The Complete Guide to Advertising on reddit

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Before getting into the meat and potatoes of this article, please take a moment to digest the following statement from Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian;

“Honest discussions from honest people about products and services now spread. Those are the things that tend to shape people’s opinions.”

There are at least two layers of comprehending this quote through an advertising lens.

Layer 1 – Ads with nothing to hide perform well

Layer 2 – Demonstrate the simplest thing; that you’re a human. Demonstrate outstanding customer service as an advertiser, provide real value, and cut the mind-numbing flack.

I made a point in my Reddit Beginner Tips article last month, suggesting we rethink our social strategy, deviating from the norms of Facebook and Twitter.

In the same vein, advertising on Reddit requires a shift in the way we create Facebook and Twitter ads.

Consider this:

reddit growth

The keyword here is influential.

In a DigiDay excerpt, Reddit’s General Manager, Erik Martin said;

“We’ve gained their trust because we don’t show crappy ads.  There are people online that you can’t show ads on 99 percent of the sites out there, but you can show them ads on Reddit.” The point, according to Martin, is that Reddit users open themselves up to advertising while on the site because of the user friendly experience the company has created.

For example, the author H.A. Goodman developed an excellent reputation by utilizing the influential nature of Reddit ads. Here is an ad for one his books:

reddit goodman ad

This ad received hundreds of comments – a positive mix of feedback, discussion, and light humor (a necessary life ingredient).  Notice the unique and colorful tone of his ad headline.

How did it receive so many comments?

Because the ad creator (the author) followed up and responded to practically every comment with a substantial response.

H.A. Goodman has stated that his advertising experience has been phenomenal. Now, let’s revisit this idea of changing the way we think about advertising.

On Reddit, ads are meant to be as useful and non-intrusive as possible.

The elements of a great Reddit ad include:

  • Relevancy to the viewer and the subreddit
  • Engaging or interesting in nature
  • Simple and thematic with the social norms of Reddit (i.e; meme-speak)
  • Timely with the social norms of Reddit (i.e; referring to events that only redditors would know of, such as “the safe”)

And if you’re ad is for something innovative or interesting in nature, simply state your case, like Gabriel Weinberg’s Duck Duck Go ad:

reddit duck duck go ad

For $650, he received 1.28 million impressions, 20,700 clicks (6.49% per unique redditor, 3.5 center per unique visitor) and remarkable feedback. He states that redditors actually try out your site, comment on your site, and paved the way for higher social traction on his follow-up posts. Essentially, this relatively tiny advertising campaign resulted in superb ROI, both in traffic, feedback, exposure, and brand reputation.

Now that your eyebrows have risen, let’s get into nuts and bolts of it.

Without further ado, here is the complete guide to advertising on Reddit, starting with Reddit’s own graphic guide:

reddit advertising

Sponsored links

Back in 2009, sponsored links were introduced. Here is a template example:


The benefits of a sponsored link include:

  • Being the top link on the front page (or on a subreddit)
  • CTR rate average of 10% (can you guys confirm?)
  • Having the same, core link design (with the benefit of being highlighted and blue)
  • Your link is treated the same as others; meaning redditors can vote and comment
  • You can follow up with redditors in the comment section to provide additional details, answer questions or concerns, or even provide an exclusive discount for redditors

What is selfserve and how does it work?

The selfserve ad system functions just as you would expect. But it’s important to note that in the examples below, you’ll be seeing both selfserve ads and sidebar ads. The sidebar ads can only be acquired by contacting Reddit directly and getting accepted into their ad system; Adzerk.

To inquire about sidebar ads, you’ll have to:

sidebar ads

I will be showing you how to set up selfserve, but I’m also including examples of sidebar ads to show you the potential of ad targeting.

For selfserve, you can set everything up yourself in just a few clicks.

First, let’s take a look at the two types of selfserve ads:  frontpage and targeted.


Just as the label suggests, your ad will appear smack-dab on the frontpage.

You pick two important things:

  • When you want the ad to run
  • How much you want to pay throughout the time period

Your frontpage ad rotates with Reddit house ads (such as Reddit Gold) and new, organic links submitted by users.

