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My crazy #1 ProductHunt Launch (what you need to know about PH)

On June 1st, 2020, CoderNotes.io launched on ProductHunt.

It got 22 upvotes and led to no sales.

Six days later, CoderNotes.io was the #1 Product of the Day on ProductHunt, and ended the day at #2, with over 300 upvotes.

In this post, I'll share the leadup to the launch, the metrics, and what I learned.

The pre-launch

I started making a plan for my June 1st launch a couple weeks before it went live. About a week prior, I stopped writing new features, to make sure I didn't push any breaking changes.

Here's what I had planned to do:

  • IndieHackers post: Write a post about the lessons I have learned from getting a product to launch, and at the bottom link to the PH post if people wanted to support it.

  • Twitter post: I tried (unsuccessfully) to get Adam Wathan to reply to my launch post, since he's replied before on Twitter and I saw massive engagement because of it.

  • Ask my network to help promote the launch: I'm a member of a few slack communities, and of course a launch was the time to cash in some favors.

  • Prepare my ProductHunt comment

  • Let my email list know that the product was launching soon, and I would be asking for their support

This was it. It feels like a big list, but it really boils down to announcing on the channels I could think of, and preparing those announcements the day before.

June 1st: Launch day

On launch day, I woke up and just started posting things left and right. My IH post, Five Lessons Learned From Launching My First SaaS, started off not getting picked up at all, but later in the day started getting upvotes. Now, it's my most popular post on the site.

I announced on the other platforms, and some upvotes started coming in, primarily from friends and people who wanted me to succeed. I remember getting to about 15 upvotes halfway through the day, and being stuck around there.

Here are the results from June 1st to June 6th.

As you can see, if you're not on the front page, you'll hardly get any traffic from ProductHunt.

Keeping expectations low

When I asked IndieHackers who didn't have a personal audience how they became successful, there were three main points:

  1. Time: It took longer than I thought it would
  2. Cold outreach: It was painful in the beginning, but you have to get started somewhere
  3. Utilizing other audiences is an important part in being heard

The fourth, bonus point was that launches can make a noticeable impact. Because I heard this from enough people in that thread, I knew I wanted to try my best to have a good one.

However, I also knew that I didn't have an engaged email list, nor a big enough personal reach, to force myself onto the front page. So I worked hard to keep my expectations low for the launch.

And, as you saw, the launch ended with a whimper. I had taken off of work that day, in preparation for any bug or support issues that came in. But it ended up being just another day.

I feel like this post should have ended here. There shouldn't be more to this story. But for what feels like the first time in CoderNotes.io's story, I got lucky.

June 7th

It's Sunday. I wake up around 10:00 and go to the bathroom, checking my phone like I always do. I have a ton of people signing up for free accounts. I haven't had coffee yet, so I'm very confused. "Did Google rank me for something new?"

I fight Google Analytics on mobile (a horrible experience!) to try to see where people are coming from today. I see it's all from ProductHunt. Weird, that makes no sense.

I go to my ProductHunt listing, it says "#1 Product of the Day" in the top right. It tells me that I can go to my "Launch day dashboard". Uhh, okay? I launched last week though...

I go to the dashboard. It says #1 there too. I'm getting more confused by the second. I go to the home page.

And there I am, right at the top.

*"What. the. %%%%!"

What had happened

A couple days after this all went down, I reached out to the PH support team. They told me that their algorithm sometimes picks apps that "had potential" but didn't get to the front page. (In other words, they hand-pick ones they like.)

At the time, I had no idea this was a thing. I figured that somehow, there had been a bug in the system, and that morning my product had been re-launched, but with a head start of 22 upvotes.

Anyway, back to June 7th.

Launch day, part 2:

This was the craziness that I had expected. Every time I refreshed the page, someone new had upvoted the product. I was getting free signups left and right. I quickly reached out to my groups and told them what was happening, which led to even more upvotes and support. It was by far the most hectic experience I've had yet.

By the end of the day, I had gotten over 700, but probably closer to 1000, unique users to visit the landing page:

The most important takeaway from this post

If you leave with only one piece of information from this post, I hope it's this:

The product that got 22 upvotes on PH and the one that got 400 are THE SAME PRODUCT.

