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Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Joel Reddit Effect

MOKOMOKO by Nod Young from flickr (CC-NC-SA)
Back when I still cared I spent some time experimenting with various ways to promote this blog. What to write about, how to write it, where to promote it. Google Analytics was really helpful in providing raw data to work with. Actually it doesn't provide raw data, just some standard queries, raw data would be infinitely more helpful. Anybody knows where to get it? There must be some GA-like service which provides more data, right?

One absolutely brilliant technique I found was submitting links on obscure social news sites. This is extremely counter-intuitive, but you get about as much traffic no matter how popular the site is, so I got more traffic from extremely obscure ones like Joel Reddit than from extremely popular ones like Digg. I call this "The Joel Reddit Effect".


So you submitted your link? Assuming it's relevant and sounds interesting, what determines how many people click on it? Number of readers (by what I mean users who use the site to read, not to promote) obviously. But also fraction of readers who will see your submission. On very small site, let's say on Zeppelin Reddit (if there is one), all readers will see your submission. These sites are really tiny and we don't care much about them. On even moderately big sites, there are too many submissions for everyone to see so it depends on number of other submissions, and on how fair the site is to your submission.
  • Impact ~ Readers · Fraction of readers who see your submission
  • Fraction of readers who see your submission ~ Fairness / Submissions
  • Submissions ~ Readers
  • Impact ~ Readers · Fairness / Readers ~ Fairness
So surprise surprise - past really tiny sites, total number of readers has nothing to do with impact. What's the Fairness factor then? On most small sites nobody is SEOing, so all submissions are pretty much equal. You need a cool title to get any clicks of course, but that's pretty obvious. On big sites like Digg clicques and SEOers monopolize the main page, so chance of normal interesting content getting to the main site are extremely slim. In the end you should expect more traffic from Joel Reddit (high Fairness) than from Digg (very low Fairness).

How to increase your traffic? Submit to as many obscure social news sites as you can.
For example I submitted post about Aumann's theorem to Psychology Reddit as it seemed to me most appropriate, and Redditors there found it quite interesting. And I've found out that llimllib submitted to to Cogsci Reddit, as he consider it more appropriate. In the end I got twice as much traffic. I often see traffic from sites I've never heard about - someone decided to submit my posts, and the traffic followed.

This model is only really applicable to Reddit/Digg-like sites; Delicious, Stumble Upon etc. follow completely different rules.

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