August 11, 2014

Top takeaways from a growth hacking conference

Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, speaking at the Weapons of Mass Distribution conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

Make sure your content is unique, relevant and looks great

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaToday, it seems, just about all startups — and even more mature companies — want to wield the growth hacking buzzsaw. Growth hacking was the theme that drew several hundred marketers, entrepreneurs and business strategists to the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco on Thursday for the fancifully named Weapons of Mass Distribution conference put on by 500 Startups.

And while growth hacking may be hot hot hot right now — even marketing consultant Sean Ellis, who coined the term, was on hand — the impressive lineup of speakers made it clear that to succeed, a new enterprise can’t spin flax into gold. You’ve got to have some kick-ass idea to begin with, and you have to have a product team that knows how to execute. And then, yes, by all means, call in the growth hackers and marketers to run the numbers, size up your analytics, get feedback from customers, and create a virtuous product development loop that fast-tracks your company on to its inevitable trajectory of fame, riches and a guest spot on Jason Calacanis’s “This Week in Startups” podcast.

I captured some of the magic on stage and in the room in this Flickr photo set. (Ah, Flickr, you were on that fast track once!)

Rand Fishkin: Create great genuine editorial content

Let’s begin with the awesome presentation SEO Tactics to Love vs. Leave given by Rand Fishkin, founder and CEO of SEO/marketing firm Moz.

Some tips and takeaways from Rand’s talk:

• Thousands of companies are now flocking around the banner of content marketing, believing that Google will reward them for their efforts. Ditch that approach, Fishkin said. Google is looking for genuine, organic editorial content that fosters conversation and community, not manufactured storytelling. See Rand’s equally astute Slideshare preso, Why Content Marketing Fails.

• “Make sure your content is unique, it’s relevant, it’s helpful, it’s uniquely valuable, and has a great UX.” So says Rand. Now go make it so.

• With Google Analytics becoming something of a black box, check out, the best (free) keyword tool in the market these days. Check it out, it’s magnificent.

• Another of his favorite new tools: BuzzSumo, a tool for content marketing and SEO campaigns.

• 6 billion searches a day take place on Google, and already 50 percent of them are coming from mobile.

• Use Google Plus, even if you think nobody else is.

Who said, ‘War is 90 percent information’?

Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics: “The ideal number of questions to ask in a survey is five.” And: For multiple choice questions, limit it to no more than four choices. And: Add images to your survey to dress it up.

• Sean Ellis: “How do your customers describe the product? Ask them. They usually do it more accurately than the CEO.” I just ordered Sean’s Kindle edition book Startup Growth Engines on Amazon.

• James Currier, co-founder, ooga Labs: “Your growth person should be the most aggressive person on the team, so much so that the CEO has to tell him he’s going too far.”

• Brian Balfour, VP of growth at HubSpot: “Every good answer starts with a question.”

• Holly Liu, co-founder of Kabam: Create rewards to help people on Facebook become helpful to their friends instead of being spammy.

• Gustaf Alströmer, Growth Product Manager, Airbnb: “Our philosophy is simple: Our users tell the story better than we do.” And: “We never compromise on user experience. No tricks.”

And I’ll leave you with this:

• “War is 90 percent information.” – Napoleon, as quoted by Aihui Ong, founder & CEO, Love With Food.


• Growth Hacking Distribution For Your Startup (Scott Allison in Forbes)

How to build a content marketing strategy (

Content marketing: How to get discovered in search ( Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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