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We (unexpectedly) got 60K users in 60 hours - What we learned (patrickambron.me)
181 points by jordanmessina on July 12, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments

Hey everyone, just wanted to say I'm truly flattered my blog got posted to HN and made the front page (I'm the author). I hope people found it helpful


1) Some of you wanted to know how HN compares to other sources for us, in terms of signups, conversions, etc. I'll post it in this thread at the end of the day (would you guys want a follow up post on this "Value of HN visits")

2) I've gotten some great feedback on the actual product from the HN crowd, which is awesome. Feel free to leave any feedback on this thread (you can try it at http://brandyourself.com)

Hey Patrick,

I have a question. Why is the title of your http://patrickambron.brandyourself.com/ brandyourself page "Patrick Ambron, Internet"? Specifically, why ", Internet"?

When we first created the profiles, we wanted to optimize for your industry as well. We didn't want people putting in anything so at first we just used the industries used by the US Labor Dept (LinkedIn does the same). Now we allow you to manually add your profession too, but I just kept mine as "Internet" because it seemed the closest.

Have you any thoughts of handling the edge case of users with ridiculously common names?

In the top ten for my firstname lastname I have:

   a famous chef,

   a life coach who is doing branding SEO,

   someone else who is a programmer,

   a professional photographer
In the top three firstname middlename lastname

   various high school kids,

   a registered sex offender

Sometimes a name is just too competetive to realistically expect to own the first page. That said, using our service, you are very likely to get some stuff about you up there. That visibility is important. If your name is Brad Pitt, people know you aren't the actor, but at least they found what they were looking for on result 6.

You are thinking the right way by trying to add an initial or middle name to your name. I'd be very surprised if you're name was too competitive to get some results.

Shoot me an email, I'd be happy to take a look and give somem advice pambron [at] brandyourself [dot] com

Make up a new middle name, seriously.

Patrick, can I ask if you get any actual calls in response to "call and talk to the real person" offer on your website? I'm sure many on HN recognize the importance of having a phone number on the site, but it'd be very helpful to know what it translates to in real world.

Yea, we actually WANT to talk to to as many users as possible. We get at least half a dozen calls a day. Trevor, our "customer happiness officer" spends all day talking to customer, answering people's email, etc. It does a few things

1) People get so excited to talk to a real person, even if they've just experienced a bug. These people become huge fans

2) It's the best way to learn about who's using your product. It's much easier to design and develop when you're thinking of specific people

I'd recommend everybody do it

I remember hearing on a mixergy interview that one founder pointed the importance of having a phone number on her website. She said 100% of the people who called ended up converting it, but just having the number there increased the conversion rates.

"As any startup will tell you, most publications will only feature a startup if given some sort of exclusive. In their eyes, the only reason to cover a startup is if it provides readers with something they can’t get anywhere else."

How do you start this conversation with a publication? How hard is it to simply cold email Mashable and attempt to get an article?

I'm assuming once the relationship is built it's easy to get follow up posts but do you have advice for making that initial connection?

When you're pitching a writer for the first time, I've found it's best to keep it short, focus on the story (show them the angle), and make it clear you just aren't blasting a bunch of writers. I usually try something like "Hey I'm the cofounder of BY. We just launched a product that helps people improve their own search results without having to spend thousands of dollars on a reputation firm. For example, my co-founder Pete couldn't get an internship in college because he was being mistaken for drug dealer and couldn't afford 7K to fix it. I read some of your posts on online reputation (link to them) and thought this might be a good fit. Let me know if you're interested--have plenty of details if you want to know more"

And yes, once you establish that relationship it becomes easier to tell them about an upcoming story. Even then, you want to keep it short, and focus on the story for them so the hard work is already done. "Hey, we just released a new feature. We can actually tell you when an employer googles you or finds your profile. For example, say you're interviewing at ad agencies in NYC, you might get a alert that says someone from Ogilvy just Googled your name and found your profile" We're really the only place providing this intelligence, let me know if you want more"


> Co-Founder & CEO at BrandYourself.com

> January 2009 - January 2000

Branding fail

Good catch, updated now! So what did you think of the article, was it useful to you?

