61
39 Comments

Product Hunt Scam

Should put the the title as "Buy Producthunt Upvotes" for SEO purposes.

Finally I've found a way to easily, directly show what's going on under the hood. The two posts I've read yesterday urged me to check PH again. Luckily this time I have the perfect example to share.

Posts for the curious;

  1. I networked with 0 people and I launched my product on Producthunt on Wednesday, Here's the result.

Lesson learned: Start networking, god damn it!! or else, settle for 22 upvotes.

  1. We Spent $5000 on a Product Hunt Ad. Here Are the Numbers.

Cost: $5000 (fixed)
CPM: $20 (fixed)
Impressions: 250,000 (fixed)
Cost per click (CPC): $8.12
Clicks: 616
Paying customers: 0

I'm already annoyed by the faces presenting "indiehacking" space. Beyond that this most important(?), well known, leading platform is suggesting that without networking you are nothing, I don't know about you but I felt this way at some point. It's true to some extent but networking is not something happening on PH or those numbers is not the results of it.

Let me show you what I'm talking about;
Check this half satisfied, happy customer
https://www.fiverr.com/ahrajumd/promote-your-product-hunt-post-in-24-hours

lucydeyewear (3.3) United States
Results delivered, however it appears the product hunt platform detected unusual activity so it didn't work as expected.

With a beautiful screenshot

image

When you search for lucyd on PH you won't be able to see it in the results unless you select the "Show all products" option. It's indeed removed from the list but how about the voters, you may ask. Because I did.


A little interruption here; Yesterday my query returned 1021 voters, today it shows 813. Here is the weird part, PH doesn't do that. Where do I know of course from our beloved Musty's Burger Homemade Beef Sauce they bought some votes too. Numbers shrank in time as well but also the accounts were deleted.

You can confirm that by looking at one of their API's. :wink_wink:

https://ph-graph-api-explorer.herokuapp.com/

I'll probably check the difference to see what happened to those accounts.

{
  post (slug: "musty-s-burger-homemade-beef-sauce") {
    votes (first: 20, after: "") {
      totalCount
      edges {
        node {
          id
          createdAt
          userId
          user {
            username
          }
        }
      }
    }
  }
}

As you can see all those accounts got deleted except sfali's. Votes remained(WHY?!).


Back to the story, you'll change the slug to lucyd-lyte-bluetooth-e-glasses to see that's not the case for them.

When we dig that further we'll see more funny staff so hold on to your mice.

When you change the above query and ask for the voters' other votes.

{
  post (slug: "lucyd-lyte-bluetooth-e-glasses") {
    votes (first: 20, after: "") {
      totalCount
      pageInfo {
        hasNextPage
        endCursor
      }
      edges {
        node {
          id
          createdAt
          userId
          user {
            username
            createdAt
            votedPosts {
              edges {
                node {
                  slug
                }
              }
            }
          }
        }
      }
    }
  }
}

You'll get something like this, sorry I wasn't able to make pandas isin() method to work so I had to split each product to a column but it looks satisfying while scrolling. Especially when sorted by account creation date.

So what are the odds of 3 accounts created within a minute voted the same post? And possibility of this is happening more than 300 times in the same sheet. :)

This = https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1l2jqhHt5WBzWwql3zQ1W2u3zF7ZNMWNkr0_xE4lb8Cs/edit?usp=sharing

Anyways I know you get bored, because I do. When you look at the sheet, you'll see some repeating product names. Just let me take you there, I know you are lazy;

https://www.producthunt.com/posts/taskade-3-0

Not the Day, not the Week but...... Product of the Month still there with its glorious badge, I wonder if it nominated for golden kitty.


I had several more examples but these are the ones who paid the most. I found 2 more products who paid for 1400 upvotes. Imagine 1400 upvotes. Disappeared from the timeline. I saw some examples where a bot owner booked twice in a day and compete with himself.

So in the end it's not about your network, some person from another side of the world with an automation script shaping our entrepreneurial choices, makes us believe we can't achieve a thing without networking. They decide who's going to make the buck and who not. 🤷‍♂️

Just be aware, have a good day.

  1. 22

    It's 2021 and launching your product on PH is like adding your Blog URL to a web directory in 2008 - it doesn't hurt, but it's mostly a chore with little or no return and shouldn't be your focus.

    1. 3

      Lol, this is made me laugh and it's probably the best explanation I ever heard

    2. 1

      Won't hurt? I'm not sure...
      If you search for "tailored notion" on Google, you probably see the PH page with a review of 1.7/5 stars. I don't know where it comes from.

      I only have great feedback about my extension. I even tried to create a second account to give a good review and the score didn't change :(

      One possibility I though about is that I received a lot of mails after the launch selling me services to help me with my PH launch and PH SEO? As I never responded, maybe they give bad reviews to persuade you... idk.

