Growth terminology: What’s a smoke test?

Smoke testing in the context of growth marketing is a way of quickly, and with very limited resources, finding out whether a growth idea is worth executing or not.

If you’re trying to gain traction for your software product, there are a ton of growth experiments you could run. Most of the time, growth marketers have no problem coming up with ideas, the challenge is to find out which idea to execute next.

Typically there’s a reliance on engineering that slows things down as well. “We’d love to execute that idea… but engineering is busy and they don’t have time to do this now.”

A smoke test is a method to validate a growth idea without relying on engineering.

Here’s an excerpt from Lean Startup:

Smoke test with its marketing materials. This is an old direct marketing technique in which customers are given the opportunity to preorder a product that has not yet been built. A smoke test measures only one thing: whether customers are interested in trying a product.

DistroDom (aka Dominic Coryell) released an excellent free course on smoke testing that you can go through in less than 1 hour.

Smoke test process

Dominic shared a 6 step process for smoke testing growth ideas:

  1. What is the hypothesis?
    Keep your hypothesis simple: If we do______(growth idea) then we’ll be able to achieve ______ (result) in ______ (time period) by investing ______ (dollar amount).
  2. What is the minimum proof I need?
  3. How can I get that proof with no coding?
  4. How can I get the right traffic?
  5. How can I measure conversion?
  6. How do I analyze and optimize?

=> What did I learn?

Why is this smoke test process so valuable? Because it enables you to let customer demand decide how to grow your business, rather opinions and guesstimates.


Smoke testing the smoke test course

One of the things I like the most about DistroDoms course is actually that he at the end of the course reveals how this free course is a smoke test for a paid course he’s launching on the same topic.

DistroDom’s hypothesis was:

  1. Hypothesis: If I give free content, people will like it enough and buy the course if they need more advanced courses from deep-dive experts.
  2. Minimum proof: If 15% of the people who see the landing page sign up for the free course, and there’s at least 100 signups for free.
  3. Do it with no coding: For this free course, no coding was required, but it would take DistroDom about 1 week to record all these videos for the free course before getting minimum proof.
    He set the landing page up using InstaPage and Canva to design some of the creative assets on that landing page. He also used emojis from EmojiOne.
    All the signups went into Autopilot using a simple 1-click integration for InstaPage. (He said it’s one of his favorite email automation tools, very low priced compared to comparable alternatives. Plans start at $20/month! He did a video screenshare of the Autopilot interface, and it looks really awesome. I might finally get rid of that old Aweber account I still pay for and move things over…)
  4. Right traffic: DistroDom didn’t have time to implement a referral program. So instead he sent people directly to the paid program landing page to see if anyone would buy. Some people did!
    When people sign up for the free course, he’s running their emails through ClearBit to get some context around who it is that’s signed up.
    In terms of getting early traction, he’s got a nice framework for how to get it:
    Network: Easy (low impact)
    Paid: Medium (medium impact)
    Community (blogs, forums, press, buzz, influencers…): Hard (high impact)
  5. Measure conversion: Since this was just an email signup form, it was super easy. Number of visitors & number of signups.
  6. Analyze & optimize: DistroDom hasn’t done that yet, since this is so early in the process.

With every growth experiment, there’s 3 phases:

  1. Smoke test it
  2. Get distribution
  3. Keep or toss it

Random things:

  • There are several useful templates in there that you can use to turn the theory into action.
  • He uses Jeff Bezos’ / Amazon’s press-release method to “announce” new ideas.
  • He often feeds data into these three tools to use them in different ways:
    Stamplay – This is one I haven’t heard of before. It’s a visual API builder, and according to DistroDom “the most robust way to connect data”. Curious to try this out soon. They have a free plan, and then the paid plans range from $24/month to $499/month.


What is the Goal Flow report in Google Analytics?

In Google Analytics, there’s a report called Goal Flow.

First of all, in order to use this report at all, you must have goals set up.

A goal is a certain action you want a website visitor to take on your website.

Watch this video by Google explaining in less than 3 minutes what a goal is:


What types of actions can be goals?

There’s a variety of actions a website visitor can complete that you could define as goals in Google Analytics. But the most common two kinds of actions you’ll want to track as goals in Google Analytics are:

  • sign-ups or form submissions
  • purchases.


Why set up goals?

Setting up goals makes it easy for you to keep an eye on the most important metrics of your online business.

Goals can provide you with answers to the following questions:

  • How many conversions took place within a given date range?
  • What was the conversion rate?
  • Which marketing campaigns are performing best?

2 types of goals: Macro & Micro

There are two kinds of goals you want to define.

Macro goals

What’s the most important action you want website visitors to take? If you’re selling something online, then the answer is: making a purchase.

So every time a website visitors buys something on your website, that’s a macro goal.

If the primary objective of your website is to collect leads for an expensive service, then a form submission is a macro goal for you.

Micro goals

What are steps people often take before completing a macro goal?

In the case of an online shop, an example of a micro goal could be:

  • adding an item to a shopping cart
  • adding an item to a wish list
  • signing up for a newsletter
  • etc

There are no universal rules as to what the right way to define a micro goal is vs a macro goal, it’s all about the context in which these goals are relevant to your business.

You can learn more about Goals in Google Analytics here.

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 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.