Growth July 20, 2020

We've increased our traffic by 1,800% and these are our top referral sources

Marko Saric @markosaric

Many indie hackers struggle to figure out what to do to get some attention and drive some traffic to their startup when starting.

At Plausible Analytics, we've had more than 130,000 unique visitors since April 1st. In the last three and a half months, we've increased our traffic by 1,800%.

We're 100% self-funded and independent so all this was done without any paid advertising, affiliate marketing, sponsorship and we didn't even get to launch on a big platform such as Product Hunt yet.

As we just introduced some brand new metrics to Plausible Analytics (average session length and session length by referral source), we wanted to look at what referral sources of traffic have been best for us.

Here's the list of our top 10 referral sources and some comments on each. You can also see it on our open stats dashboard. I hope this inspires you to continue pushing and working on getting more traffic to your startup.

1. Hacker News 17.4K

The first blog post I published since joining Plausible as a co-founder was "Why you should stop using Google Analytics on your website" and that went well across the different communities.

The post might have been opinionated and topical but we also got lucky that after we submitted it to Hacker News ourselves, the community there picked it up, upvoted it and started a discussion.

It could have just as well been completely forgotten with no upvotes in the first few minutes. Sometimes you need a bit of luck. This post and the fact that we got so much discussion and so many visitors from Hacker News helped kick-start our growth.

So the lesson is to publish the best stuff that you can and give yourself a chance to get a lucky break by submitting and sharing it with relevant communities. You cannot simply publish and wait for people to come and find you. Go out there and find them.

2. Twitter 8.2K

Twitter is a great source of referral traffic. If Hacker News gives you thousands of visitors within several hours, Twitter is something that can give you a few visitors every day consistently if you follow the method I'll describe.

We posted our first tweet on May 18th and have been engaging and interacting daily since then.

When starting, your audience will be small (we only have 556 followers at the time of writing) but that doesn't have to stop you. I would recommend you focus less on the number of followers and more on engaging with people.

And how do you engage when you have no followers? You start using Twitter search and look for people that are looking for solutions to the problems that your startup is solving and for people talking about relevant topics.

I use TweetDeck to search Twitter for a variety of relevant keywords about Google Analytics and I try to interact with many of those who are looking for an alternative or who have frustrations with Google Analytics. There's also the Twitter advanced search option.

3. Facebook 6.3K

We don't have an official Facebook page. And neither of us are Facebook users. This is completely organic as people share our blog posts on the different Facebook pages and communities.

Bigger pages such as DuckDuckGo decided to share our blog posts and even put a paid marketing spend behind promoting them. This also shows in the average visit duration. Facebook is at the bottom of all our top referral sources with average visit duration at 26 seconds only. It also has the highest bounce rate of 86%.

DuckDuckGo promoted our "remove Google Analytics" post and the "low" quality traffic comes from the mix of paid advertising and the fact that our product and the rest of site may not be of biggest interest to DuckDuckGo's Facebook audience.

Facebook can work in a similar way to Twitter though. There are many Facebook groups and by finding those relevant to your product, you can start engaging within those groups and start getting some attention.

4. Google 5.5K

Google search traffic is the holy grail of organic traffic for many startups. A lot of focus is spent on doing search engine optimization and trying to rank for the different search queries.

The reason is that Google search traffic is of very high quality. People are searching for a solution to a problem so those who find your solution are highly qualified leads to your startup.

This shows in our Google traffic which has the longest visit duration of all the top traffic sources with 3 minutes on average and which is also the number one source of our trial signups by far. You can see here the list of our best sources of trial signups.

We went from getting just over 400 clicks in more than 3 months before April and more than 5,500 in the period since. So how did we manage to start getting organic traffic from Google?

We started publishing content. We've published more than 20 articles since April. We covered many interesting topics relevant to web analytics, open source and the different privacy regulations that affect site owners.

For every post, we write a longer article that answers all the different questions people are asking about that particular topic. We focus on relevant and timely topics and we do our research mainly by looking at what's happening in Google's search results. We look at these areas of Google's results to give us a better idea of what people are interested in:

  • Google autocomplete for search queries people search for
  • "People also ask" section which lists a lot of additional questions people frequently ask
  • "Searches related to" gives us an additional list of related topics to cover

Between these three sections, we get a lot of ideas for questions to answer and different areas to include in an article. It all helps us create a longer and more complete post that looks at a topic from several different angles that people are curious about.

Many of these articles are now slowly sending us a click or two from Google every day which accumulates. You can see here the list of keyword phrases people found us with on Google.

5. Indie Hackers 4.1K

Indie Hackers community has been great to us! We're regularly posting our latest milestones and other updates but what's the key part of this is the fact that many of our users have decided to share us on Indie Hackers too.

Be it by responding and recommending Plausible in different threads to even starting threads dedicated to Plausible.

That has been amazing to see! We are grateful to everyone who shares Plausible Analytics as without people spreading the word about us it would be difficult for us to grow and achieve our goal of reducing the number of websites and businesses online that run proprietary, user-hostile and privacy-invasive web analytics.

6. Hacker Newsletter 2.6K

This came completely organic as we were featured in the Hacker Newsletter for being one of the trending posts on Hacker News that week. Get onto Hacker News and chances are you'll be getting extra traffic from other sources such as the Hacker Newsletter too.

7. LWN.net 2.5K

Another completely organic mention. Ben Hoyt posted an article about lightweight alternatives to Google Analytics and featured Plausible as one of the two recommended alternatives.

How Ben heard about Plausible I don't know (chances are he might have read one of our blog posts) but it was amazing to be featured in his post which was widely shared on Hacker News and other tech communities.

8. GitHub 2.4K

We're an open source project and everything we do such as our development and our feature roadmap is hosted on GitHub.

