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Rotten Tomatoes Success Story [How & Why The Site Remains So Popular]


Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation site for film and television founded in 1998 by three undergrad students, Senh Duong, Patrick Y. Lee, and Stephen Wang, at the University of California.

The website was an instant hit, receiving 600-1000 unique visitors each day during its first-week thanks to its review coverage of Rush Hour.

Since then, the numbers have only continued to grow. 

Fandango now owns Rotten Tomatoes, and the site has since become one of the world’s most popular review sites for critics and audience members alike. So let’s see how the site has been growing and what takeaways we can find.

Rotten Tomatoes Traffic

As you can see, Rotten Tomatoes welcomes an impressive number of visitors each month. Ahrefs clocks them in at nearly 80 million.

for what it’s worth, Semrush shows its monthly traffic coming in at over 200 million.

Only Rotten Tomatoes insiders will know which is more, but regardless, it’s certainly a lot of traffic.

But where do these visitors come from?

The Source of Rotten Tomatoes Traffic 

Looking at the chart below, it is clear that most of the traffic for Rotten Tomatoes comes from search engines (68.33%), and the second-highest source at 28.68% comes from visitors typing the web address directly. 

28% of traffic coming directly is impressive and a testament to their position as a go-to source for reviews and entertainment news.

Keywords Targeted by Rotten Tomatoes 

Rotten Tomatoes obviously strongly focuses on informational keywords, given the nature of its content and subject matter.

The website enjoys a unique advantage in that it can title pages after movie titles and rank on the first page for very competitive keywords while most likely not matching search intent.

Social Media Traffic for Rotten Tomatoes

Since Rotten Tomatoes focuses on visual and recorded media, it is no surprise that most of its social media traffic comes from YouTube.

Twitter and Reddit follow behind this, and it has fairly low traffic and engagement from platforms like Instagram. 

Its YouTube channel, Rotten Tomatoes TV has nearly 800,000 subscribers.

With decent engagement on much of the content, mostly trailers, clips, and celebrity interviews of the latest popular TV and streaming series.

Going Viral

Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t necessarily have viral posts, but some phenomena have occurred in recent years that have garnered a great deal of attention. Most notably, controversies surrounding the rise of audience review bombing in recent years.

It started with Captain Marvel and Black Panther, both of which were review bombed by trolls enraged by a female lead (Captain Marvel) and a cast that was predominately made up of people of colour (Black Panther).

These review bombs could have been harmful, giving the films a false rotten rating the moment they were released and before people had even seen the films.

These aren’t the only films this has happened with, and it’s something that can be very difficult to control. While better measures are constantly being tested and implemented, the review bombing certainly caused a lack of trust in Rotten Tomatoes from users for a while. 

However, it likely also increased traffic and visibility to the site, attracting people on all sides curious to see what was going on.

Backlinks for Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes has many backlinks. And many of these are dofollow. This is likely from other sites referencing information on Rotten Tomatoes and deeming the site a reputable source.

As you can see, some of their top backlinks comes from leading publications such as FILM Online and Teen Hollywood. 

They’ve also been referenced by New York Times nearly 900 times.

How Rotten Tomatoes Makes Money

Rotten Tomatoes has always prided itself on the fact that it is free for people to use. You can access the scores and reviews without having to pay a penny. 

Since Fandango owns Rotten Tomatoes, part of the funding comes from the convenience fee paid when you buy tickets using the platform.

Additionally, they make money through licensing agreements to use the Tomatometer on certain platforms.

What Makes Rotten Tomatoes Interesting? 

What makes Rotten Tomatoes really interesting is the fact that they want to get you off their website, not keep you on it. It’s a tactic that is completely opposite to any other website but also one that helps them stay popular. 

Would they like it if you used Fandango right after visiting? Yes, but the fact is they aren’t going to try and force you. Instead, they want you to find the movies that interest you and hopefully earn a commission on ticket sales as you head out to watch them.

They, of course, want to give you a good experience though. So you keep coming back to discover new media that intrigues you, leave reviews, and help the community grow. 

They have great content, such as their new podcast, showtimes, and list posts on new and old movies or TV shows that you might want to check out. It reads much like an online TV guide, a resource you use quickly and regularly. It’s exactly what they’re doing right.

The Inspiration

“Back in the day, you would open a newspaper, it would have a full page ad for a movie and the quotes were always good even if the movie was bad. Our idea was the same concept but to have quotes from critics, good and bad, and give a score.” – Patrick Lee 

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