Using If This Then That (IFTTT) for Reddit Keyword Matching, for Free!

Now here at Notifier we, of course, believe that our tool is the best option for receiving notifications of keywords that you care about on Reddit and soon other social media platforms as well!

But if you do not want or cannot pay for a subscription, there are some great free options that are out there and one of those is using If This Then That.

So, let us show you how to use If This Then That (IFTTT) to get a notification when someone makes a post with a specific keyword in the title for free!

Not as good as Notifier but still an amazing option for some use cases

Now, these options are not as featureful as Notifier but if you have more consumer use case, it might be a good option for you.

Also, keep in mind that we are considering having a special free plan that we’re launching again so check back frequently to see if we have launched it or reach out to us and let us know that you would be interested in a free plan.

Getting started

So to get started, you first need to sign up for an If This Then That account by going to ifttt.com. Keep in mind that IFTTT now has a basic or a free subscription or Pro Plan so their plans are a little bit limited and you will not get notified as quickly as you would with Notifier when you’re searching Reddit with it.

If this Then That (IFTTT) sign up page

How To Create an Applet

Once you’ve signed up and if you’re at the If This Then That dashboard, you need to go create an Applet, it’s what they call it. So you can click on Create, from there you want to click on If This portion, so you’re defining if this event happens on one of the services that IFTTT supports, then you’re going to do something else.

If This

If this Then That (IFTTT) dashboard where you can start and create an Applet
If this Then That (IFTTT) dashboard where you can set the If This to create a trigger

From there, search for Reddit to bring out Reddit integration and you’ll see a list of options. Some of the ones you can select are New hot post in subreddit, New top post in subreddit, New post from a search, New post by you, New comment by you, New upvoted post by you, New downvoted post by you and Any new post in subreddit. The one that we’re going to be leveraging today to search for a keyword is New post from search so I’m going to click on that box. And for this example, the string or the keyword we’re going to be searching for is Hello Reddit World! and once typed in, click on Create trigger.

This is the if This interface where you can choose a trigger channel like Reddit
Once you select Reddit, it will bring out Reddit configuration and will provide you list of option to choose a trigger
This is where you will enter the keywords you'd like to search to completely create the trigger

Then That

So now that I’ve defined the If, it’s time to define the That. What you can do is click on Then That, search for Gmail, then click on Send yourself an email. I’ve already connected the demo Gmail account for this so I do not need to do anything but you might need to do so in order to make this work.

The Then That is where you can set up an Action Trigger
This is where you can search for the 'Gmail' channel to configure which email and how you'd like to receive your match notifications
Once the Gmail account is connected to IFTTT, you can then choose where to send your match notifications

This screen Complete action fields is showing the different options in the email that you can populate. I am going to keep the defaults as they are, for now, click on Create action and click Continue.

This screen Complete action fields have different options on how yo'd like your email to populate
The Complete action fields will allow you to modify how you'd like your email to populate or you can keep the default and click on Create action
After finalizing your email configuration, you can click on Continue to proceed to the next step

And here we can review the Applet we’ve just created. So If New post from search ‘Hello Reddit World!’, (it will be searching for that string) then Send yourself an email from [email protected] (that’s our default email address). Click on Finish and the Applet is Connected and it should be active and running. Note that if you click on Connected button, it disconnects the Applet so all you need to do is to click on Connect again.

In this interface you can review the Applet you have created and click Finish for the Applet to be connected
Once Applet is created, you can then access to the Settings to view activity or modify the string search

Another thing to keep in mind is If This Then That should notify you within an hour. Some users have reported that it randomly stops or that once you’ve reached a certain limit, that it would no longer work.

How does it work?

Now to test this out, to see if it’s working, I’m going to go on Reddit and go to our usual nfr_test subreddit. I may have not mentioned this earlier, but an important point here is that IFTTT does not support searching comments so I have to do a post and it will not search comments but let’s try out, create a post in our nfr_test subreddit and see if it finds it. So I’m just going to say New Post and in the text of the post, I’m going to put Hello Reddit World! and go ahead and post that.

A Reddit post creator page for a previously created test subreddit to test if the search string will find a match

As you will notice, I paused the video to wait and see how long it will take for the notification to show up. I resumed the video within 20 seconds as we’ve already gotten our notification from Notifier which is showing us that it has found its search string. I’ve let this run for a while as we are still waiting for IFTTT to send the notification email, and as you can see, it has found my post around 30 minutes later. It has a link to the post here but the bigger problem is, it is matched on a lot of other posts also.

