Growth hacking is a way startups and online businesses can experience faster growth than through traditional marketing. It transcends beyond traditional marketing into a realm of risk taking, A/B tests and making smarter marketing strategies that produce significantly better results faster.
While growth hacking is a relatively new concept coined by Sean Ellis in 2010, many online businesses have been quick to apply the term to their businesses. As a result, they have experienced significant growth: sign ups, traffic, opt ins, sales by following its core principles.
While some businesses have been quick to embrace growth hacking, a lot of bloggers have been slow to adopt the principle to their blogs, either through naivety or a lack of understanding of growth hacking's immense power to bring results.
Here's the good news though: there are ways that bloggers can apply growth hacking to their blogs. These are ways to 'hack the system' and to grow your blog exponentially rather than incrementally. You can reach more people faster, boost your sales and audience with the power of growth hacking.
What exactly is growth hacking?
Instead of traditional marketing, growth hacking is about focusing on growth above all else. Similar to Zuckerberg's strategy with Facebook, where his question to new ideas was 'How is this going to grow Facebook?"
Growth hacking is about ignoring the usual 'process' when it isn't the quickest way to get results. Growth hacking answers this question: what is the fastest way to get to where you want to be as a business or as a blog?
One of the first examples of what we now call growth hacking is how Hotmail answered how to get big in the shortest amount of time.
When a Hotmail user sent an email, the recipient could click on the tagline link in the signature, which would take the user to a hotmail landing page.
[caption id="attachment_359" align="aligncenter" width="508"] Hotmail tag lines: A signature example of a growth hack.[/caption]
This simple addition grew Hotmail's user base from 20,000 to 1 million users within 6 months.
Finding the most powerful growth hack for your blog and business is easier said than done and will almost always involve split testing & trial and error. There is almost never a one-size-fits-all tactic that's going to work for all startups. The concepts, however, can be applied on an almost universal scale.
Can you growth hack a blog?
In short, yes. In this blog post, I'll share some of the ways bloggers can grow their blogs; whether you're looking for traffic, sign ups, sales or opt in's, these strategies can be applied to experience growth.
Growth Hack #1: Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a term that's starting to find its way into the lexicon of the web, similar to content marketing.
Influencer marketing means that you're going to stop focusing on creating a large quantity of followers and fans and instead focus on building a high quality of followers. Or more specifically, you're going to find followers who already have lots of followers. The idea then is that you will market through them and that way gain access to the giant audience that they already have.
The most obvious application is social media marketing but it can also be applied to content marketing, SEO and dozens of other marketing strategies.
One example of influencer marketing is having your link onto a very high profile blog. Imagine for a moment that you want to promote a 'tech/productivity blog' and grow your traffic. While traditional marketing would have you submit your site relentlessly to directories, write lots of in-depth posts for your blog and to share to social bookmarking sites.
Or you could get a single link on Tim Ferriss' blog. What do you think that would do for your business? You'd immediately have an influx of traffic every single day and many of those visitors would become new fans, in part thanks to the endorsement of Tim. That one link could do more for your business than thousands of links on the sites of 'non-influencers'.
Another application of incliner marketing is using a tool like socialrank.com (no affiliation), which allows you gain insights about your followers on Twitter.
[caption id="attachment_364" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Social rank is a tool bloggers can use to growth hack their blog.[/caption]
The value in this is that it means you can easily find that one fan who has thousands of followers and whose followers are highly engaged with what they have to say. Tweet something to them that they then retweet and with a single post you could get hundreds or even thousands of new followers. That is the potential power of influencer marketing when done right and as you can see, it's very much a way to fast track growth.
Of course you can also use influencer marketing simply by paying for a link on a prominent website or blog and this is how many businesses will go about it. And smart businesses are already using influencer marketing all the time. Take someone like Kate Arends for instance – a Pinterest user with several million followers. No surprise then that Kate also has a Products Board that many companies pay to have their products feature on.
