Mobile app reviews are becoming a bigger and bigger piece of Apple’s ranking algorithm, not to mention have a huge impact on downloads. Listen in as we are joined by Tyler Kessler of AppReview.me – an amazing service that puts your app in front of hundred’s (maybe 1,000’s) of users who are very likely to review your app. Tyler is a student of app reviews, and how they impact rankings and results.
In this episode of the App Business Podcast – David and Chris are joined by Tyler Kessler and discuss:
- the impact of mobile app reviews on rankings
- how to get around the fear of updating your apps
- again…..the value of joining a community and a mastermind!!!
- the inside perspective of the AppReview.me business model…
- ..Plus more!
Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode:
Chris: All right, guys, very excited with today’s guest. We have Tyler Kessler. He is the founder of the website and service AppReviewMe. It’s a service I use for all my apps and I think by the end of this conversation, you’re going to see the value in what he’s doing and it’s a really great idea. And you’ll probably be a client soon, as well. Tyler, how you doing?
Tyler: Doing well, Chris. Thanks for having me, appreciate it.
Chris: And you’re outside of St. Louis right now?
Tyler: I’m inside of it, yeah.
Chris: You’re inside St. Louis?
Chris: Cool. So, I’m a big fan of the service, I’ve been using it for about a month, but really into it, like really using it. And I set up all my apps; let’s see, I set up 35 of them.
Tyler: That’s great, man.
Chris: Yeah, you got a check from me in PayPal.
Tyler: Thank you. Thanks for your money.
Chris: But why don’t you tell the listeners what AppReviewMe is all about and kind of the benefit and we’ll get into more of the nitty-gritty details. Just give us the high level of what you’re doing.
Tyler: Sure. Every day, I kind of have a new definition of what it is. But I guess the short and sweet is we are a platform for independent developers to exchange app reviews for your own apps. And another way that I like to actually explain it is we’re a social network. We’re a niche social network that focuses on getting your app exposure to other developers, so that you can rate each other. And we use a Karma economy, so everything is based on your efforts. So, that the more that you put in, the more you get back. And it’s a beautiful thing. We’ve been live for three months, almost and, I don’t know, 800 users strong, 20,000+ reviews exchanged and things are going well.
Chris: How many apps does that 800 users represent?
Tyler: Apparently, we’re around 1,700 apps over the 800 users. It’s pretty nuts.
Chris: Okay, got it. You know, that’s only two per user. So, a lot of them must be still testing it and haven’t done what I did and said “Okay, I’m in.” I’m doing all my apps or I think I do half my apps.
Tyler: Well, actually, it’s a mixed bag, to be honest with you. So, you have the re-skinners [SP] which represent…there’s some that have over 100. And then you have some people that didn’t even register any and they were just checking us out. Or they were waiting to actually release their app. So, you can actually generate Karma before you launch your app. And then, once you launch, you don’t have to worry about getting reviews. You just put it up on AppReviewMe and it’s all automated.
Chris: Got it, okay. That makes sense. So, this is something David and I talk about a lot from time to time on the podcast. And it’s the ratings and review impact on not only downloads, but ranking. Clearly, that scenario for Apple has driven the need for a service like yours. What’s kind of your overall impression or perspective on ratings and how they impact users and downloads and all that kind of stuff, and rankings?
Tyler: So, I can’t really prove anything because everything is secretive, as you know. But based on my own observation over the last three months of doing this, I see that, first of all, each mobile app review sites has different weights of its own. So, you can, when you review an app, you have things like the length of the review. You have the certain words you use in the review. So, if you say “Nice app,” it might not even stick on the App Store. Or it will have less weight, and also, how much you use the app. So, we actually had one of our top users call Apple, which–I can’t believe you can do this–and ask them “How does the App Store rankings work?” And what they told him was…so, if you give a five-star review and you only go on that app one time and you never go into it again, it will actually have a lower weight on your overall ASO. The other thing, too, to answer your question is just the perception, from a marketing perspective. When you search for an app and you see it on the store and you see a certain amount of stars, obviously, the social proof aspect of it helps your conversions. So, it’s a little bit of both and I don’t really have an exact answer of how it impacts. But in today’s world, it positively impacts your bottom line, there’s no doubt it. It’s just to what effect?
