The Top 3 Growth Hacks of 2016

Coined by startup guru Sean Ellis, the term "growth hacker" is loosely defined by QuickSprout as someone whose every decision is "informed by growth. Every strategy, every tactic, and every initiative, is attempted in the hopes of growing."

Growth hackers are not superior to marketers and they certainly can not replace them. Their strategies are not designed to sustain businesses in the long term, but to inject fledgling startups with enough growth to hit their stride in the crucial opening act.

Growth hackers are sprinters, not marathon runners. In 2016, the purpose of growth hacking is the same as it was when the term was first coined six years, ago. The tactics, however, are changing right along with the world. Here are three of the most effective growth hacks for 2016.


1. Hacking Engagement: The Webinar Still Rules

Crazy Egg co-founder Neil Patel told Inc. that even though webinars are one of oldest growth hacks, they are still among the most effective. Live online presentations that feature an expert guest presenter are inexpensive to produce and, if done right, can drive incredible growth — the textbook definition of growth hacking.

Webinars are effective because of the remarkable engagement numbers they drive. Webinars have an average registration conversion rate of 51 percent and an average attendance rate of 36 percent. That's an incredibly wide funnel.

The average participant stays plugged in for a full 54 minutes of an hour-long webinar. 55 percent view webinar recordings, 54 percent offer feedback for polls, 51 percent participate in open chat and 50 percent downloaded slides.

If engagement is the driver of your growth hack strategy, the tried-and-true webinar is still the king of the hill.

2. Hacking App Growth: The Power of Paid-to-Free Campaigns

According to Entrepreneur, growth hackers whose mission is launching an app can achieve hundreds of thousands of downloads through strategic paid-to-free campaigns. The concept is simple: give a paid app away for free for a short period of time, perhaps just a few days or even a single day.

This strategy only works with media coverage. It is critical to launch a news release, backed by a larger PR campaign, to announce the price reduction. Instead of blanketing multiple media outlets, target a single influencer in your sphere and offer that blogger — or social media influencer — the news as an exclusive. Large sites with big followings are far more likely to print exclusive news than information that can be found on their competitors' sites.

From there, other major sites are likely to pick up the news. The incentive for them is the backlinks this buzz creates — the incentive for you is mass downloads from people who may not have been interested in the app if they had to pay for it.

The Ultimate Hack — Reduce Bounce Rates by Increasing Site Speed

For startups, every dollar counts — but site speed is one place you don't want to cut corners and trim expenses. Invest the resources necessary to get site speeds under two seconds, which is a reasonable goal for most sites.

According to Kissmetrics, a delay of a single second can cause a 7 percent drop in conversions. Some tests show that a delay of just 500ms can cause conversions to drop by 10 percent. The two- to three-second delays encountered on most sites can lead to drops in conversions of between 15 percent and 21 percent.

No growth hack can overcome a 21 percent bleed in conversions. The simple act of speeding up your site might just be the most important — and simplest — growth hack any business can pursue.

Whether you're trying to drive traffic to your website or introduce your app to the masses, growth hacking can provide rocket fuel in the early stages of a startup's life. While new techniques and technologies are always on the horizon, don't forget about the power of tried-and-true staples like webinars and remember, a fast site should be your first growth hack.