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What's New: Google's Short Videos

(from the latest issue of the Indie Hackers newsletter)

Google is testing a "Short Videos" carousel for its search results:

  • Google has been negotiating with Instagram and TikTok to include their videos in search results. Here's how you can prepare for the upcoming changes and keep your SEO strong.
  • The pandemic has caused a critical global clown shortage, as searches for local party clowns continue to rise. Clown industry tech is incredibly outdated, which means great opportunities for founders (no giant red nose required)!
  • Founder Damon Chen hit $100K in annual revenue 9 months after quitting in public. He shares his insight on leading users to the a-ha moment that takes them from free trials to paid plans.

Want to share something with nearly 85,000 indie hackers? Submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter. —Channing

📹 Google's Short Videos

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from the Growth & Acquisition Channels newsletter by Darko

Google has been quietly negotiating with Instagram and TikTok to include their videos in search results. Here's how founders can start taking advantage of this upcoming feature early!

Google's search results

The background: SEO is hard. It also takes time. So, it's worth noticing when a new content format is gaining traction in search results. Google will soon begin to include more short videos in its search results. A few weeks ago, The Information reported that Google is in quiet negotiations with Instagram and TikTok, aimed at including their short videos in its search results.

It seems as though the negotiations are paying off; Broodie Clark, an SEO consultant, reported that Google is testing a "Short Videos" carousel for its desktop search results:

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The opportunity: Are there any search results in your niche for which short videos would be a good fit? The query that Google was testing short videos for was "easy recipes." You can see how short videos would fit in seamlessly here. Since Google is going in the direction of adding more short videos to its search results where it makes sense, founders should get prepared.

If you have a SaaS for teams, for example, one relevant keyword for a short video could be "how to import slack into teams." Can you create a short (max one minute video) on that? Determine what short videos you can create that are connected to relevant keywords. When Short Videos rolls out, these types of videos will likely be prioritized in search results.

These companies took advantage of Facebook's outage

Have you heard about newsjacking? It's aligning your company to a current event that is on everybody's mind to generate attention. Two weeks ago, that event was the Facebook outage.

Newsjacking in practice: These companies newsjacked through email marketing during October 4th's six hour Facebook outage. While the social network was down, they sent emails with subject lines like:

  • Instagram may be down, but our holiday arrivals are up!
  • Instagram is down, so we have a SALE!
  • Facebook and Instagram relief is here!

Newsjacking works: These emails had above average open rates because they were about something that was on everyone's mind.

The opportunity: There are major news items happening around the world all the time. There is probably major news unfolding once in a while in your industry as well.

Take advantage of these news events by connecting them to your product like these companies did. Write an email with a relevant subject line. Run an ad with a newsjacking angle. For example, if you're a SaaS providing uptime monitoring, you could run ads on Twitter that say: "Facebook was down. Don't allow that to happen to your website."

You can insert a newsjacking angle for almost every acquisition channel with a little bit of creativity.

Buy now, pay later for SaaS

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is dominating e-commerce. According to a Yahoo Finance report, 30% of people have taken a BNPL loan, and 60% believe that they'll try it in the future.

BNPL: BNPL is a fancy term for paying in installments. Let's say someone arrives to your website and wants to buy something for $100. As long as your site is integrated with a BNPL provider, the user can pay the BNPL provider directly for the purchase. The BNPL provider then sends you the $100, and collects payments from the user in interest-free installments.

Industry leaders: Klarna, Afterpay, and Affirm are seen as the top BNPL players in the e-commerce space. And they're really, really big. Affirm had partnered with Amazon to offer a BNPL option on the platform. Millennials and Gen Z are addicted to Klarna. Last, but not least, Square will acquire Afterpay for $29B.

BNPL is growing beyond e-commerce. For example, this startup recently got funding to bring BNPL to in-person services. It's only a matter of time before BNPL becomes a mainstream way to pay for anything, including digital services like SaaS.

The opportunity: Have you considered adding a BNPL option for more expensive (or annual) plans? Your options for doing this may be limited for now (see Stripe and PayPal documentation on this), but expect that to change soon. BNPL is becoming an "acceptable" way to pay, and e-commerce is leading the way. This will eventually spill over into SaaS and digital products as well.