Chris: Social proof, no doubt. And from my understanding, Apple is putting the velocity of ratings and reviews as a more important part of their algorithm, their search or results algorithm. That’s why I’m such a fan of the services, because it’s a no-brainer. And the prompts that you ask users, there’s not a pretty solution out there yet.
Tyler: No, there’s really not. Even AppReviewMe, you have to leave the site, go and review and come back. Like, there’s really no great way to give reviews or ask reviews. It’s a weird process. And it’s so weird how…I guess it’s odd how important it is, but they haven’t put much thought into making this better. I feel like it’s five years out of date right now. So, we’re just one solution to help the little guy get more exposure. I mean, that’s what it comes down to, that’s what AppReviewMe is all about. And there’s also this fear, too, of updating your app. Everyone’s scared to update your app because your reviews reset. And that’s just not cool. As an app developer, you should always be improving your app. And you should never have fear that making your app better is going to app. That makes no sense to me.
Chris: I think a lot of these things that Apple is doing…instead of improving their algorithm, they’re just trying to manage and micro-manage so much. I think it’s going to come back to hurt them. And really, I’m moving a lot of my apps to Android and I’m really hoping to love Android, but we’ll see. And Apple has been great to me. I’ve made a lot of money building apps for Apple, so I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t recognize that. But it definitely seems like some of their stuff they’re doing isn’t in the best interest of the people using the apps; which is what people who are building apps are trying to do, make great apps for users.
Tyler: For sure.
Chris: And I know this about you because we’re in the same mastermind. When did you join Mobile TenX [SP] about two months ago, a month ago?
Tyler: No. It was probably three or four weeks ago.
Chris: Okay. The days go by so fast. It’s like “It could have been a year ago,” I wouldn’t have known.
Tyler: It’s all a blur, though.
Chris: Yeah. And so, we connected because I interviewed you for something I’m working on. And so, we chatted a little bit, so I already know the answer for this, but I think it’s good for the listeners to know. You have a portfolio of your own?
Chris: So, you recognize it’s a bigger problem, but you’re also in there fighting the same battles, trying to solve the same problems that most of the indie devs are. So, it’s not like you’re some guy in some tower saying “Oh, this is a need.” You recognize because you were dealing with this yourself?
Tyler: Yeah. It’s funny, I actually just recorded my first podcast episode ever and we talked a lot about this. And it was about just providing value to people and understanding what to provide. And for me, I was solving my own problem. I was a re-skinner, which I got into it, I don’t know, nine months ago. And I have about eight or nine apps, not a lot. I wasn’t really good at chugging them out, I was really bad at that. And then, when an app launch occurred, I was even worse at getting reviews. Yeah, I can go to the forums and say “Hey, if I scratch your back, will you scratch mine” kind of thing.
Chris: So lame.
Tyler: Yeah and going to my friends over and over. They were proud of me at first like “Wow, you got an app in the store.” But then it’s like you’re going to really keep asking them every time you get an update? No. So, it just occurred to me just by being in those forums, in the Facebook groups specifically, that there needed to be a better way to keep track of who’s reviewing who and just be smarter about it. All we’re doing is improving Facebook’s default group mechanism that’s tailored for app developers. That’s really all it is.
Chris: Yeah. You mentioned asking family and friends. And man, I would ask them like “Hey, what do you think of this idea? What do you think of these icons? What do you think of the game play?” I was using them for QA, I was using them for everything. That’s enough. You wear them out and after one app, it’s like “Okay. Not going to do that again. That was terrible.”
Tyler: Right, exactly. So, why not ask people that also need the same favor? And with our algorithm, we built it so that, basically, you give one review today, you’re going to get one back within minutes. It’s kind of insane how quickly you get value back.