And to use the example of Tim Ferrris again Mizzen + Main have been sponsoring him to promote their 'non-iron' dress shirts, no doubt to fantastic effect. From his recent blog:
This podcast is brought to you by Mizzen + Main.Mizzen + Main makes the only “dress” shirts I now travel with — fancy enough for important dinners but made from athletic, sweat-wicking material. No more ironing, no more steaming, no more hassle. Click here for the exact shirts I wear most often.
Influencer marketing is a powerful strategy most bloggers are unaware of. It extends beyond standard press releases, directory listings, blog commenting. Instead it reaches further and asks who is a key influencer that will yield a high return in the shortest amount of time.
Growth Hack #2: Lead Magnets
The next growth hack can be very powerful for bloggers when done right. It is something marketers such as Ryan Deiss from DigitalMarketer.com has used to generate millions of revenue online: giving something of immense value away for free.
Deiss calls it The Lead Magnet:
The Lead Magnet is an irresistible bribe that gives a specific chunk of value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information.
Contrary to what others may have said, this giveaway should be of amazing value. The purpose of this is to build trust with your readers and prove you can help them achieve their goals faster.
The most common lead magnets come in the form of eBooks and digital downloads. However, it can be applied to service providers by providing high value services for significantly cheaper prices, say at cost or even free if proven profitable.
The idea here then is to give your users a 'taste' of what you have to offer. That is why it should be grand. It should leave them with no question that you can bring them value.
But, isn't everybody offering lead magnets? The difference between a lead magnet and a free product is the value the customer receives. A free product can be just free. A lead magnet, when done correctly, will provide much more value than the customer ever expected.
Ideas for lead magnets:
Trials for SaaS providers
At cost services for service providers
Lead magnets can be used to incentivize a whole range of actions. The most common is actually getting people to sign up to your mailing list in exchange for a free eBook. This technique has been in play since time immemorial and it still works in 2015.
Of course it works even better if that blogger has made a name for themselves and you've seen some of their other content online and enjoyed it. Here's Pat Flynn trying to encourage people to join his mailing list with a free eBook for instance:
[caption id="attachment_360" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Lead Magnets: One of the most powerful growth hacks for bloggers[/caption]
You can also get even more out of a free eBook or report by encouraging people to give it away for free, or by giving it away for free using Amazon Kindle Publishing and then talking about your other products and services within that book. One strategy that Jim Cockrum talks about is inviting users to opt-in to your email list throughout the book so you can email them your products and services on an ongoing basis.
Growth Hack #3: Content Marketing + Social Bookmarking
We mentioned content marketing earlier and pointed out that it is also a relatively new term when it comes to marketing yourself on the web. Like influencer marketing though, it is also a highly effective tool when used correctly.
Content marketing is a way to build authority and trust over time. The idea is that you add value through engaging blog posts regularly, making sure that they are always highly informative and gradually build the trust of your visitors and create an army of fans.
But if you change your strategy ever-so-slightly, you can also use content marketing to get yourself thousands of hits from just one easy link.
How? Simple: you write an article that solves a hungry market need and then you share it to a sub community.
The steps are simple:
Identify a potential market that you want to reach – small niches and subject matters are usually the most effective
Write your blog post specifically for that audience and make sure it is designed to be something they would definitely be interested in
Create a title that really sells the post and the information therein. Make sure you put across the valuable information readers will learn, or the emotional hook that will draw them in and make the book worthwhile.
Next, find a place where you can reach that community directly. This is your 'route to market' and a good example is a sub Reddit, an online forum, or a Google+ community
A single post like this that has genuine value and that lands in the right community can earn you hundreds of thousands of views almost overnight, whichcan generate inbound leads from a variety of targeted sources, such as social media pages, Q&A sites and forums.
Growth hacking is a new breed of marketing. It transcends beyond traditional marketing and focuses purely on what's going to give you the desired results fastest.
The 3 growth hacking blog tips outlined above are powerful strategies that can be applied to your blog to increase traffic and your reach online. However, the best strategy for your blog depends on what metrics are most important to your blog.
What growth hacking strategies have worked for your blog? Add them in the comments below.