December 17, 2019

Lessons learned from hitting #1 on Hacker News

Ryzal Yusoff 🇬🇧🇲🇾 @ryzalyusoff

Yesterday, after the third times of posting on Hacker News about my side project - Reader Mode (https://readermode.io), it finally got a break there. Not only that it made it’s way to the homepage but it also hits the #1 position! It attracts a huge amount of visitors to the site and I was on top of the world :D But sadly though, I didn’t read the rules and it was removed from the homepage after just 2 hours there, and after 8 hours, the post got flagged :( I emailed the mod afterwards explaining the situation, and they kindly removed the [flagged] mark, but of course at this point the post was already buried somewhere and could never make it to the homepage again.

You can see the ranking histories here: http://hnrankings.info/21802911/

But after all it was a great experience and I’m so glad that I even had this chance to make it all the way to the homepage and then hitting #1 on HN. And in this post, I just wanted to share what I did right and what I did wrong so that everyone else could learn from my experience :)

  1. Title of HN post matters a lot
    Before yesterday’s post, I already posted twice on Hacker News about Reader Mode, but each with different title. The first time I post, I got 13 points, the second one I got 7 and the the third one I got 62. These are the titles I used for each post:

• Show HN: Increase your readability and productivity with this simple extension (62 points)
• Show HN: Reader Mode – Remove clutter and ads from any article. Instantly  (7 points)
• Show HN: Reader Mode – A fully cuztomizable “Reader Mode” with dyslexia support (13 points)

  1. Do not share direct link to your HN post
    Apparently, you cannot share a direct link to your HN post. If you do this, the upvotes from this link will not be counted, and possibly will get your post buried/flagged.

  2. Do not ask for upvotes/feedbacks/comments from your network
    Again, I didn’t know about this. I know that Product Hunt has this rule, but somehow it never crossed my mind that HN has this rule too! And so yesterday, not only that I shared a direct link to my HN post, but I also did asked for the upvotes/feedbacks when I shared the post around. And this eventually has triggered the voting ring and got it removed from the homepage and got it flagged 😥

  3. Get the pricing right
    It is somehow harder to get people form HN to buy your products compare from people from other places such as Product Hunt, Reddit etc. Especially if you price your product really high. For Reader Mode, I had to change the price twice before I can see sales coming in. Probably because readers on HN have different kind of mentality. For example, if you read the comments, whenever somebody posted a paid/freemium product even, you will get a lot of people saying something like: “Oh i could just program this myself, so why bother paying”. So just to keep in mind, that while HN is a great place to boost and promote your product, HN readers themselves might not be the ones that will pay for it.

So this is it so far. If something else crossed my mind, I will update this post. And one more thing, all of this is just based on my experience, other people might have different ones. So feel free to share your’s or other’s experience here, would love to hear them ^^

And if you have any question etc, feel free to drop a comment or send me a DM :)

  1. 10

    "Increase your readability and productivity with this simple extension"

    This should be your header title on the website too.

    1. 1

      In my opinion that title is a bit vague, with OP website's current one, I actually find "Reader Mode" to be much more descriptive. To be fair, I am someone who uses Safari's Reader Mode somewhat often, so maybe OP's title is less effective for non-Safari Reader Mode users.

      1. 1

        Yupp that's my dilemma right now. Love both actually but the current's one working just fine, so maybe I won't chance it now just yet. But definitely will think about using this at some point. Somewhere.

    2. 1

      Ah good suggestion! Will consider changing it to this soon thank you! :)

      1. 2

        Also with my experience of scaling a SaaS from $400 per month to $10K+ per month in a year, I think you can try reducing clutter from your pricing tables. They are too long to scroll. Keep it simple and stupid with clear distinguishing features.

        1. 1

          Ah amazing! Thanks for the suggestion and you are the first one that pointing that out :D What do you think about those videos though? Because some people said it is ironic for Reader Mode to those videos on the landing page. But I couldn't think a better way to explain and let people know immediately about all those features that the Reader Mode has.

  2. 2

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Ryzal!

    1. 2

      No worries Steven! Happy to share it :))

  3. 2

    We posted once and it didn't do well. Thanks for reminding me to go again soon!

    1. 2

      No worries mate. It will do well eventually! Just keep trying :))

  4. 2

    Well, I was just looking for this when I've found out that Chrome 79 removed the experimental reader mode, available from Chrome 75.

    Excellent execution! Will follow your headways with great attention ;-)

    PS: not sure if it's intended, but the reader mode renders pages like Gmail quite weird (it outlines the HTML structure)

    1. 1

      Yup, it is a big topic now for Chrome!

      Thank you! I wish you goodluck and let me know if you have any questions etc. :)

      And ah, I see. will check what's the problem thank you for letting me know :D

  5. 2

    Wow thank you for sharing this.
    I WILL DM YOU NOW.
    How about if someone posted for you?

    thanks for sharing your experience.
    Happy to see readermode progress!

    1. 1

      No worries!

      And sure, I will be waiting! Hehe

      If someone posted for is ok, but then don't invite your friends/network to vote/give comment there. Because most of the time their comment is a "boosting" type comment. HN readers don't like this and they will flag your post.

      And thanks a lot man! :)))

  6. 1

    Hacker News is a special type of community. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I really appreciate the thoughtful discussions and the quality of conversation you can have there. At the same time, they do seem extremely opposed to anything that's marketing related. Which of course includes making money.

    1. 1

      Yes exactly! If you charge even $5 for your product they will go crazy

  7. 1

    Congrats @ryzalyusoff! 😄

    I recently did a breakdown of different article extraction APIs and was wondering what you're using under the hood to extract the main content of the article?

