On December 15th, 2016 I made a Reddit post for my site, By The Wavs which hit the top spot of all of Reddit – the front page. Not only did it dominate the front page and the original subreddit I posted it to, upon further investigation, I learned that it was on top of a number of very active subreddits. Hitting the top of the frontpage of Reddit isn’t necessarily the easiest thing in the world. I want to say that I did nothing special. There are no tricks or fraudulent happenings to make this happen. In fact, I posted the article before I left for the gym and was shocked to see when it hit after I got home. This is slightly ironic for a daily Redditor as this video went to the top of Reddit earlier the same day.
Not only did I hit the frontpage, my site did not cripple once due to the Reddit Hug of Death. For those who are unfamiliar with the Reddit Hug of Death, Wikipedia describes it as:
The Slashdot effect, also known as slashdotting, occurs when a popular website links to a smaller site, causing a massive increase in traffic. This overloads the smaller site, causing it to slow down or even temporarily become unavailable. The name stems from the huge influx of web traffic that would result from the technology news site Slashdot linking to websites. However the name is somewhat dated as flash crowds from Slashdot were reported to be diminishing as of 2005 due to competition from similar sites.The effect has been associated with other websites or metablogs such as Fark, Digg, Drudge Report, Imgur, Reddit, and Twitter, leading to terms such as being Farked or Drudged, being under the Reddit effect, or receiving a “hug of death” from the site in question.Google Doodles, which link to search results on the doodle topic, also result in high increases of traffic from the search results page. Typically, less robust sites are unable to cope with the huge increase in traffic and become unavailable – common causes are lack of sufficient data bandwidth, servers that fail to cope with the high number of requests, and traffic quotas. Sites that are maintained on shared hosting services often fail when confronted with the Slashdot effect.
What I plan to do with this post is to potentially educate those on potentially hitting the front page, how to handle the front page, and the aftermath. I will use all the data I collected along with every detail I did to get to where I did in order to fully educate you.
History of the post
This starts six months ago. I am a fairly active
lurker Redditor and I happened to stumble upon this video.
In fact, this video made it to the top of the Reddit front page after being posted on the videos subreddit with the title, “The concert you want to go to isn’t SOLD OUT because consumers bought all the tickets. It is sold out because some online ticket resale company bought all the tickets and is now re-selling them at 5 times the price. – [08:38]“. Less than a week later, New York passed legislation to buy ticket purchasing bots. This too made it onto the front page of Reddit. It didn’t hit the top, but being that it only affected New Yorkers, that was somewhat understandable.
Fast forward to December 15th, I happened to be checking my RSS feeds when I saw that President Obama Signed Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act of 2016. I quickly skimmed the article and then immediately checked the sources along with Google to see if there were other articles. There were a few. The most notable one that I noticed being Engadget. Being that this affects my audience on By The Wavs, I wrote up a post along with citing my sources – the white house and congress. After posting, I decided to share with /r/EDM as this affects many with Tomorrowland, Ultra Music Festival, and other major festivals. It also makes sense that an electronic dance music site be on the subreddit.
Afterwards, I checked other subreddits to see if the news has spread yet. /r/Festivals had an article by another website. Finally, I checked /r/Music. At the time of writing this, /r/Music has just under 13,000,000 subscribers and is a default subreddit. I posted it on 7:11pm eastern. When I got home at 10:21pm, the post was number two on the front page behind Denzel Washington’s AMA. At this very moment, it has 71,410 points from the 102,014 votes (85% upvoted).
What Made the Post Popular
Reddit is a hivemind. That’s plain and simple. It likes cats and high quality gifs. There’s a love-hate relationship with the government and especially Barack Obama; depending on how they feel about the contreversial subreddit, /r/The_Donald. I’ll go slightly more into that in a bit. Based on the traffic that visited the site, the Reddit demographic that cared about the article was between 18 years old and 34 years old and 91.7% male. They’re “Shutterbugs,” Movie Lovers, Technophiles, TV Lovers, News / Political / Entertainment and Celebrity Junkies, and more. Writing about President Obama banning bots that prevent them from going to a concert is exactly in their wheelhouse. According to DataStories, I posted just before the hottest time for your Reddit post to get the most upvotes.
I learned that fact as I was researching why my post was doing so well after the fact. While I was only in the top spot for approximately 5 hours at best, I remained on the homepage for probably a bit more than that. If I had to guess, it was well into 5-6am my time so almost 10 hours if that. This is surprising being that my post was an external post as internal posts last significantly longer being they want you to stay on Reddit.