Chris: Yeah, that’s absolutely the truth because that happens with my apps. So, I’ve got a couple of questions, but I got a more fun one, I think. You’ve been out for three months and about a month ago or maybe a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like every week or every couple weeks, the people who have kind of popular blogs or personalities in this indie dev game, they write about different things. And you seem to be topic or AppReviewMe seemed to be the topic a couple weeks ago. How did you get all of this coverage for AppReviewMe?
Tyler: I mean, honestly, it started before I even came up with the idea of AppReviewMe. So, I came through the App Empire program and I was networking with all those people in those groups, all the alumni. And I just built relationships. I always call it a brotherhood, even though there was women in there, too. But it was like we were all in together. We were all running our own businesses trying to have passive income through apps. And they were like my coworkers…and I just built relationships with them. It’s that simple. So, I kept giving value in these groups and once I had my own product to serve them with value, then they helped me out. So, that’s how I got through with Chad, because I just built a relationship through that over months. And all the other ones, honestly, were our top users. So, a lot of these top personalities are top users. And I would go to them and say “Hey, I can see you’re clearly loving our service. Can you help us grow even more? Because the more we grow, like any social network, the more value you will have in the long run.” So, that’s how I got those kind of sweetheart deals with them.
Chris: Yeah, that’s awesome. There’s no better mobile app review sites than from a happy customer with a voice. Someone that’s got an audience and loves your service, that’s a perfect storm, you know?
Tyler: Yeah. It was completely organic. There wasn’t any tactics or anything like that. I wish I could say “Oh, this is what you do,” but I was just giving them what they needed. And then, when I needed something, they said “Sure, of course.”
Chris: That sounds a lot like your experience with your cohort or your fraternity or whatever it was with the App Empire group. Sounds a lot like the mastermind David and I were a part of last year and now kind of restarted this year. Is we all kind of just bonded because we were all trying to solve the same problems and growing together and going through it together. We’re all trying to build these services and people were growing during the time. Six months in an entrepreneurial live is a long time. So, totally appreciate that. That sounds like a good group. I don’t think I fully understood what that group was about. Was this a group that met in San Diego on a boat? [inaudible 00:12:24].
Tyler: They may have. I don’t know. I didn’t get the pleasure to do that. But it’s just a private Facebook group.
Chris: Okay, interesting.
Tyler: And they’re all very active, just like they are in Mobile TenX. And they were funneled in through App Empire, so…
Chris: The book?
Tyler: That’s just who they are.
Chris: The book? Or they became part of a…
Tyler: There’s a video program that they sell. And it was a book, it was a video program and I think that’s it.
Chris: So, I can’t join unless I buy the video program? That’s the deal?
Tyler: Yeah, right, so that’s the deal. And honestly, when I first signed up, I didn’t even know about the networking group. But the networking group is probably the best thing that came with it.
Chris: It’s amazing how it’s always like that. You can’t define what it is upfront, because every little group is going to have its own personality. But it really is, that’s what you get the most out of. For me, I found that, too.
Chris: Let’s talk a little bit more–
Tyler: It sounds so cliche, too, when you say it, right? When you talk about “It’s all about networking…”
Chris: “It’s the relationships.” It sounds too soft, right. Absolutely; but it’s so true.
Tyler: It’s true.
Chris: So, I was a guest on another podcast yesterday and this is all new for me. And we were talking about some of that stuff. And one of the things we were talking about is interviewing people before you get started with your project or whatever you think is going to be your business or service, or how you say “Interview 5, 10, 15, 20 people.” And you kind of put a soft value on that because “Oh, okay. I’m just going to pitch them on the service” and blah, blah, blah. Every single person I’ve talked to has given me some gem of “Oh, that’s how you’re going to look at it.” Or “Oh, that’s a good idea for how to lay it out.” It’s hard to quantify, sometimes, what these people, you know, what people can provide and it’s always different. But at the end of it, you look back and go “Man, I got a lot out of that.”
Chris: I guess it’s like high school. You go through it and you’re like “Eh.” But then you look back, “Hey, that was pretty cool.” One question I wanted to ask, just for power users or for people listening that are thinking “Man, I need to sign up for this.” What are the most successful users of AppReviewMe? What are the successful guys doing?
