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How Hacker News hit us with 10 000 unique visitors in 10 hours

Maybe someone a few months after publishing this post will come here via Google, searching what trending on Hacker News ( can do to your website traffic. Or to put it the other way, how much traffic can Hacker News give you. So I wrote this post about how it happened to us.

Most of you know the importance of good blogging. We are trying to blog as much as we can, and naturally, sometimes we lack the subject to write about. But that day I knew I wrote something interesting, which can be of great help to other startups. So after I published the blog post I shared it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+. But nothing much happened (just like any other day).

Old and new record - unique visitors
Old and new record – unique visitors

Here you can see the new record, compared to our past record when we got a lot of press coverage due to publicly announcing the receiving of angel investment and starting our company.

Then, I thought, well, with all the clutter and social media noise, probably most of the people didn’t see it. So I shared it again on all the major social networks. But this time I specifically tagged 10 people (and asked them to share). I tagged people that I was 100% sure they would like the article, and maybe share it. Although I never ask for retweets, or share, this time I did. Most of them did share the blog post, and Ivan Brezak Brkan submitted the article to I found out about this after I saw Tomislav Biscan’s tweet published on his website

So I went to Hacker News, and found out, that in fact, we were trending, and among top posts with 8 up-votes. At first, I wasn’t sure this was the head page because (and you are probably going to hate me know) I wasn’t (you see, here I used past tense, indicating I have changed ๐Ÿ˜€ ) visiting Hacker News that often. But after just a few moments I got it and I was shocked and started to yell at Edi the other co-founder that we are on the top of Hacker News.

This article was about questions you need to answer if you want to get funding for your startup, targeted at the startup community. It seemed as if everyone there were just waiting for that kind of an article. ๐Ÿ™‚

Immediately I contacted every Hacker News lover I know and asked them to up-vote us, since we were doing so great. To let you know right away, we ended up with about 120 votes, which was just phenomenal. Then when the excitement was over, I went back to work. About an hour later, I thought about checking the Google Analytics statistics. The tab was already opened since I was doing some research, and it was set for the past six months. But after I left the tab opened, the graph completely changed, meaning it was flat with one peak way to the right (today). Yes sir, in about hour and a half about 2000 unique visitors came to read the blog post. I was shocked and I felt a little bit dizzy.

Hourly unique visits exploded due to Hacker News
Hourly unique visits exploded due to Hacker News

It was the Hacker News effect, and we were both saying OMFG at the same time. After that, it was just straight 1000 unique visitors per hour until the day finished at over 10000 unique visitors. Edi opened the daily statistics, set it to hourly and had it open during the whole day. FYI, for all you technical readers, our blog is based on WordPress, and servers didn’t give in to any huge server load.

There was a lot of retweeting, favoring, and some websites in China, Japan, Spain, and Croatia also covered my article. It was pretty awesome to see my name, then some Chinese-Japanese letters I couldn’t understand, then WhoAPI and again some unknown letters ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s too bad we didn’t get any new customers (although we weren’t going for them with that blog post, it was focused on the startup community). We did get some new users with test accounts, and a couple of emails and tweets directed to the functionality of the WhoAPI service. After that, Hacker News was beginning to be flooded with SOPA and GoDaddy, so we declined slowly. But what matters is, we crossed the 10 000 record which was… insanely great.

Supplement from comments below

This one was a test that showed what traffic can HN send you. It also explained why it worked so well (startup, investing -> ycombinator, huge audience = lots of traffic). This didn’t work for new customers, but it showed us the way.

Also, when you ask early adopters, trendsetters, experts to share, you never know how they will do it. In our case, Brkan showed us where this article should be shared.

Great stuff ๐Ÿ™‚ textbook example. Another textbook example is this article, it is also catching on because people on Hacker News love to read success stories about Hacker News. ๐Ÿ™‚


Written by Goran Duskic

I am the founder and CEO at WhoAPI. Entrepreneur for more than a decade in the hosting and domain industry. Sold my previous company. 500 Startups and StartLabs alumni. Author of a white paper "Domain Disclosure: Dirty Dozen" and eBook "26 Fundraising Questions for Startups".

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