How We Ended Up as #4 Product of the Day on Product Hunt — Without a Hunter
Fresh tips and heads-up for your Product Hunt launch
There are a ton of articles with tips on how to launch on Product Hunt. Why write another one? Here is why this article will be helpful for your Product Hunt launch:
- I’ve made a research to filter out the outdated information and give you heads-up on it
- Most articles recommend getting a hunter — our example proves it’s not necessary
- Finally, it’s easier to succeed if you have a product that appeals to a wide audience (email templates, photo editing apps, productivity tools, etc.) — but what if your product isn’t ‘the right type’?
…Like our product. It didn’t have high chances of becoming the product of the day on Product Hunt: Nitro is a human translation platform targeted at IT companies. The tech part is good, the API part is good, but it’s a B2B product (less popular kind on Product Hunt) and it’s quite niche — not every company needs translation services.
However, launching Nitro on Product Hunt got us 500+ upvotes and #4 Product of the day. Well-planned Product Hunt launch strategy helped :) In this article, we’ll share our insights as well as the experience of successful and failed Product Hunt launches of 2021.
What is your goal of getting featured on Product Hunt?
First off — a word of warning. Before finding out how to get featured on Product Hunt and building the perfect Product Hunt launch strategy, you need to ask yourself what you want to get out of launching your product on PH.
If you are looking for early adopters and feedback — you will likely get it if your product is easy to try out and if you have presented it well.
Hoping to get media coverage? Only if your product is really exciting and innovative. Just getting to the top of Product Hunt won’t earn you media attention.
And if you plan to get plenty of new users… your efforts may not pay off. Again, products with a more general appeal will do much better. Our product doesn’t meet this criteria, so here’s what we got from becoming #4 Product of the Day on Product Hunt: https://www.producthunt.com/posts/nitro-2
- 335 upvotes for the launch day (500+ for the first week)
- 215 website visits for the launch day (475 during the first week)
- 33 people giving Nitro a try (61 during the first week)
- 24 sign-ups during the first week
- 4 paying clients during the first week
The majority of website visits and activity fell on the launch day and the next day. ‘People giving Nitro a try’ refer not to creating an account on Nitro, but to playing with Nitro on the page without an account. A lot of people don’t need a translation right now, so we created a page where a potential customer can “play” with Nitro and see how the instant quote works — and about 13% gave it a try.
The results of a more successful (and less niche) product were different — Infinity Maps who launched on a Tuesday and went on to become #2 Product of the Week, shared with us: “Traffic on our website, app, and sign-ups were massively increased for about 6 to 8 weeks post launch day. Overall, it was worth the effort.”
Now let’s talk about the actual preparations for the launch. It isn’t an actual Product Hunt launch checklist (here are two great checklists: one and two), but I will highlight the most important and unexpected things.
Bummer! Things I didn’t expect
Incorrect information in the PH official launch guide and other pitfalls I didn’t expect that could ruin our launch:
- You found the right ‘Launch Tips’ articles with links to various support groups on Facebook and Slack and think you’re all set? Not so fast. Half of these groups are not active any longer, and you won’t get into the top Slack communities without an invite.
- The famous Product Hunt launch guide tells you the image size should be 635x380 and GIFs under 3MB. But I found a PH official help article that recommends 1270x760 for images… The support team says 1270x760 is the correct one — Product Hunt simply hasn’t adjusted their old launch guide yet. Also, I was worried our GIF was heavier than 3MB. After talking to other Product Hunters I realized it’s best to go with the minimum GIF weight you can, but it doesn’t have to be exactly under 3MB.
- When you submit your product to Product Hunt as a maker, you are required to add Maker’s comment for the product to go live. Mine wasn’t ready as I thought our CEO would post his comment first and I could take my time. I had to create this comment on the go, but fortunately I was able to edit it later.
- The length of the description text is actually 260 characters, NOT 350 like on the Product Hunt preview website! I had to adjust the text on the fly. Make sure you play with the Submit New product fill-in-the-blanks way ahead of the launch date.
