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Ask HN: How do I get to that next level of traffic?
25 points by handhold on Dec 4, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments
I run a social music website that is getting a steady stream of visitors (1,000) each day. We've been on the front page of Reddit (several times), featured in newspapers, blogs, podcasts etc. while these help us grow, our growth rate of active users isn't tremendously high. We have recently created a Facebook app to help spread the word about our site. Is there anything else that can be done to increase growth other than wait for positive word of mouth?

I have a few theories and quick ideas on this..

For starters, are you partnering with any other companies? I think the synergy of having working relationships with other companies are a great asset since they will actively promote you while you promote them and so on.

Secondly, do you have any viral aspects / proposition for your site? I haven't seen it so I can't tell.. But if you positioned yourself such that a small niche group must have and use your site then I think that's a great start since the group will be self-replicated the newly spawned groups will self-replicate more, hence viral.

Thirdly, have you looked at the discoverability of your site? Look for patterns of how your users are finding you and how they are not.

Last, SEO is the hot term for these days and I think for a good reason. Imagine if I did a google search for something related to music and your social website always shows up as #1 / #2 in the search results? I have a lot of ideas on how this can be done.. but I guess I'll try it out on our stealthy startup first.. and if it works and we become widly successful then I will defintely blog and share about it. =).

I joined and roamed around a bit, its really beautiful. I very much admire the minimalist style. But I think it is possible the very thing that makes the site such a joy is what makes it hard to gain traction, and that is the lack of content/information outside of the actual music. Users need to be getting a constant stream of info to hold their attention. If a site doesn't do this it sends a subliminal message to the user "nothing new here, I'm never coming back"- they may not even be aware of this and they may have nothing but great things to say about your site but they might not return either. I feel you may need more emotional branding of the artists to hold everyones attention, and more intimate connection to the music industry. In a perfect world you would not have to clutter up your site with any of the following suggestions but maybe there is a way to incorporate some new elements without sacrificing the gorgeousness of it all.

1)Video content never fails to resonate with users, it would be great for artists to embed their existing online video content somewhere on your site. 2) Do any of the artists have their own groups on Ning? Can you create a loop somehow? 3)Do the artists have flickr groups? Are they on tour, can you integrate their Dopplr profiles if they have them? 4)Geographical info mashup? Where is the music coming from? Where do the artists live? Can you figure out how to provide information regarding gigs? 5)Take the blog more seriously. Maybe don't hide it? Blog more often, mention music related links and stuff that may not directly concern the site. Maybe you should think of the blog as the marketing? (feedback loop again)

I could continue but I'm not sure if I'm on the right track here. I look at everything with a marketing/social engineering prospective, I don't write code. Let me know HackerNewsCommunity and I'll give it some more thought.

This is a post about tracking the increase of active blog readers. I think it can be taken as a broad parallel to active users.


By measuring well you may find some insight that'll help.

The jist of the examples is that readers (apply to users) are acquired one at a time. Digg, stumble & such are not going to give you a massive spike in users. Nothing probably will. Its about momentum.

Anyway, maybe you will find some answers in analytics.

I think the question you need to ask yourself before - How can I increase the net traffic to my site? - is: Why do I want to increase traffic?

Building out a customer base for the sake of increasing numbers leaves too many open questions. Building one for a specific purpose, however, (e.g. increase ad revenue, subscriptions, user-relationships) can help shape the direction of the site's development. It is much easier to increase the volume and stickiness of your audience if you can give them a purpose to look forward to.

That said, the nature of your product should dictate this direction. If you are selling a specific product, consider what modifications and accessories will complement the original product, and to what extent that will draw back loyal users.

Why should I buy an iPod? Because I am confident that I will enjoy engaging with it, look forward to the next model, and that I will be able to relate with my friends about it (consequently encouraging friends without one to get one). Engagement is more important than ownership.

In terms of social music networking, consider what ways that you can allow your users to engage with one another through the product, and to give them some agency over the process.

Well, if your site is technically solid and you aren't spending a ton of time writing the software any more, you should be spending your time talking about it every chance you get, everywhere you go.

You should start by putting your website in your profile at the very least.

It's http://cherrypeel.com. I was trying to start a general discussion and not spam HN.

I'm cherrypeel.com's developer. thought i should put in a warning that the site plays music immediately.

And you wonder why you're losing traffic. As someone who browses the internet, if my computer starts playing music (in this case, loudly) without my consent, I go on safari to hunt and kill the infringing tab. I strongly recommend against this 'feature'. Display something that says "play now!" and even load the song if you want, but don't actually play it until I consent. Please.

Telling that the developer comes by to warn us about the music playing automatically. Think he has advised against it before?

My suggestion is to make auto play an opt-in option for registered users.

Ah! There you go.

I agree about the link. Maybe there was no link to avoid looking like a spammy-type post.

In some ways, building the product is the easy part. Getting traction is the really dicey problem.

Check out some of the SEO/SEM sites like seomoz. SEO is very important. Link-building is also important. Look at getting some reciprocal links or at focusing on a specific niche within your site and really trying to develop a core audience around a few musicians/genres in order to get that "critical mass" of interest. Contact other sites in your space and figure out how you can get them to write about and/or drive audience to you. Hold contests. Build widgets. There's no silver bullet (for most of us).