  2. 15

    I think people put too much emphasis on Product Hunt.

    The result of your $5000 ad seems to be similar to my experience of launching on PH (note not paid ads): you may get lots of visitors to your site from PH but they are usually not serious, they have a brief look around and rarely become customers.

    In my opinion you're much better spending time focusing on growing organic visitors to your website or product through search.

    1. 3

      Way too much, the number of blog posts I've seen about product hunt launches is unreal. People were literally talking about getting friends and families to sign up and upvote them on launch day. It's a nice bit of SEO backlink, some traffic, etc. But realistically, unless you're selling a course or made something fun that will be fun to play with for a few minutes I don't think product hunt is that important. There have been million-dollar companies that have flat-lined on product hunt.

  3. 6

    Product Hunt upvotes has been just a vanity metric for some time. So I'm not surprised you can buy upvotes, the same way you can get Instagram and Twitter followers and YT views.

    This all just brings us back to the principle that you should focus just to get 100 true fans, one fan at the time.

    1. 1

      I believe it's more than that, a badge of "Product of the Day" may rule over 10s of random testimonials on a landing page.

      Agreed it's everywhere but since PH is where we all get together and quite small compared to twitter or youtube. I feel like something could be done about it. 🤷‍♂️

      1. 2

        Badge "Product of the Day" is the new "Css awards site of the day"

  4. 4

    I'm launching on Product Hunt today https://www.producthunt.com/posts/pleke-finance-manager and launched on Show Hacker News last week.

    I was quite disappointed on how Hacker News put my link two levels deep. In that page most links had only a few votes. Meanwhile other links had dozens of votes in just a few hours. So I investigated and found bot services selling automated voting for all platforms which are voting dependent (Reddit, Hacker News, Product Hunt among others).

    This led me to not expect much from my Product Hunt launch. Sure, it's a milestone that we should celebrate. Then, I'll go back to work and invest in SEO to gather people looking for my product and advertising. There is no free lunch.

    1. 2

      Just got approached by e-mail and twitter with offerings to put my product between #1 and #5 for $150 to $200...

      e-mail message with position boost offer

      1. 1

        Bro, it's obviously a scam.

  5. 3

    Hello Anil

    Here is something to help with your product hunt issues...

    You must remember that there are lots of other places to post that have Millions of daily users

    https://github.com/mmccaff/PlacesToPostYourStartup

  6. 2

    wow, I really needed this. Thanks for sharing and including my post here.

  7. 2

    Never make your business dependent of any external platform.

    When I hear that some "make all their business on Twitter" I cringe. They don't control it, some will gamify the system and left them behind, they can be censured, or simply banned.

    If you have a newsletter, make sure that you can easily go from one platform to another. If you have a blog, own it on your own server, don't go on any platform. Same for communities. Choose your destiny.

    I never understood the "I'm first on product hunt I'm the king". That's nice, and I'm happy for them, but I'm pretty sure it won't change much at the end. If you depend on it, well, you're doomed.

    Slow, steady growth is more difficult, but way more rewarding at every level.

    1. 1

      I was expecting another evil twist at the end.

      Great advice for those who has patience. I'm surely not one of those and I wouldn't call myself a king but enjoy the extra revenue with a product hunt badge near my pricing section.

      It's weird to see many products (out of PH) taking off out of thin air. This might be the how-to guide for their success, not blaming anyone but can't justify it at the same time. Which makes me curious if I'm doing the wrong thing by trying to be right.

      1. 2

        I'm not sure you'll have much extra revenue from a product hunt badge, except if your product is targeted to creators / developers.

        Being patient is hard, especially in this world where we mainly hear about the ones who "make it" without much effort. Well, I believe it's a lie most of the time. I think quick and easy wins are possible, but I think as well that in that case it's question of luck more than anything else.

        What means trying to be right? It's trying to follow your inner values and principles. You could try to bypass the system and try to be "wrong" to yourself, but even if you achieve some success this way you won't feel well in your own skin. Be careful what you wish for.

        Just my opinion, of course :)

        1. 2

          Great point, and similar to what I've been thinking.

          But it also makes me think if it's the "comfort zone" that I needed to get out. Never heard people struggling with being against their core values. If I wanna adapt to a society I shall follow its rules at least for the first a few steps even if that sounds bad to me.

          Let's take IH for example, I'm spending my whole day here. Instead of sharing my actual thoughts, I can pat everyone in the back, act friendly, get more followers, more followers would lead to more upvotes on my posts thus I'd occupy the front page every day. Instead of leaving with 10 views zero comments. When it comes to sell something, gathering some "testimonials" etc. It would be easy peasy.