Absolutely, as it happens, but I wanted to do the traditional Hacker News "you suck" before I flipped and told you I enjoyed reading it.

I like your product too. It feels more personal than a linkedin.

Haha, much appreciated man. I think our profile is more personal than a LinkedIn, but we also provide something they don't. You can submit any link about you (LinkedIn, personal website, article written about you, etc) track it's ranking, and walk you through everything you can do to make it more search engine friendly so it ranks higher for your name

What a classy response to a not so classy move. Patrick, you get my vote for class president.

just noticed that you've been responding with two different accounts, pcambron and patrickambron

Just the first response (I created an account a while ago pcambron, forgot about it, created the patrick ambron account, and somehow logged into the old one)

Very interesting product. I haven't yet had a chance to fully explore the site, but I will certainly be creating an account in the future.

I have two concerns:

1) What happens when two people with the same name sign up? Couldn't that lead to issues where they're both trying to promote their own stuff while burying the others?

2) Is there any way that someone could pose as someone they're not in order to sabotage that persons google results, or I could see the possibility of a friend doing that in order to pull a prank on you?

As I said I haven't fully explored to site, so if these concerns are addressed on there, apologies. Great article!

Hey these are really good questions

1) In terms of duplicate names, the product also helps you optimize for specific relevant terms like "Patrick Ambron, developer" or "Patrick Ambron, BrandYourself" "patrick ambron, NYC" etc. So people looking for you will be able to find you. That said, if two people are competing for the first page of Patrick Ambron using our service, the person more actively updating and creating content will edge the other out (google loves new, relevant content). But, at least they'll be a leg up on all the other Patrick Ambron's of the world

2) This is definately a possibility--in the same way, I can go and create a wordpress site using your name. It's hard to detect, but there are warning flags we look for. If you create an account for Patrick Ambron, but don't have the authentication for any of the other profiles (FB, twitter, LI) it looks suspicious and we check it out. We also have a policy where if you email us because somebody is using your information in an account, we will suspend the account for you, until the user can verify that they are who they say they are.

Thanks for taking the time to respond! Guess I better create an account so I can get a leg up on the other Grant Covingtons out there :).

Awesome! Feel free to reach out if you want to make sure you're doing everything you can or if you have any questions pambron[at]brandyourself[dot]com

How are they determining what companies are googling you?

Do they attempt to create a top ranked page about you, and then monitor IP addresses visiting it, and match that to some db that maps company to IP address?

@pdx yea you nailed it. Most of our users end building a BrandYourself Profile, which is a simple (but pretty) profile that's really well structured around your name, so it generally ranks on your first page. From there we can use the IP addresses of visitors to determine who they are

We could always tell you when someone found that profile and where they came from (they came from FB, or they came from Google after Googling your name", but recently we started mapping the IP address to organizations. That data is really accesible--you can buy a list from most major hosting companies--but it's not really used for this purpose

Haven't tried this, but can't just do a whois query for the IP address?

That's not always reliable. For example, if you do a query on my company's web server IP address, you'll just get the name of our ISP as your result.

Whois on an IP address - you mean rDNS, right? Are you sending mail from this server without fcrdns?

Most VPS providers will let you change the rDNS record for the IP.

No, rDNS And whois are different things. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whois vs reverse DNS, which you are obviously familiar with.

I haven't used it, but MaxMind sells an organization database along with their GeoIP database:


Yea you can get a similar list from a few places. The problem will be that manytimes the IP will return the company's ISP, which isn't useful for the user

Very cool, looks like it has a lot of potential. I'm hoping you have some spam prevention strategies in place, though, as it seems pretty ripe for it as it takes off (just like any free service that lets you create profiles and post links to sites, but especially a service that promotes SEO and posts followed links to sites)

Yea that's a good point. The nice part is, we don't create any profiles or links on behalf of the user. They need authenticate things like twitter, fb, etc on their own, so they actually need to have or create these profiles. They need to go through the work of creating all the relevant content, and linking it to eachother, we simply let you know if they are optimized/filled out enough, and track their ranking

Interestingly enough, one of the things we need to keep our eye on is people going through the trouble to create accounts--including social media profiles---about other people. Would not have guessed that would be a problem

You could have a one-time pay service to get a "verified" badge on the profile, like what Twitter has for celebrities.

