20 things I learned from reading Hiten Shah’s new book “5 Habits to Building Better Products Faster”


Here are the 20 things I learned from reading Hiten Shah’s new (free) book 5 Habits to Building Better Products Faster:

  1. Figure out what your customers need, instead of what you think they need.
  2. The early stages of product development aren’t at all about your constraints or your resources. They’re about focusing on what’s important: the customer.
  3. Work backwards like Amazon. New initiatives start out by writing an internal press release. More details here. Take the example of the press release for Amazon AWS (now a $9.6 billion run rate business):
    Writing this took the current head of AWS, Andy Jassy, 31 drafts before he took this to Jeff Bezos
  4. The jobs-to-be-done formula is:
    When_______, I want to _______, so I can ______.
    Check out what Intercom has written about the JTBD framework.
    Intercom’s example: When I talk to customers, I want to start conversations with the right customers at the right time, so I can get quality customer feedback.
    JTBD makes the customer the compass that drives the direction of your product development.
  5. Employee motivation should be aligned with happy customers” – Chris Savage, Wistia CEO
  6. Complex ideas are almost always a sign of muddled thinking or a made up problem.”—Sam Altman, Y Combinator
  7. One of the most important habits for continuous learning and improvement: writing stuff down.
    Documentation is often more a medium of self-discipline than a way to communicate information. -> better quality thinking
    Documentation is a reusable asset, and one that accrues in value and in quantity over time

    But I'm wondering... isn't there such a thing as death by documentation? Documentation overload? Too much documentation, so that the workplace becomes a big swamp, where it's impossible to move fast because you gotta wade through all that documentation?
  8. “The simple and familiar hold the secrets of the complex and unknown. The depth with which you master the basics influences how well you understand everything after that.” —Edward Burger and Michael Starbird, 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
    Start by thinking deeply about the basics, instead of everything that you’re hoping to achieve.
    Thinking deeply isn’t about increasing complexity. It’s about breaking problems down to their most basic form. Reduce the number of steps.
  9. Tony Fadell, who led Apple’s iPod team, spent six weeks in stealth mode looking at the competition.
  10. Otellini’s decision [to say no to Steve Jobs when asked to build a new processor for the first iPhone] was completely logical and also completely wrong.
    Without context and a larger vision for the future, data means nothing.
  11. Summarize findings into a single sentence. This forces you to look away from the numbers, and into what they actually mean for your product.
  12. Before you get started on an initiative, answer the following question: What would success look like?
  13. goodbadexample
  14. Use data to constantly challenge your assumptions, to validate hypotheses, and to solve urgent problems.
  15. The only advantage a startup has over larger companies is the ability to move quickly.
    Your competitive advantage comes from your ability to attack one problem at a time. Why?
  16. Former HubSpot VP of Growth, Brian Balfour, gives a 4-step process for building focus:

    1. Identify one long-term meaningful goal: This might mean boosting the single metric we discussed in the last chapter. The alternative to focusing on one goal that matters is to spread yourself thin on short-term optimizations in order to hedge your bets.

    2. Distill the most important thing to make progress toward that goal. Say that tour goal is to increase inside sales revenue by 40%. Using data has shown you that users integrating other services increases free trial conversions by 3x. You could then focus on getting these trial users on a call with a sales rep.

    3. Create a timeline for making progress long enough to gather data. All product initiatives need to have a clear goal, a measuring stick for what success looks like, and enough time to measure. For small teams, this should range from 30-60 days. Sticking to a timeline ensures that you don’t sink too many resources into a product goal that you can’t achieve. It allows you to move on and focus on the next thing.

    4. Editing your longer-term goal according to data. The fourth step is why it’s so important to set a single measurable goal in the rst place. It’s what allows you to gure out what you’re doing right and wrong, and improve. Making mistakes is forgivable and inevitable in product, but failing to learn from them is wasteful. Startups operate under conditions of extreme uncertainty, and it’s tempting to

  17. Focus + Sequence = Speed
  18. Project management spreadsheet Hiten loves: click here
  19. A small improvement to a high-impact feature is far more important than a large improvement to a low-impact feature.
  20. Every day, ask yourself one question: “Am I working on the right thing, right now?”

I’d highly recommend you get yourself a free copy of the book and study it. Plus, you can even get a free consultation from him, which is freaking insane.

2 Pageviews, 2 spam comments

So at this point of this blog, I couldn’t care less about the number of pageviews and visitors I’m getting. It just doesn’t matter at this point.

