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Hacker News Frontpage Post-mortem

Apr 10th, 2012 / Hacker News Marketing Blog Twitter

I always find these posts on Hacker News interesting so here's a post-mortem of the traffic generated by a post that spent a day on the frontpage of Hacker News.

Last Thursday I made a post on Hacker News titled "Client-Side Error Logging With Google Analytics" and submitted it on Hacker News. The post was inspired by an idea in a discussion about the importance of logging client-side errors. The post got to #1 or #2 on the front page and stayed on the front page for nearly a day.

I was definitely surprised by the traffic that the post generated. Thursday and Friday, the post got a total of 12,295 visits and 14,403 pageviews. Nearly 7K of the visitors were direct referrals from HN.

I'm just getting into blogging so to say this was a spike in traffic would be a bit of an understatement. The day before the post I had 17 visitors and most of those were probably my mom. Since then--14K visitors and 17K page views.

The post got 240+ tweets including one from someone on the Google Analytics team:

There were probably 4K direct referrals or visitors from t.co. I'll chalk most of these visitors to Twitter which is pretty amazing. Having people click on a link is satisfying--having people blog about or Tweet something you wrote is even more gratifying.

Impact and Lessons Learned

In terms of making a contribution to the world, the post was definitely a success. It generated a great conversation and I think people will run with the idea and figure out how to improve upon it. It also gave my new project a little bump. Though the massive spike of traffic is gone, I continue to get a few hundred visitors a day which is great. It has had an impact on organic traffic thanks to some new inbound links.

I had over 300 visitors try a demo of my project ThetaBoard and 3 people sign up for personal (free) accounts. I'm pretty happy with these (small) numbers--ThetaBoard is in its infancy and I don't consider it a mature project. After I launch some new features I'm working on, I'd hope for a much, much higher sign up rate.

My biggest failing was in fully taking advantage of Twitter. When I originally made the post, I didn't even have the ability to Tweet the post. I added this on-the-fly and it had a huge impact on traffic (getting 250+ tweets and who knows how many retweets). 

I then realized I didn't have a "Follow @ThetaBoard" link anywhere on my site so I added it as well on Thursday afternoon. I definitely feel like I missed out on some new Twitter followers by omitting this option from the beginning.

Capitalize on Your Traffic

I've learned a few lessons I'm going to put into place this week to capitalize on future traffic to the this blog. These are all pretty obvious but I wasn't doing them--maybe you aren't either:

  • Make it easy for people to share your content. You should be able to share every single item of content you create with a single click. I would start with a Twitter Button, Like Button, and Email link.
  • Make sure people see your future content. You need to have a Follow button on every post and featured prominently on your site (header/footer/sidebar). If you have an RSS feed, make sure you have the ubiquitous orange icon featured prominently. If you have a mailing list, make sure have a very visible signup form  I don't.
  • If you are promoting a product--don't hide it. This is one area where I think I did pretty well. 300+ visitors tried out ThetaBoard (you should too). Make sure each and every piece of content has a link to your sign up page or a demo.

I haven't implemented most of these suggestions yet but will definitely be doing so this week so I don't waste all the traffic to the next post that proves popular.

tl;dr

I wrote a post that got a ton of traffic. It was awesome but I wasted most of it.

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