- The time difference is trickier than you may think! I knew we should launch at 10am Moscow time which is midnight in San Francisco. But something was bothering me… I checked and yes — just a week before our launch the clocks in the US were set back one hour… I could have launched our product at 23:00 on Sunday San Francisco time instead of 0:00 on Monday — because in my country, we don’t observe Daylight Saving Time and we don’t change clocks.
Best time to launch on Product Hunt?
When to launch on Product Hunt is a great question. I chose mid November as I was afraid of the invasion of various Black-Friday-deal and Christmas-themed products. Also make sure your launch date doesn’t fall on American bank holidays.
What about the day of the week? They say, “choose Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday if you want to get more eyeballs on your product, and weekend if you want less competition”. Monday and Friday are kind of “in-between”.
I knew we probably wouldn’t stand a chance on Tue/Wed/Thu, as our product is not as catchy as fun products and various no-code apps, graphic editors, etc. Weekend was not a good option either: I don’t think many of my connections would be online on the weekend, so I wouldn’t be able to count on their support.
So I picked Monday — also hoping that we would get more votes during the week and maybe get to the Top Products of the Week? We did get additional ~150 upvotes after the launch day, but it doesn’t compare to 1200–1500 upvotes that the top products get on the busiest and most competitive days.
Getting a top hunter: pros and cons
Originally we wanted to get hunted by one of the top Product Hunt hunters, and I wrote to two of them: Ben Lang and Hiten Shah. Both can boast very good launches and our product more or less matched their interests. Right, you can’t expect a hunter to hunt a product that is out of their range of interests.
I sent them a pretty generic pitch, followed-up a couple of times — and got no reply. And even if they said yes, I didn’t have the hunter kit ready (the visuals and copy for posting on the PH page). Our images and video were finalized only a couple of days before the launch.
The generic pitch was my mistake — top PH hunters get loads of requests like that. If you want to get noticed, you need a good pitch. One of the Product Hunt influencers, Bram Kanstein, actually wrote a great article about it years ago — and it still holds true! I recommend checking it out even if you don’t need a hunter, as these tips also apply to describing your product.
But is going without a hunter that bad? Let’s take a look at the positive and negative sides of having a hunter.
- Hunters’ followers don’t get email notifications any longer, they just receive a regular notification on PH (you can see dozens of those if you follow at least 100 people)
- Hunters sometimes post your product late
- You need to have all the visuals prepared weeks before the launch date
- You don’t have control in terms of timing and getting everything right
- If being hunted by a hunter doesn’t really give you more exposure, what’s the point in spending much time on a hunter?
- Hunters can give you some good advice
- Top hunters are said to have the superpower to place your product on the front page (but you will end up on the front page anyway if you have a good number of upvotes)
- Some of the hunter’s followers will still notice that PH notification and will check out your product
- Credibility — people see it’s a product hunted by a PH influencer
Alexander Isora and a few other Product Hunters gave a good piece of advice: go for a middle-level hunter. They are much more approachable and have more time slots in their schedule for your launch. So if you absolutely want to have a hunter, this may be a good option. But personally I don’t think it is necessary.
Why you need a Ship page
Ship page is a mini-landing page on Product Hunt which will be listed in the Upcoming Products. Creating one is free, but you can pay for the subscription and get additional bonuses — like getting to the top of this list or scheduling your launch.
One thing I regret about our Ship page is setting it up so late — just 10 days before our launch. I came to realize your Ship page is like your business card: you can share the link to your Ship page in discussions on PH, you can mention it to your new connections on PH, finally the page itself is a great way to start off a conversation with people planning their launch.
Should you pay for the subscription? I did, and for a whole week before our launch Nitro’s Ship page was on the 1st place, and it attracted more new subscribers to it (we ended up getting 36 subscribers). But I know somebody who paid for the subscription and only got to the 7th place on the list — probably because several people bought the Ship subscription at about the same time (but it’s not 100%).