Nothing was different. There were no new features, no bug fixes, nothing. In fact, the day I did 22 upvotes was a TON of outreach effort on my part, while 400 came effortlessly (literally accidentally).

So, my conclusion: Luck plays an outsized role in ProductHunt success. Unless you can guarantee 100-200 upvotes from your audience, you just can't expect to have that crazy launch experience. It's all luck.

There's no other way to explain how the same product can have two opposite results just six days apart.

But, if you get lucky enough to land on the front page (or top 2) of Product Hunt, how well does that traffic convert? While I really want to emphasize the above point, we all know why you've put up with my writing for the past five minutes. So let's dive into the metrics.

ProductHunt Metrics

June 7th:

  • At the end of the day, CoderNotes ended at position #2, with around 300 upvotes.
  • Somewhere between 676 and 982 unique people visited the landing page on June 7th, with an additional 153 coming from IndieHackers in response to making the front page with my milestone
  • Of those, at least 41 created accounts (I don't have perfect metrics for this, but I would guess the real number is about 50)
  • Of those who created accounts, two signed up for a paid free trial.

In other words, the conversion rate from viewing the landing page to signing up for a paid account was around 0.2%.

Another takeaway: ProductHunt's demographic are entrepreneurs who are curious about cool new products, but treat them primarily as entertainment. They won't convert nearly as well as motivated buyers.

June 7th to Today:

  • Over the past 9 days, between 1262 to exactly 2000 people have come to the CoderNotes landing page because of Product Hunt
  • In addition, 343 unique users have visited the site due to various articles and posts on Indie Hackers
  • Of those people, 135 have created accounts.
  • Of those who created accounts, five signed up for a paid free trial
  • Of those five, two immediately cancelled the free trial.

Conclusions:

Here are my closing thoughts:

  1. ProductHunt is primarily about luck, unless you have the numbers to force yourself to the front page
  2. Getting to the front page of ProductHunt doesn't seem to convert all that well, although the traffic and publicity is nice.
  3. ProductHunt works like a diploma. It's a credential that people care about, but not actually all that important if people didn't care about it.

Happy to answer any questions people have about the launch, next steps for CoderNotes.io, or whatever!

  1. 3

    If you analyze google statistics further, you'll see that something is off, missing, not optimized. Maybe landing page, maybe audience, maybe offer, or something else.

    If Bounce Rate is close to 70%, that means that 2/3 of visitors didn't even see your page, they bounced off in less than few seconds and they didn't see any of your text or the services. 2 confirmed payments on 1000 users does not look great to me.

    Also Time On Page, 38 seconds is enough to them to see that product doesn't match their interests. If they stay on page, for example, more than 2 or 3 minutes, you may have something.

    As I said, I don't know is it service or audience, but you should try to optimize whatever you can further, and reach audience on places where they are, coding forums, coding blogs, get a few tech/coding bloggers to write about your project, join to fb groups around coding, etc.

    And I have to add - Product Hunt is the last place here I would look for the validation of the product. Many of the readers and members there are also some bootstrapers, micro startups, indie hackers and wannabe hackers who are trying to find competitors or get more ideas for their projects. Measuring their response and feedback in hundreds of likes, votes or whatever and later seeing actual real-life return from those vanity numbers is mostly disappointing, many would agree. Prove yourself in real communities (coders in your case), not in artificial communities where everyone like everything just because is their friend or expect like in return or whatever reason is.

    1. 2

      As I said, I don't know is it service or audience, but you should try to optimize whatever you can further, and reach audience on places where they are

      Thanks for your comment. Your point is exactly the point I am making above it seems. ProductHunt, while offering a ton of visitors, is extremely low converting traffic, since it isn’t focused traffic.

      If Bounce Rate is close to 70%, that means that 2/3 of visitors didn't even see your page, they bounced off in less than few seconds and they didn't see any of your text or the services.

      If someone bounces, my understanding is that it includes people who click the link, read the first line, go "meh", and exit out.

      70% bounce rate isn’t surprising to me at all, given that most people are just clicking through the top posts of the day.

      1. 1

        Bounce rate means that people have visited a single page on your website. A high bounce rate isn't necessarily bad.