    You can view the breakdown here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1OG1Px9n2NFqDEiv6LwP6tujV2MwCECU_lj5KM_ZClPU/edit?usp=sharing

  8. 1

    Hi I am going to give gift code to access NomadWallet app for free, do you think it is ok to post on HN?

    1. 1

      Hi Winnie, yes it is ok. Just post under "Show HN", basically showcasing your app, then include the gift code in the post :)

  9. 1

    Hello Ryzal, may I ask the best time for you to post on HN? Does it work like PH as regards to the posting time?

    1. 1

      Hello Peter, according to what most people have been saying, there's no best time to post on HN. But I would like to think that if you post it early in the morning of SF time, you will get better result.

      1. 1

        Thanks! I think I will need to gain some more karma before I can actually post and have results...

  10. 1

    Thanks for sharing. Are those reviews all real in the tweets? How did you get LifeHacker to tweet about your product if so? Thats pretty awesome

    1. 1

      No worries. And yes, you can actually click on those tweets and it will bring you to the original ones on Twitter. Lifehacker pickup my product after it was featured #1 on Product Hunt :)

  11. 1

    Congrats and thanks for sharing your experience!!
    I wonder how you started from a pretty high position (#11). What does it depend on?
    My post starts at #34, pretty much the same time of the day (maybe not?)

    1. 1

      Thank you! Ah I think I saw your post! Congrats too man :D And I think the difference on the initial momentum of the upvotes after we post, could possibly be the reason. That's just a guess though :)

      1. 1

        Thanks! Imagine, before the maximum points I gathered there was... 3! Now just after a couple of hours, it's already 28!
        I can't believe and I don't have any explanation.
        What I borrowed from your article is the title. I analyzed all 3 titles you gave and thought the winning one was kind of induction to act ("increase..." vs "A fully ...") and it was pretty positive ("increase" vs "remove") so I tried to do the same :))) not sure if it was the reason. Let's see :))) Thanks again!

        1. 1

          Wow niceee! That's amazing congrats! :D

          Hehe yeah, I do think that plays the important role to grab people attention. Glad that it worked out for you! :)))

            1. 1

              I just take a look. Massive congrats!!

  12. 1

    No sales after that performance?)

  13. 1

    Ryzal, how do you extract the content from the page? Is there any common rules around it?

    1. 1

      This comment was deleted 3 months ago.

  14. 1

    HN is hard, congrats for making it to the front page!

    1. 1

      Yes it definitely is! And thank you! :)

  15. 1

    Hey, congrats! Could you share how much traffic it got you?

    1. 2

      Thanks! And sure thing, it got me around 12,000+ visitors

  16. 1

    I love the research you did on the power of a title. It seems when you focused on the users benefit you had the greatest return! So on your fourth point, you say it was hard to get conversions on HN. Do you believe then it is worth it to promote your work there? Do you have the data on website hits vs. trials vs. sign-ups for that cohort?

    1. 1

      Glad you love that~ And yes focus on users first always worth the effort! Just need some effort to craft the wording :D And yes, definitely! I don't really have the data exactly, but I can tell that the conversion is lower than what I got from my PH launch. But the upside is, the traffic from HN is much much higher! Thus opening many more opportunities to meet different kind of people, and these people will contact you trying to make a deal/offer etc. :)

      1. 1

        Thanks for the reply, excellent I will continue looking into it as a growth channel!

  17. 1

    If you were to have your friends specifically search for the post (Instead of directly linking it), and then upvote it, would it still trigger their vote manipulation system?

    1. 1

      I could be wrong, but I don't think so as it would be absurd. And based on what I read around, there's no mention at all about searching the post, only direct link was mentioned.

      1. 1

        Fantastic, now we know what to try next time.

  18. 1

    I was on the front page of HN about 4 times in the last year. The only thing I learned: just repost it again and again.

    There is no real "method" or "trick". It's fairly random whether a post becomes successful or not.

    1. 1

      Wow massive congratulation! And yes I had the same experience here, it took me 3 times to post on HN to get on the front page

  19. 1

    I'm a tad confused, what exactly made you get flagged? Asking for upvotes?

    Anyway, congratulations, I'm happy for you!
    I recently had a trip to the homepage of HN (never quite #1, hovered around #5) and it was indeed incredibly for the amount of visitors you get from them. It's quite a 'high' as well.

    1. 1

      It could be either of these:

      1. I asked for upvotes (which I didn't know wasn't allowed) which triggered the voting rings
      2. My friends'/network's comments, which HN users don't like to see, making them manually flagged my posts
      3. Intervention from moderators

      And ah that's awesome man! Getting in front of HN is good enough to give you that high traffic yes. And I'm sure if you try again soon, it could reach #1 eventually :)

  20. 1

    Thanks for sharing.
    I also posted back then but got removed. I'm thinking of reposting it again.
    Could you please provide link to your HN post?

    1. 1

      No worries! I see, go for it man. Um, I'm kind of scared of posting the direct link now 😅 But you can find it from here: http://hnrankings.info/21802911

      Click on the "Comments" button will take you directly to the post :)

      1. 1

        Awesome! thanks :)

  21. 1

    Nice feedback from the experiene man. Quite educational. Thanks for this

    1. 1

      Thanks man! And no worries at all :))

  22. 1

    Thanks for sharing! :D

    1. 1

      No worries! Happy to share my experience and whatever I know. Feel free to ask if you have any questions :D

  23. 0

    Very cool, thanks for the insights. The tool looks awesome. Btw, https://www.servicebot.io/ could be useful for you for pricing changes & billing pages.

  24. 1

    This comment was deleted 9 months ago.