Case Study: 13 Pre-Launch Traffic Strategies for Startups (Part 2 of 3)

This article is a guest post by Dan Norris, founder of Informly.

In this 3 part series (part 1 here) I’m running through 13 pre-launch traffic strategies I am using for getting attention and building an audience and a list for my web app Informly. In part 1, I went into detail about my onsite content strategy which forms the backbone for my traffic generation efforts. In this part 2 I’m going through 6 more strategies.

2. Forums

I’ve always been fairly active in forums frequented by my target audience (generally tech savvy small business owners). Rather than going into a lot of forums and posting an intro thread, I tend to build up a decent presence in only a few forums.

Once you’ve built your chops, you’ll get support from other members, leniency from the forum moderators and additional benefits (like links in your signature).

I have a weekly task to spend an hour going through and either answering people’s questions or posting original content to forums I participate in. The latter seems to work better for me because a lot of people hang out in forums to answer people’s questions, not a lot take the time to produce well thought out original content for a forum. I also make sure I’ve got a compelling call to action in my signature and it links to my site via a trackable link.

Here’s an example of a thread where I’ve posted some original content. You can see from the replies that people appreciated it, thanked me, some even signed up to test the app.

You can also see that I wasn’t afraid to mention my app in the thread which is something I encourage for onsite content, forums and guest posts. With forums this can get a bit murky and it’s worthwhile checking the forum rules first before deciding to break them ;). If you build up your presence on the forum often you can make your own judgement on what is valuable to the audience and that will be respected by the moderators. If it’s not then generally the worst case is the post will be edited or removed.

The content for posts like this come very easily once you are in the habit of creating epic content for your own site because you can just post simplified versions of the content in the forums that are more relevant to the audience.

In addition to free forums I also participate in paid forums which I find an excellent (probably the best) place for building deeper relationships with people and advocates for my app. Since this post is about free methods though I won’t go into that more here.

3. Guest blogging

Guest blogging is a big part of my traffic strategy but there are a few tricks here. Check out these results from 2 guest posts I did on Problogger. Both had very similar traction on the site (40-50 comments / 270-300 tweets).

10 vital stats for blog health Visits: 45, conversions: 0 (this was for beta user signups)

Are you wasting your time guest posting Visits: 156, conversions: 35 (for email signups)

The main difference between the posts is the first one is a generic list post and doesn’t reveal specific information about my business. The second one does which means it mentions my app and educates the reader on what it is. So at least at the end of the post the readers know what my app does and they have some interest in heading to my site for a look. I also find posts where I’m talking about conversions or aspects of what I’m doing on the site will send me more traffic because people will be curious to see the site – some of these people will inevitably opt in.

The other strategies I recommend in guest posting are covered in the pro blogger post so I won’t repeat them here but despite a shaky start, guest posting is turning into a great strategy for me. Our of all of my strategies it is my number 1 source of conversions (in the last month).

4. Email newsletters

Most people will tell you that your email list will convert better than anything else. The truth is it depends on the list. I have 2 email lists (other than the list of beta testers):

  • One that I have built up from my blogging efforts and writing ebooks and resources for small business owners over the past few years (using a free ebook as opt in bait).
  • Another one that I am building as a pre-launch list for the Informly app (no opt in bait).

The people who signed up for my first list were interested in my content. Whereas the people who signed up for the second one are interested in the app. In terms of conversions I haven’t sent an offer to the launch list yet (I will do when I launch) but I suspect that will convert very well. My other list however converts very poorly. I send out useful information to this group but the information doesn’t drive people to sign up for the app.

I chatted to a few people about list building including Neil Patel and James Schramko and came up with my own strategy for my app (particularly focused on the launch stage).

Tip 1 – Build a list of people interested in the app

If you are just writing useful content and you are asking people to sign up for more content then you are building a list of people interested in your content. This is fine once you have launched but before you launch you want to get people who are interested in your app to increase signups on launch and help with the momentum.

So for my 4-5 weeks leading up to launch my site is very simple with no clutter and a clear opt in. This opt in is getting people excited about the app and asking them to opt in to be notified first when it launches. This goes into the footer of every blog post and every page on the site. Note I’m also experimenting with an opt in for my content in the sidebar on blog pages. What I will probably do when I launch is show the content opt in to current users (who are logged in) and show the app registration to all others:

opt_in

Tip 2 – Make sure your content is about your app

I mentioned this above in the onsite content section and it’s also important here. If your articles talk about your app, use screenshots etc and generally build interest throughout the post then readers will be much more likely to opt in after reading it. I’d suggest either a locked opt in that moves down the page as the user does or a second post footer opt in box (I’m using WP Post Signature and doing the latter).