But what surprised me was the effectiveness of the spamb0ts.

I got exactly two visitors to marketingbaby.com since I launched the blog, that’s what Google Analytics tells me.


(Btw. I’m launching a new ‘how to get rich on the internet with high-traffic websites’ course. If you sign up now, you’ll get it for a discounted $198!)

Which is funny, cause I also got two spam comments on my blog:


Spam never sleeps!

Content marketing metrics: How Intercom measures content performance

If you’re serious about content marketing, you know that one of the most difficult things it to measure its effectiveness.

(Once you’ve got things up and running that is, and you’re getting enough attention from the right kind of audience).

Solving the content marketing attribution problem is a huge challenge. Hubspot, and many other marketing solutions are pretty much build around that problem.

So it’s always interesting to hear how companies currently winning in content are going about this.

Which is why I found this interview with Intercom’s Managing Editor, John Collins, super interesting. Around 30 minutes into the call, the talk about content marketing metrics:

At Intercom, they’ve got a really strong finance and analytics team, and there’s an analytics person who works on the marketing side, so they’ve got a lot of internal data.

One of they ways they measure content marketing ROI is by segmenting signups based on behavior.

Some of the segments they have:

  1. people who first came to the marketing site, and then to the blog and then signed up for the product.
  2. people who went to the marketing site and signed up for the product, without visiting the blog.
  3. people who come to the blog first, then go to the marketing site and sign up

They found that first segment has a higher average LTV than the second or third.

So this is how they analyze the ROI of their content on a really high level.

On a more micro-level, they don’t get too hung up on metrics.

They don’t attribute certain blog posts to signups. If a post gets a low number of pageviews, then that’s a good enough indicator that this kind of content isn’t probably the best thing to repeat.

Pageviews are really only important if you’re selling advertising. And none of us are.—John Collins

You can listen to the entire interview here:


What are some interesting ways you’ve seen companies measuring the effectiveness of their content marketing?

Why does Google Analytics show more clicks than visits for an AdWords campaign?

So you’ve been running an AdWords campaign and now look into Google Analytics to see how it performs.

Google Analytics has some great reporting features for AdWords, which shouldn’t surprise you. After all, it’s their main driver or revenue.

Some facts about Google’s revenue:

Google’s 2015 revenue: $75 billion

Breakdown of that revenue:
AdWords: $52 billion
AdSense: $15 billion
Various: $8 billion

What’s various? Things like the Play Store, Chromecast, Chromebooks, Android, Google Apps and the Google Cloud Platform. 

To your surprise, you see that for some reason Google Analytics tells you there are more clicks than visits.

Wait, whaaat?

Shouldn’t the number of clicks be the same as the number of visits?

After all, you’re paying for clicks! It’s pay-per-click advertising!

And what good is a click if it doesn’t result in a visit?

This is actually a quite common phenomenon.

The number of clicks and visits is almost never identical.

different visits vs click count in google analytics for adwords ad

As you can see in the screenshot above, there are more visits than clicks. As an advertiser paying for clicks, that seems like a good thing, right? You pay only for clicks, but you get more visits from that ad. The reason is most commonly that someone might have clicked on your ad, bookmarked your page and then returned at a later point. Google Analytics counted that second visit as another visit from the AdWords, but since that particular user only clicked on the ad once, it didn’t count the second visit as a click.

But what if it’s more clicks than visits?

Feels like you’re not getting your money’s worth.

But the most common explanations here are:

  • Incorrect Google Analytics code implementation
  • Visitors clicked away from your website before Google Analytics code loaded
  • Visitors stopped loading your page before Google Analytics code loaded
  • Visitors have Javascript, images or cookies disabled, so the visits don’t get tracked

There are other explanations, and ways to fix this, and a couple of Google searches will quickly lead you to the right answers.

How to identify geographic regions that could be a source of great customers for your website

Whether you have an ecommerce business, a SaaS product or are selling services, you’ll see that there are some geographic regions which are of more value to you.

Not all traffic is created equal

One thing that I’ve seen quite commonly is that traffic from the US tends to be more valuable than traffic from India. (Even though there’s a lot of traffic coming from India, many times it doesn’t convert as well to paying customers.) No surprise here, it makes sense, and obviously there are many exceptions, I’m just picking India as one example.

Hypothetical case study: SaaS product

Let’s say you’re running a SaaS app, an invoicing app for freelancers, and you want to look at cities in the US, and you find that you get a lot of traffic from Los Angeles and New York, and very little from Saint Louis.