That's a really good idea. It could serve the purpose of giving you a badge, but it could also be a protective measure, because it means we won't let somebody else with your info use the service (since they aren't verified)

I love this service, was in the early signup group and within a month controlled my first 10 results.

Keep expecting a pivot to small biz though and hope that's in the plans, seems like a much easier group to monetize.

Thanks for the kind words and for using the product.

Right now we are focused purely on individuals (it helps us keep the product simple). It stems from our mission, "a person shouldn't have to pay a lot of money to manage or improve their own search results." While small businesses are easier to monetize, we're happy to just help as many people out as possible, and as long as 2% want the premium features, we're in a good place

Yep but helping small business have a positive white hat SEO, could be huge. I myself have been searching your page for small business option, and I am more willing to pay for my startup than for me (and I´ll probably convert the private account).

I do think there is a big business there, but it's also crowded and more complicated. People don't realize how big the individual market is, and we want to be the ones who own it. But reach out to me, I'd be happy to show you how to use the product, and give you some additional tips for the business front--pambron[at]brandyourself[dot]com

While this break-down is very interesting, it all boils down to one thing: they announced an innovative feature that interests a lot of people. Things could have played out differently but the outcome would be the same - lots of signups.

If someone from the company is reading: I found out I already have an account (probably from the time it launched), but I can't access it. Login doesn't work and when I try to reset my password it says "e-mail not found".

Hey, email me at pambron[at]brandyourself[dot]com. I'll figure out why you can't log in

Just a thought - some people go to a lot of effort to 'hide' who they are by ensuring their name does not turn up - or if it does its so mixed in with many result's that it would be hard from a casual review to determine this is the John or Jane Doe one is after - while others a lot of effort to make sure a search turns up the correct Mesers Doe.

Our view is pretty simple on this: Whether you like it or not, people are going to Google you, and they expect to find you. 75% of HR depts. are now required to Google candidates before searching for them, 30% of all daily searches are for someone's name. If you don't show up, you miss an opportunity to mold that first impression.

You might as well be proactive and make sure you have some relevant content well optimized. Otherwise you might be represented by something negative posted by somebody else, or something irrelevant, or mistaken for somebody else all together--my cofounder Pete couldn't get an internship in college because he was being mistaken for a drug dealer

In other words, if you don't define yourself, something else will.

I really like your product, but the only issue I had was when I was boosting my links. After every step in the boosting process I was asked to share that step with my Social Network, while that may help my SEO it became more of a nuisance. I would like to be asked only after completing all of the boosting steps.

Other than that keep up the great work!

Just to be clear: You were asked to share your link after every step in the boosting process?? It should just be your final boost step, which you can choose to do or not. Looking into this now

I just tried to recreate and could not.

Yea, it should be your final step (it's 1% step that helps, but you don't need to do it). I can't recreate the bug either, but i have my eye on it. That would be annoying so thanks for the heads up

Thanks again everyone, I'm truly flattered. We had some great discussions (have some catch-up to do today, had no idea I'd be spending so much time on HN :)).

Since so many people were curious to see the affect HN would have on our signups, I think I'm going to do a follow up post next week.

I really like how you guys built a viral mechanism into the product. You incentivize the user to share their BrandYourself with their existing profiles/networks to receive a "boost", which helps spread word of your product. Pretty ingenious if you ask me. Good job guys!

Thanks. The trick is to figure out how a viral mechanism that aligns with your actual value prop. People want their links to show up higher in google, and sharing them on social networks will actually help in that process. It fits :)

I remember telling people about this when it first launched, citing it as a vanity metrics booster.

As a startup founder, however, it's invaluable. I'm a converted fan, and the process even taught this rookie a bunch about link building and SEO.

Great work, keep it up, and loved the blog post.

Thanks Nickler. Glad we were able to convert you :) We've actually found that startup founders/entrepreneurs are great, great users for us. If you're interested I'd love to talk to you on the phone, and get an idea of how you approached the product, and what changed your mind.

