Lean Domain Search at 3½

Lean Domain Search, despite almost no work since its acquisition by Automattic two years ago, has continued to thrive, now handling more than 160,000 searches per month:

lean-domain-search-3.5-black

It’s monthly growth rate works out to be about 6.5%. Not huge, but not bad for maintenance mode. :)

I think its growth is still driven almost entirely by word of mouth so if you’ve ever shared it with anyone (I’m looking at you, Jay Neely), thanks!

One Year After its Acquisition, Lean Domain Search’s Monthly Search Volume is Up 200%

One year ago today, Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, acquired my small startup, Lean Domain Search.

I’m happy to report that Lean Domain Search’s monthly search volume has exploded over the last year going from 31,000 searches in May 2013 to more than 95,000 searches in May 2014.

To put that in perspective, here is a chart showing the number of searches per month for its entire history:

leandomainsearch-traffic

Despite the fact that we’ve haven’t done much work on it in the last year (we’ve been focused heavily on improving domain search and registration on WordPress.com), Lean Domain Search’s traffic is 3x what it was a year ago. Not bad right?

I think its growth can be attributed to four main factors:

First, before we announced the acquisition I made Lean Domain Search completely free to use. Prior to that you could perform a search but you would only be shown a limited number of results unless you paid for a premium plan: 150 search results for free, $79 for two months of full access (5,000 search results) or $199 for full access year-round. With no restrictions in place, Lean Domain Search became a lot more useful for non paying users which made folks more likely to perform multiple searches.

Second, with the help of Ashish and Barry on Automattic’s Systems Team, we moved Lean Domain Search’s search server over to Automattic’s infrastructure, giving it a nice performance boost. Today it generates all 5,000 search results in about 1.25 seconds on average.

Third, becoming an Automattic product definitely didn’t hurt things. While we don’t go out of our way to advertise it, the new ownership does add a certain amount of legitimacy to it that I think has helped it spread.

That brings me to the last and most important factor in its growth over the last year: people sharing it with each other. When folks use Lean Domain Search to name their website, there is a good chance they will wind up sharing it with others. Some of those new folks will head over to Lean Domain Search to check it out and wind up using it to name their website and then sharing it with their friends and so on. I think this virality factor is a big part of its fast yet steady growth over the last year so if you’ve ever shared Lean Domain Search with a friend, thanks :)

Will Lean Domain Search’s growth continue at the same pace over the next year? Maybe its growth will accelerate even more? We will see :)

#onward

PS: Interested in making the web a better place? We’re hiring.

Marketing Mornings

At last year’s Micrconf Mike Taber, one of the event organizers, gave a talk on how setting up systems and processes can benefit your organization. One of his recommendations was to establish Marketing Mondays where you set aside one day a week to work entirely on marketing efforts.

The idea that you should have to set aside time for something as essential to your business as marketing might seem laughable, but it is a big problem for a lot of startups including my own. Given the choice between building something new and writing a blog post, for example, I’ll almost always start up TextMate and start coding. It’s not that I don’t think marketing is important, but that I love coding and I have this misguided belief that if I build a great product it will  market itself through other people sharing it.

If you build a good product, a fraction of your visitors will share it and if you’re lucky your startup will even grow organically through word of mouth. The reality, however, is that most startups will either grow too slowly or not at all if you’re relying solely on word of mouth. You absolutely need to find other ways of educating people about the existence of your product.

And while I know this is true, I still don’t always do it. For most of January I was working on the new Domain Name Trends tool for Lean Domain Search. From start to finish it took about a month to complete. Each day I woke up I had a choice of what to work on and I always chose to work on developing this new product at the expense of everything else. How much marketing did I do during this time? Take a look at Lean Domain Search’s news section:

lds_news_sidebar

I had one update on December 18th, right before I started working on the trend analysis tool. My next blog post was not until January 28th, the day I launched the tool. I did not do any major marketing activities during that time.

Would one interesting, well-written blog post per week have delayed the trend analysis tool launch by that much? Maybe a few days. But here’s the more important question: what’s my primary objective? It’s to grow Lean Domain Search (and my other product, Preceden). Building this new trend analysis tool was a major initiative and long term it may be a major factor in Lean Domain Search’s long term growth, but maybe not. I should have spent more time marketing while I was working on this new feature in order to keep a steady stream of new visitors coming to the site. Marketing is not something you do only when you need a break from coding.

With that in mind, I’m going to try out something new: instead of Marketing Mondays like Mike suggested, I’m going to practice Marketing Mornings. Every day from around 9am to noon I am going to work on marketing initiatives instead of product-building initiatives. This will include writing blog posts and tutorials, making videos, going over analytics data, analyzing conversion funnels, improving SEO, and more.

It’s hard to say for sure what the outcome will be or whether I’ll be able to maintain it long term, but I’ll probably be marketing about 5 times as much as I have done in the past so it will be interesting to see what happens. I’ll post updates here periodically on what marketing things I’ve done and what the results wind up being so that hopefully others can benefit from my lessons learned as well.

Wish me luck. :)