Here is an example of Reddit’s own frontpage ad:

reddits own ads

Here is an example of a frontpage ad, a sponsored link for a subreddit:

reddit frontpage sponsored ad

To show you guys how easy it is to set up a frontpage ad, I created a sample one. Check it out:

reddit brew ad

This ad is doing two things.

It’s promoting a picture of a homebrew I created, while also supporting the homebrewing subreddit. Let’s say I owned a local homebrew shop or an eCommerce homebrew store. Since the focus of my ad is friendly and light-humored, I’m increasing the chances of positive feedback. Now you may be wondering, “Well that’s great and all, but when are you going to sell them?”

I’m not.

Instead, I’m going to help them. On Reddit, helping sells.

In the discussion section of this ad, someone is bound to ask the following questions:

  • How can I start brewing?
    • Answer, “This [site] is an excellent place to get starter kits
  • What style of brew is that?
    • Answer, “It’s an organic wheat actually…this [site] has really great deals on organic/all natural flavors if you’re considering something like that”

While the discussion may not be word for word, you get the idea.

The goal is to be helpful, and without being overly promotional, refer your site as “the go-to place” that has whatever they’re asking about.

Also, respond to as many comments as you can, even if they don’t have a high EV (expected value). By providing purely informational answers (with your site link) you’re increasing your authority and trustworthiness.


This form of Reddit advertising is ideal for many reasons; primarily for its strategic application.

In the example below we see a Nirvana sidebar ad, appropriately targeting the music subreddit (/r/music).

reddit ad music

Another example for a sports community website:

reddit sports targeted ad

Targeted ads appear in two locations:

  1. Your ad appears on the top spot in the subreddit you have targeted. If another advertiser has purchased an ad for the same subreddit, on the same day, your ads will simply rotate accordingly.
  2. Your ad appears on the frontpage of a user who is logged in and subscribes to that subreddit.

Here is an example of targeted sidebar ads appearing in two locations on the technology subreddit (/r/technology, one of the largest):

reddit ad new relic 2 reddit ad new relic

New Relic also takes advantage of overlapping campaigns. I refreshed the page and a new design appeared:

reddit ad new relic variate

Sidebar Ads

As I previously mentioned, sidebar ads must be handled directly through a Reddit staff member, as your images/content must be approved.

What separates sidebar ads on Reddit from anything else you’ve seen, is that users can upvote/downvote the ad and discuss it, just like selfserve ads.

Here is an example:

reddit sidebar ad

This helps improve the user experience, but also provides insights to advertisers.

You could create three ad variations, essentially a multi-variant test, giving you a better idea of what users prefer.

The following sections cover how to set up a selfserve ad and start a promotion and campaign.

Advertising costs

For those unfamiliar with CPM, this is a common advertising model where you are charged a set rate for every 1,000 impressions. Reddit’s CPM rate is 75 cents. This means you’re paying 75 cents once 1,000 redditors have seen your ad.

The limits to advertising are:

  • A minimum spend per campaign of $5
  • A maximum spend per campaign of $9,999

Also note: the frontpage and large subreddits have massive, varied amounts of impressions and pageviews. Think of these locations as prime advertising real estate. If these locations have been sold out (temporarily unavailable) then you’ll simply have to choose a different time period or select an available subreddit with targeted ads.

Promotion and Campaigns


First, create your ad (just as you saw me do before):

reddit ad promotion

Your ad headline is the number one factor influencing CTR.

Some exemplary headlines include:

reddit amazon ad

This was created to promote an Amazon affiliate program.

reddit vice ad

This ad was created to promote a news article.

As you can see, ads can fuel many business objectives, whether it’s increasing conversion rates, page view quotas, or building hype around an event, product, or news.

Additional notes:

  • Make sure the URL is working!
  • Create an eye-catching 70×70 thumbnail to accompany the sponsored link (you will upload this on the next page, after filling out a headline and URL)

Next steps:

  • Validate your email address for any future correspondence with Reddit staff about your ad
  • The domain of your link must match the domain of the actual page (no redirects) – however, tracking is allowed, such as setting up a Google Analytics “utm” source for Reddit.


A campaign is essentially your ad package details.

reddit campaign

This includes picking:

  • Start date
  • Stop date
  • Your subreddit target (each campaign can only target one subreddit)
  • Total budget

It’s that simple.

