CBS website OnGamers shows why you shouldn’t rely on — or try to rig — a social network like Reddit for your traffic

The dangers of relying on a single site or social network to drive visitors to your website are relatively well known by now, but we got another useful example this week of why that can be a bad thing — especially if you try to game that traffic — when Reddit banned the CBS Interactive online-gaming news website OnGamers from its network for at least a year as a result of vote manipulation. According to the CBSi executive in charge of the site, Reddit accounted for as much as half of the traffic that OnGamers received before the ban.
The year-long ban is actually the second penalty that the CBSi site has gotten, according to a post at The Daily Dot: in April, links from the site were blocked for nine days, and the penalty was only lifted after OnGamers promised to stop its staff from posting links to their own content, and to stop using multiple accounts to vote up their articles, which is forbidden. But the activity apparently continued.
The ripple effects of the Reddit ban could potentially be extremely serious for OnGamers, as CBSi vice-president for esports Kim Rom told the Dot, since “roughly 50 percent of traffic going away overnight is a lot.” And the move has already claimed its first casualty: Rod Breslau, the site’s first employee and senior editor, was fired on Monday for his role in the vote manipulation. He posted an apology to the site in which he admitted emailing Reddit users and asking them to post stories from OnGamers, including instructions on what headline to use.

“I admit to having sent messages to users with instructions on submitting content, and then upvoting my own content thereafter. I acted alone in this matter without the knowledge of any of my colleagues, including senior editors. They have followed the rules since the reversal of the last ban, they did not upvote on Reddit or participate in any manner, and there has not been any manipulation of votes from employees beyond my own singular vote.”

Breslau and OnGamers aren’t the first to suffer this kind of fate on Reddit: The Atlantic magazine’s site was briefly banned from the network after social-media editor Jared Keller was found to have submitted and upvoted links to the site’s content under a pseudonym, and the Daily Dot’s social-media editor even suffered a similar fate for posting links to his site’s content under his own name. One of the things that makes it difficult to steer clear of a Reddit ban is that the site doesn’t forbid linking to your own content, it just says that doing so can be risky.
Many internet users or readers of mainstream sites like The Atlantic may not go to Reddit, but over the past few years the network has become one of the few sites that can drive massive amounts of traffic to a destination — even more so within the online gaming community. That creates the incentive to try and game that traffic, especially when you are trying to get a new site off the ground. But as OnGamers has shown, the downside of that strategy can potentially be fatal.
Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Shutterstock / bluehand