8 min read

RIP: Our Product Hunt Launch

RIP: Our Product Hunt Launch


Anything you do for the first time (and often second, third and fourth) is really just a test.

You might have a plan but you have no real experience to test the validity of the plan.

As has been said “you can’t learn to swim by reading a book, at some point you have to get wet”.

And with an open mind, we decided to jump into launching PPC Ad Lab on Product Hunt.

Before we go any further it would be remiss of me not to thank all of you who helped with votes, comments and reviews yesterday - more on that to come.  Thank you all!

Let’s start with why (sorry Simon Sinek - unintentional steal)

At PPC Ad Lab, we’ve grown our product both in terms of features and users very much on the back of who we know and what we know already.  Our known customers from InvisiblePPC days.  Our known promotional partners.  Our known problems and issues with PPC competitive intelligence tools that we could solve.

And what you know only takes you so far.

We knew that to reliably grow our offer and user base beyond our known boundaries (which we’re nowhere close to btw but it’s never too early to start) we have to find other routes to market.

Enter Product Hunt, the go to platform for SAAS tools to launch, and often times the crutch on which non-marketer SAAS founders lean so heavily.

Now before we just “jump in” and have a go we decided to investigate, and discovered an agency that specializes in Product Hunt launches - who knew.  It was a new service to me.

On our discovery call we learned that:

  • A top 3 listed product on launch day on Product Hunt can expect 3,000-8,000 site visits
  • 300 user signups
  • 100-150 conversions to paid plans.

I won’t cover the fee the agency charge but lets just say that if we can convert 100 visitors to paid plans, even at our lower price points we would be in good shape.

Based on that and a review of the Ad Lab product by the agency we committed to proceed.  Launch day scheduled Monday, February 21 2022.

Launch prep

In the week ahead of launch we prepped following the guidance of our agency.

  • Profile created on PH (going to call Product Hunt PH from here on, I think we've all figured it out by now).
  • PH specific Landing page
  • PH specific, time limited special offer (not as good as our customer offers but good nevertheless)
  • Emails ready to send to our customers asking them to “upvote” and “comment” - upvotes and comments being the ranking currency in PH.
  • Social posts ready for our profiles
  • Draft of the PH page agreed with the agency and ready to upload 24-48 hours before launch
  • Images for the PH page
  • First comment from Rob for the PH launch page ready
  • Prep our team, make sure customer support is on standby to handle the live-chat volume, and devs are on standby in case of tech emergency.

Not a small amount of work, but equally nothing terribly outside our comfort zone.

Sunday 20th and I try to submit the post ready for launch 1 minute past midnight on 21 February to discover that your profile is not enabled to post for 7 days after creation.

I had created mine on Monday 14th - 6 days earlier.


Contact support.

It’s non-negotiable to prevent spam.

Dammit - launch cancelled before it started and rescheduled for 22 February.


Along comes Monday and we use the time to create the launch post on PH, do so tidying on our landing page and so on.

We’re ready.

Launch day - the beginning

As I’m in the UK a launch at 0:01am PST is 8am for me, so after walking the dog I’m ready to go.

I’m watching our PH launch page like a hawk ready to reply to any comments, jump on our website live chat, and relentlessly hit refresh every 45 seconds to check our rank on the page.

Nothing much happens.  I see a steady stream of upvotes coming through and a few comments which I happily reply to.

But, slowly, we break into the top 10.

The day progresses, with little changing.  USA East coast starts to wake up around noon my time, and we’re progressing.  We’re number 5 with 130 votes.


Our emails go out to our customer list.

We continue to climb.

4 hours later, we’re at number 3 and over 350 votes.


First goal achieved, we’ve broken the top 3.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. No signups and only a handful of website visits.  Hmmm

Check the site, check the buttons are working. Check the load speeds.

We’re all good but still nothing.

I consult with the agency and edit the first comment in PH to make it more action oriented and direct.

Launch hour 10 - We’re running

5:46pm UK, 9:46 PST our first PH signup comes in.