If you're interested, just shoot me an email (pambron [at] brandyourself [dot] com)

More just FYI, but it's weird that your blog doesn't show up in https://www.google.com/search?q=We+(unexpectedly)+Got+60K+Us...

Thanks Eli. That's actually because I just created this blog about 2-3 days ago (this was my first post). It'll take a bit before it's picked up and starts ranking. That said, I should see it go up soon, since I use BrandYourself :)

Cool, I figured as much. It's a nice post, I was googling it to send it the whole team.

Any chance you will release a plugin for a non-brandyourself site? I'd love to put the "find out who's googling you" feature on my blog or even my startups website.

Nothing in the direct roadmap, but that's a great idea. Right now we're focusing on being more directly integrated w sites so we can you improve them right from us. But again, that's a very good idea

I would be interested in such a plugin as well. Given that I have a very unique name (Moncef Belyamani) and that I've had an online presence for quite some time, I've owned the first page of search results for both my name and my "monfresh" nickname for years. I don't have a need for a BrandYourself profile, but the "associate an IP address to a company" feature is intriguing, and the analytics service I use for my sites (getclicky) doesn't seem to offer that. Are there any analytics companies that do?

Surprisingly, very few analytics companies do. I'd go as far as to say just us (at least in what I've seen)

The reason is, most analytics company's are meant for places that get a lot of traffic. It's not really appealing or useful to have such specific info on one visitor, Instead you want overarching information about all of them

A person on the other hand, probalby has one or two people finding them a month. That means each visitor is someone important. You want as much information as possible to figure out who they were (where did they come from, how did they find me, where did they work, etc) Our goal is to get as much information as possible to you

How much better are your results in boosting visibility as compared to for example getting myname.com and linking to myname.com from all social media profiles?

Getting yourname.com is always a Great move (we let you apply a custom domain to your BrandYourself profile), and you want to link all your social media profiles.

We basically walk you through a simple process

1) Make sure you have relevant content on the web (FB, LI, personal website, etc)

2) Make sure that's as search engine friendly as possible (are you using you're actual name, is there enough relevant content on it, can search engines index it correctly, etc)

3) Make sure all of your relevant content links to eachother (Your FB should link to your personal website, etc)

On average users find after going through our "boost process" for any given link, it rises a full 1-2 pages(10-20 results) in their google results.

Awesome piece. It's rare that a startup dives this deep into the details. You deserve the 1000+ signups you'll score from a HackerNews front page ;-)

Hey thanks man! I just happen to really enjoy data--and it's paid off.

I've also been getting some great feedback from the HN crowd, so these are great signups :)

Rochester guy here who has enjoyed watching a non-NYC startup gain some traction. Nice job!

Also, will there be a "post HN front page" report?

I think I may do one

Good things happen to good products. Though Hashable is closing so might see a influx from users migrating from there over the next few weeks.

Thanks. I think focusing on a good product is the most important thing. We do one thing really well: when someone googles your name we help you make sure you have the most relevant things showing up. In terms of Hashable, we aren't a direct replacement, but the type of people interested in networking apps generally like to make sure they look good online :)

Were these high quality users in the sense that they converted to paid from a free account? What source lead to the highest quality users?

Yes, users can pay for premium features (free users can submit, track and boost up to 3 links, paying members can boost unlimited) With our model we hope 2% convert to paid at some point in their Lifetime as a user.

In terms of this push, most of the major US press has been a phenomenal source (which was the bulk of this surge). 2-3% converted in the first 24 hours, and by 8 weeks that number was closer to 5%. Mashable by far being the best, followed by Huff Post

BrandYourself profiles were/are another amazing source. This makes sense too, because it's coming from a trusted source.

Google and Direct isn't quite as strong (which makes sense since the sources are so varied) but we still get above the 2% mark by 4-5 weeks

The signups from foreign publications were pretty bad. They signed up for free at high rates, but they just don't pay (.5%). Not entirely sure why, but until we figure it out, we put people from those places on a wait list

>The signups from foreign publications were pretty bad. They signed up for free at high rates, but they just don't pay (.5%). Not entirely sure why, but until we figure it out, we put people from those places on a wait list

Do you have international friendly payment methods? Regionally tiered pricing? And what do you mean by, "we put people from those places on a wait list"?