What short videos work best for your product? Share in the comments.

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Growth & Acquisition Channels for more.

📰 In the News

Photo: In the News

🦄 This interviewing-as-a-service startup has hit a $1B valuation.

🦑 Walmart has teamed up with Netflix to sell "Squid Games" products.

👩‍🏫 The largest US teacher's union is asking social media giants to curb viral challenges promoting educator abuse.

🏈 Live sports are keeping the American cable model alive.

🎃 Halloween 2021 spending is estimated to break records.

🤡 The Global Clown Shortage Opens New Doors

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from the Hustle Newsletter by Ethan Brooks

A Northern Ireland-based circus made headlines recently when it claimed that visa issues related to COVID-19 have led to a critical clown shortage. Here's why clown industry tech could be the next trick up your sleeve.

Clown show

If you're surprised to hear that clowns are still in demand at all, you're not alone. Movies like It and The Joker (and let's not forget the global clown scare of 2016) certainly hurt public perception.

But searches for local party clowns are on the rise again, and in places like Hong Kong and India, clowns have become increasingly popular.

Source: Google Trends

There's also a global community of people who are still deeply passionate about the art of physical comedy ("clowning"), and it could be the perfect niche because:

  • It's surprisingly large: There are at least four professional clown associations (Clowns International, the WCACAI, and Shriners), each with thousands of members. Clown Antics also gets ~50K+ visits per month, per SimilarWeb.

  • Practitioners are purpose-driven, working as either professional entertainers or volunteers in hospitals, schools, and conflict zones. They'll pay for training and connections that further their mission.

  • Clowns develop their alter egos and participate in the clown community over decades. For example, one Texas clown association keeps a long list of 25-year members.

But the industry is way behind on technology, pointing to a different kind of opportunity from the ones we normally highlight: Rather than exploding interest, what we have is a passionate community that's being underserved and kept artificially small by outdated technology.

Source: ShrineClowns

There could be room for someone with technical expertise to swoop in and build a seven-figure business via one, or more, of the following:

1\. Paid online communities: Clowning is inherently community-oriented. Clowns join local groups (known as "alleys") and pay $40+ per year to belong to clubs like the World Clown Association or Clowns of America International.

Use modern tools like Slack, Facebook, or Circle to connect practitioners on a broader scale, and offer an experience that outdated groups can't match.

2\. Digital media: Data from Clowning Around magazine's advertising rate card reveals very high $50-$200 CPMs. It may be possible to succeed with a niche newsletter for clowns, monetizing via ads, paid subscriptions, or affiliate deals (i.e. Clown Antics offers 10% to affiliates).

Source: Clowning Around, September 2021 Edition

3\. Education and training: The Clown School charges $300-$900 for online clown classes, and The Idiot Workshop charges $125-$250 for different character development sessions.

Claw clips

If you were around in the '90s, you may remember the claw clip: A popular accessory that made it easy to manage long hair without the hassle (or tension headaches) often caused by barrettes or ponytails. Our second Flare this week relates to the resurgence of this cult fave.

Flares: Claw Clips, Sensory Art, and Clowns

Search interest on both Google and Pinterest shows that claw clips are back, and they may follow the lead of other resurrected hair accessories (like spiral hair ties and scrunchies) that now mint millions.

The simplest way to capitalize is to sell claw clips.

Amazon searches are up 368% over the last 90 days, according to Jungle Scout, and this four-pack generates $446K MRR.

Three-star reviews reveal that people love the colors, but wish:

  • The paint didn't peel so easily,
  • The teeth and spring were more durable, and
  • The clip was wider to handle truly luscious locks.

Source: Amazon

Most products currently target women, but there are active communities of long-haired men who might respond to something designed just for them.

For example, the r/FierceFlow subreddit for men with long hair has ~99K subscribers, and has more than doubled in size since the COVID-19 lockdowns (hint).

Search interest is also up for claw clip-related style advice.

You could capitalize by creating content (i.e., downloadable style guides, TikTok and YouTube videos, etc.) to draw leads for other hair-related products.

