I tend to have a “hackathon” like approach for my smaller Projects. I create them within a few days and then just throw them out and see where they are going. Clearly this only makes sense if I can generate some first visits. And this is what this Article is about, I will describe you which steps I take to release a new project or gain some traffic for an existing one. I will try to write down my whole release strategy and give some additional information to each point.
I assume you have a project or product which is unique and ready to go public.
Please don’t expect any Magic, because that is not how it works. These are just simple steps many of you will consider as well-known already.
The following points are steps I take before posting the site anywhere, but are a very relevant part of the release strategy. I consider all of them required but I am sure you can make your own judgement.
This topic could be millions of separate Articles so I wont get into too much detail. But clearly you should have at least set a good title, have some nice texts on your website, use alt tags for images, may have a keyword and description meta tag and so on. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just be unique and offer something people care about and you should be good on that front.
If Keyword research is your thing you may do that as well. But personally I usually don’t do that with new projects and wait for additional data until I even look at possible keywords.
Some people seem to underestimate the importance of Google’s Webmaster Tools. Not only will it offer you insider information about the crawling from your website. But it will also lead you into the right directions to avoid any issues.
I consider Google Webmaster Tools as the new “Add my site to Google” form, even thought the old one still exists. If you want your Website to be listed within Google today and not in a few weeks there is no way around it anyway. If you haven’t already just try it, it costs nothing and will benefit your whole Website.
Bing also offers Webmaster Tools. But I honestly don’t care about Microsoft or Bing so I never really tried that one.
Especially for new sites Google seems to love a well thought trough Sitemap.xml. When your site is new, barely has Backlinks and traffic Google will try to decide which sub sites are important and which not on its own. This usually works out as in prioritizing the Startpage and often not even index the sub pages. A sitemap helps you to tell Google (And other search engines) which sub sites you think are important and it will rank these as well.
If you are on WordPress adding a Sitemap is as easy as installing a Plugin (because it is exactly that). Many other CMSes offer it by default, and if you created something your own your might as well just create the Sitemap as well (Or use any online generator)
Dont put your Startpage on priority one if you don’t want people to primary land there. If you are a blog you may want to prioritize your articles higher than your start or about page.
Dont forget to add your Sitemap.xml to Webmaster Tools as well.
These get ignored way to often, reality is our current web is social. And most likely you will earn a good amount of Social traffic if your content is interesting and you follow the guidelines. The point is to offer metadata for Social Networks and there like to display additional information when someone (or you) posts your content. This may be a more detailed Title, Description, additional information about the author and representing pictures.
If you use WordPress this is just installing a Plugin, otherwise you may have to touch some HTML. But whatever platform you use it is most likely worth it, even thought all those tags pollute your <head> section.
2. Where to post
Now for some places you can post your Project. I realize there are many more and most are actually rather niche specific, i will go into some popular ones and add some details how to find more.
There are many good reasons to post your projects on Reddit and probably even more to not do so. The positive side is that Reddit can and most likely will generate a good amount of traffic for your project. The bad site however is that Redditors don’t like to be advertised to and are very outspoken about this.
To understand how you are supposed to use Reddit you need to Understand how it works. There are several topic based Subreddits which all are small communities with individual rules. It is important that you read the rules which are usually in the Sidebar. Many Subreddits will simply not allow you to post your site and it is important to listen, you don’t want to be downvoted and hated on in the comments.
Ether choose a Subreddit that perfectly fits your site and allows posting, or use some general ones like /r/SideProject.
Also note that you should at best post it twice and then wait for a day or two to post again. Also try to stick around and answer some questions if they show up. Reddit loves if they see you care about them. Even writing a “Thank you” to each individual positive answer to your post is not too unusual.
On a similar note try Hacker News. Clearly you need something tech related or at least nerdy to succeed there. And honestly there seems to be a lot of luck involved in which threads end up on the frontpage. But if you end on the frontpage, or even just have enough up votes to be somewhat visible for a few hours, Hacker News can be an amazing source for traffic.
The crowd also is very outspoken and will point out if they encounter any problems. Dont be spamy but try to offer something with value and there are good chances to reach some nice results.
Hacker News Clones / Alternatives
Like Lobste.rs, DZone, Digg, BoingBoing, SnapZu and many more. A simple Google search like “Hacker News Alternatives” will lead you to several platforms that work in a similar way. Usually simple registration and simple to post something with the potential that it gets seen by a lot of people. Clearly most alternatives are rather small so don’t expect to much traffic from those, but they can be very good back links that are acquired easily and as they have less traffic themselves than bigger platforms your post may keep relevant for longer than just a few hours.
3. More than just a Sideproject?
The places to post your project we have covered so far work for nearly everything even if it is just a small information website. But if you created something that is more than that you can try to reach a more professional crowd as well.
Everyone’s favorite platform to get daily news about cool new products. Product Hunt is a very active but somewhat exclusive community. You will not able to post anything except you got an invite. The usual way people get their stuff posted is to look for a mod or power user who posted similar things before and just write them with the provided contact details (usually over Twitter).
Product Hunt will not only help your for that day but also put you into their Newsletter after a few days and weeks which again can lead to a lot of traffic. The crowd is nice and usually not to negatively outspoken but rather helpful in a professional way. Be sure to stick around and answer questions, that is basically expected.
While I could list every single interesting site to post your stuff to on here, I rather just show you Submit.co. They have a huge list of Newspapers and Startup lists where you can send your project to. They also provide additional details about each platform like how many followers they have and which categories you can post to each site. The while site is build and sponsored by BetaList which may also be a great place to post your Startup to.
4. The Result
If you followed this steps and posted something that people actually like you should have gotten several thousand visits after about a day. You also should be listed in Google by now, or at least the most relevant pages should. What you have now is hopefully not only the traffic but also a bunch of Feedback on the platforms you posted on. You are not supposed to do everything your visitors tell you but you might find some good ideas within them and can implement them right away.
At this point I usually make some last fixes and keep the project going for a week or two without doing anything. This will normalize the traffic and offer some more real insights about your potential users. With that information you can more easily target those users because you know what they want.
This is it. This my release Strategy for pretty much anything I’ve created so far. It works every time, but sometimes takes a bit longer to generate some traction.
What do you think my Strategy is lacking?