Email inbox in the Gmail dashboard where your received message notification will appear and where you can click the message to view details.

What went wrong?

So let’s see if we can figure out what is causing this. So I’ve gone back into the IFTTT dashboard, I’m going to click on the Applet I’ve created and then I will go to Settings. In the Setting screen, you can see the View activity.

Once you click on the Applet the Settings is on the top right corner of the Applet. This is where you can view the activity or modify your trigger or search string
In the Applet interface, you can go to  settings on the top right corner of the Applet to view activity or edit search string.
Y

There you will see that it’s definitely matching on posts that do not have that exact string in it. What’s going on here is that the Reddit algorithm will find words a lot like the Google Search algorithm. There’s no way to type things in quotes and say ‘Only find the exact string Hello Reddit World!’. So what we’re going to start doing is matching on strings that have Hello and then Reddit and then World as well. It turns out that the search is not quite as you would expect so that is one problem with using IFTTT and the fact that it uses the Reddit search functionality.

This the View activity interface showing all the matches found for the Applet created

Testing other configurations

I’ve looked in IFTTT and it says it supports the Reddit search operators and this is a page in the Reddit search operators. Nowhere that it says you can get the exact string matches by typing in something like Hello Reddit World! in double-quotes. So that I know of it’s not possible. The only way to do that is to use our tool Notifier.

Now one thing we’re going to try next is let’s see if we can access some of these field searches that they say are available so we’re going to try to use these field searches to narrow down the search results and see if we can only match certain results in certain subreddits based on the example subreddit: cats.

This shows the different Reddit field search or search string algorithm you can use to search for a specific section of reddit

So let’s go into our Applet that we created, go to Settings and go to modify the string and write here where it says it supports all the Reddit search operators. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to use a smaller string Hello! Let’s see how this works and for the search operator, we’re going to put a subreddit in here and go back to Reddit and get the exact name of the subreddit nfr_test, test subreddit that we have. So we’re saying, ‘Only give us results in the subreddit nfr_test with the string Hello!’. I’m going to save that and with the changes saved, I’m going to run a test.

In the Applet interface, you can go to  settings on the top right corner of the Applet to view activity or edit search string. Once you've edited your Applet, select Save to update it.

The first test I’m going to run is simply to see if this search to match within the subreddit is actually working. Now my suspicion is we’re going to get a lot of results for Hello because I don’t think that for whatever reason, either the Reddit search algorithm or possibly the IFTTT search algorithm ignores the special characters. But if this works, we should at least get at least one notification for this item and we should also get no other notifications for Hello!. Okay, so I posted that, now let’s wait some time and see what happens. I let the process run for a little bit and a few minutes later, I did get a notification from IFTTT showing my test post.

Email inbox where your received message notification will appear and where you can click the message to view details.
The details of the email notification one will receive whenever a search string has found a match and which also allows an instant click to view the post/comment directly on Reddit

What we don’t like about it

So in summary, IFTTT does allow you to get notified when keywords occur on Reddit and you can even filter by specific subreddits by using the format subreddit, colon, the name of the subreddit (nfr_test) then you need to put space and the string (Hello!) that you want to search for. However, as I said earlier in the article, some of the limitations to this are that it’s slower, results can take up to an hour in order to reach your inbox.

Second, you can’t search for exact string matches so if you put a space in between after Hello! and search for World then it’s also going to match on all posts that have Hello or World in them. Also, it doesn’t seem to allow special characters, it seems to ignore them. That may be more of a limitation of the Reddit search operators and the search algorithms which is why it seems they’re leveraging.

And then finally, the third major flaw of this that it cannot search for comments. So that’s the problem with IFTTT and that’s why we recommend just kind of avoiding this. They’ve had this functionality around for years but they’ve made no improvements to it and debugging it when problems happen can be an issue. There’s not even simple error statement that you get if you put in a string that causes an error. It not going to get you a helpful error here so we highly recommend avoiding this.

Wrap Up

Moreover, with their pro plan which is $5 a month, if you’re trying to use it for this, it’s just not really economical.

Instead, reach out to us if you have a use case that is more of a consumer and non-business use case and maybe there’s something we can work out in order to give you possibly a free subscription. As we are considering for an always free subscription, reach out to us via email if that is something that you think we should put up.

That’s it for this article. As usual, please let us know in the comments if you have any questions, any comments, or even any feature requests, something that we have not gotten and you think we need.

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