  2. 2

    You didn't get signups and conversion but you have got something valuable that you don't know about. Links! Ton of links that will start popping up in next few days. Your SEO will be better for free and people will start finding you on Google. Good job:)

  3. 2

    This is great @Kevcon80. Thanks for sharing your insights and lessons learned.

    1. 2

      I’m glad you found it valuable!

  4. 2

    Great post and great demo video! I'm going to share the product with some friends who have been asking for something like this.

    1. 1

      Ah cool, thanks :)

  5. 2

    They told me that their algorithm sometimes picks apps that "had potential" but didn't get to the front page. (In other words, they hand-pick ones they like.)

    Ah, the same thing happened to me and now it all makes sense. I launched just like you and ended with only around 20 upvotes. Then 4-5 days later on a saturday I woke up in #2 and ended up in #4 for that day. I'm still getting upvotes now a month later: https://www.producthunt.com/posts/norde-source-1-0

    1. 1

      Nice. Yea it's definitely a contrasting experience, isn't it? Honestly I'm glad I could experience it, just so I definitively know that I don't need to rely on it in the future

  6. 2

    hey nice one. Learnt a lolt

    1. 1

      Glad you found it valuable!

  7. 2

    Awesome write up! Thanks Kevin. I've heard so many successful entrepreneurs credit "timing" as a huge factor in their success. Eventually I realized that timing is business jargon for "luck." Of course the harder we work the luckier we get, as the old saying goes. I'm very motivated and inspired by your app and launch. Please keep sharing the details.

    1. 1

      Thanks, glad you find it valuable Taylor. I think you’re spot on about timing / luck.

  8. 2

    Your third conclusion bullet is really important. I see a lot of people get discouraged about a "failed" ProductHunt launch because they feel like the market isn't validating their idea. Truth is, it's just luck. Did the right people see the product at the right time to get the social proof required to accelerate to the front page.

    1. 1

      Exactly. ProductHunt isn’t going to be life-changing for CoderNotes.io, it’s just a nice thing to be able to refer to and look back on. In the end, very little of the attention turned into dollar signs

  9. 1

    Wow. Good to hear!!

    1. 1

      Glad you liked it!

  10. 1

    Hi Kevin,
    Congrats on your launch! I remember seeing CoderNotes and upvoting it? I had a similar experience with my product but never got to write about that experience! Thanks to you now I know I wasnt alone!

    Do you mind talking a little bit about the post launch days? How are the GA metrics, user signups and engagement?

    1. 2

      Hey,

      You’re the second person to mention this. I do show screenshots from GA in the post, and talk about how it translated to signups and sales. What is missing from the post you’d like to see?

      Just not sure specifically what I missed, happy to share anything I have :)

      1. 1

        You did mention the post launch days (June 7th to today) with screenshots and I just realized you shared this yesterday so I think I should have paid attention more haha. I also saw that you have a podcast?! Will definitely listen to stay updated on CoderNotes! Good Luck!

        1. 2

          I do! First Time Founder is my hobby project and one of my favorite ways to give back to the community. I'm still finding my voice on there - let me know what you think!

  11. 1

    This is a great post. I visit PH everyday but at the same time I do have a lot of contempt for it.

    It’s clear their “algo” is at least partly a manual process. That’s been clear for years. But the other side of that that the traffic you get from it generally isn’t real.

    Also - if you’re not making a product that is FOR makers then you’re almost certainly screwed.

  12. 1

    You haven't shared any numbers on paying customers. Did you get a lot of paying customers as well?

    1. 1

      Hey, it probably just got lost in the big post for you :)

      Of those who created accounts, five signed up for a paid free trial

      I can't speak to actual payments, since it hasn't been 14 days yet.

  13. 1

    Thanks for this, learnt a lot

    1. 1

      Glad you found it valuable!

  14. 1

    Good to know their "agorithm" sometimes pick the products that have potential. Sometimes great products don't end up with the good results they deserve. But on the other way, luck plays a huge part, I agree.

  15. 1

    Great write up. Thanks for sharing.

    1. 2

      No problem! I feel like I learned a lot from the experience and wanted to share that knowledge around

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