I never understood what it was like when people said their inbox was flooded until this. There were 3,694 comments ranging from very positive to very negative. I saw some heinous comments many which stem from /r/The_Donald. It is no place for me to comment nor would I generalize, but it was something I noticed as I dove into the depths of the bottom of the comments. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there was good ol’ hilarious comments as well as plenty of puns. Although, the negative and positive comments weren’t the reason I was going through them, I wanted to see if there were any comments about my writing or my website. Surprising there was none. The only criticizing comments were (outside of President Obama and administration’s choices and such) the bill that he signed and how it would work.
Surviving the Climb to the Top of Reddit
Making it to the top of Reddit isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The more impressive feat was the fact that my site managed to withstand the Reddit Hug of Death (as mentioned earlier) and do so with ease. I don’t have a huge traffic site compared to Imgur, YouTube, or any other of the external sites that frequently hit the front page. It would be nice though. There are three things that I would associate to the site making it through with no problem.
1. Liquid Web Dedicated Server
About two months ago, I switched to a dedicated server. It was the same cost of my current setup, but a more powerful server. I am currently running a Intel Xeon CPU E3-1271 v3 @ 3.60GHz 3600MHz, 4 Core, Sockets: 1 dedicated server with Liquid Web. Note: This is not an endorsement whatsoever. I am not being paid by them. I am doing this cause I enjoy their product and services. The reason I switched to this server was because I kept running into issues with EDM Assassin turned By The Wavs. It has been an awesome ride them the past seven years. Their support has been bar none the best which is why they call it Heroic Support.
There are plenty of cache plugins for WordPress. I am not here to justify one above the other and I am sure there is enough evidence to prove against this, but I am loving WP Rocket. I had W3 Total Cache, but I wasn’t thrilled and wanted change. Plus, seeing the constant updates from WP Rocket is a bit relieving. I understand that you don’t need to fix what isn’t broken, but improving doesn’t hurt. I digress. By speeding up the site, it allowed those accessing the site to see it faster and with less resources.
3. EWWW Image Optimizer
This isn’t a huge role for the post, but rather the whole site in general. This plugin optimizes all my images including the one on this post. This in turn loads the page faster and saves me bandwidth. This is something that I found to be a necessary on the site that has plenty images as we use different sizes of the same image for the homepage.
The last, but not least requirement is Cloudflare. Cloudflare provides a content distribution network in order to load the website fast no matter where in the world you are located. This was perfect to handle the massive amount of traffic that we have received. Between this and the dedicated server, this was able to optimally handle the traffic we received from Reddit’s front page.
I won’t lie that I had to take a screenshot of the occasion. I did that as well as post it on Facebook because I was in disbelief. Here’s the screenshot of the post on top when I got home from the gym.
- /r/NFL (5,226 upvotes)
- /r/NBA (1,986 upvotes)
- /r/Hockey (901 upvotes)
- /r/MLS (641 upvotes)
- /r/MMA (350 upvotes)
- /r/DallasStars (23 upvotes)
- /r/Phish (41 upvotes)
- /r/SCBackstage (4 upvotes)
- /r/Bassnectar (36 upvotes)
- /r/Libertarian (6 upvotes)
- /r/DailyTechNewsShow (31 upvotes)
- /r/Anarcho_Capitalism (3 upvotes)
- /r/TotallyNotRobots (Twice) (87 upvotes) (5 upvotes)
- /r/AIethics (10 upvotes)
- /r/TopOfReddit (Automatically added when you hit the top of Reddit) (8 upvotes)
- /r/The_Donald (9 upvotes)
- /r/Sneakers (0 upvotes)
- /r/Hamilton (0 upvotes)
All of those upvotes translated into pageviews and a bit more. I was surprised that if you combined all of the upvotes you get 82,266 upvotes. The total amount of pageviews on the two days combined is 105,359 pageviews.
Originally, I had inferred that the pageviews were directly due to Reddit until I saw the traffic sources. Turns out there was some beautiful consequences. Here are the traffic stats. The miscellaneous category is filled with just about every other site you can imagine as well as some of the top percentage sites.
All of this traffic from Reddit conveniently resulted into 3,400+ shares on Facebook and countless tweets. This all resulted to the traffic sources found below.
While I had an influx of traffic, as expected they only came for the article and not the site itself. That is perfectly alright in my book, but it was definitely interesting to see the before and during when it came to the bounce rate of the site. It jumped from 66.30% to 94.73%. The jump of 28.43% may seem high, but it was definitely as expected.