          Apply the same logic to other platforms and become the cool guy of the niche without any harm. 🤷‍♂️ Call it being friendly while the ultimate goal is to getting more spotlight.

          As you said in another comment, I shall take a break.

          1. 2

            Yeah I know what you mean, and I thought the same; let's pat everybody on the back even if I don't really care about their products! But I can't do it for long. It's not me. So I can't continue doing it, and at the end it's useless.

            Just do your own stuff. You might have less followers, but the quality of your followers will be way better: because they like you and what you're doing, not a weird image you can't sustain. I aim for quality, and it works.

            And, yeah, take some time off :D

  8. 2

    A similar habit of asking for 5 star ratings in exchange for something from the developer (like more time on the premium plan) is also happening on the Google Workspace Marketplace.

    It has given some products statistically impossible ratings in the store... but it seems to be working for them.

    Side note: Thanks for letting us know why we a re losing upvotes. I was wondering how and why it was happening.

    1. 1

      It's everywhere. Same with amazon, merchants sending gift cards for 5 stars.

  9. 2

    All the big communities are scam!
    Post to small communities where people actually care about your product and engage with you even if you are newbie.

  10. 2

    Thnx for the digging! Eye opener here 😳

  11. 2

    Thanks for digging into this and sharing what you found.

  12. 2

    This is eye opening! I had no idea, but it makes perfect sense haha. Great work digging into the APIs and exposing the truth 🙌

  13. 2

    Thanks for sharing this!

  14. 2

    Even without vote manipulation, those who visit Product Hunt are Entrepreneurs, Wannabe Entrepreneurs, those who have something to do with Entrepreneurship so products which sell to these tend to do well; for the rest their customers are just not there.

  15. 2

    Side note: I looked at the numbers of my only PH launch yet and noticed a change, too. Some time ago, I had more than 200 upvotes for Crowdfunded. Today, I'm around 130 ¯\(ツ)

  16. 2

    In 2021 are you still surprised about bots?
    Bots are everywhere...
    soundcloud, spotify, instagram, tinder, etc... and... producthunt!

    In the documentary "fake famous" they summarize it perfectly:

    Bots and votes bring engagement, and no one would tell their investors and stock holders that: "Well, half of our users and half of the engagement of the users are fake...bots."

    1. 1

      I'm surprised about how it normalized, surprised that it might be the only way to make something happen.

    2. 1

      Reminds of me that Silicon Valley episode where Jared ordered a ton of fake users for Pied Piper.

  17. 2

    This is really interesting. I’ve always bemoaned product hunt’s lack of self awareness on many fronts, mainly UI / UX.

    I believe what you’ve uncovered is due to their incompetence as opposed to anything potentially underhand.

    They should hire you. Seriously.

  18. 2

    Those who check the post and didn't click the like button and subscribed to my channel are the vote buyers :(

    ---

    As I've suspected, those remaining ~200 accounts took their votes back. Accounts are still active and busy pumping other products.

    How hard could it be to monitor this activity with such a smart algorithm to regulate the feed.

    1. 2

      I really don’t think there is a smart algorithm. The homepage is curated manually. There’s been PH staff in here confirm that.

      Also it’s pretty obvious to tell it’s curated manually simply by observing some of the stuff that goes on.

      I really hope someone from PH sees your post.

    2. 2

      They can easily weed out this behavior. Just like Instagram and Facebook don't want to weed out bots — PH doesn't either.

      Ever since PH took investment money, it has gone downhill. They're more focused on numbers and squeezing pennies from Ship, job listings, and ad space.

      PH knows if people think there's a chance at their product blowing up, people will keep advertising PH. Bots help inflate and boost a floundering platform.

      Someone can easily create a PH 2.0 better suited for the 2020s, but I only ever see copies that don't expand on features to accommodate how the space has evolved.

      1. 2

        I wasn't paying attention before so I don't know how it was like before the investment money.

        PH 2.0 is something on my mind but I can't justify a way to compete. Fake or not they want that exposure, an ad space costs $5K, even sparing $1K from there to spend on the products would make that ship going. Anyone who'd get 3 customers after their PH launch would celebrate it online.

        I can't see a way to compete against it.

  19. 1

    Hello Product Hunters! We are creating a slack group to share ideas for PH launch. If you like to join, you can fill out this form. https://forms.gle/LehhYocbCSPMnFU36

  20. 1

    I think it's horrible Anil yet unavoidable.
    I've been running digital marketing campaigns since 2014 and I can fully admit it's a horrific place with no enforcable law and large amounts of money flowing around and A FUK LOAD of scheming and scamming, from bot traffic to scripting like you've shown above..
    It's the lay of this land until we'll have decentralized authority sites

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