Launch hour 11 - Then the wheels fell off

About 8pm my time, noon PST - halfway through the launch day, while out on my now evening dog walk i notice we’re at 498 upvotes and comments.  Amazing.  We’re at number 2, only a dozen or so votes behind number 1.

I’m prepping a Facebook post to my friends to try and get us to 500 and I refresh my phone to take a screenshot.

WTF?

50 votes have disappeared.

Before:


After:

We’re still in number 2 though.  I panic and contact our agency.

Launch hour 12 - 15 minutes later

Number 2 has become number 7.  We’re now well below the fold.

Ok, this is getting bad.  We’re a few $k into this.  12.5 hours into the 24 hour launch.  No signups and we’re going backwards.

30 minutes later

An additional 200 votes have now disappeared.  And we’re sliding down the page.

I hit PH support.

“Erm what’s happening?”

To which the reply comes -

“Thanks for reaching out. Upvotes only go down when our system has detected bot activity, or fake accounts. Our team reviews and moderates each upvote in these cases to quickly remove the bot activity.
The vote count going down in these cases is actually a good thing, as it means that the post is healthy and only receiving genuine activity from real users.
Congrats on the recent launch 🙌”

You what?  Bot traffic.  I wouldn’t know how to send bot traffic.  And even if I did I wouldn’t.

Congrats - really?  You’ve got to be kidding me.

I’m now offended and upset.

Here’s my response:

“Honestly, it's been awful so far. I'm horrified at the suggestion that there are bot / fake votes. We've worked super hard to engage our community and we're essentially accused of spam/hacking.
Pretty humiliated by what has happened and not seeing an upside from this experience.
If there are fake votes somewhere I would like to know which ones or where they have come from so I can dig further. It's not acceptable to me in any way.”

I know, not my finest work and a bit whiny.  I was hoping human appeal might help.

And their response to that:

“We do not provide any internal information in regard to user accounts. I can guarantee that every upvote was manually reviewed by our support team before being confirmed as a bot account.
This in no way means that you sent bots to the post. We occasionally see spammers send a collection of bots to several different posts at a time that they are not affiliated with. When these accounts are caught by our system and confirmed by our team, their activity is removed from all posts across the site.
Our team works hard to make sure we get bot activity removed from the site asap in order to make sure that Makers and the community are only seeing genuine activity across posts.
If there's anything else I can help with, feel free to reach out.”

Launch hour 14 - Jail

In the midst of this our agency suggested we change the images to make them more direct.  I then found out that PH have edited my product description:

Before:


After:

And I’m locked out from editing my post.  So I can’t change the images.

Great.

At this point our agent is trying to find anything positive to encourage us.

Launch hour 16 - Midnight

I give up and go to bed.

Launch hour 22 - 6am

I’m awake.

I open my phone.  Check Stripe.

1 new signup.

Check the PH page.  We’re 17th on 116 votes.  Hundreds more votes that accumulated have been wiped out.

Reflections

Here’s the numbers for our first ever launch on PH.


PH rank for the day 17

119 up votes, 21 comments, 5 reviews

Visits to our landing page from PH - 205

New signups - 2.

In short - total and utter carnage.  A waste of time, effort and money.

But what can we take that is a positive.

  1. We have a slightly better understanding of PH
  2. We know that when asked our customers and friends will support us as they did on this occasion
  3. We know what doesn’t work
  4. We’ve learned that there is a PH spam algorithm and if you trigger it you’re in trouble
  5. We’ve learned that hiring an agency with over 400 PH launches is no guarantee of success.

In the short-term I’m not sure what we can do with this knowledge.  It’s difficult to launch on PH more than once per quarter so for now at least we’re done there.

I was hoping to have the “Number one on Product Hunt” badge for social proof.

I don’t have it.  I have a number 2 badge screenshot but likely needs caveating that it only lasted about 45 minutes.

I’m licking my wounds and recovering.  Mentally and emotionally yesterday was a tough day.  I feel rather “hungover” today.

But as always we’ll take what we’ve learned and build better.

And to everybody who voted and helped - thank you again.  If you were flagged as a bot (as I know several people were) - I’m sorry - it wasn’t me.