Right now we use braintree to process payments. They accept all major credit cards, in all countries. It keeps it simple on our end, but if someone in, say Brazil, doesn't use a major credit card, then we can't accept their payment.

It's quite possible that in many countries, it's a small percentage of people who use cc. Anybody know any specific info or data on this?

What do you mean by regionally tiered pricing? Right now all pricing is in USD which could be another reason for the drop off. Does anybody have experience with this type of thing?

PS-certain countries are put on an invite list so they can't sign up right now. It tells them to sign up to get on the waiting list

So, any way for legitimately interested people from banned countries to sign up other than waiting?

What kind of payments do you allow? Perhaps this could have something to do with it.

See above

Do you have any experience with this at all?

I feel like I want these guys to succeed just because Patrick seems such a nice guy, have enjoyed reading the threads.

Hey, thanks man

Good work, man. Takeaway for me is to make the most of Google Analytics' conversion tracking features.

Yea absolutely. We track everything through our own internal system and through analytics. We want to know where our best users come from. Which sources get people to sign up, which sources bring the most active people, and which sources lead to the most subscriptions. It helps you focus your marketing/PR efforts.

I'm interested to see how HN does for you. The front page in my experience drives an order of magnitude less traffic than you saw from Mashable, which is still a nice bump. Let us know how we convert, eh? :-)

Yea, I think I'll post on this thread at the end of the day w some numbers, or maybe even do a quick follow up post tomw. Either way, I'll let everyone know

Cool, thank you.

BTW, do you use Google Analytics' realtime features (or other realtime analytics)? It's really fun. :-)

You might want to take the quote from Fox news off your front page. First thing I noticed...

Do you dislike the quote, or the fact that it's from Fox news?

I dislike Fox.

Can't say I blame you, actually. At the time of Launch, it looked like our widest reaching "crediblity booster". I think we should go ahead and change that now

30% is a awesome conversion. Any specifics on how you were able to get it up so high?

1) We happen to have a value proposition that appeals to almost everyone. Almost everyone has Googled their name, and thought about improving their results in some way or another--maybe there's something embarrassing, or maybe someone else with their name owns all the results, or maybe they have certain things they just wished showed up.

2) We worked hard on our home page --we explain what it does, who we are, and how it works in as little words as possible, and lead you right to sign up (we tweaked this language so many times I can't tell you) Everytime it seems clear enough to us, we would put it front of random person. If they didn't completely understand what we did and want to sign up, we went back to the drawing board. We did this over and over again.

--For those who need more validation we lead you to more info: our company story/mission, our press, testimonials, et. I call these "credibility boosters"

3) We give a lot away for free. People like free stuff

How did you implement that particular feature? (Notify when someone searches you)

I want to know how many signups you get from this submission to HN

Hey Patrick, I don't see the link to the article. Did I miss something? Can you please resend, I am very curious. Thanks!

Congratulations, but there's no way to say who a "user" is in 60 hours. What you got was 60k signups in 60 hours.

Thanks for sharing the lessons

There is one problem with the "find who is googling you" feature. For about a year now, google has started hiding the search results from the referral when someone uses google while logged in to google services.

You may have seen "not provided" in google analytics for searches that found your site... This is users logged in to google. And with more people using google services such as gmail and g+, more and more results will be hidden. On my corporate, tech web site, I'm seeing 40-50% of results from google as "not provided" nowadays, and its increasing every month.

(not provided) is lame, but I don't think that will hurt how this service tracks who's Googling you. It looks like they look up the IP address to see who is searching for you.

BTW - I run notprovided.com and have had 100% days of (not provided) keywords referrals....at least I have a good idea of what they were searching for : )

The interesting part about it is it allows google access to the data for information in their metrics & analytics while blocking out their competition in the metrics scene.

Rather ingenius move overall.

