* The Business of Software

A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.

We're closed, folks!


» Business of Software FAQ
» The Business of Software Conference (held every fall, usually in Boston)
» Forum guidelines (Please read before posting!)


Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Marketing by Answering Questions


This is somewhat a general question on best tactics and strategies for marketing your software product on various user-content-driven websites, like Q&A (superuser), various forums, wiki-s, etc.

The issue with virtually all of them is this: you generally cannot advertise your product. While it makes sense, the restriction is actually much more sever than one may think...

Even if your post/answer completely addresses the question and is a decent answer or an alternative answer (because maybe your product not only does X, but also Y which is complementary to X, and hence warrants mentioning as someone may be interested), and given you fully disclose the fact that you are the author/happy user, your answer/post more often than not will be deleted and account banned. This has been the case for me on superuser.com, Yahoo! Answers, some other wikis.

One of the recommendations from moderators was that one should answer all the questions he/she can, and not concentrate just on those that are related to one's product or service. But to me this is a moot proposition. After all if I addressed the question, provided info, how-to, explained how and why the product maybe useful in this particular case, why reject it, just because I did not answer other questions in different areas in the past?

This is somewhat of a discussion I guess, but some questions would be:

1. How do you deal with cases like this? Do you register different accounts every few weeks? Do you provide links with your answers, and in what form (full or shortened via a 3rd party url-shortener)?

2. More generally, how do you get the info about your product or service to be posted/included as a content on related websites (other than ads and paid infomercials)? Is it even possible?

George Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I wrote a couple of neutral, informational/educational articles about particular problems that our product solves, and included links to all major alternatives, including direct competitors. Not only these articles attract organic search traffic, often ending up #1 in Google SERP for some of the keywords, linking to them very seldom results in problems with moderators and such. In fact, many people I don't know have linked to those articles without me asking them.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

That's a good point. Though I was more interested with this question on how to deal with posting/writing on OTHER websites.

As for your suggestion, a quick question - did you setup a separate domain/subdomain/blog for this, or were these articles directly linked with your product page on your main website? And did you include some kind of call to action at the end, inviting users to give your product a try?
George Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Interesting, AFAIK stackexchange rules explicitly allow linking ("advertising") your own product as long as you state it's yours. I posted such answers with links to my product webpage and they were allowed. And I guess this only applies if you answer a question asked by someone else :)
Zka Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Really? Though last time I tried was a bit more than a year ago. As soon as I posted answer on superuser.com in the comments to my answer admin refer to FAQ on promotion and basically said that he won't spamflag me right away, but that the percentage of questions answered that promote your own products should be small. Maybe rules have changes since then?
George Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I posted my answers ~2 years ago. One admin has messaged me that I should edit my answer to include the fact that the product is mine. I complied and then the case was closed :)
Zka Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I probably get 40-50% of my traffic from bulletin boards/forums/social networking.

I try not to spam with tangential posts/answers but if my product is an answer to the posed question I'll elaborate. Mostly I try to answer questions related to the problem people are having. Years ago I was scolded by a respected member and I re-evaluated my approach previously liberal product name dropping . My website and blog are linked in my signature.

My approach is to cultivate, not harvest from discussion groups and build relationships.

It is a long term commitment.
Patrick Hughes Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I might mention that I don't usually get any grief when I suggest my product as a solution. But my ratio of answers containing my product is likely 1 out of 20.

And it is very rewarding when I see other people mention me and my product before I ever see a relative post.
Patrick Hughes Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
You just can't stop me!!!

Regarding registering under a different account every couple of weeks to continue to spam. That is a horrible idea.

Regarding your question about getting content in other sources - as a result of the credibility I've established (years in the making) I'm now writing an 18 article series for a main blog in the niche I'm looking for. Each article has a byline that includes my product name and I'm able to weave into a few of the articles how I use my software in relation to the article's target market.
Patrick Hughes Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Hi George

My strategy is to be generally active on the site, participating in unrelated discussions and starting the occasional thread. I only mention my product very occasionally, only when appropriate, and only to questions that have been active in the last day. Never in my first couple of posts or first week or so using the site.

My favorite tactic is to source the actual answer text from real customer recommendations. So I will visit completely unrelated forums and look for recommendations about popular products that are obviously genuine. I copy + paste these and change them to mention my product instead. This makes you look like a real user with a huge range of responses including one liners like "<productname>" and "This.", as well as cold responses like "There's an app called..." and "I use <productname>, as it lets you <reason>." Sometimes you do need to drop a good "Definitely <productname>, that program is excellent. I use it to <reason>." but doing the extremely positive recommendations all the time is what has got me banned in the past.

Billy Thorpe Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
> I was more interested with this question on how to deal with posting/writing on OTHER websites.

That's exactly what I do. Here is one of my StackExchange answers:

"Check out my article <link to article by title> for a discussion of <method in question> vs three other ways to <achieve the same result>, and a collection of links to tools and further reading materials."

To your other questions:

The articles have always been on the main company Web site; the product has got its own domain only recently. There are links from the product site to articles, but they are not prominent. Most, if not all visitors landing on the articles are from organic search results. There are calls to action at the very end of each article, and I make it clear in advance that I work for a company that makes one of the mentioned products.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
+1 All of what Patrick said.

I think the best it to be active in any online communities as a person there to actually help others and get help by others. Make sure anything that you post is something you don't mind being linked back to your product,

 If  the discussion allows links in your footer put a caption and link to your site there. Answer any question honestly that you're capable of answering. If it's a problem that your product solves, answer question without the use of your product, and at the end if appropriate mention that your product does solve that pain point. One of things I've seen that does is allows you to be useful and helpful to them thus increasing your credibility in the community, and give them a side by side comparison of why your product is worth it.

I don't think you should ever create posts just to highlight your product unless it's explicitly allowed by the forum or its the purpose of the forum.

A personal anecdote for you on this subject: I have personally and professionally purchased or recommended the purchase of products developed by members of forums I participate in because even I feel I have a relationship with the developer that allows me to feel comfortable that it's a credible resource that has a product that will solve my needs. (Including even this forum.) Even if my only interaction with them has been on the forum reading their posts. It's more credible interaction than with any other developers with competing products. And I have to believe I'm not a lone outlier who does that.
TrippinOnIT Send private email
Thursday, February 26, 2015
I've had quite a few clients from this forum, though I can't remember the last time I directly hyped my copywriting service? If ever?

Just be excellent to each other, as someone called Ted said.

Reluctantlyregistered Send private email
Friday, February 27, 2015
I've been using my domain name as my user name in various forums when posting things, but I can't tell if that's led to any visits to my website (it's not a referring link or in my signature).

But as Gene Simmons of KISS once said, just get your name out there, everywhere, every day, and never let people forget it.  So that's what I'm doing by having my user name as my domain name.  It can't hurt.
PSB136 Send private email
Friday, February 27, 2015
To clarify further on my post above, it's like this when it comes to your business name and/or brand:


PSB136 Send private email
Saturday, February 28, 2015
The StackOverflow sites are notoriously strict - but rightly so IMHO.

One way I've personally used is to mention and link to not only my products but others, both direct competitors and open source projects. I am also try to be very neutral so not highlighting mine any more than others (also with disclaimer as well of course).

I've never had any problems, but then I have established 'rep' and answered plenty of other questions too. Expecting you to answer other non-related questions is a big ask from them - but probably the surest signal that you're not just promoting.
Ryan Wheeler Send private email
Monday, March 02, 2015

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
Powered by FogBugz