I also know somebody who managed to get over 400 subscribers in the span of 2 months — without any paid subscription. But their product was the one that appealed to a broad audience.
I don’t think a Ship page is that great for collecting leads, as when you launch and send an email to your subscribers, a lot of them won’t even open this email (it often lands in the Promo folder), but they will get a PH notification and after all, you can contact them multiple times.
Why not all Product Hunt upvotes are equal
Have you seen products on PH with lots of comments from users with the red balloon icon? That means they are new users who got a PH account less than a week ago. Votes from such new users have less weight.
Moreover, if you get an upvote from such a user — and this user hasn’t upvoted any products but yours — this upvote won’t count. I’ve heard this from other makers, and I’ve seen this with Nitro: several upvotes got cut off.
What I did to prevent this: I asked our team to create PH accounts 1 month in advance and to engage in some activities on PH — upvoting, commenting, taking part in discussions. And when we announced our launch, I asked other colleagues NOT to create accounts now, cause it’s too late and it won’t count anyway.
Also, comments are important, and we tried to have as much activity in the comments as we could. For example, when I posted about our launch on Reddit and Slack/FB groups, I mentioned our cool video story, Nitro’s clean UI and some features — and asked for feedback about it. And of course we did our best to answer comments in real time to keep the buzz going.
How to inspire the Product Hunt community comment on your product
Naturally the more fun the product is, the more comments it will get. Even if your product is “boring”, try to give it something people can start discussing: an unusual feature? a catchy video? Anything that can spark a discussion. Look at what OneSoil did for their product which is a complex platform for agricultural decisions — doesn’t sound like a super exciting product, does it?
Well, the team at OneSoil came up with a brilliant solution: they created an interactive map which looked very cool and demonstrated what their product could do for farming. It worked and helped their innovative product get a lot of attention and even became a Golden Kitty Awards winner in the AI & Machine Learning Product of the Year category.
Or LeaksID — they presented not the full product, but a certain feature that could get more people interested. LeaksID is a cybersecurity solution and it’s a complex B2B product. To make the product more attractive for the Product Hunt audience, the team at LeaksID presented the product as a converter that enriches documents with invisible anti-leak marks. By the way, they have written a super useful article on their Product Hunt launch.
Another example I love is Infinity Maps: these guys created a fun product promo video that let the viewers get to know the three founders in a visually engaging way while showcasing the use cases. The Product Hunt community raved about the video and many users admitted they only upvoted and commented as kudos for the cool video.
Watch out for the ‘voting ring’
The Product Hunt algorithm is tricky and no one knows exactly how it works. There is a thing called “voting ring”, and once the secret algorithm detects it, the product may get removed from Product Hunt.
What may trigger voting ring detection? An influx of new PH users who just signed up for Product Hunt and voted just for your product in the first place. In other words, if the Product Hunt algorithm suspects somebody is trying to game the system, the upvotes for their product may be devalued or in the worst case, the product may get removed from Product Hunt.
Some examples: the product called Sticky9 was bumped from the top-5 products of the day because of the upvotes being devalued. This example is pretty old, but we actually witnessed a product being punished by Product Hunt on our own launch day — and thanks to this product, Nitro ended up as #4 Product of the day, and not #5.
What happened? With 11 hours left to the end of our launch day, we were still jumping between #5 and #6, while the product called Chatfully had been leading as #2 Product of the day with their 468 upvotes. And just one hour before the end of the launch day, they dropped out of the top-5 products and their upvotes were just 208! Apparently a voting ring was detected, and some of their upvotes were cut off.
I’ve also seen products posted in some support groups in Telegram being removed from Product Hunt for good. When I clicked the link, there was nothing on Product Hunt as “this product was flagged for removal”.