I thought that's a feature of HTTPS, not sending referral headers to non-HTTPS links. (and so not an explicit move by Google but a necessary consequence of providing secure connections for logged-in users)

Yep. Basically if you're using Google behind the HTTPS (like you're logged into Google+) they'll send back a non referral header. There ARE ways around this, but it's tricky

Interesting! I made my own guide a while back for my friends, with great success.

1a) Make a "brand" with your middle name Google your first and last name. If you’re like most people on earth, you’re one of many with your particular combination. So how can you rank higher?

Never fight a battle you don’t have to. Pick a middle name, real or imaginary. Google your new full name.

Example: My name is Kevin Barry. The Google result is completely owned by Wikipedia and other impossible to compete against sites.

My full name is Kevin William Lord Barry. I think Lord sounds cool, so I’ll make Kevin Lord Barry my “official” online name. It’s much easier to rank for and even helps with personal branding.

1b) Consistency! Put your new name on top of your resume for consistency.

2) Edit/Create Your Facebook Take your new name. If your Facebook looks professional, change your Facebook name to your new name. If not, make sure your Facebook doesn’t use your new full name.

3) Edit/Create Your LinkedIn Take five minutes to create a LinkedIn account with your new name. Put all of your resume information on it neatly. LinkedIn will rank well for your new name, and you can brag as much as you want on it without looking pompous.

4) Make Yourself Look Good on Amazon Make an account on Amazon, using your new branded name. Pick a couple of books in your industry with good ratings. Read the summaries (read the book, preferably, but I won’t judge if you don’t). Leave a review of the books that makes you look good: show that you know industry terms, talk about your experience, etc.

Each review you leave will go to your Google front page and make you look smarter. This only works if you know enough about your industry to sound smart, of course. You can also do this for textbooks, or fiction that you like if you want to sound interesting.

5) Make Accounts on Web 2.0 Websites Take five minutes to make an account on sites that allow descriptive profiles with your full name Quora, Yahoo Answers, DisQus, Meetup, or anywhere else you want. Feel free to participate in these communities to help even more, although it’s not necessary.

6) Strut Your Stuff! Here’s where you can have fun and really seem impressive. Go to Weebly.com and make a free website, called “yourfullname.weebly.com”. Set the page title to “Your Full Name Online” and the page description to “Your Full Name’s Online Website”. Write a paragraph about yourself on one page, and a page with links to your linkedin, Facebook, or anywhere else you want to show people. Go nuts and add anything else you want that might make you seem interesting. Voila!

This has worked well for me personally. My dad and I have the same name, and I share a fairly common name for Dutch people. My name is Bert Regeer, but I always go by Bert JW Regeer. In conversation I am still Bert, but everywhere else I am Bert JW. This solves a lot of problems.

People no longer get me confused with my dad or some guy working for Shell, when I sign up for mail or anything along those lines it has my middle initials in the first name field (unless they have a special field for middle initials) and I don't have issues with my dad and I sharing a name (If we travel together, sometimes the airline will cancel the ticket because they believe it is a double booking ... makes it really fun when we both go to check-in).

Best of all, I now rank really high for Bert JW Regeer. As in, almost everything on the first through third page are exclusively me (may change depending on location) on Google. That makes it fairly easy to find me.

This is a really good idea (we encourage users to do it). If you have too common a name, use a middle initial. The trick is, you need to use that name in prof. setting (biz card, resume, etc) otherwise people will still Google the other name, and they won't find you

Indeed, my middle initial is on everything. Business cards, it is in my domain name (bertjwregeer.com), it is used in email, everything.

Since "billpatrianakos" asked me a question that is related (and it seems his comment is [dead]), let me clarify and state that "JW" is actually my middle initials.

The first result for my full name is a registered sex offender.. Time for a rebrand..

Alternatively, you could stop preying on children.

My cofounder Pete, was being mistaken for a Drug Dealer and sex offender in college. It was where the inspiration came from

We should hire you ;)

Sorry for hijacking your post! I definitely did not expect it to go to the top of the page - it must be partly ranked based on text length.

I'm happily employed, but shoot me an email (in profile) and I'll see what I can do for you ;)

"Error establishing a database connection"

Is this a joke?

I thought it was too :D http://cl.ly/0a2r3l2b331l0B1n141U

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