How HelpSite.io became a #1 Product Hunt product, and what happened next

We created HelpSite.io as the simplest way to create FAQs and a support site for your business.

I had grown tired of the complexity and cost of the “full-featured” support centers like Zendesk that focus on ticket management for agents, with knowledge base features as almost an after-thought. I wanted something simpler and better.

Now time to get some users…

Getting those first few users

We quietly launched helpsite.io and slowly added features. We got some initial interest and users through various unscalable approaches:

  • Twitter: doing highly targeted searches for people looking for the solution we provide (or people unhappy with existing solutions) and reaching out. (example)
  • Quora: finding relevant topics about customer support, knowledge bases, etc. and posting interesting and useful information in a way that also provides a way to link to our site. (Being sure to include a disclaimer that I am the founder).
  • Basic SEO work: we were too new to expect to rank highly for any good keywords, however we did Google keyword searches for our ideal terms. Many of the first 2 pages of results were sites that we could actually get listed on (forums, SaaS review sites, etc.)

Attempting a Product Hunt launch

Months ago when I had the basic functionality of HelpSite.io working, I figured I’d try to promote it to a larger audience. Product Hunt was, of course, my first thought.

HelpSite.io was still lacking in basic features, and our marketing site was very lame, but I wanted listen to the famous startup advice:

If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late.
– Reid Hoffman

So let’s promote this thing!

I had read Justin Jackson’s “The Product Hunt Handbook” and knew that submitting to PH wasn’t going to be as simple as just listing it on the site myself. I had almost no followers. So I asked myself, “Who is the best person to submit the site who would also have a good reason to do so?”

HelpSite.io uses Algolia to power our search features and smart Contact Form. They have an amazing technology platform for delivering relevant search results instantly. Algolia’s founder, Nicolas Dessaigne, had successfully Algolia products on Product Hunt and has an obvious interest in helping his customers succeed. He would be the perfect person to launch us on PH. Let’s do it!

I reached out to to introduce myself. I let him know about HelpSite.io and how it was powered by his company’s search product. I asked him if he would be willing to submit HelpSite.io to ProductHunt. He’d obviously say yes, right?

Christmas Eve he responded to my email in a way I didn’t quite expect…

I was pretty disappointed at first. Hasn’t he heard anything Reid Hoffman has said???

I knew if I reached out to enough other Product Hunt influencers I could find someone else to submit our site. But then I realized Nicolas was right. It was just too early.

I decided to listen to his cue and just focus on improving the product and marketing home page instead. Over the following months, we made a bunch of improvements.

Making improvements

Our quickly-thrown-together marketing site got more love, and went from this:

To this:

It’s still not very good, but it’s a lot better and less text-heavy.

We also launched a bunch of new features:

  • Ability to invite teammates for collaboration
  • Ability to make a private/internal knowledge base
  • Ability to customize your Layout/HTML/CSS
  • SSL on custom domains

Our user base slowly grew, and we were able to solve more customer’s needs. More people were finding us. Growth was very slow, but steady.

Can’t wait around forever

Fast forward to recently… I saw that a competitor had actually launched (and was highly upvoted) on Product Hunt and Hacker News with a similar idea of “FAQs made simple”. Our product is better, but I realized that I couldn’t wait around forever before trying to get publicity. If anything, the competitor’s launch simply proved that there was demand for what we had been building.

Having recently launched some more features, it was time to try and launch. I still was hesitant about using my one-time-only Product Hunt chance, so I did a few other things instead:

Unfortunately my Hacker News and Reddit posts didn’t get much traction. I went to bed kind of disappointed.

Then something interesting happened.

Submitted to Product Hunt

I woke up very early the next morning and saw HelpSite.io had been submitted to Product Hunt by Kevin William David. Not only that, it was already #1 in Tech! It turns out the previous day’s activities hadn’t been in vain. It turns out Kevin saw our HN post.

By the end of the first day, HelpSite.io had over 700 votes

What to do when you’re on Product Hunt

Now what? Luckily we were already squarely ahead in votes of all the other products that day, so we just did a few basic things:

  • Increased the number of Heroku Dynos to ensure that we could handle the massively increased traffic load.
  • Tweeted and let a few of our users know about it.
  • Emailed Nicolas from Algolia again. He kindly shared it within Algolia.
  • Responded to inbound emails.
  • Responded to user questions in the comments section.

Why our Product Hunt launch worked

While it felt a bit like luck at the time, I think there were a few good reasons why our product jumped to the top of Product Hunt, and stayed there.

  1. We had a product that maker’s could easily identify with. It serves a broad need (almost every website needs a FAQ / help site) in a very simple way, at a great price point (including a generous free plan).
  2. It was polished enough.
  3. It was submitted by somebody with enough followers on Product Hunt, which helps with initial momentum/traction.
  4. We had enough Product Hunt users already using HelpSite.io prior to being featured, which meant that we immediately got some nice comments, totally unprompted.
Early HelpSite.io user commenting positively

Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning the importance of a good tagline. I believe one of the reasons our previous Hacker News submission didn’t gain traction was due to a too-complicated description. I was fortunate that Kevin curated the perfect tagline: “Generate a beautiful FAQ & help site in minutes.”

Good taglines matter

Results

We ended the week strongly as the #4 most popular product for the week. It’s nice when you’re only surpassed by Google, Facebook, and GitHub.

To date, HelpSite.io has received nearly 900 votes on Product Hunt and generated 40 comments there.

We got tons of traffic. While not all of the traffic was from Product Hunt alone, the vast majority of it was.

Traffic around Product Hunt launch

Obviously most of the traffic doesn’t stick around. But some of it does, and a lot more people are aware of HelpSite.io than were before. We are very happy with the continued flow of traffic and user signups in recent days, a couple weeks later.

We got thousands of page views, a few hundred signups, and even some paying customers immediately. Since we have a 30-day free trial, we expect more paying customers to come within a couple weeks.

Competitors jumping in

When you’re #1 of Product Hunt, your competitors also notice.

Our server logs showed that a SlimFAQ employee, Constantin, was trying to find a security vulnerability in HelpSite.io. Pretty naughty, if you ask me. But he didn’t find any, and it gave us a good reason to double-check our security, which never hurts.

No reason to go to /sites/1.json or /sites/index.json if you aren’t looking for vulnerabilities.

A Zendesk employee also tried to point out in comments that they have a free knowledge base too. Of course, I was able to point how restricted/limited it is compared to HelpSite.io’s free plan and how our paid plans are way cheaper too. And of course, the whole simplicity factor.

Continued positive effects

All in all, the launch was a success and had other positive side effects. For example, we got listed in the excellent SaaS Club newsletter and on WebDesigner News and on WebReviews.

Product Hunt also reached out and offering to promote a follow up piece. (Hence, this post you’re reading!)

We expect a #1 Product Hunt spot will also give us additional credibility for any future marketing we try to do.

Now what?

Our short-term opportunity is to simply convert as many of the people that expressed interest into long-term happy users. We plan on doing this through providing good support and reaching out to all our trial users.

Long-term we believe HelpSite.io will continue to succeed by providing the best product — one that solves a common need — in a very simple but powerful way. We have lots of ideas on how to make this happen. If you’d like to hear more about this, please subscribe or follow us on Twitter!

And of course, if you need hosted knowledge base software, give us a spin :)