “best”, and even localized searches like “near me”.

Leveraging Reddit to your advantage

As the data shows, Reddit content is showing up for millions more keywords on Page 1, branded and non-branded, across all levels of the customer funnel. With this in mind, the Reddit domain should absolutely be considered a “threat”. After all, even if you manage to outrank Reddit content and your competitors in traditional organic results, you may be crowded out by a growing number of SERP components—paid ads, “Discussions and Forums”, “People Also Ask”, AI overviews—which makes total SERP ownership an increasingly important goal. So, what are SEOs and brands supposed to do?

  1. First, deploy a keyword tool to discover how Reddit results are ranking in your industry, paying close attention to where Reddit is outranking you for both branded and non-branded terms. This will show you where there are opportunities to develop “helpful content” at all stages of the customer journey.
  2. Second, work with your PR and social media teams to focus their attention on Reddit. How are they dealing with positive and negative reviews, comments, and topics on Reddit? It’s true that Reddit has a dark and seedy side—as do most social platforms—but it can also present valuable opportunities to respond to comments and link back to your own domain.

Even as the SERP is being reshaped by the Reddit effect, the social platform itself is undergoing significant changes. Reddit just announced that its daily active users are up +37% year over year to over 82 million users, with its revenue rising +48% to $243 million. As Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has already hinted, Reddit’s logical next step could be monetizing its own search functionality by introducing paid ads against high-intent queries.

In May 2024, Google revealed at Google I/O that Reddit content is not only showing within the Search Generative Experience (SGE) but is being used to train AI models. Days later, Google began testing a new visual treatment for Reddit threads on the SERP and OpenAI confirmed that ChatGPT will be able to reference Reddit content. It seems that both Google and Microsoft are satisfied that Reddit content has the requisite credibility and accuracy to feature prominently in search results and AI interactions.

One thing is certain: Reddit’s influence on the SERP is not going to dissipate any time soon. In fact, its full scope and impact are yet to be seen. SEOs and brands should monitor Reddit much more closely and start laying the foundations to succeed in a Reddit-oriented SERP—or enlist a partner that can.


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