Now so far that’s all good and not surprising. Both LA & NY have much bigger populations than Saint Louis.

But looking at the Audience Report in Google Analytics, you might find that visitors from Saint Louis are much more engaged with your website.

They spend more time on your site, view more pages, and most importantly: become sign up for your invoicing app more often (you can see this in the audience report when you set up goals).

So what the data now tells you is:

You get a lot of traffic form LA & NY, but the goal completion rate is pretty average.

You get very little traffic from Saint Louis, but the goal completion rate is exceptionally high.

Out of 100 visitors from LA, 2 sign up for your app.

Out of 100 visitors from NY, 3 sign up for your app.

Out of 100 visitors from Saint Louis, 7 sign up.

Now let’s say a signup is worth $100 to your business.

That would mean:

  • 100 visitors from LA = $200
  • 100 visitors from NY = $300
  • 100 visitors from Saint Louis = $700

Let’s say you have a $3000 advertising budget.

And let’s say you’re bidding on the keyword “simple online invoicing app”.

Based on this data, would you just run the ad for all of the US?

“Duh, of course not, Marketing Baby…” you say.

“I’d focus on the geographic regions from where traffic is worth the most.”

And I’d tell you: “Exactly! Use AdWords’ geotargeting features to spend more of your budget on Saint Louis, and less on LA & NY.”

And if you plan to launch an offline campaign, it could be well worth starting in Saint Louis as well, since here too your ROI would most likely be higher than for LA & NY.

How to find this data in Google Analytics

Now, if you want to see which visitors convert to paying customers or sign up for your trial, you need to set up Goals in Google Analytics first.

But let’s keep that for later, and for now simply focus on a simple metric that’s indicative of the value of traffic, and that’s easily available in Google Analytics no matter how you’ve set it up: average time on site.

  1. Log in to Google Analytics and view the appropriate property
  2. Click on Audience
  3. Click on Geo
  4. Click on Location
  5. Change the Primary Dimension to City
  6. Sort the table by “Avg. Sessio Duration”
  7. Create an advanced filter by selection “Sessions” and then “Greater than:” and choose a number that’s meaningful in the context of your business. E.g. greater than 400 (If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with a long list of cities that might have sent you 3 visitors, but one of these visitors stayed on your site for 2 hours… which isn’t exactly statistically significant).
  8. Click “Apply”
  9. Go through the list and note which cities are particularly engaged.

You could even use an advanced filter to look for better data by also filtering out all cities where the Pages / Session ratio is below 3 (or whatever number is relevant for your business), or add a number of additional criteria to find the right insights faster.

How to spot mature vs emerging markets using the “Audience” report in Google Analytics

Want to see in which geographic regions you’ve got a more established presence, and in which regions there’s still a lot of potential for growth?

The Audience report in Google Analytics makes this really easy.

You can find it by clicking in the menu bar on the left on: Audience > Geo > Location


It’ll give you a map view for your audience, by default it will show you the number of sessions per region.

But a lot more interesting for our particular purpose is to look at the percentage of new sessions per geographic region.

You can view this by clicking on the dropdown button in the upper left corner, clicking “Site Usage” and then “% New Sessions”.


When you see a geographic breakdown of the percentage of new sessions, you’ll be able to see things like:

A high percentage of visitors from New York have previously visited our site already (the % New Sessions count is low).

A much lower percentage of visitors from California have previously visited our site (the % New Sessions count is high).

How could this information help you make better marketing decisions?

Well, based on this data, you might conclude that for New York, you should focus your marketing efforts on increasing customer loyalty, whereas for California, you should focus your marketing efforts on increasing awareness.

SEO-optimize your WordPress blog with the free Yoast plugin

Having studied Google Analytics for hundreds of websites, one thing I see across the board when it comes to content-heavy sites (like blogs…) is that over time, the biggest source of traffic is organic search for most websites.

If you’re running on WordPress, the free Yoast SEO plugin is a no-brainer. It makes it super easy for you to make some quick and fast improvements to your WordPress blog.

There are a bunch of SEO plugins available for WordPress, but Yoast is really the one that has the best trackrecord over a long period of time, even though they weren’t the first to tackle this problem.

You can also visit their website for some great resources and instructions on how to get the most value out of the Yoast plugin, which is super useful when you lack a basic SEO knowledge.

Quick pointers how to improve posts

What’s more, it’s just super useful for your day-to-day blogging needs.