Thing thing about this site is that most people come for a track or two. The days of browsing through EDM blogs seems long over. I provide a middle ground to connect fans with their favorite artists and festival news that they may have missed. I don’t expect guests to view my site thoroughly, but consistently come back with new articles.
The average duration is 47 seconds compared to the 9 seconds on December 15th and 16th.
I was extremely interested on the demographics of Reddit users. While this isn’t exactly right, this is what Google Analytics says is the demographic. Much of it isn’t surprising what-so-ever, but it is fun to explore this. The demographics come from approximately 60% of the total traffic, so there may be some change.
Reddit is a mostly younger crowd. When you see that the majority of users were from 18-34 making up 85.61% of the traffic. With that, 91.8% of the demographic was male. There is always that stereotype that takes up Reddit, but this tends to prove it.
What actually shocked me the most was the devices that the users use. This really proves what the internet is heading towards. We’re going all mobile. Obviously, desktop will always exist. I am writing this from my custom PC. It is just that mobile dominates and tablets are following at the tail end. Phones are what we use. If you’re not focused on mobile content, you’re in the past and won’t rank well on Google.
I learned quite a lot from this endeavour. I find it funny that I was able to achieve hitting the number one spot on Reddit with my own site. I totally expected it to be a random photo or an unintentional repost. That said, I have learned quite a bit from this whole experience. I’ll break it down.
1. Traffic is only temporary.
If you’re not hitting Reddit consistently, the traffic is a short burst. It started at night on the 15th, lasted through the 16th, and very little remnants on 17th. As quickly as the traffic came, it was gone. The best part was watching the traffic in real time and the revenue boost that came along with it.
2. No call to actions = No Returning traffic.
I do not have any call to actions on the site. I don’t have a newsletter because we post 70+ articles a week and it just seems a bit aggressive. Plus, I don’t feel the content is strong enough for a newsletter as we’re writing about single tracks a majority of the time. I used to have a Facebook call to action, but it caused the site to be slower, look bad on mobile formats, and was bad for SEO. Plus, it looks bad. Consequently, we only gained a total of 4 Facebook followers. We even lost 2 followers on Twitter.
3. Being over prepared is the best preparation.
Never in my life did I expect to have my site on the top of Reddit. When I started climbing the front page, I thought my site would crash and burn worse than anything I have encountered before. I remember dealing with my old site crashing during Hurricane Sandy when I was posting first hand encounters of the storm and it went viral on Twitter. It even was picked up by multiple news stations. Having a solid server combined with great plugins equals everyone being able to access the site and at an optimal speed.
4. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile.
If you are not optimized for mobile, you’re severely missing out on plenty of traffic. Gotta make it all about user experience. Like in business, you either keep up with the times and your customers or you’ll be replaced.
5. Be at the right place at the right time.
I was in the right place at the right time with the article. I happened to come across information that wasn’t widely shared besides a few sites. I found solid sources and wrote an article summarizing it. It was unbiased and I helped make it easier to understand. I did due diligence to see if it was posted on the subreddits. I quickly went through the top 250 posts as well as the top 250 new posts and shared to only two subreddits.
6. Feed your demographic.
I knew all about the ticket situation. Being that my site’s demographic goes through the same issue and that Reddit loathes it. It was a match made in heaven for the hivemind.
7. Get lucky.
I didn’t expect this to blow up. I had no idea there was an ideal time. Plus, there were other sites that had the same topic posted. The people had chosen, but they didn’t have to choose my site, but they did. Yay me.
8. Not everyone can do it.
This is a good and bad thing. This got huge because it was on a default subreddit. This is all about any type of ticketed event from concerts, sports, plays, etc… If you’re writing about something less as popular in a smaller industry / subreddit, then it may not hit the front page. That isn’t a bad thing either. Would you rather have a smaller, targeted audience or a large, wide audience? Bigger may sound better, but that won’t behoove you.
9. Upvotes equals exposure, but upvotes aren’t everything.
This is the part I didn’t really go into detail on the rest of the post. This goes along with number eight. I have been on the top of smaller subreddits for the site before. Although, the amount of traffic is only a fraction. That said, about 20-50 upvotes got the site approximately 5% of the traffic. You compare that to 82,266 upvotes to 105,359 pageviews. The ratio of upvotes to views is much better with less as I was focused on a smaller audience.
10. Enjoy it while it exists.
I love Reddit for the most part. This whole experience was awesome. My 15 minutes of fame came and gone. I got to brag about it to friends on Facebook. That is beyond super neat. I hope for this to happen again, but I will not force it. Would I go through it again? Absolutely! This just entices me to work harder and better in order to improve my results.