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Google outsourcing long tail search to Reddit & communities

Jul 5, 2024 by Michael McNerney, Publisher, Martech Record

Communities on the rise for marketers and publishers 


With Google’s “helpful content update” Reddit is occupying a marketing ecosystem that was not on many people’s radar. 

After Google bent the publishing industry to its will by requiring publishing to employ an army of people and technology to create content based on the whim of their algo they realized that most people did not like commoditized results and would add “reddit” to their search terms. So “best air fryers” lead to “best air fryers reddit” 

“Most brands are not aware of how much Reddit is dominating their visibility landscape and what conversations are currently happening about their brand, on-platform.” Said Ewen Finser, Founder of ReddVisble 

So in its latest “helpful content update” Google helped users by just pointing them to Reddit results - even if they did not add “reddit” to the search result. Most of us noticed this anecdotally. But then data started to show that it was not subtle. Glen Allsop’s Detailed posted this a week ago highlighting how, in effect, Google  outsourcing long tail questions to Reddit. 

Reddit is already pretty sticky, and I’ve already heard people turn Reddit into a verb, google style. If “to Reddit” something becomes a common term & activity, what does that mean for marketers and publishers?

According to Nick Andrews of ReviTrage has worked with clients for over a decade on Reddit,   “Google, along with everyone else is now waking up to the fact that Reddit has been the “source of the internet” for a long time.  All the memes, witty Twitter posts, and other content we consume across social media can usually trace their way back to specific subreddits.  And it’s easily to capitalize on this traffic”

If there is one thing we know about marketers and publishers it is that they will go where the traffic is. 

What’s most shocking, is how for the first time there is serious talk from publishers about developing a post Google strategy. I’ve chatted with major publishers privately who now acknowledge that in their long term planning Google has a massively diminished role. And the reason is not because traffic is down from Google, it is because Google’s frequent changes just make it too difficult to resource plan. 

This conversation extended into Cannes, where Brian Morrissey’s The Rebooting noted a similar trends. 

Overall, the talk in the publishing industry is about a post Google strategy. Google’s frequent algo changes have left most published frustrated and without the will or the resources to plan again Google’s capricious whims. 

Interestingly, the publishers I’ve talked to have mostly said that while traffic has been down significantly, revenue has not been as affected and, they are waking up to the fact that diversifying their traffic and owning their readers creates more value. 

The reddit move by Google is also illustrative of a larger trend towards trusted communities. Consumers are becoming savvy to commoditized SEO articles and telling the story of a brand via creators and communities is one of the few ways short of buying a Super Bowl ad to grow a brand. Google is also driving traffic to other communities, and soon services, tech & data will respond. 

“Reddit is actually two things today. It’s a social community platform with its own internal algorithm AND a search engine proxy. These are related, but two different beasts”  added Finser 

So what does this mean for all of us?

For the sake of making this article practical, let’s look at what could be coming:

  • Services: Look for Reddit agencies positioning themselves to help brands build and maintain their Reddit presence. We already have one in the Martech Record Agency Directory and I expect this to grow. OPMs will start advertising their Reddit services. 
  • Technology: Look for platforms that aggregate “communities.” As trusted communities become places to build brands and drive commerce. Platforms will emerge that aggregate commercial opportunities. Existing platforms will start to offer 
  • Data: Look for SEMRush type businesses to pop up serving publishers and brands with information to help them optimize these relationships. 
  • Publisher resources: look for publishers reallocate resources away from optimizing Google towards Reddit and other communities. CEO (Community Engine Optimization anyone?)
  • Reddit: an IPO means quarterly reporting, which means the need to grow. Growth means scale, which means creating streamlined ways to buy advertising on Reddit. Look for more automation. 

There are the skeptics that say that Reddit works because of its stubborn community who would not allow such things. To which I say: publicly traded companies report quarterly and will go where the money is next quarter. Further, if Google is already outsourcing search to Reddit, why don’t they just buy Reddit?

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