The Top Three Examples of Internet Growth Hacking

Last week, I attended the Growth Hackers Conference in San Francisco. The Keynote speaker, Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures, gave an interesting presentation about Growth vs. Growth Hacking, providing three incredible examples of growth hacking. Here’s my version summarizing his awesome presentation.

Growth and growth hacking should not be confused with one another, as they are not the same thing, nor can they be focused on at the same time within a company. They are two very separate stages in a startup, and one cannot occur without the other. Growth, is sort of like the pre-requisite to growth hacking. You can’t focus on growth hacking without having an initial phase of growth to start. And once you’ve reached a certain stage of growth, growth hacking is a strategy that grows your business exponentially without as much investment in time or money.

I’ll show you three famous examples of growth hacking and explain what Keith meant by having growth before you can focus on growth hacking.

1. LinkedIn started as a community for professional networking. They were able to grow their users from 2 million to 200 million within a few years due to this awesome growth hacking tactic: allow users to create public profiles so the search engines index their profiles and show up organically in search results. Prior to LinkedIn, it was very rare that you could find yourself within the top 5 search results, unless you were famous or written about frequently.

In order for this simple SEO concept to work successfully, LinkedIn had to grow their users from 0 to 2 million members first, which means they had to undergo some extent of growth before they could enter the growth hacking phase. Once their growth phase was to a substantial size, they could start indexing these 2 million profiles into the organic search results. By entering a search for an average working-class individual, LinkedIn URLs are now showing up as the first search result on the page (as seen below with my profile).

2. Youtube, now the second largest search engine after Google (which also owns YouTube), started out as a platform that allowed users to share their videos. So how did YouTube take advantage of growth hacking? Like LinkedIn, they had to go through a period of growth first. By reaching a certain amount of initial users with their first few thousands of users and videos, they could start focusing on growth hacking. Here’s what set YouTube apart from the rest.

The growth hacking success of YouTube was their ability to implement the nifty and easy-to-use “Embed” this video script. By making it relatively easy and painless for users to upload their videos and embed the entire video player onto any other website contributed to what it is today, having over 1 billion unique visitors each month and 72 hours of video uploaded every minute.

3. PayPal has a slightly different story, but an equally awesome growth hacking success. eBay, the leading auction site for online seller to consumer sales, allowed sellers to include their preferred forms of payment in their listings. Over time, more and more listings were accepting “PayPal,” but this wasn’t an option that was available in eBay, so sellers would write PayPal in several spots on their listings, sometimes totaling in over 10 locations on the listing.

As PayPal noticed their growth among eBay sellers, they worked out a deal with eBay to include the PayPal logo on the listings that accepted PayPal. The logo sat side by side the other preferred forms of payment, like Visa and MasterCard logos. This growth hacking idea was successful because eBay was already well-established, so PayPal was driving growth from the success of another company’s success. As more and more sellers only accepted payment via PayPal, this forced consumers and buyers to create PayPal accounts, hence the start of growth hacking. Since then, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5 Billion and is now the only logo that is shown on eBay listings in the payment methods section. Not too shabby in my opinion!

All in all, I really enjoyed the Growth Hackers Conference and am looking forward to the next one. It’s a great conference for start-ups and marketing professionals who are seeking insights for growing their business and learning real examples of how leading companies grew their businesses. I’ll release some other blog posts later this year with other really interesting presentations related back to growth hacking. Thanks Keith Rabois for sharing these three awesome examples of growth hacking! Have you had a great growth hacking idea you’ve tried in the past that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments section below.

5 Lessons PPC Advertisers Can Learn From The Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel Wedding

Just last week, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel said “I Do” in southern Italy.  As the photos and details unfold in the media, it’s been pretty difficult to avoid the juicy gossip.  Paging through multiple articles got me to thinking how clever Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are, and how online advertisers could learn a some serious advertising strategy from their over the top, yet intimate wedding.   Here’s the list of 5 lessons PPC advertisers can learn from the Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel Wedding:



Photo Credit


1. The Pink Dress:  Whether the critics love it or hate it, nearly everyone has something to say about Jessica’s amazing pink wedding gown.  The dress is untraditional, irregular, and eccentric, but according to Justin Timberlake, “It was so Jess.”  Think about this when generating compelling ad creative.  Design your ads to be innovative, eye-catching, and the talk of the town, yet completely true to your brand.


2. The Wedding Day Accessories:  Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  Although I haven’t heard what Jessica’s something blue was, her “something new” was the pink Giambattista Valli Haute Couture gown.  To add to this, her “something old” was on her custom veil, adorned with heirloom pearls that were from her grandmother’s wedding day tiara, while her “something borrowed” was a light pink pearl bracelet loaned to her by Justin’s mother.  These added accessories complemented each other nicely and were consistent across her outfit, something online advertisers should do with their ad groups and landing pages as well.  Ensuring that the keywords in your ad are in line with the keywords or placements that you’re targeting and the keywords on your landing page will result in an overall improvement in your ad’s relevancy, impacting click-through rate and Quality Score.


3.  The Reported $6.5 Million Cost: There have been numerous rumors that the couple spent $6.5 million for their special day – sounds like a pretty amazing ad budget right?  But, as you know, that money wasn’t just spent on one thing.  There was the food, photos, entertainment, flowers, dresses, decorations, and many more elements that summed up to the total wedding budget enhancing the overall event.  This is the same way you should plan out your ad budget.  Separate your online ad campaigns into different segments, whether it’s by network, device targeting, geography or anything else that will help you increase relevancy for the audience and optimize your overall cost per acquisition.


