Reddit In The SERPs Lacks Credibility


Google dramatically increased the amount of Reddit answers in the search results in order to surface actual user opinions but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that it’s having a negative effect on the quality of search results. Everyone seems to know it but Google.

Lack of Expertise But Makes Sense

User generated content that is typically found in product reviews, travel reviews, Reddit and in web forums are opinions formed by anonymous people of unknown experience and expertise. It is based on personal opinions and biases that are limited to each person’s experience and unfortunately, a lack of experience has never stopped anyone from expressing their opinion.

The frightening quality of user generated content typically found on Reddit is when an opinion “makes sense” (regardless of factual accuracy) it is practically guaranteed that it will get upvoted by all the other similarly experienced users who lack the expertise to tell the difference between inaccurate opinions that “makes sense” versus factually accurate opinions.

All you have to do is look at the SEO community running from one trend to another because the ideas make sense and are inevitably discarded.

Ideas that make sense are similar to AI hallucinations. AI hallucinations “sound right” but sounding right is not the same as factually accurate. The legacy of things that make sense is the idea that the sun revolves around the earth, which “made sense” for millenniums.

Common sense is a big problem at Reddit because it allows those who lack experience and expertise to share plausible yet factually inaccurate opinions.

I asked Chef Allen (Facebook Profile) about the expertise of the food and recipe discussions on Reddit.

She shared  her expert opinion:

“Reddit is not a reliable place to get recipes. From untested recipes to improper measurements and lack of instructions, finding a trustworthy recipe on Reddit is nearly impossible. People mean well, but most responses to recipe requests are met with what is sure to be disappointing results if one were actually to attempt to make the suggested recipe.

Reddit just isn’t designed for sharing tried-and-tested recipes from experienced recipe developers.”

Example Of Facts Versus Reddit Opinions

There are many examples of how a lack of expertise by Redditors leads to opinions and biases that override facts and negatively impacts the quality of the content.

This is one example that is related to SEO.

Two facts about links:

  • Googler Gary Illyes explained at Pubcon Austin that links aren’t in the top 3 of ranking factors anymore.
  •  Then consider that in March 2024 Google’s spam policy page deemphasized links by stating they’re a ranking factor but no longer saying they’re an important ranking factor.

On Reddit today someone observes that links aren’t playing as strong a role as in the past.

Screenshot Of A Reddit Post About Links

Screenshot of a Reddit post asserting that links play a less important role in rankings than it has in the past.

And several Redditors argue against it, including sine who joined Reddit within the past few years and may have entirely missed the heyday of when links were the undisputable #1 ranking factor.

Here’s one person’s response:

Typical response that is arguing that there is no change in how Google uses links for ranking purposes.

Here’s another example. A top ranking Reddit thread for how to make birria de res, which is a Mexican braised meat recipe for cooking goat meat that originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

The first person to answer is someone who is guessing what type of meat is good for a birria.

Redditor Guessing An Answer

Screenshot of a Redditor answering a post with a guess

That person posting a guess is typical of the responses given in not just that Reddit thread but in any number of discussions. That’s not to say there aren’t experts on Reddit but for those of you with years of experience in SEO, when was the last time you turned to Reddit for SEO advice?

Lack Of EEAT In User Generated Content

The idea of ranking the views of real people makes sense, perhaps more in some contexts than others. For example, when it comes to saltwater fishing I would 100% take the opinion of someone posting on a dedicated east coast fishing forum like Stripers Online or from one of the writers at Surfcaster’s Journal who all have decades of hands-on fishing experience. I value the expertise of of Surfcaster’s Journal so much that I pay for access to their content. It’s that good.

But what about Reddit? I have expertise in saltwater and freshwater fishing and truthfully, Reddit is the last place I would ever turn to for fishing advice.

For example, it’s well-known that the best time for catching striped bass on the east coast is at night when striped bass sneak around in the dark to ambush prey. They can be caught during the day but the night time is without question the best time for catching the larger keeper size fish.

Yet many top ranked discussions on Reddit focus on daytime fishing.

Example Of Personal Bias In A Reddit Answer

Screenshot of a poor answer about saltwater fishing on Reddit

Contrast that with the logo of Surfcaster’s Journal where it’s clear that fishing at night is the heart of the sport of striped bass fishing.

Surfcaster's Journal emphasizes striped bass fishing at night

Recipe Sites Versus Reddit

Casey Markee (@MediaWyse), a well-regarded search marketing consultant specializing in optimizing recipe and food blogs agrees that Reddit threads in the search results are a poor experience for users.

He explained:

“Although Google has argued that the proliferation of Reddit results is to provide more first-hand experience to guide users, rarely does this result in superior results in the recipe niche.  Especially for more complicated recipes, the detailed step by step instructions and expert tips that come with those recipes, fare outshine what you’ll find in a ranking Reddit thread.

For example, a complicated recipe like “Beef Wellington” has a lot that can go wrong, especially with regard to the phyllo dough and getting clean cuts when it’s done. You need only look at the Reddit result returned for this query, and compare it to the many better written and more detailed recipes, to see how large the gap is between presented expertise.

You absolutely wouldn’t want to rely on a Reddit thread alone to make even the average complicated recipe. The results will not be satisfying. Most Reddit threads are “too general” and really don’t provide the needed level of expertise to ensure a recipe is done ‘perfectly’ the first time.”

Top Reasons Why Reddit Should Not Be Highly Ranked

  1. Lack of Expertise
    This is self-evident by now.
  2. Anonymity
    The anonymous nature of Reddit among the millions of users makes it easy for anyone to post anything without experiencing the self-moderating effects of a forum community where expert members are always near to pick apart poor advice.
  3. Bias
    Reddit answers tend to reflect the biases of the users, some of which arise from a lack of experience
  4. Subjectivity
    Reddit posts tend to be based on the preconceptions or tastes that may have more to do with their geographic and cultural background than facts, experience and knowledge.
  5. Echo Chambers
    This is a well-known effect where likeminded people will coalesce and reinforce each other’s preconceptions and biases.
  6. Cognitive Biases
    A common trait in social media and user generated content is that cognitive biases like the Dunning-Kruger effect are amplified. The Dunning-Kruger effect is when someone who lacks expertise overestimate their subject matter knowledge and contributes to the overall decline of understanding.
  7. Oversimplification
    This relates to what Casey mentioned about Reddit threads being “too general” and one of the reasons for this is that the people who are answering the questions lack the contextual understanding and all of the nuance that goes with that which leads to oversimplification of any given topic.

Google Is Using Content Of Dubious Expertise

The definition of dubious is something that cannot be trusted or and is doubtful. Opinions shared on Reddit by people who lack expertise and are sharing opinions in anonymity qualify as dubious. Yet Google is not only favoring Reddit in the search results, it is also paying millions of dollars for access to content that is lacking in expertise, experience, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

Google has stated that it is prioritizing content from actual people with experience, which makes sense in certain contexts such as their experiences with products. But does prioritizing Reddit content stray too far from surfacing content with actual expertise?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi


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Reddit In The SERPs Lacks Credibility
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