How to take part in the Product Hunt community and make useful connections
They say, “just upvote a few products here and there and start a few discussions”. Well, no one will follow you because you upvote products, and your newly-posted discussion will go to the very bottom of the list until it gets more upvotes.
Leaving meaningful comments under new products and adding your 2 cents to Discussions helps build relationships and hopefully grow some interest for your product in the Product Hunt community. You can add your new connections on Facebook or Linkedin and keep in touch seeing how they are moving ahead with their launch preparations — and update them on your launch plans too.
Like I said above, the question “how to get upvotes on Product Hunt” is probably not the right question; instead, you should try to get both upvotes and engagement in the comment section. And, honestly, I think it is almost impossible if you haven’t built meaningful connections with the active members of the PH community. It takes time, but these people will be more interested in checking out your product than strangers from various support groups on Facebook, Slack or Reddit.
Visuals: why you need a video and the Product Hunt cat
I noticed some makers don’t realize the power of visuals. For example, some post an app that makes videos — and they don’t include any video examples of what the app can do.
For us, it was a no-brainer: our company Alconost also makes animated videos and tutorials, so we were lucky to get a high-quality video done in-house. It was the story of how our CEO Alexander Murauski got the idea for Nitro and I believe the story helped make our product a little more interesting for Product Hunters.
Also, it helped spreading the word about out launch: I made sure to mention the cool story behind the project and encouraged people to check out our video).
Another mistake I sometimes see on Product Hunt is posting bleak images with vague wording like “unique experience”, “the most user-friendly platform” (what makes it different from other platforms?). Boring visuals and mediocre copy is a big no-no.
Besides, make sure the text on your visuals is easy to read: the images in the gallery are quite small if you don’t click on them — and most people on PH just skim through new products and don’t bother to click on the images.
We made an effort to prepare great Product Hunt illustrations for the gallery, both for the Product Hunt page and social media. Our marketing team drew inspiration from memes famous among IT-audience and the Product Hunt kitty mascot to amuse the community.
How to get some traction on Twitter
We made different images about announcing our launch and the “We’ve reached 100/200/300 upvotes” kind of images (I hoped we’d be able to get past 300 upvotes, and we did).
Product Hunt people are generally active on Twitter, so posting something that is fun can work great. See what Nishith, maker of Thursday, did on their launch day:
I couldn’t come up with something equally funny, but I kept tagging PH and posting in their comments and — yay! — Product Hunt made a tweet about Nitro!
Tracking your results on the launch day
Have you already thought about tracking your launch day analytics? The PH launch board is pretty handy: it shows not only the number of upvotes and comments, but also what place your product is currently at and new comments you haven’t answered yet:
You can also use other Product Hunt launch dashboards like Product Wars which shows you the average speed of upvotes and comments both for you and your competitors! Unfortunately, it only shows these real-time stats for the current launch day only. I forgot to track Product Wars on our launch day, and the next day it was too late.
How to give your Product Hunt launch an extra boost
What can you do apart from posting about your launch in various support groups? Well, if you don’t spam, but try to give value instead (sharing insights, stats, tips), people on Reddit and other communities will be more enthusiastic about checking out your Product Hunt launch.
You can start a new PH discussion related to your launch. I shared interesting content people could relate to: a discussion 5 things you can do wrong right before the launch prior to the launch, and a couple more post-launch: one was about funny machine translation mistakes (as we opposite our human translation service to machine translation), and the other one was basically a summary of this article — launch tips posts are always a hot topic.
The team at Thursday did something more creative and fun: they built a Product Hunt launch tracker so that others could check the Product Hunt analytics for Thursday’s launch — with live diagrams and a wall of mentions on social media. This post in Discussions helped draw a lot of attention to the product.
Nishith Sha, the maker at Thursday, shared: “This launch tracker helped us start conversations on Twitter, Linkedin, Indie Hacker, and a few Slack communities. People are generally more receptive when you are building in public.”
Hope our experience will help you have a better idea of how to prepare for your Product Hunt launch. Good luck to all fellow makers!