Growth Hacking

Growth hacking.

It is a term that is often discussed for online startups. The phrase was first coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis who was the first marketer at Dropbox, Lookout and Xobni. He defined the growth hacker in his post as “a person whose true north is growth

The social web has provided the capability for rapid growth for start-ups that are no longer constrained by physical boundaries.

Just 20 years ago businesses were bricks and mortar bound. They were restrained by location and geography.

Now they can start, grow and exist in just a mobile app.

That’s Uber and Instagram.

The social web is worldwide and is driven and defined by vast online networks. Over 2 billion people have social media accounts. This means that the potential for growth has gone from local to global. Add some technology, reduce user acquisition friction, make sharing easy and growth can be exponential.

What is growth hacking?

Well, we should be clear on what it isn’t. It’s not spamming your Facebook friends, hacking an email list or other dodgy practices.

This concept of “growth hacking” according to Josh Helman it is made up of two components. Marketing and technology.

He says “When you focus on understanding your users and how they adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending marketing dollars”.

Growth hacking examples he lists include Facebook, LinkedIn and AirBnB. Facebook started by launching one college at a time till they had 20% of the students. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman invited his professional network to join. AirBnB managed to build technology that allowed them to access and post to Craigslist.

Neil Patel and Bronson Taylor also have a great guide on growth hacking.

What can bloggers learn from growth hackers?

Bloggers can learn a lot from growth hackers. For most bloggers exploding their web traffic fast is often a dream rather than a reality.

But by innovating it is possible to achieve critical mass and fast sustainable growth. Buzzfeed, Upworthy and Viral Nova have shown what is possible.

When I discovered Twitter I realized that certain tasks could be automated. It boosted traffic and brand building. I experimented with different technology that leveraged my time and reach. A continual implementation of little growth hacks can add up to big traffic.

So growth is not just about marketing. You need technology.

What skills does a growth hacker need?

The typical marketer in the past was a creative. The digital landscape is changing the profile and the skills and mind sets needed. Here are a few skills to consider to include in your marketing team or outsourcing.

  • Focused on growth
  • Addicted to metrics
  • Able to execute
  • Open minded to new ideas and innovation
  • Creative
  • Able to pivot if something isn’t working

Source: Tropical blog

Innovate from the outside

Real innovation within an industry is rare. Often they all just copy each other until Brand A,B and C all look the same. Sometimes the best path to discover new ideas is to look outside your business category.

We have seen what Apple did to the music industry.

You may have heard of Buzzfeed but you maybe haven’t come across Upworthy or Viral Nova. These are the new breed of news sites that have taken on the might of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Guardian and are winning.

They have developed new ways to get traffic to their websites by maximizing social shares, headline crafting and web technology. They are innovators.

It is a data driven business model.

The little blog that hacked secrets

A great example of a blog that innovated and modelled its content creation, marketing and technology from the outside is Movoto, a real estate services company. It looked at what these new breed of viral growth hacking news sites were doing and modelled their traffic attracting methods on their trailblazing tactics.

blog growth hacking

Movoto looked at how Buzzfeed and Upworthy were doing (and others) and used that as a model even though it was outside their niche.

Movoto has taken these ideas and woven it into their content creation, marketing and link hustling. In doing this they have grown their real estate blog from 2,000 to 18 million views per month in just 2 years!

How did they do it?

Content marketing is content marketing. No matter who you are or what you do the principles are the same.

Movoto, on seeing how the big online publishers made their content get shared and go viral decided to model those tactics in real estate.

So what did they do?

1. They defined their goals

Movoto wanted to know what success looked like and this is what that was for them.

  • Number of citations on the web and offline such as links, mentions and even TV spots
  • Achieving a certain number of articles per week.
  • Article quality as defined by the number of shares. Share rate defined quality as that meant (quality) success on the web.

2. Always keep the end game in mind

The end goal was getting “Links” and lots of them.

So they wanted to reach an audience that would want to link with them. They then did research (using Google and AhRefs) and created content based on ideas from a weekly brainstorming session.

3. Then they hustled and pitched their content

It involved each team member pitching the target audience using email.

Each email pitch email included these tactics:

  1. How would you describe the article to your mom?
  2. A specific call to action (Click a link or email us back)
  3. Explain the benefit, or value add for them to mention it
  4. Why we wrote about the topic

Here is the workflow to achieve that. It includes content ideation brainstorming, creation and content hustling.

blog growth hacking

4. Learn from the innovators

For the Movoto team they asked the question “why reinvent the wheel”. So they looked at these (and more) content marketing innovators and modelled their tactics.

  • Upworthy
  • Mashable
  • Buzzfeed
  • Gawker
  • The Verge

5. Implement viral marketing tactics

This started with researching what content was really successful and who was successful at this.

For the content this included:

  • Listicles
  • Heatmaps
  • Big full screen images
  • Cool infographics
  • Curated video content
  • Images of real people

This is what a large listicle headline looks like.

growth hacking your blog listicle

The best sites that were doing this were:

  • Viral Nova
  • NiemanLab
  • Digiday
  • Upworthy
  • Buzzfeed

6. Optimize your click through rate

To get people to do that on social media (and especially Facebook) you need to perfect these tactics.

  • Headline
  • Image
  • Meta description

blog growth hacking

They again didn’t try and work it out on their own but modelled Upworthy.

7. Optimize your share rate

To maximize share rate on the social networks they focused on three things.

  1. Facebook
  2. Tell a story
  3. Focus on the self

To sum it up, people gravitate to viral content that’s written about them.

8. Optimize for search engines

Search engines keep giving you free traffic after the sharing frenzy has died down after hitting the publish button. So optimizing for search is a key component to ongoing success.

So what do Movoto focus on for SEO?

  • On page SEO such as Keyword research, URL slugs (Keywords in the URL) and titles.
  • Website structure

The growth hacking results

So what were the results after all this research, brainstorming, content creating, optimization and hustle?An average articles gets:

  • 37,500 visits
  • 5,600 Facebook engagements
  • 13 promotion emails
  • 10 links
  • They also get over 18,000,000 page views a month.

For Movoto this is a journey and an ongoing investment. Content marketing takes time and persistence and a lot of hard work.

Wrapping it up

Growth hacking your blog will be a combination of content creation and marketing. It will also mean that you will need to be adopting new technology.

Are you using pop-ups, digital marketing automation and other tools?

Have you checked out any of the innovators on the social web?