Knowing the type of user that is attracted to your site is also very important. That will really help you narrow down what kinds of sites and techniques you should be using to capture more audience. Do you have a lot of kids on your site? If so, seek out affinity sites. It will be much easier for you to convert that audience to your product. Use sites like Quantcast to discover sites like yours that have traffic. Learn from the successful sites and employ their tricks (are you asking every user to invite their friends when they sign up? if not, you might be missing out on new users).

And, as always, be patient. My website is a little more than 2 years old and we've gone from 1000 visitors/day to 100k+/day. And even now it's still one of my primary tasks every day (figuring out new ways to get word out and encourage inbound traffic). You should be spending several hours a day working on this stuff.

papa, this is off-topic, but your site's "ajax_updates_iframe" architecture needs some serious attention. As it stands now, each time it's updated (every few seconds) it creates a new entry in the browser's history (at least Firefox 3's... haven't tested others).

This totally mangles a user's history... after just a few minutes, every entry in my history was fanpop, which I was not at all happy about. I'm sure this upsets others too and there are ways around it (iframe within an iframe, for example, which doesn't affect history). Just FYI.

Well, I think I know exactly the site you're talking about, but I won't blow your cover for you. I saw it on Reddit just a few days ago and there's a suspicious Facebook icon in the corner that wasn't there a little while ago... so if this is your site, shoot me an email (in my profile) because I found a few small HTML bugs and such. It would probably be to your benefit to share the link here though.

The SEO point is a very a good one, especially for a site that is (probably) very JavaScript-heavy. More than just your site's own tagline, you can optimize for keywords such as "social music," "music sharing," "music community," etc. I just pulled these off the top of my head -- I recommend spending some time with the Google Keyword Tool ( https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal ) if you haven't already.

With a social music site that's based on upvoting, you also have a tremendous resource that sites like Last.fm don't have. Beyond just allowing people to friend each other like all the social networking sites do, you could introduce a feature along the lines of "Other people who upvoted this song also liked..." as a good way to add immediate value for a new user who has just joined and voted up a few songs, but hasn't added any friends yet.

That's me, cherrypeel.com The icon is fixed;)

It sounds like the problem isn't "getting enough traffic", it's getting people to stay, or to come back. Are you focusing on that?

You have it right on the money. If people keep coming back because they love to use the site, you should experience continuous growth. They will also be likely to tell other people about it, giving you viral potential.

If you cannot get users to stick, no amount of front page Reddits and newspaper mentions will save you. Even though organic traffic is consistent, even that levels off after a while, is hard to obtain, and is dependent on having a massive number of pages with unique content.

We have started to focus on that, trying to get people more involved and giving them reasons to come back to the site. It is a weakness of ours at this point but something that is solvable.

Survey your users.

our growth rate of active users isn't tremendously high

You have two options. Work on more traffic or, and this is FAR easier, work on your conversion rate. Get more of those fewer visitors to sign up and you get the same result.

You could work on integrating with the twitter api. Look how much linkage blip.fm is getting on twitter: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=blip.fm

What does your Facebook app do? Does it have a strong viral component? Those almost never are able to direct much traffic back to your site, but they can often do what your site does, possibly better, and spread faster.

A user can send a song from Cherrypeel to any friend (on their wall or in a private message) and they can vote on the song directly in facebook. They don't need to sign up for the app to listen to the song but will need to sign up tosend the app on to another friend. http://apps.facebook.com/cherrypeel/

So is your app meant to be standalone at all? Or just to interface with the site?

This app feels like something I'd just skip by, though maybe the experience would be much better if I were sent a song. But just getting there directly, there isn't much to do. There's one song to play, which is cool, but how do I find more?

Ah, I messed with it a bit. Ability to post to walls is pretty sweet. Definite virality there. If only I could find some songs I knew.

Can you share the site URL?

I second this request.


Here is the solution: Organic Traffic. I am not technical so excuse it if I sound naive. Ajax is beautiful, but if you have a content site and want traffic, you are going to hurt your search engine results, and that counts because sooner or later that should be your main traffic source. You need to turn those categories into more pages meaning whenever someone plays a song or creates a list, that becomes a page with a neat URL that the search engine can actually spyde. Think about it, if someone searches on Google for one of the songs you have in your DB your page can actually show up on the first page. Start indexing those playlists/channels/users pages and you will double your traffic.

I don't think you want a page for every song played, but you might want to have a detail page about every song in your database, which links to profiles that have played it recently. That's basically the same thing, but not as spammy.

What about band bios, or something similar to increase the amount of unique content?

The first thing to do is at least tell us your link here in HN, please.

you could try using Google friend connect launched recently. Definitely adds viral functionality as people can invite their friends and you can push their activities on your site to open social containers to which they belong. For example id love if you could push my reviews on your site as my updates on Orkut (sorry am from india not a big FB fam:))

What about apps for the iPhone and Android?

we were thinking about that to get it out in time for Christmas. Do you think these apps would help us gain traffic or just give our existing users another way to interact with the site?

This is anecdotal, but I found out about imeem through their android app. I know Pandora has gained a lot of users through their iPhone app too.

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