Marketing Strategy to Grow Website Traffic by 344%

Site & eCommerce
Cross-Channel
Display Ads
Paid Search
Organic Search & SEO
Email
Partnerships & Referrals
Advertising
Facebook
Instagram
January 1, 2021
Food & Beverage

Key Takeaways

Focus Allocation — Invest in Your Own Sales Channels: Hint was launched in 2015 and set to build out its retail distribution via national retailers, such as Whole Food and amazon.com. Despite having substantial national coverage, the company launched its own ecommerce website in 2014 and by the end of 2019 40% of all company’s sales were done via its own online shop.

Website — Collect and Leverage User Data: Having an established brand name, Hint optimized its website for data collection and conversion rather than discovery. The company doesn’t maintain any content sections (i.e. blog) on their site to amplify search engine optimization and increase non-branded organic search traffic. Instead, drinkhint.com is well optimized for collecting user emails at various points of their web user journey. 

Paid Ads Tactic — Maximize Frequency to Grow Top-Of-Mind Awareness: Hint has built a comprehensive system to boost both online and offline sales. The brand continuously invests in brand marketing and aims to further strengthen the image of a healthy and innovative company (PR activities, Facebook Ads). At the same time, they also run conversion-oriented Instagram and search ads to direct consumers to their ecommerce website.

Branding — Personify Your Brand: Hint’s founder and CEO Kara Goldin has become an influential business woman who is often featured in Hint’s advertising, email newsletter, as well as their PR coverage. Kara published a book, launched a podcast, and appeared in a Verizon TV ad which has helped drive Hint’s brand awareness. 

Advertising Focus — Paid Search & Instagram: Hint is aggressively advertising via paid search channels as their paid search ad spend increased by +1,529% YoY from $236K to $3.8M in 2020. Paid search ads targeted various keyword phrases that captured users’ intent and interest such as “is hint water good for you” and “propylene glycol and hint water.” 

In addition, Hint increased their social media ad spend by +76% in 2020 which was driven by a significant investment in Instagram ($1.3M). Instagram ads are mainly conversion-oriented ads that promoted “36 bottles for $36.” 

Hint has seen a +322% YoY increase in web traffic in 2020. 

Web Traffic

Hint maintains a balanced mix of marketing channels, where Direct drives the highest volume of website traffic, followed by Display ads.

Share of Web Traffic

Direct, Display ads, and Email channels have seen the highest traffic spikes in 2020 and combined drove +500% (2.4M) website visits vs. the previous year (399K).

Web Traffic by channel

Direct Traffic

Direct traffic is all traffic sent from users that directly entered a URL into a browser, saved bookmarks or any links from outside the browser (such as on Microsoft Word).

Hint, launched in 2005, built its brand awareness and loyal customer base via offline (Wholefoods, Target, Costco) and online (Amazon) retailer distribution. The company launched its own direct-to-consumer website in 2014. By the end of 2019, 40% of Hint’s sales were coming from its own direct-to-consumer website (New Hope Network)

It’s expected for a non-digital-born company with a large loyal customer base to have almost half of its web traffic come from the Direct channel.


Hint’s founder and CEO Kara Goldin became an influential business woman after she launched the company in 2005. Kara published a book, launched a podcast, and appeared in a Verizon TV ad. Her publicity has been helping drive Hint’s brand awareness.

Kara's awards and recognitions:

  • Fortune's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs 
  • Ernst & Young's Entrepreneurial Winning Women 
  • Gold Stevie Award Winner for Female Entrepreneur of the Year 
  • Forbes' 40 Women to Watch Over 40 
  • EY Entrepreneur of the Year, Northern California 
  • Fast Company's' Most Creative People in Business 
Kara
Click to view

Strong PR coverage helped Hint to establish a brand image of an innovative company that pioneered the healthy water craze.

Strong PR

Display Ads

Display ads is all traffic sent from Display and Video ads via a known ad-serving platform (i.e. GDN, Doubleclick).

Display ads are the biggest paid traffic-generating channel for Hint Drinks. In 2019, the Display traffic share was only 14%. The company doubled down on its Display ads investment in 2020 and saw a respective increase in this channel performance, driving its web traffic share to 25% in 2020. Hint consistently ran Display ads throughout the year, however, the brand increased its spending during its strategic season (May-August) to maintain high ad frequency and elevate top-of-mind awareness.


In 2020, website traffic generated by Display ads grew by +748%, driven by an almost equal increase in the Display advertising spend (+632%).

Display Traffic
*Spend is a directional approximation and does not include retargeting or behavioural targeting.

84% of Hint’s Display ads were invested into the desktop banners, the rest was split between mobile display (11%) and Amazon video (5%).

Display ad budget distribution
Mashable, KQED

Hint has been consistently supporting its Display ads channel throughout 2020, with two significant pushes in May-June and August 2020.

Display Ad Spend
*Spend is a directional approximation and does not include retargeting or behavioural targeting.

In June, Hint ran a campaign targeted at the new customer acquisition. The promo advertised “40% off” and “$1 per bottle” for new clients.

Display ad spend distrobution
*Spend is a directional approximation and does not include retargeting or behavioural targeting.

In August Hint aimed to amplify brand awareness with Display ads messaging varying from “Free Shipping”,  “0 sugar,” and  “build-your-own-bundle.”

