Businessman working at desk
Shutterstock / Everett Collection

Over the last three months, my project here at Growth Devil has been to growth hack our own website. We wanted to see what kinds of changes we could make that would lead to real growth; using the Pirate Metrics model I focused on acquisition, activation and referral.

We tweaked almost every part of the website, leaving nothing untouched, and the results have been positive. You can see from the chart below that we have been seeing a solid growth curve since my growth hacking experiments began.

Featured Images On Blog Posts

We tried a number of different featured images on our blog posts to test their success rates.

The images used in our comparison ranged from standard stock photos to custom-designed, vector-based images. We also used posts with no featured images at all, similar to the KISSmetrics blog, for the sake of a true comparison.

Our tests ultimately showed us that it is better to include images in the blog posts in terms of their popularity; however, we were not satisfied either with stock photos or vector-based images.

In the end, we decided to use vintage 1940s photos from the Everett Collection, which are memorable and really stunning.

Social Sharing Buttons

Social sharing buttons make it easier for a blog audience to share content with their friends and contacts, but we wanted to know which factors influenced high or low sharing numbers.

Our tests revealed that the best way to handle these social sharing buttons is to place them at the top of the content and remove any attached social counters. It is also important that the content is pre-formatted for various platforms so that sharing is fluid and simple.

It has been suggested that full-on removal of social sharing buttons will increase audience conversations, so we also tested this theory. It turns out that social counters, which tally the number of shares on a piece of content, can directly influence viewer behavior.

Although some other conversion rate optimization experts suggest that taking sharing buttons out of blog posts streamlines the visual content and compels viewers to click through, we feel it is merely low social counts that must be eradicated.

Low counter numbers suggest to new viewers that the content is of low quality, while high numbers suggest that it is more sharable.

Popups For Newsletter Subscribers

Popups are advocated by a lot of professionals to boost newsletter subscriptions; however, they can also be incredibly annoying to page viewers.

Mauro D. Andrea is an advocate of using popups on website pages because you can gather more email subscribers with popups than without them.

Of course, it is also true that poor use of popups can hurt your brand and turn viewers immediately away from your page — which is obviously not what you want.

So, we tested the theory out for ourselves with Pippity. It didn’t bring in any more email signups than the normal signup page did, so we got rid of it.

The Minimal Home Page Shrank Even More

Our homepage was already pretty simple, but we went ahead and streamlined it even more. First, we removed the newsletter signup form, and then we got rid of the Pirate Metrics graphic to further clean things up.

All we left was the value proposition, some micro-copy and a simple call to action; people keep telling us that they love the new look.

Another upside to this homepage renovation is that it lets us qualify each page viewer based on whether they click through to another page or leave right away.

Email Marketing Service

We tried out a few different email marketing services before deciding on Vero. Mailchimp and Drip didn’t have enough of the features that we wanted or needed, while InfusionSoft was constantly in need of tech support.

The switch over to Vero was seamless, and the package has all the features we want.

White Papers As Marketable Content

We tested providing white papers on growth hacking and found that they weren’t worth the time. Someone left a comment on one of our articles, chiding:

“A true growth hacker would have made this a downloadable PDF which required an email.”

My response was:

“A true growth hacker would test everything to see what works best.”

At any rate, we did ultimately try to make it a downloadable PDF. We also placed the content behind a content locker and simply published it as a regular blog post. The results of these trials were not impressive.

Written Guides As A Source of Traffic

Our guides are a great source of traffic for Growth Devil, so we’re going to keep producing them as an acquisition channel.

We are thinking about expanding these popular guides by adding things such as growth hacking tools that our viewers can access through our page. Tools like these would also likely expand our customer base.

Email Courses Versus Newsletter Signup

We were interested in how an email course would be received in relation to newsletter signups, so we tested it out, too.

We wrote an email course called “Introduction to Growth Hacking,” and in fewer than four days, 300% more people had signed up for the course than had signed up for our normal newsletter.

There were some problems with our initial course presentation, such as articles that were too lengthy, but we’ve identified these issues.

After one week, we had only one un-subscriber, but the open rate had dropped to 33%. Now, we plan on completely rewriting the course to correct our first mistakes, as well as writing several more that will be on offer in the future.

Posting Frequency And Content Length

According to Google, articles will perform better on its search engine if they are at least 500 words in length. To test this out, we have been creating both long-form and shorter-form content over the last three months.

In the end, we saw that articles that were about 1500 to 1800 words in length did perform better than the shorter articles.

We also learned, however, that shorter articles with snappy headlines and a more conversational tone could perform just as well as longer articles in terms of being shared.

Based on these tests, we are currently creating a mix of long and short content throughout the month: four long posts of 1500 to 2000 words, and about three to four posts of 800 to 900 words.

Neil Patel has researched the text content-popularity relationship thoroughly, and concluded that the more text content your website has, the more popular it will be in search results.

Most of the top-rated websites have around 2000 to 2500 words. In terms of social network sharing, content over 1500 words receives markedly more shares than content with fewer than 1500 words.

The bottom line, however, is that you can’t increase conversions with social networks or any other media if your content isn’t really fantastic. Conversions come from lengthy posts that are truly valuable to the reader.

Content Topics

We tested more than 20 broad content topics, and based on our results, we’ve decided to focus on four major topics: email marketing, growth hacks, conversion rate optimization and customer service.

These are the areas that were the most popular in our tests, so we are going to continue working on them.

Updating The Sidebar Menu

The sidebar has been moved to the left-hand side, which makes it more accessible to viewers as well as less intrusive than it was before.

The expansion of our website on the whole meant that we had to re-evaluate our menu, which resulted in the new sidebar.

We wanted to avoid drop-boxes because they stifle traffic flow and conversion rates, so the sidebar works as a more efficient and friendly way to interact with viewers and add more menu items over time.

Popular Posts On The Sidebar

We added a sidebar that shows viewers popular posts so that, when they are finished reading, they can click through to read another post.

The results have been great — a 150% increase in engaged users on the site. Now our most popular articles are getting even more views and shares than before, which means higher traffic to the website.

Expanded “About” Page

Our “About” page was redesigned so that viewers could get a better sense of who we are and what we do.

We made the description longer and added some examples of our work so that our business objectives were clearer.

Also, when viewers reach the end of the “About” page, we’ve added a custom popup contact form when they click on the “Contact Us” button.  Within 24 hours of implementing the changes we came into the office to five leads sitting in our inbox as a result of the redesign.

Problems with NDA

The non-disclosure agreements we have with the brands we work with prevent us from sharing a great deal of our work with potential clients. I have discussed this issue with Brandon P., who is having the same problem.

It would be helpful if we could share some details or outlines of projects that we have worked on with certain clients because this shows potential clients what we are capable of accomplishing.

1-800 Number

Our customer contact methods were centered around email.  We decided to implement a 1-800 number to see if that increased leads and potential enquiries, after 2 months we have had about 5 calls with all of them being from other companies trying to sell us something.

Based on this we will retire the 1-800 number and move to email along with Skype as our main form of communication.

Moved To WP-Engine

We wanted our website to be fast. Nobody has the patience to navigate a slow-running and slow-loading website, so we made the switch to a really great hosting company: WP-Engine.

WP-Engine is the first choice for many WordPress websites, not only because of its speed and reliability, but also because it is specifically designed to work the best with WordPress accounts.

All reviews make it clear that WP-Engine is really the best for hosted website speed, no matter how much traffic you have.

Apart from that, the platform also offers top-notch security, scalability and support.