I’m not saying make every post about your latest feature – that’s a terrible idea. Follow the epic content notes in part 1 of this series and create awesome, meaningful content for your audience and use your app / site as the test case or where it’s relevant in the article. For an example check out my recent post on Actionable Analytics.

Tip 3 – Inform and educate the list

I’m keeping my list in the loop before I launch. I let them know about major new features (not all features) and I’ll be sending them some information on the importance of tracking metrics and some examples of people getting good results from the app. This will warm them up prior to launch.

After launch, my strategy will be a little different but prior to launch my goal is to get 1,000 people signed up to my launch list (I have around 450 so far). I want these people to be very keen to try the app when it launches and tell their friends to help with the momentum of launch.

If you have already launched I would encourage you to check out what KissMetrics are doing, particularly their emails. They do an exceptional job at educating you, building on your problems and positioning their app as the solution.

5. CSS Galleries

Most web startups will be pretty heavily into design so once you get your landing page up, submit it to a bunch of free CSS directories. You can either go through a list of popular directories yourself and submit manually or pay a small fee to be added to them. At CSS Gallery List you can get links to all of the sites or pay them $20 to do it for you (have a week off coffee and it’s still free).

I did this when I first put my site up and got quite a bit of traffic from the sites that included it. I’l be doing it again once the full re-branded site is launched soon. If you have a really exceptional design you can potentially get a lot of traffic from this.

CSS galleries are one of my top traffic sources however conversions are typically quite low. For a  site with a nice design though it’s a very quick, cheap way to get some attention (and particularly good if your app is useful to web designers).

6. Partners

Partnerships with other apps is a potential goldmine if you can get the mix right.

My app integrates with a number of other apps (Xero, PayPal, MailChimp, Aweber, Analytics etc). Some of these apps provide resources for integration partners and I’ve found the traffic I get from these partners is phenomenal – in some cases up to 5 times the site average!

Not only that, these directories are actually a big referrer of traffic volume. Xero.com is one of my biggest individual site referrers of traffic.

So every time I integrate with a new app, I’ll see if they have a partner directory and if so I will:

  • Add myself to it
  • If time permits, create a specific landing page for the app – here is my Xero landing page
  • Look to see if they do anything else for integration partners. Xero have a community that I participate in, they have a specific API team Twitter account (which I’ve engaged with and had stuff re-tweeted which has in turn been re-tweeted by the main Xero account), they also have specific events for add-on partners that I’m looking into as well. They have also offered to do a blog post about my launch and they have given me a quote to include in my press release!

Other companies are keen to get their brands out there too and if they have your audience already they are potential gold mine if you play your cards right.

Even if your partners don’t have an integrations directory make sure you reach out to them and say something nice – Twitter is the best place to do this and sometimes you’ll be retweeted to their audience. I do this when I start working with a new partner and once we launch the integration.

7. App comparison sites

There are sites out there that will compare apps to each other. One is Alternativeto.net but there are quite a few of them. You can either add yourself to these or you might find you just get added naturally as you get more exposure.

My app has a free version and most of the incumbents are paid only. So being on these comparison sites as a free alternative to a paid app, sends some great traffic my way. Here is a competitor’s listing on Alternativeto.net which shows me as the only free alternative (thanks in advance for the like).

These sites not only send a lot of traffic but they also convert very well. Incredibly, my conversion rate from Alternativeto.net is over 10%, way above my site average and they are in my top 5 top referrers by volume. I wouldn’t have expected that to be the case.

Build yourself a spreadsheet of sites like this and submit your site to them either before you launch or after (I’ve submitted to a few already and will be doing some more after).

What do you think?

Feel free to let me know below what you think of these 6 traffic strategies. In part 3 I’ll be wrapping up with my final 6.

dan
Dan Norris is the founder of Informly a free tool that gives web entrepreneurs a simple report on the performance of their business. The app talks to popular services like Analytics, PayPal, Xero, Mail Chimp etc and simplifies the information into a 1 page live report available via the web or mobile.

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#1 How To Write Shit Blog Posts |Kaizenify on 11.02.12 at 3:21 am

[...] has been killing it all the over the place recently) wrote a guest post entitled … “Case Study: 13 Pre-Launch Traffic Strategies for Startups” where he talks about how guest posting is more effective if you talk about your own [...]