Note: This post was first published on the 23rd May, 2013.
So you’ve just built an iOS app or maybe an Android one. You’re really proud of your design, the app works on every device you tested, and there seems to be no competition in your niche. After publishing it, you go ahead and share it on your Facebook Profile page. You feel you’re onto a winner!
Next day, you’re eager to check out how many people have downloaded it. "12 downloads" and not a single review. Hmm… something must be wrong! So you start to really promote it now. You spam your friends constantly with Twitter and Facebook updates. A month later, you’re still below 500 downloads. What are you doing wrong?
Here are a few tricks I’ve learned that will help your download numbers grow (while also keeping your Facebook friends from reporting you).
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1. Great Translated Descriptions
Make sure your app has a nice, long description to put it up the marketplace. This is for your clients and for your app’s ranking. You need to invest the time and do this right.
Where possible, your description should be localized in the most common languages such as Chinese, Korean, Spanish or French. Google Play has a nice feature (which won’t be available with the new Developer Console update, so hurry up) that will let you do the translation automatically using Google Translate. However, some translations do come up weird, so make sure you double-check Google’s work.
For the App Store, you could do it yourself or look into human translation; it’s worth the money, or just use the browser version of Google Translate.
Your description should contain certain keywords you’re targeting with your app. Say you have a camera app named “Funky Camera Tricks”. Use the word ‘camera’ 3-6 times in your app description (while keeping it relevant), and also use the words ‘tricks’ and ‘funky’ a few times.
Go on the normal Adwords Keyword Tool and search for lateral keywords to use as well. Using lateral keywords (the ones suggested by Google after you’ve done your main search) will improve your app’s chance of getting into the search results for those main keywords. You want to create a Goldilocks description: not too much keyword usage, not too long or too short. Keep it balanced.
Declare Required Permissions
Don’t forget to talk about any permission your app requests upon installation. The user will see them anyway, so it’s better to be honest from the start. List all your app’s features while also being transparent about any monetization models you have in place.
2. Make a Video
Making a video for your app is a must. If you’re going down this road, I would advise you to hire a professional agency, a video editor (freelance), and voice talent. There are even mobile-specific video editors, like the guys at Apptamin, who specialize in app videos.
If you are going to invest in a video, make sure it has subtitles for the local language. If you have the money, have it translated into the most common languages. It will do wonders for your download rate.
3. CPI Burst Campaigns
Most of the traffic from searches on both Google Play and the App Store will go only as far as the 50th app in the list. Naturally, developers strive to make their app reach the highest spot. One tactic is to make use of a CPI (Cost-Per-Install) Campaign via different advertisers.
You’ll pay a certain amount of money for each install. The idea is not to make a positive return on your money but to propel yourself in the list of Top 50 apps in your niche. If you reach that spot, the effects will last long enough for you to get your money’s worth.
This is best used while you are already riding a high wave of downloads. Compounding that with a well-thought-out CPI Burst Campaign can make your app into a winner.
4. Limited Discounts
You can offer your app for free or at half price for a period of time. Couple that with the beforementioned CPI campaign and a medium-sized user base already in place, and the effects can be mind-blowing. There are also apps that can help promote your discounted app, similar to the way daily deal sites work. AppGratis is one of them.
So is AppTurbo.
5. Get the word out
There are some services out which can handle press release distribution for you such as PRWeb or MarketWired. Just write your press release and send it out. There are even mobile-specific agencies such as AppShout, which can help you contact a massive number of blogs and publications.
Even if you use these services, I would advise you to personally contact medium-sized blogs for reviews. Usually these guys are eager to see new apps, and because they aren’t that big, you won’t become yesterday’s news too fast. That will mean more traffic.
Once you get a decent-sized publication to write about you, contact every other smaller blog, referring to the first article on the medium-sized blog. They’ll be more than happy to write about you. Give a personal, unique story to each. Don’t just repeat your press release. Nobody likes double content, and I presume Google doesn’t as well.
6. Keep your eyes on the user
Having analytics is a must. You’ll want to keep your active device numbers as high as possible. That’s the key to continuous downloads. Good app analytics should offer multi-app options, give you the ability to compare between them and let you see the user’s behaviors from download until app deletion. You’ll also want to set up key trigger points inside the app in order to run A/B testing.
Here are some tools to choose from:
Flurry Analytics. Flurry boasts some big clients, from EA to Yahoo! to Groupon. Flurry recently celebrated 5 years of their Analytics service.
Countly. Countly offers real-time analytics for your app. They offer great support, and even run an old-fashioned IRC channel: #countly on irc.freenode.net.
7. Use a cover image for Google Play
So many Android developers forget to do the simplest things, such as creating a cover image for their app. Don’t make the same mistake. A cover image can really boost user downloads. Make it unique, and don’t use the same picture from the screenshot. If you do use the same picture, at least take the time to resize it so it won’t look weird. You want users to trust you, before they will be willing to download your app.
Example of a cover image for a Christmas App
8. Professional real-life screenshots
Your app’s screenshots should be as crisp, clean and professional as (humanly) possible. If you can, take some high-res pictures of a real person using your app on their phone/tablet. Show a child in your shot using the app if your app is for young kids. Replace it with a business owner if it is a business app. Make sure the app can be clearly seen.
The point of the screenshot is for the user to see the app in action. Have at least 3 screenshots, preferably 6. Each screenshot should contain a different instance of the app.
So there you have it. These 8 points helped me grow my app business to more than 7 million downloads on our entire portfolio in under a year. Lastly, I couldn’t have done it without my associates, so one last thing – make sure you have a great team working with you.
Some of the tips above are pretty hard to implement, so you need to have talented, dedicated people around you.