The two product-focused video ads called to buy the products on amazon.com

videos
Ad #1, Ad #2

Email

Email traffic is all traffic sent from web-based mail clients such as Gmail.

In 2020, Hint doubled the share of Email traffic to its website. The brand’s website is well optimized to capture user emails at various points of the consumer journey. Being a DTC brand, Hint invests significant efforts in maintaining direct communication with their customers and having access to their data. Besides leveraging Email as a sales and transactional channel, Hint also aims to make their communication more personal by sending emails signed by the company’s founder and CEO Kara Goldin.

Hint created multiple entry points on their website for customers to join the brand’s email list.

Entry Points

Hint’s email list grew by +260% in 2020 and the brand sent ~19M emails to their subscribers throughout the year. The company saw a +795% increase in website traffic coming from the Email channel in 2020.

email list site
*Estimates, directional data

The brand actively advertised discounts and new product launches, and Hint’s founder and CEO Kara Goldin also communicated with the brand’s subscribers via email.

Disounts

Organic Search

Organic search is all traffic sent via organic (non-paid) results on search engines such as Google or Bing.

Hint relies on its strong brand name to drive visits to its website. 66% of all Search traffic comes from branded keywords. The company’s e-commerce website is primarily optimized to collect user data and drive sales. Hint doesn’t invest in any written content that would amplify search engine optimization and bring more traffic from non-branded keywords.

Organic Search traffic increased from 150K visits in 2019 to 252K in 2020. However, this channel grew much slower compared to other channels (Direct, Display Ads, Email) and its traffic share dropped from 20% to 8% in 2020.

66% of Organic Search traffic came from different combinations of branded keywords. Desktop searches were mainly focused on product flavours and ingredients, while mobile searches were more action-oriented— such as “where to buy hint,” “hint special offers.”

Top Keywords

72% of all inbound search traffic landed on the homepage. Product section “Water” accounted for 14% of search traffic.

Paid Search

Paid search traffic is all traffic sent from paid search ads on a search engine such as Google or Bing.

Hint significantly increased their investment into lower funnel search ads in 2020. A 1,529% Search ads budget increase drove 239K visits, which is an 89% increase YoY. At the same time, Hint enhanced its search text ads copy and greatly revised targeted keywords—from brand name variations to the purchase-oriented search phrases.


Hint’s paid search traffic significantly increased in the second half of the year.

Display ad spend

The spike was driven by a significant increase in Search budget.

Display ad Spend

Throughout 2020, Hint ran a total of 272 text search ad variants (vs. 729 in 2019).

  • The brand targeted various keyword phrases that captured users’ intent and interest. Hint significantly differentiated their targeted keywords compared to 2019.
  • Elaborate text ads, provided value and reason to click (i.e. discounts, bundle deals). 
  • Ads alternated between directing users to the homepage and product detail pages.

Hint also ran product search ads for all product categories: water, body products, and bundles. Some of Hint’s product ads set to capture traffic for as many as 122 different keywords. While Hint used product images in line with the Google Shopping best practices, the brand added badges to the product images to highlight new or promotional SKUs.

A 1,529% increase in Search ads spend in 2020 drove only 89% more search traffic than the previous year.

Paid Search Traffic

Referrals

Referral traffic is all traffic sent from one website to another, through a direct link. This kind of traffic includes affiliates, content partners, and traffic from direct media buying or news coverage.

Hint is receiving a lot of PR coverage and has a significant number of backlinks pointing to its website. However, the brand saw the highest spike in Referral traffic when it collaborated with coupons and discounts websites in the spring of 2020. 


Referral visits spiked between March and May 2020 and drove nearly twice as much traffic as the channel average (5% vs. 3% yearly average).

Referral Traffic

Hint distributed their coupons and promo codes via discount websites, which in total contributed 80% of the total Referral visits.

Referral Traffic

Social Traffic

Social traffic is all traffic sent from social media sites such as Facebook or Reddit (organic and paid). Including direct media buying from Facebook.

Hint invested 65% more into their social ads in 2020 and added Instagram (story and feed ads) into the mix. The company used its advertising dollars to both boost its brand awareness and promote special offers. This additional investment wasn’t directly reflected neither in the website traffic nor the social following. However, the top funnel ads might enhance consumer purchasing decisions via other channels, such as offline retailers or amazon.com. 


In 2020, Hint spend 3M on social media ads, which is 76% more than the previous year. Hint also added Instagram to the advertising mix and invested 1.3M in this platform alone.

Social Ads Spend
*Spend is a directional approximation and does not include retargeting or behavioural targeting.

With its Facebook ads Hint aimed to drive brand awareness rather than sales. Hint has been continuously sponsoring the founder-story ad ($741K), which was driving traffic to the external Today news website rather than Hint’s ecommerce one.

Facebook ads
Click to view

On Instagram, Hint ran conversion-oriented ads that promoted their 36 bottles for $36 pack and free shipping.

Instagram ads
Ad #1, Ad #2, Ad #3, Ad #4

Despite a 65% increase in social media advertising budget, the traffic to Hint’s website from social channels dropped by 25%.

Social Ads Budget
Spend is a directional approximation and does not include retargeting or behavioural targeting.


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