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Review Signal Launch: Stats, Failures, Successes and Lessons Learned

It's been two weeks since Review Signal launched. The initial excitement of reaching it's first major milestone is over and I finally have a moment to think about how it went.

The Stats:

3,041 Visits
10,163 Pageviews
3.34 Pages per Visit
Average Visit Duration: 2m 16s
Bounce Rate: 5.52%
Visitors from TechCrunch: 727

Failures and Short Comings:

Social Sites - Reddit, HackerNews
It got very little traction in these communities which was disappointing because I thought these were the audiences most likely to appreciate Review Signal. Reddit was a gamble that it would be picked up, it's a huge community and it's hard to balance legitimacy and self-promotion. HackerNews I thought would be more appreciative of the problem I was trying to solve. I got a couple hundred hits and a few comments (15, many of which were my own replies). The commenters brought up some good issues, for example, the hosting recommendation doesn't work well for the HackerNews crowd. There are so many options for hosting that making a good recommendation for advanced users is incredibly hard to do with a simple form.

Contact an Expert Broke
It worked when I tested it, but somewhere between testing it and launch day it stopped working. Not sure how that happened, but it did. Some people will never hear back from me because it didn't save and send their requests for help properly. I am truly sorry about that.

I didn't prepare enough for launch day. I had been working towards this day for months and prepared an exhaustive list of things I wanted to accomplish on day 1. I completed maybe 15% of that list. I hit the major ones, but I missed a lot of low hanging fruit which could have helped make a bigger impact. The more human side of it was I got overwhelmed and I vastly underestimated how much I could do on the fly.

Utilizing Other People
I built Review Signal alone, but on launch day I had two friends take the day off and volunteer to help me do things. I say things because I don't think I effectively used their skills. Let me be clear, Zack and Danny are both fantastic people and what happened says nothing about their talents and abilities. I am incredibly lucky to have such amazing friends. I wasn't prepared enough to work with other people on launch day. I had a few vague ideas about what they could do to help but very few concrete things for them to actually do. I definitely didn't have instructions or information to make it easy for them. More planning and better communication would have made a big difference.

What went well:

TechCrunch covered the launch.
That was really exciting and sent a lot of very high quality traffic. The bounce rate was under 2% and people were staying for over 2 minutes. I thought the article did a fantastic job explaining what Review Signal was and the challenges it faces. Some might say it's a vanity metric, the number of people who reached out to me because of the article was incredible. It opened a lot of doors that I am sure would still be closed if I hadn't gotten covered in TC.

Secondary Press

The TechCrunch article also got me covered in The Web Hosting Industry Review (TheWHIR). One of the largest, if not the largest, web hosting magazine. I also had a couple other articles written by smaller startup blogs.

Nginx +

Once I knew I was getting TechCrunch coverage I got worried about how much traffic my server could handle. I setup Nginx as a reverse proxy and cache and it performed like a champ. I had people complimenting how fast the site loaded. As far as I can tell the server never blinked. It peaked at 60 active users according to Google Analytics. I tested my site constantly with which allowed me to test up to 300 concurrent users for free. The site was struggling under Apache with that load, but once I got Nginx in front of Apache, all my concerns faded away. I couldn't generate enough concurrent users to see where Nginx would actually start to slow down.

Lessons Learned and how I would do it next time

The most time consuming thing on launch day was crafting messages. Coming up with post titles, writing emails, IM'ing friends, and all sorts of other messages. Almost all of that could have been done before hand. I could have drafted emails, I could have written a few templates for IMs and message boards. I had the stories I wanted to use crafted but they weren't ready to simply copy+paste into messages. Each message also required some degree of personalization because nobody likes spam emails. Next time, I will have everything 1 click away from sending for launch day.

Test Everything. Again. And Again.

I should have done more thorough testing. I especially needed to make sure that the contact points with customers functioned properly. I got a lot of emails reaching out to me on launch day, but I missed quite a few hosting recommendations. The hosting recommendations probably had the highest potential value of any visitor to my site, and I lost all of them. Fail.

Paid Press Releases

I used PRWeb and their analytics tell me I got 15508 impressions and 221 reads. I have no idea what or where those impression numbers come from or how they are calculated. PRWeb sent 83 visitors which had the lowest stats of any referrer in terms of bounce rate, pages/visit and visit duration. But, that got syndicated across a bunch of websites like Yahoo. If the goal is strictly to get press, it was a waste of money. From an SEO standpoint, I don't know and it's incredibly hard to measure the value of the release.

If you have any ideas, questions or feedback I would be happy to hear it. You might also enjoy my previous project's launch story: Gift Lizard Launch: Stats, Failures, Successes and Lessons Learned.