When it comes to growth, a lot of people are confused. No surprise there: the terms have changed over time, from conversion rate optimization or just plain conversion optimization. More recently, growth hacking came on the scene, and although hackers tend to use some of the same techniques as optimizers, the approach is a different one.

Do Growth Hackers dig deeper?

There seems to a consensus that a growth hacking approach is more holistic and starts at a higher point on the value chain. Like conversion optimizers, hackers optimize onsite, but they also look closely at traffic and the funnel. They ask the hard questions to get beneath the surface at the deeper mechanics of user acquisition and monetization.  

Optimizers are in it for the long run

To some extent, it’s just a matter of naming. Successful conversion optimizers will no doubt dig deeper as well, examining where users come from. Optimizers have been successfully optimizing for ten years or more, and the term growth hacking is newer, having ridden in on the Silicon Valley start-up wave. Also, some people have an inborn resistance to the phrase ‘growth hacking’: it can sound too shiny or self-promotional. Optimization is more conservative, slower perhaps, but substantial and sustainable.  

Hackers are more product people

It might be clear already, but the difference between the two approaches also have something to do with their origin. Growth hacking springs from the startup culture where everyone ‘does product’. More traditional organizations (such as big corporates)might be wary of the approach. Actually, there is a certain risk that a jump in conversions from hacking will just be a blip on the chart, a surge in metrics that falls off just as quickly. More than images of foosball-playing millenials, this is what the corporate world fears most about a growth hacking approach. Conversion optimization is tried and tested, if perhaps slow at times, and is likely to be more popular in larger or more conservative organizations. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether it’s called optimization or conversion, just that it works for you and your company. This post is an excerpt from our Masters of Growth Show. Check it out for actionable advice on how to tackle your most important challenges as an optimizers. Also leave us your questions on twitter using #mog to have your questions answered as well. The show is also available on YouTube and Apple Podcast.

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