Are “Shameless Plugs” Worth It? Some data

I recently published two posts that reached the home page of Hacker News: The first one was the announcement of my ABalytics library for client-side A/B testing; the second one was about a new version Hacker News: Mark All Read, a Chrome extension I wrote to save time on HN.

Both posts are about little projects that I originally built for my own use, and then polished, published and open sourced to give back to the community… and to get some publicity; specifically, with these two posts, I wanted to promote this new blog and the fact that I’m now open for consulting as a way to finance my startup project(s). With the post about ABalytics I didn’t include any direct reference to those other news: I just relied on the curiosity of visitors, and the prominent “Consulting” and “Portfolio” links in the blog menu.

These were the results:

In short, only 0.3% of visitors went on to read about me, and 0.16% read my “Consulting” page.

On the contrary, I ended the post about HNMarkAllRead with a “Shameless Plug” section, detailing the fact that I’m open for consulting projects. This is what happened:

This time, 3% of those who read the post also read my Consulting page – which was directly linked in the post – and 0.4% went on to read the About page. That’s a tenfold increase in clickthrough rate; something that could be expected, considering how much more prominent the link was, but it’s good to have some solid data about it.

And what about the downsides?

That’s very difficult to determine, at least with just two data points. I didn’t have any bad reactions or comments, but there was one possibly alarming sign. The ABalytics post had many less uniques, because it was picked up in the HN home page an hour later than it was posted to HN, and so it never went near the top of the page, but it generated many more social media shares than the other post: 171 (between Twitter, G+, LinkedIn and FB) to 73; that’s a 3.8% vs 0.6% “social media conversion rate” in favor of the post without the plug.

How much was this very big difference in social media reactions a consequence of me being shameless at the end of the post? With just these two data points, it would be impossible to tell – the posts are about very different things. But back in May I published the first announcement of Hacker News: Mark All Read, and – even if I later moved the post from another blog to this one – I was able to recover at least the Twitter shares data for an apple to apple comparison.

That first announcement generated 39 tweets, out of 8,986 uniques: 0,42%. Considering just the Twitter reactions to the latest post – the one with the plug – the rate is 0,49%. No noticeable change caused by my being shameless.

So, the bottom lines is: If what you want is to get your portfolio in front of your blog readers, closing your posts with a shameless plug looks definitely worth it (at least according to this very little sample). After all, the readers are getting your content for free, it’s only fair that they cut you some slack 🙂