You can also see how your ad looks and make edits before having to pay anything. Here is a test example, for what would be a discussion-based ad (no external URL):

reddit ad testing

Additional notes:

  • After submitting a new campaign it takes 2 business days before it goes live
  • Geotargeting is not available; however, it’s in the works!


After creating your campaign, the next step is payment.

Payment operations live on a secure webserver and Reddit accepts all major credit cards.

After completing payment, your campaign will go under review and you will receive an email once your ad is approved.

Live ads

Ads go live at midnight EST to ensure full 24 hour exposure and avoid time-changes.

You will receive additional standard emails when:

  • Your credit card is charged
  • When the ad goes live
  • When the ad campaign is completed

Some important notes:

Ads get rejected if:

  • URL redirects/shorteners are used
  • URL is broken
  • URL is difficult to navigate away from (such as being greeted with pop-up overloads)
  • URL is inappropriate or violates code of conduct and/or terms of service of another company, school, or service

Advertising + Creativity = Success

Example 1: Advertise your product or service in a new light


  • Be super-relevant with mainstream Reddit references. One of the greatest examples I could find is this: the popular eCommerce flower shop, 1-800-Flowers, created an ad that referenced a popular event on Reddit (basically someone posted a picture of a safe they discovered but never followed up.
  • Learn meme-speak and don’t be afraid to be a little funny. If your ad puts people in a good mood or makes them chuckle a bit, they’re more likely to click-through, inquire more, comment, share, upvote, etc.

Example 2: Advertising a subreddit


  • Choose a subreddit you often frequent and give back to them by creating a special ad for that subreddit, such as the /r/foxes example above. Submit a post in the subreddit letting them know about your ad for brownie points. Take it a step further and submit a post BEFORE you create the ad, asking fellow subredditors what type of ad they’d like to see, as you plan to create one! This builds up anticipation and even more brownie points!
  • Create your own subreddit (stay tuned for a future article on creating a subreddit) and advertise it. Turn the subreddit into a valuable resource for people in your industry. Ultimately, you’ll naturally build relationships and find opportunities to market your products/services, without seeming intrusive.

Example 3: Advertise with a philanthropic or interesting PSA

reddit charitable gaming ad


  • “Nothing to hide” – you’re campaign is honest, simple, and relevant to the subreddit and/or general Reddit community. The example above works for the general community because one of the default subreddits is gaming. The organization, 12 Keys Rehab, still has business goals to meet – even though the essence of their existence is to help people (something has to pay the bills). They’ve used Reddit to engage in discussions, build awareness, and provide useful information to those who need it.

The finer details…

If you’re interested in a campaign that well exceeds the $9,999 cap, Reddit has a sales team ready to help meet your needs.

Also, be sure to go over the standard advertising rules, how the platform works, and miscellaneous information such as the Advertising Terms & Conditions and Prohibited Advertisements here.

Jesse Aaron
This monthly Reddit column is contributed by Jesse Aaron. Jesse is a professional blogger with a passion for homebrewing. In his spare time Jesse enjoys redditting, brewing beer (as you may have guessed), slowly learning Python, and reading (currently reading Infinite Jest). His biggest inspiration is the satisfaction of building something from scratch. While challenging and time consuming, the rewards are unmatched. +Jesse Aaron
Jesse Aaron


Blogger, Brewer of Beer, Beholder of Beard[Community Manager & Graphic Design]
New post: "The Psychology of In-Store Marketing Mechanisms" - 2 weeks ago


  1. says

    Jason/Neal, I would love to say that I’ve used Reddit extensively, but it’s been the complete opposite. I’ve unintentionally kept away from Reddit, only because of ‘too many other things’ on the go. This article has been an eye opener & I will definitely dive deeper into this platform. Seems like absolute gold, especially with the huge member base, fastest growing social space in US, and the traffic generation potential. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. says

    The seeds of a true democracy for the USA are germinating via a newly-founded organization called, ironically enough, Democracy for the USA. I am beginning to understand the importance the Reddit could have for a growing movement that we at dUSA are trying to kickstart. I am going to spend some time figuring out how best to incorporate Reddit into our growth scheme. Thank you for the slap on the head!! We needed it, obviously. See you soon on Reddit. In the meantime, come and visit us at , alright? Alright. Later….

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