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How you can rank on the first page of HackerNews and GrowthHackers

By Angelina Fomina on Friday, June 19, 2015

Marketing How To Guides Growth Hacking Business Hacks

We analyzed trending posts on Growth­Hack­ers, Inbound and HackerNews, so you have a bit of a data driven answer behind which posts work and which don't. We also analyzed the top authors and sources for each website, just in case you want to reach out and personally ask each con­trib­u­tor what their secret sauce is.

One of the best ways to get the word out about your start-up or to get feedback on an idea is to engage on forums that your potential user might be hanging out on.

Growth­Hack­ and are two popular com­mu­ni­ties for sales and marketing. HackerNews is pretty out­stand­ing for all things start-up and tech, DataTau for all things - surprise - data and how could I forget Stack­Over­flow - helping pro­gram­mers copy and paste one answer at a time (just kidding).

Getting out of the start-up, tech and marketing bubble - of course there are countless of other com­mu­ni­ties that may be much better for your content. Especially if you have a creative product or dont mind getting a little bit out-there with your marketing content.

"Come on baby, light my fire" - Jim Morrison

Try this bizarre list of Reddit subreddits, chuckle at the pictures posted on this Invisible Bicycles subreddit or fit right in by pretending you are a bird on The En­light­ened Bird Man. Here are a few more just for your en­ter­tain­ment -, TechSpot, Do It Yourself, Health Boards, Body­Build­ing , and whatever else floats your boat.

To win attention on forums you have to:

  1. Create amazing, relevant, en­ter­tain­ing or valuable content (Im sure you heard this over and over again).
  2. Make yourself relevant and become more than a stranger. Post content that is not self-pro­mo­tion­al. Ask questions, upvote content and leave thought provoking comments. Also, make sure to reach out to top con­trib­u­tors one-on-one. Long story short - make your name rec­og­niz­able.

Alright - let's begin sharing the magic.

1. Part I - How to post a trending article on

We analyzed 2810 posts from and went as far as three years ago to get all of the posts that recieved between 30 and 577 votes! Here are some trends from posts that had more than 30 upvotes.

The best day to post

Length of headlines

The optimal recipe for titles

Commonly used words in top ranked posts

Commonly used pharses in top ranked posts

The most popular content of all times on

And announcing the most popular post on In­bound­­dun dun dun... of course gossip ;) and about web scraping.

The best con­trib­u­tors

Authors that have the biggest average upvotes, but also post con­sis­tent­ly (not just one random awesome post) are Chris Dyson, Larry Kim and Rand Fishkin.

Sources of the best content

Websites where the most content is posted from are,,, and

However, if you take the highest performing sources (websites where posts with more than 150 upvotes came from) you get the following:

Part II - Whats popular on Growth­Hack­

Moving on to Growth­Hack­ now. We analyzed ap­prox­i­mate­ly 700 trending posts over a few months.

Does the length of your title matter?

Is there an ideal day to post?

Words you should use in your titles

We took all of the post titles and ran them through a text analyzer to check which words and phrases were the most popular amongst trending posts.

Start your posts with the following words if you want the most votes and engagement:

  1. AMA
  2. Slides:
  3. 15
  4. What
  5. Growth
  6. Show
  7. Mobile

15% of the titles started with How. However, this didnt result in the highest number of upvotes and engagement. Can you be more original with your titles?

Starting your post title with a number (other than 15) didnt result in more upvotes and engagement.

Get your post noticed by:

  1. Offering advice
  2. Asking for advice or asking questions - What, Why, How
  3. Telling people what they should do
  4. Talking about analytics, growth and data

Difference between Growth­Hack­ers and

In comparison to, posts that talk about tools, hacking, SaaS, start-ups and apps tend to trend better on Growth­Hack­ers than While posts that do better on mention link building, marketing, SEO, content and Google.

Top ranking words

Top ranking phrases

Most popular categories

Select one of the categories below to get the most upvotes and engagement on your posts. During analysis we excluded categories that only had one or two posts in them.

  1. Must Read
  2. Early Traction, Marketing Strategy
  3. User Experience
  4. Blogging, Content Marketing
  5. Growth Team
  6. Growth Hacks
  7. Mobile
  8. Customer De­vel­op­ment
  9. Growth Hacks, Mobile, Mobile Apps
  10. Early Traction
  11. Retention
  12. Ecosystem
  13. Onboarding

Most popular con­trib­u­tors

Sean Ellis, Lyle McKeany, Jimmy Daly, Madhav Bhandari, Morgan Brown, Violeta Nedkova, Stuart Hall, Becky Cruze, Lincoln Murphy and Sujan Patel.

Most popular websites

Here is where most of the content comes from:

Part III - Key Findings from HackerNews

If you have a startup chances are you have dreamt of your idea making it to the first page of HackerNews. So whats the secret sauce? How do some posts rank so well on HackerNews?

What length should the title be?

The shorter the better for HackerNews. Titles with 1 - 3 words and with 16 words outperform all other titles. However, titles with 4 or 15 words have the least amount of engagement (upvotes + comments).

What is the best first word for your title?

We took all of the trending posts and narrowed down the first words that were most commonly used in a title. If you want to rank on the first page, start with one of the words below:

  1. Apple
  2. Ask
  3. Google
  4. How
  5. I
  6. New
  7. Show
  8. What
  9. Why
  10. In­tro­duc­ing
  11. Announcing
  12. My

What should you post about?

Below are some ideas for posts if you want to rank high on HackerNews:

  1. Post engaging questions that ask the HN community something (what, how, who)
  2. Tell people you are looking for something or looking to hire someone
  3. Talk about the future, the world and time. Mention what happened in a specific year.
  4. Ask the HN community how to do something specific
  5. Announce something closing or shutting down
  6. Talk about something open source
  7. Mention YC in your post
  8. Talk about learning, life and people
  9. Use the word FREE and actually offer something that is free to the HN community

For the most engaging title try including a few of the following words:

  1. Ask questions how, why, what, etc.
  2. Make it personal include - you, I, my, and who
  3. Mention pro­gram­ming, javascript (or js), python, github, code, software, developers, engineers, linux
  4. Mention start-up, mobile, app or build
  5. Include data, web, hiring, new, science, game

Where do the posts come from?

Most of the posts come from extab­lished sources below. If you want to rank high you have to compete with the reach that the top publishers already have by building your own audience of fans that shares your content on HackerNews for you.

Try some of the hacks above and let us know how they turned out in the comments. Have you ever had a very successful post on Growth­Hack­ers, Inbound or HackerNews? What did you do dif­fer­ent­ly?

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