4.  The Small & Intimate Destination Wedding:  The fancy affair took place in Southern Italy and has been described as an intimate wedding of 100 guests.  Timberlake said, “It was a lot to ask of them to travel, so we figured we’d give our guests a good party!”  This is a great example of what your landing page experience should bring to the table.  It has to be worth visiting and staying on.  If you’re shelling out $6.5 million on advertising to gain 100 new visitors, make sure you have the elements on your landing page that will give visitors a good time on your site, and convert!


5.  The Last Ones Standing: The ceremony finally concluded around 5:00am, as Justin and Jessica were the last two on the dance floor.  As an online advertiser, you can and should continually make optimization adjustments to your campaigns that will allow you to maintain a steady click-through rate or even outperform the competition. You want your ads to be the last ones standing at the end of the day, rather than miss out on any “dance floor time” or impressions share.


What are some examples of how you’ve exercised best practices from Mr. & Mrs. Timberlake’s wedding in your own ad campaigns?  Have you had an ad that really resembled the pink dress? Or maybe you’ve used some sweet optimization tips worth sharing.  Tell us in the comments below.


Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter or add me to your G+ circles for more PPC advertising tips.


How to Use Google+ for Marketing – Part 1

With over 100 million active users, Google+ is an emerging social media channel that marketing gurus should justly invest time in.  Because Google+ can be used for various types of marketing, today’s discussion will focus on how Google+ can enhance your brand.  A second blog post will cover Google+’s capabilities for search engine optimization (SEO).


To get things started on Google+, here’s some things you must do:

  • Segment precisely: In order to follow someone on Google+, you must place this person into one or more of your circles.  The benefit of circles advances the ability to tailor your messaging to appropriate groups, so take some time to think your categorization strategy through, or risk a messy database of contacts.  Since every business is different, I can’t define the best way to break out your circles, but a good place to start is by using the similar segments to your existing marketing campaigns. For example, you can break out circles based on your email marketing list (opted-in, unsubscribed), your search marketing campaign structure (men, women, brands), or contacts within a CRM tool (leads, opportunities, clients).  This will take some time on your part to figure out what is best for your business.  However, remember that you can and should add people into multiple circles that you see fit. Here’s an example of just a few circles you might have, depending on your business targets.



  • Make a statement: When building out your profile page on Google+, add as much description as you can using keywords, links, photos and videos related to your brand.  Any recent and relevant content that was released should also be posted on Google+ before targeting the rest of the world.  This way, your profile isn’t completely empty when users click to your profile page.  With valuable content on your page, users will more likely add you to a circle they follow.  According to comScore, users spend about 3.3 minutes on Google+ compared to 7.5 hours on Facebook. This means you don’t have to spend loads of time on Google+ either.  However, you should be consistent across channels.  Any content that your company has already tweeted or publicly announced in a blog post or press release should be on Google+ as well.  Since there is no character limit on posts, make sure your content includes stimulating opinions, discussion topics, and/or information to build your brand.


  • Appeal to others: Gaining popularity on Google+ is very similar to Twitter.  Therefore, try using the best practices of Twitter to build your following on Google+.  Start by linking your Google+ page on your existing blog, Facebook page, Twitter handle, Linkedin profile, and email signature.  Let it be known that you’re an avid Google+ user.  Strategically engage in content by adding thoughtful and lengthy comments in a related stream.  Inspire conversation topics within threads or reply directly to people by responding to their comments.  The beauty of Google+ is you’re not restricted to 140 characters.  Well thought out, valuable, and interesting content will always attract people! Here’s a fun post that Danny Sullivan wrote receiving over 20 +1’s and over 15 comments:



  • Embrace the features: Don’t be afraid to start a hangout. Google+ hangouts allows you to conduct group video chats in which you can invite up to 9 other people to.  You can offer live video chat sessions with executives, marketing team members, or community managers.  Unlike a webcast or email in which someone can just tune out or close it altogether, hangouts require face-to-face interaction between the participants.  This could be a lucrative way to gain thought leadership in the industry, so why not test it out?  Hangouts may not work for every business type, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. 


The challenges of Google+ and how to overcome them:

  • Are Google+ users relevant to my brand?  No two platforms attract the same crowd, and the oft-lauded Google+ is no exception.  Many Google+ users belong to the technology-friendly crowd.  Consider this when creating targeted messaging.  Successfully attaining early adopters to follow you could be greatly advantageous for your brand as these folks are highly influential.


  • Where can I find followers?  Similar to Facebook marketers who strive for more “Likes” on their page, Google+ marketers must devise a strategy to gain followers. Your Google+ followers do not have to be unique brand new followers. Fans and followers on LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Twitter is the perfect place to find followers.  So sync your editorial calendar across all of your social media channels.  Many of your followers and fans may be the same across channels, but you don’t know which followers are devoted users to which platform.  


Unlike Twitter, which has been commonly used for networking and giving followers quick updates, Google+ is more parallel to Facebook as a social networking site in which friends can interact and share updates with each other.  Most brand marketers already participate in Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook.  Therefore, leverage Google+ as another channel to get similar messaging out. There’s no need to create content specifically for Google+, but rather in conjunction to your other social media channels. If you put all of your eggs into one basket, you limit the potential reach of your message.  You can’t know for sure who is on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ at the moment you make a post, so you’ll need to cover all your bases to gain maximum exposure. For example, when a blog post comes out, post the first paragraph of the blog post on your Google+ and Facebook pages, and tweet the headline.  If you’re running a promotion, announce on Twitter that full details of the promotion can be found on your Google+ or Facebook pages. In order to reach as many audiences as possible, leverage all of you
r social media channels when releasing content.


How to Use Google+ for Marketing – Part 2 will cover how Google+ affects your search marketing efforts.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Google+ or Twitter to learn more about Brand Marketing