Update: I wrote to PH to enquire about the launch and to better understand if it is to be expected. They’ve written back that the product indeed wasn’t featured but they’ll be helping with the republishing of it. I’ll update after the re-launch.
Recently, I launched my latest product on ProductHunt. I want to chronicle the experience and my take on ProductHunt for submitting a product.
I want to preface that I haven’t been a user of ProductHunt for many years now and this writeup is only from my experience from launching products there a few times over the years.
Except for the first time, I haven’t had that many good results with PH in the past.
I stopped using Product Hunt completely a few years ago when it started filling with big companies’ feature launches rather than new products. It was evidently getting harder to either get feedback for your product or to discover new indie products.
To their credit, they are indeed actively making efforts to make it more equitable for everyone.
Also, I don’t pay much attention to “success stories” of ProductHunt either as most of them are clearly survivorship bias or they’re just another marketing attempt.
With this experience, going in, I had very low expectations. But what transpired was something else completely.
First off, the results. Traffic wise ProductHunt brought a sum total of 2 new visitors. I was very confused at that as well, but after looking into it a bit more I can see why that was the case.
No visibility #
PH is right now set up in such a way that the product needs to have a sufficient number of upvotes to get to the homepage. Otherwise, the product is completely buried. Not under the infinite scrolls, but completely invisible unless someone has the direct URL of your product.
There is no way for anyone to stumble upon your product. This was a weird loop - you can’t have visitors unless your product gets upvotes but you won’t get upvotes unless you have visitors.
Because, in this, YOU had to bring your own audience and initial upvotes to your launch. This doesn’t make sense if you were hoping to get the audience through PH in the first place, as was my case.
Compare this to HN or Reddit, where there is a space for all new submissions and if there’s enough interest from the community they get bumped to the front page.
Bring your own audience #
It also has to do with the fact that PH themselves advise or incentivize those who bring their own audience.
Right from their launch guide to after launch dashboard, it is filled with instructions or assets to embed or share in socials to drive traffic to the launch.
This is the part I was confused about. Why would I put my existing users through an upvote charade? Reviews I could understand, but asking them for upvotes, doesn’t make sense. Or sending my site’s visitors or social followers to PH to upvote while I wanted PH to bring the said visitors in the first place. The cynical take is that the loop benefits PH more from the launches than the other way around.
I don’t have a Twitter audience (or a Twitter account), a newsletter (my blog doesn’t even have an email input box) or a large number of users. The product has a very low number of users who were kind enough to beta test the app, that’s about it.
All this led to the spectacular result of 6 upvotes and 2 new visitors. Oh, and the 6 upvotes are all my friends and acquaintances.
I’ve been asking myself, would I still do it again and if so what would I do differently.
The answer is yes, I’ll still be posting it but I wouldn’t have spent as much time I’ve spent in creating the assets and videos specifically for the launch.
It still offers a couple of benefits, one is the backlink which will be useful for SEO marketing and the lottery of products getting “featured”.
That said, the value proposition is drastically reduced if it is not a consumer or prosumer tool. Most of the users in PH are makers themselves and unless the product is intended for them, the product has a very low chance of getting upvoted.
All in all the launch served as a good forcing function to get the app to the final stage and also helped to think through certain aspects of the marketing and draft a plan for the long run.