Underneath every blog post, you’ll see something like this:


Yoast makes it very easy to preview and edit the metadata that determines how your website will show up in the Google SERPs.

What’s more, it always gives a quick assessment of each post you’re writing and suggestions on how to improve it.

Don’t follow these guidelines religiously—it’s totally okay to disregard them. Know the rules, but be free to break them.

My favorite part is actually the readability tab:


It’s like having an editor bot for every of your blog posts.

(Speaking of which, I’m so excited when there are actually great editor bots! I’m sure this is not too far ahead in the future, given all the advances in AI that are happening.)


It’s super important to have sitemaps to make it easy for Google to crawl your website. Of course, Yoast takes care of that for you! If you don’t know what XML sitemaps are, and why you should care, learn more about sitemaps here. (It’s a somewhat dry, but informative and constantly update article that explains the most important things you should know about sitemaps pretty succinctly).

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages

I’ve just installed the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) plugin by Automattic.

If you’re using WordPress, you should do this too. It takes just a minute, but will improve the experience of mobile visitors to your blog.

The web is going mobile, the amount of people accessing your content via mobile is always growing, and since the vast majority of your traffic will come from organic search, Google specifically, it would be silly not to optimize your site for mobile. Most likely, it will even increase your SERP rankings for mobile Google searches.

For more on AMP, read this, as well as Google AMP is about to become a much bigger deal, showing up in everybody’s mobile search results.

Google Analytics crash course – Reporting overview

I’m currently taking a free course from the Google Analytics Academy on anaytics fundamentals, and this video is super valuable if you want to get a very quick overview of Google Analytic’s reporting features that you can use to poke the data you’ve got in there a bit:

It’s super basic, but a great starting point. Some of the things it covers:

  • how to change date ranges for your reports (and compare to other date ranges)
  • how to change the granularity of the visual time graph (by day, week or month)
  • how to add annotations to specific dates (super useful, I use this all the time as it gives a lot of useful context to historical data when you’ll look at it in the future)
  • how to choose a default metrics for each view (and add a secondary metric to overlay that and be able to compare it)
  • a quick overview over data tables
    It’s useful to know the name of these, just so you’ve got the basic terminology of GA down.
    Data tables break down your data by a single dimension (most of the time). Each table row shows the data for a different value of the dimension
  • In data tables, you can not only change the primary dimension and add a secondary dimension, but also choose which sets of metrics will be displayed for each dimension. The most common set of metrics is probably the Site Usage set which will show things like number of visits, pages per visit, time on page, bounce rate, and so on.
  • How to filter the data in data tables using simple search queries
  • How to filter the data in data tables by using advanced filters, which allow you for example to show only data where the minimum amount of Visits is above 200, or where the average time on sit is at least 1 minute, or whatever filter will best match your needs.
  • How to change the way data is visualized using the view options (by default, most reports show the data view. But there’s also a percentage view that shows a pie chart, and you can choose which metric to be showed as a pie chart. There’s also a performance view, a comparison view and a pivot view
  • how to plot multiple rows of data
    This was a super useful feature that I wasn’t even aware of until recently, but it’s now one of my favorite features that I use quite often!

Let’s expand a bit on plotting multiple rows of data.

You probably are familiar with this common view of a graph in GA, which plots the number of sessions over a given date range:


What you can do now is to select additional rows from the data table to be plotted in that graph, in this case, it’s the number of sessions plus various traffic sources which you can see plotted in other colors:


I never paid much attention to this, because for me, the term “Plot Rows” wasn’t clear.

But if you look at the meaning, it becomes pretty obvious:

to plot: make a curve by marketing out a number of points on a graph

rows: refers to the rows you select in the data table

Shortcuts in GA

Another cool thing you can learn from this video is how to quickly access custom views that you want to use repeatedly. You can just save them as a shortcut in GA!

Simply click on “Shortcut”, give this shortcut a name, and you’ll be able to access it with just the click of a mouse button.

The shortcuts are available to you in the menubar on the left.

What are Channels in Google Analytics?

First of all, we should start out by saying that Google’s support documentation has the best, most in-depth explanation of this if you’ve got the time to really dig deep.

I’m gonna give you a quick, easy-to-understand high-level overview here.

Channels in Google Analytics are there to group data from various acquisition sources in a way that’s useful to you, the marketer looking at your analytics data.

Google gives you a bunch of Channels right out of the box, called Default Channel Groupings.

Here they are:


But you can customize Channels in Google Analytics to better match them for your own needs.