GitHub is a big community and a big "social network" in the first place so by being active there we exposed our product to new people who are interested in web development, open source and other aspects of what Plausible is about.

GitHub is our third best source of trial signups too.

9. Dev.to 2.2K

Dev.to is another great and friendly tech community. We syndicate our blog content there. We edit the posts by making them a bit shorter and more focused and then post them to Dev.to. "Why you should remove Google Analytics from your site" was also our top viewed article on Dev.to with more than 12,000 views.

Similar to when posting on Hacker News and other platforms, the headline plays a part, the relevancy and the quality of the post too but also luck.

But most importantly by being a part of another website which has its community and its own "social network", we're giving ourselves more chances of getting discovered by more people.

10. Reddit 1.9K

Reddit can be a great source of traffic. We submitted some of our posts ourselves while some of our highest upvoted posts were submitted by others too.

Communities such as /r/degoogle, /r/opensource and /r/webdev have been good to us. See here the full list of Reddit threads that sent us traffic.

Reddit can be used in similar ways like Twitter and Facebook. You can use Reddit search to look for threads relevant to your startup and the problems you are solving, then you can join those threads and engage with the people.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped get you inspired to get out there and do the best you can to try and get your startup in front of more eyeballs.

Most indie hackers are self-funded and don't have a large budget to spend on paid advertising so content marketing and community engagement are perfectly suitable ways to grow.

So publish the best content that you can by answering relevant questions that real people have and then go out there into the different relevant communities and engage. Do let me know if you discover some other good sources of traffic.

By doing this you will start opening doors and start getting new opportunities. Good luck!

  1. 3

    Thanks for sharing all of this! That's amazing. How many times did you have to submit to Hacker News before you hit the goldmine?

    1. 2

      Thanks Maeva! Believe it or not, for that first post about removing GA we hit the goldmine on the first submit. We got lucky!

  2. 3

    Nice to see Indie Hackers up there.

    I do wonder how much traffic the IH tweets I put out generate, what's the simplest way to try this? UTM tags?

      1. 1

        Thanks.

    1. 1

      Thanks Rosie! Exactly! For instance, any Plausible Analytics tracked site would recognize any of these tags (and so would majority of analytics systems):

      yourdomain.com?ref=IH_Twitter
      yourdomain.com?source=IH_Twitter
      yourdomain.com?utm_source=IH_Twitter

      We would then show IH_Twitter as the referral source for all of the clicks on any of the above links. And obviously the name (IH_Twitter) can be anything you want it to be.

      1. 2

        For anyone reading this, I will try this when I put out tweets for 'randomly' selected indie hackers. 🥰

        It would be cool if anyone ever wants to feed back the results.

        1. 1

          Sounds good Rosie! Our web stats are open so now we just need to give you another good reason to tweet our link :-)

  3. 2

    Very interesting to see the breakdown - thanks for sharing @markosaric!

    1. 1

      glad it was interesting Richard!

  4. 2

    Some really useful insights here, thanks for the post! Some lucky hits as you say, but you make your own luck by getting things out there.

    1. 1

      exactly, thank you!

  5. 2

    Great content! Super useful :) Good luck

    1. 1

      thanks!

  6. 2

    This is additional proof that getting online attention/traffic really is simply about providing value. Its wishful thinking to think that you can simply deploy an app online and people will be engaged and interested.

    1. 1

      thank you!

  7. 2

    This is the kind of information that makes this forum worth procrastinating on. Thank you Marko for this time and life saving information.

    1. 1

      glad to hear that Novi, thanks!

  8. 2

    Man this is gold! You're at the right place at the right time.

    1. 1

      happy it was useful Shash!

      1. 1

        Hey I know this is on your list but for visibility's sake, would be good if you could implement server side analytics.

        1. 2

          @shash7 contributor here. There's on-going discussions here https://github.com/plausible/analytics/issues/211 You can add your comments here :)

  9. 2

    This post itself is content marketing at its finest 🙂

    1. 2

      thank you Andrea! and an exclusive piece for IH too which i may syndicate to other places later on

  10. 2

    That's absolutely fantastic you have been able to achieve,this can a long way you did a great job and great product by the way! hats off to you guys ;)

    1. 1

      thank you for the kind words!

  11. 2

    Thanks for sharing Marko! I am going to give it a try as I said once in dev.to.

    Going through the setup (very smooth UX btw)... shouldn't this be placed at the end of the <body>?

    1. 3

      Hey, developer of plausible here.

      Either the head or body will work. It doesn't really matter as the script is marked async=true and defer=true which means it loads after everything else regardless of its position in the DOM

  12. 1

    Looks real nice

  13. 1

    Hey Marko,

    I am currently working on https://flowyak.com and I would like to try plausible.

    As you can see, I have one main domain and several custom domains.

    I suppose that I will need to add the script on each one of the subdomains for plausible to work properly, but I wanted to be sure. Let me know!

    1. 1

      Thanks Luca! Yes, exactly. Plausible sees each of your subdomains as a separate site so you need to add the script on all of them or keep them separated in Plausible too. All our accounts are for unlimited number of sites.

  14. 1

    How well does each source convert to customers? Percentage wise?

    1. 1

      thanks Greg! I haven't actually looked any further than how does each source convert into trials which you can see here: https://plausible.io/plausible.io?period=custom&goal=Signup&from=2020-04-01&to=2020-07-19

  15. 1

    "the fact that our product and the rest of site may not be of biggest interest to DuckDuckGo's Facebook audience."

    Yeah, online privacy perhaps not the biggest interest to Facebook users. Surprised DuckDuckGo even has a Facebook audience.

    1. 1

      yeah they seem to be big there and use their page as one of their main social channels.