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Ask HN: My website is better than my competitor's, how do I bring traffic?
30 points by _dt47 on Apr 17, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments
I don't know how many of you have heard of blahtherapy. It's a site where you go and vent your problems or listen to other people's problems.

The site is pretty bad. Ads everywhere, backspace exits the chat suddenly, reconnection is non-existant, poor design.. So I decided to make a worthy alternative, rainychat.com. However, even though I KNOW my site is better in pretty much all ways, I have no idea how to make people realize it exists.

Do i have to pay for advertisement in google? Is reposting my site on facebook and twitter over and over again the only way? How do you promote your sites?

In my case, I have no email lists or followers already made, i'm starting from scratch - and honestly, i'm lost. What would you do, HN?

I'd suggest you post questions on various forums sites asking for advice while also being sure to mention your site name and why it's better than the competition. Lots of people will see your ad, and you might even get some good advice if people respond.

I'm just teasing. :-) I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

How do people find your competitor? Is it through Google searches, word of mouth, advertising? Are you planning to get the same users to go to your site instead? Or are you hoping to grow the market for this kind of product? Do you have a hypothesis about who your typical user is, and how they use your site? Are you planning to generate revenue from the site? If so, do you have an idea about what the lifetime value of your user might be? Answering those questions will give you a lot of clarify on what user acquisition strategies to purse.

Buying ads might be effective, but it can also get expensive quickly if it's not translating into enough revenue (or strategically valuable growth). Maybe SEO would be better. Or maybe tweaking the product to give it slightly more viral functionality would be best (I don't know how you would do that for the product you described).

If it's just a side project site, and you're not looking to put much work or money into it, well, good luck.

Thank you for the input! I'll be sure to try going for a more SEO approach, as i don't have much money to invest in advertising, it'll all have to be by word of mouth - so good luck to me, hm? :)

No problem! I think it's a really interesting product, and the general problem of giving people a way to vent about their problems has a ton of potential.

There's a lot of good advice and ideas in other comments in the thread. Good luck with it!

I work in marketing with a focus on customer acquisition and have gotten something like 300+ million purchases/downloads/signups etc over ~10 years etc. So I should know what I'm doing by now... really I would say people cant really answer this for you without knowing more. And if you want general anecdotes there is a bunch of online material that will give better general answers than here. You need specifics for your business. You can narrow down a bunch of option for you business specifics these questions;

- Would you prefer to use time or money?

- For time/money, how much are you willing to spend/invest?

- How many users do you want in what time frame? I'm guessing with this service you need to hit some level of minimum mass to be viable to users.

- Do you have a particular audience you want to attract? - Can you give a best guess on LTV of a new user?

Before I'd run advertisements on Google - which is very expensive - I'd look at alternatives like StumbleUpon and several other sites with plenty of real users and decent targeting.

I would consider reaching out to help groups around the US. There are zillions of them, large and small. I'd enable groups to set up their own subs on the site, which they can control and utilize for their own purposes (perhaps with some customization and branding). I'd print up promotion fliers perhaps and mail them out to help groups. Help groups are very easy to contact and find; if you're smart about it, they're an extremely inexpensive user base to get started with.

I'd also do something about this:

(my first experience waiting to talk to someone as a listener)

them: hey

them: hows it going?

them: are you there?

them: want to have sex with me?

You've got a huge challenge in keeping that site from becoming a cesspool.

Definitely agree with you! I tried stumbleupon and similar sites already, i'll probably get a user a day from them or similar, not the best way to promote the site, but it helps.

As for trolls and people looking for sexual talks, there's a report button when you end a conversation which actually works - contrary to most sites. Thanks for the advice, i'll definitely appreciate it!

I just had a similar experience on blahtherapy just now. My chat ended in them asking, "r u female".

I don't think this sort of thing can work, at least not with the free aspect. It appeals to the lowest common denominator.

There's basically three options.

You spend an outrageous amount of money to expose your site to an outrageous amount of money (think a superbowl ad) so when they feel like sharing our browsing sad stories they'll think of your site.

You find out a way to specifically reach your target market by finding out what they like to do and show up there. This is (usually) less costly but more work since you'll have to find out where they are and what they're doing (i.e. google queries, visiting blogs, being in communities (forums), behaviour patterns for targetting by facebook or google, being in specific physical locations, etc.).