Would you hop on either of these flares? Share your thoughts below!

Subscribe to the Hustle Newsletter for more.

🧠 Harry's Growth Tip: Conversational Copy

Cover Image: Harry's Growth Tip

from the Marketing Examples newsletter by Harry Dry

Conversational copy is writing how you talk. It's powerful, but can be tough. Here's your first tip:

Don't write at the reader. Involve the reader in your copy.

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Go here for more short, sweet, practical marketing tips.

Subscribe to Marketing Examples for more.

💰 Damon Chen Hits $100K ARR in Nine Months

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by Damon Chen

Hey IH! I'm Damon Chen, founder of Testimonial, a tool that allows you to collect video testimonials from your customers with no need for a developer or website hosting.

I have no team, so I do everything for the business. After nine months of grinding, the project just hit $100K ARR.

A few timelines:

  • December 2020: Launched on PH, started by selling lifetime deals (LTDs).
  • January 2021: Stopped LTDs and focused on the subscription model. I hosted an AMA about the transition.
  • March 2021: Quit my job after hitting $1K MRR. I #QuitInPublic.
  • May 2021: Got funded by Earnest Capital, now Calm Fund.
  • September 2021: Hit $100K ARR.

About me:

  • Eight years at Cisco as an infrastructure software engineer.
  • Got bored, tried to find a new job at FAANG, failed all interviews.
  • Started learning web dev from a $9.99 Udemy course at the end of 2019.
  • Pandemic hit and couldn't have a work-life balance from WFH.
  • Started building many side projects in 2020.

AMA!

How do you market your product?

Twitter, SEO (writing blogs), and an affiliate program. I build in public on Twitter. I also keep shipping new features to make existing customers excited and get more exposure to potential customers.

I got my first paying customer from Twitter, and he bought the LTD. I launched with LTDs only, and a month later, I shifted the pricing model to subscriptions.

Can you speak more on LTD marketing?

Yes! LTDs help bring initial users, which helps validate the idea and demand. Having LTDs as an option in the pricing table helped when I launched on PH because I never partnered with any outside parties to promote my LTDs; therefore, I get 100% revenue.

Getting testimonials as social proof is always top of mind for me. I didn't seek any additional validation. I made the MVP in one week by reusing lots of code from my past projects.

How have your experimented with pricing?

The biggest experiment was changing the pricing model to subscription only. It took a while to get the first few subscribers. I needed to first add a good onboarding flow (product tours, onboarding email campaigns, and paywall for premium features) to make the growth product-led. Of course, good landing page copy helps too! Nothing is really painful, but increasing the price is a bit scary. I think that most founders feel that way!

I've now doubled the pricing twice in the last six months. One growth hack that I implemented was to allow freemium users to continue to collect video testimonials even after they exhaust the two free credits. Then, if they want to access the third video and beyond, they have to upgrade. I think this is the a-ha moment where customers find value, and it's the best moment to convert them to paying customers.

How did you acquire funding?

Calm Fund cold DM'ed me through Twitter. They probably saw my build in public updates. I gave up 6% when my MRR was just $2K. They use the Shared Earnings Agreement, allowing me to buy back my equity after I started sharing my revenue with them. Eventually, the 6% will become 2%.

The biggest value adds for me through working with Calm Fund have been mentorship, workshops, and warm introductions.

What's the most important thing to consider when building?

I think you should have a deep understanding of what core feature your project has. Anything besides the core can be treated as a feature request in the future. You can wait to do it only when your users ask for it.

What's your tech stack?

React.js for the frontend, Firebase for the backend.

Which Udemy course did you take?

It's this one here!

Discuss this story.

🐦 The Tweetmaster's Pick

Cover image for Tweetmaster's Pick

by Tweetmaster Flex

I post the tweets indie hackers share the most. Here's today's pick:

🏁 Enjoy This Newsletter?

Forward it to a friend, and let them know they can subscribe here.

Also, you can submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter.

Special thanks to Jay Avery for editing this issue, to Nathalie Zwimpfer for the illustrations, and to Darko, Ethan Brooks, Harry Dry, and Damon Chen for contributing posts. —Channing

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