Product Hunt has become a necessary part of every product launch. With its community of tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, angel investors and tech journalists, you'd need a really good reason to not try putting your product in front of that audience.
Around 100 products are submitted daily, but only the featured top 5 get recognition. The day after being posted, they end up in a newsletter sent to thousands of Product Hunt subscribers. Landing on top takes either massive amount of luck, or a lot of work.
And of course, a great product. But you’ve already got that one, don’t you?
Why it’s worth the effort
Symptoms of launching on Product Hunt may include:
- traffic spikes measuring upwards of 100 unique visits per hour,
- getting featured by media outlets like Tech Crunch or Business Insider,
- money falling on you from out of nowhere,
- business partnerships and product development ideas.
This post will give you the necessary steps to give your launch a chance at becoming one of those success stories.
Fair warning: Product Hunt is a system that can't be gamed, and of course not every product can win, no matter how popular. Here's why.
How Product Hunt works and how it doesn’t
There is one basic thing you need to keep in mind: Product Hunt is not a simple democracy.
It started as a newsletter made to help its subscribers - investors, makers, tech enthusiasts and influencers - discover the very best new products. It has its core group of founders, tastemakers and moderators who make sure only the best products make it to the top.
To make your vote count, you need to earn their trust in your judgement. The ranking system is about quality of the vote, over quantity. That's why you won't win by rallying all your loving users to vote for you. And actually, you shouldn't even try, because it might kill your launch.
The second thing to keep in mind is: not every type of product will get a chance to be featured. It has to be something interesting to the Hunters, especially the influencers. There is no quick recipe to determine what will make your product successful, but a preliminary set of criteria could be:
Does it fix a problem that many entrepreneurs have? Maybe with payments, international taxes or hiring? Does it help marketers, account managers or data analysts? Does it improve customer experience? Is it a more usable and beautiful version of a product people need but hate using? Does it fix an important problem in the world? Does it include Slack, gifs or kittens or anything else universally considered awesome?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, there’s a good chance your finished product might be a good fit for the community. The next step would be to browse Product Hunt and find successful products similar to yours. You’ll find out who else thinks you’ve created a good thing. Keep track of who featured those products.
Become part of the community
This is not strictly necessary to do (for those who dislike success). To be fair, most great products “only” have to be great to get recognition. But with enough effort, this part of the launch preparation could bring enormous value in the future, sometimes in unexpected ways. It’s a no brainer that knowing more people in the business is better than knowing less.
And even if Product Hunt launch is just a numbers game for you - this is how you earn the real numbers. No offense to integers.
Sign up for Product Hunt and start participating in the community weeks before your launch. Make sure to register under your own name, not a company. Upvote products you like (especially those similar to yours), create collections, find like-minded Hunters on twitter and make friends. Be helpful and genuine - you’ll be surprised how much you can gain from selflessness.
There are Slack channels and Facebook groups where tech entrepreneurs hang out. Maker Hunt and Startup Study Group, for starters. Those are great places to get feedback and give feedback to other founders, to find early users or beta testers, or business partners.
As you get to know other Hunters who may like your product, as you help them in their Maker journey and maybe even they help you, make sure to have their emails, or at least their attention on twitter. You’ll need them on the launch day.
Find your Product Hunt patron
The biggest mistake makers make when launching on Product Hunt is submitting the product on their own.
Of course, that is a valid way to do your launch, but it probably won’t get you featured. When you submit your own product and don’t have a following on the site, the only way you’ll get noticed is if a moderator promotes you, or one of the influencers picks you out of tens of submissions languishing in the “newest” tab. If that happens, try not to cross any streets, because you might have just used up your daily luck quota.
What you want to do, a few weeks before your launch, is reach out to community influencers who will like your product enough to support it. When someone Hunts your product, an notification is sent to all their followers. Here’s a list of the most followed users on Product Hunt. Take some time to find a few people in the top 20 who could find your app useful, like those who have featured or upvoted similar ones in the past, or maybe they’ve written recently on a problem your product helps solving? Look for things you two have in common.
Reach out to them, one at a time, with a short message about what your product does, where they can test it and why you think they could find it useful or interesting. Ask if they’d like to help you launch it on Product Hunt within a certain time frame. Be honest, straightforward and polite, they’re busy people. If you don’t hear back after a few days, follow up once, and then again with a quick note, letting them know that you’re moving on, assuming they are not interested.
It’s always a good idea to start a friendly relationship with someone before you ask them for something. But if for some reason you can’t do that, there are Product Hunters eager enough to discover great new things, who are used to being cold-pitched by Makers every day.
If a few of the top users in a row turn you down, it might be a sign that your product needs some more work to be successful on Product Hunt.
Product Hunt exclusives
Make a landing page to welcome visitors from PH. RealtimeBoard had a neat idea to use a Hello Bar to gently remind Hunters there’s a discussion going on about their product.
Actually, go one step further and prepare an extra offer for Hunters. Since they give you feedback and exposition, it’s only fair to thank them with a discount, extended trial, or free in-app purchase.
The day of your Product Hunt launch
When you find your Hunter, agree on a posting time.
Tuesday-Thursday gets the most traffic, but also possibly the biggest competition. Friday - Sunday are a relatively bad time slot, because you need to be #1 in the Tech category to be featured in the Monday newsletter.
If you’re aiming at being in the top five on the homepage, aim for early morning Pacific Time. Some stories even say, as early as 5am. That’s when Silicon Valley wakes up for their morning reading with a healthy, locally grown breakfast. Timing is important, because Product Hunt rating algorithm favors products that got a lot of upvotes in the first hours after being submitted.
If you’re looking for more traffic - launch right after midnight PT, when the Product Hunt date changes. This will let you stay longer on the homepage and catch some of the European Hunters’ morning views.
As soon as you go live on Product Hunt, tweet @ProductHunt telling them you’re the maker of your product and they’ll give your account commenting rights. Jump right into the product page and introduce your invention. Welcome everyone into discussion and respond to comments as they come.
Invite your Hunter friends into the discussion on your product page. Many people will be happy to come and support you.
If you have friends among twitter superstars, or any other influencers, let them know you got featured. Don’t ask for anything, just share the good news about a new product they will probably like.
Upvotes - to ask or not to ask. Ranking algorithm
Don’t. For the day of your launch, forget the word “upvote.”
There are stories of makers who got away with asking their friends and users to sign up for PH and upvote them. Don’t do it. At best, those votes will be worth a fraction of a point each. At worst, they will trigger the voting ring protection and push you down the ranking or even remove you from the home page.
Product Hunt algorithm is known only to its creators, but they have confirmed that if a large majority of upvotes come from new or “connected” accounts, it may trigger the voting ring protection (source)
There are also unconfirmed theories, most notably this one: when you announce your PH debut, you should link to the home page, not your product page. But Ross Curie disputes that. After all, when Product Hunt tweets about your app, they link directly to it.
What you definitely should avoid is mentioning the word “upvote” or “vote” when you post about your launch and notify your friends.
A good practice is to let everyone know when you got to the front page of Product Hunt and invite fellow Hunters to join the discussion. The best thing non-hunters could do is retweet the good news or blog about your product.
Don’t fall asleep
With a successful launch, you’ll stay up all night answering questions and thanking for blog posts and retweeting congrats. Some startups use Product Hunt as just one part of their launch day, parallel to Hacker News, app stores and specialized tech sites, like Designer News.
See this case study of four consecutive Product Hunt launches to get an idea of what kind of stats you can expect. Results vary. Some products do better on Product Hunt, some on Hacker news. But getting your app featured in front of the Hunters, if you follow the rules and become a valuable part of the community, will always pay off.