You think of something ridiculously witty that spreads through communities and exposes your name to many people by word of mouth.

I'd say if you're short on cash option 2 is the only affordable option. If you play it right the only significant cost can be time (i.e. visit all colleges in your area and hang up posters).

Note that your question is exactly the reason people apply to HN and try to get VC money. All three options are significantly more powerful with large amounts of money and in most cases make or break your startup.

One thing that you can do is to examine the backlink profile of your competitor's site. Look at the sites linking in and see if you can get links there as well. You can also get a decent idea of what ancillary social media work that they're doing and try to mimic that as well.

I would be looking to get mentions on high traffic places with user generated content like huffington post and forbes.com.

There are plenty of backlink checkers around just do a google search. I recommend that you try at least two as not every site catches every link. You've got a post on hacker news already so maybe you know more about it than me.

The preceding information is by no means a comprehensive guide but it has worked for me in the past.

I like your ideas! I will definitely try to get mentions, i think you are right, that's what really drives high movements of people from site to site. And am right now checking for backlink exposure :) Thank you!

Find out how they are linking. There are several paid and free tools available to do that: Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer, Followerwonk.

Find out how they promote on social media. Search for social media analytics tools and use them.

Find out how inbound marketing and modern SEO work - there are several free resources on Moz.com and other similar sites.

Finally this question might be better answered by the Hackernews equivalent for SEO - inbound.org You will find useful tools at https://inbound.org/view/tools

SEO is not really the best bet.

SEO is for when you have a clear way to find something - e.g. "buy iphone 6". I don't many people search for a site like this.

The traffic landscape has changed. I have a client that generates 40% of their traffic from Mobile Facebook - as in m.facbook.com not the usually, desktop version - essentially from public transport pre/post work and at lunch.

For a site without a clear SEO term, the best bet is Social Media. That takes time, and luck more than anything, but without a clear SEO hook, is unfortunately the best option. Thankfully, a lot of eh work for SEO is the same as for SM. what you need to make it work is:

1. Actual content - currently you have virtually none. Get a blog, summarise the best rants of the day.

2. Some sort of validation - karma is a good example of a means of encouraging people to come back, and a leaderboard is really helpful.

Thank you! I'll be checking out moz and inboud.org, hadnt heard of them. Will definitely make some SEO work. Thanks for the advice!

Plug the competitor into semrush and/or other seo tools and find out where its traffic comes from. start there with your efforts too/alternatives ones of the same kind/niche.

Blahtherapy has 850 backlinks.

They have 0 Adword traffic - so if they are using paid traffic for advertising it is not at Google.

They monetize their site via Google Adsense though.

My thoughts lead to the conclusion they use organic and maybe blackhat SEO and probably did the old trick of leaving their domain on comments before people got wise to this.

On the plus side they get A LOT of traffic so the demand is there.

I think most people that would want to "Vent" on the site would need prior knowledge of your site. This isn't something they will go search out when they need it.

I think you should target various Facebook groups and just get the word out. I think a lot of people would be supportive of the site and you could get some viral marketing out of it. Emotional support is in vogue.

There's dozens of niche support websites that would love to know about this. Think forums that offer support for cutters, compulsive eaters, etc.

Hm.. i'll definitely try to target facebook/tumblr/twitter groups, thanks for the idea! You're right, simply spreading the word out is the best way to get people to know my site, advertising itself can do only so much. Thank you again :)

Welcome to creating a me-too product. It's some of the most difficult and expensive marketing possible.

Imagine creating a cola that's exactly like coca-cola except it's 20% better tasting (in your option). Well good luck beating out Coca cola - even though your product is better.

And you have to be very careful about assuming that your product is better in a way that people actually care about. For example, I visit the site FML every now and then --- and I never, ever post there...I just got to read other people's misfortunes to feel better about myself..

So be careful about your assumption that yours is better in a way that people care about.

To be fair, Blahtherapy is not the cola cola of the internet. I had never heard of it before this post.

It is more like creating a cola that is exactly like "Richmond Cola" but 20% better.

Also there are hundreds of brands of better tasting beers out there yet they have to compete with Stella Artois and they manage..

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