Tyler: Well, there’s a couple groups. Our top users are definitely, the power re-skinners that have a team, have a VA. That are providing lots of reviews and who have tons of apps. And I don’t how to say it, but they just keep coming back for more. I don’t talk to a lot of them one-on-one because they are usually the group that has their automated team going. But there is another group that go on to our site and give really thoughtful reviews and give really thoughtful feedback. And they’re the ones that are doing market research as they’re giving value to other users. And of course, they’re getting that value back, eventually, in the form of a review. That’s kind of the two top ways that people are using our site. There’s a third group, too, that if you need quick reviews, you just put your app up. And your first app is free, by the way. And there’s other ways to get lots of ad-additional apps for free. And a lot of people will just come on looking for a couple mobile app review sitess, especially with an update. As you all know, you need five reviews to show up with an average rating on the app store. You can get that within a day. All you’ve got to do is get five reviews, on average. It all depends on supply and demand, of course. But on average, you receive five pretty quickly.
Chris: Yeah. You know, it is that easy. It’s not a very complicated system. And there is quality control. Because if the reviews aren’t very good or well thought-out. Like, for instance, “Hey, cool app.” You will be limited in the amount of reviews you can get per app. Is that the only control thing you have?
Tyler: No, there’s actually a lot. I think the easiest way to explain it is treat it like Facebook. Treat it like you’re leaving a comment on Facebook. And our users self-police each other. And if a user gets a review that they don’t think is up to our standard and we specify what our standards are and the terms of service and we have copy all over the place saying what you can do and what you can’t. Even though we’re not responsible what’s on the App Store, that would be a violation of Apple’s terms of service. We’re not controlling anything on the App Store. We’re just controlling the exposure of your app and who gets Karma based on what is on the App Store. I know it’s kind of confusing but to better answer your question, we get reports every single day where someone is saying “Nice app” like you said. Or “Hey, someone actually didn’t even upload the right screenshot”; which happens a lot because it’s just human error. A lot of times, it’s great users who just made one mistake and we give refunds for that. But I don’t know if this answers your question or not, but we have different rules that are already stated on the site. And if a user isn’t following them, we give them a warning. And then, if they’re a bad user, we kick them out. But that’s only happened a few times, to be honest with you.
Chris: So, you guys–
Tyler: And we have a great community, so far. So far, so good.
Chris: You guys are watching and then, you have a self-policing? It’s like peer-reviewed stuff, because if they don’t like they’re getting, they’ll say “Hey, I don’t like this.” And the person who reviewed it will…yeah, okay. That makes sense. That’s perfect. You don’t have to do anything.
Tyler: It’s just like Facebook. If someone says something offensive on Facebook, you can hit the “Report” button and then they have a support team that reviews it. But we fully automated our back-end so that we can quickly do all these reports. This system allows more reviews to happen per day, as opposed to other mobile app review sites systems that are like “Okay, we’re going to make sure that it goes on the app store. We’re going to make that the person who received it liked it.” Instead, we’re going for more like “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” kind of model. And we’ve seen just an explosion of reviews created because of that that are genuine reviews. So, that’s our story.
David: So, it really is kind of a social network in that sense, right?
Tyler: Yeah and not by design. I had no idea I was building a social network when I built it, which is really funny.
David: That’s cool.
Tyler: I have a lot of people that are like “Man, I do not want to be you right now.” But we got really smart with customer service and our reporting system. And I’m really proud of the automation that we’ve built in the back-end just using scripts. And my business partner is a lawyer out of New York. So, he’s really made sure that we were doing everything by the book and we’re not breaking any laws, we’re not breaking any terms of service. Everything is legal, even though to some people who first see this, they’re like “I don’t know about this.” But we’ve really done our homework on this. And yeah, Apple can do whatever they want to do in the future because they’re gods, you know? But so far, we’ve just created a nice platform for developers to help your business. And there’s no better way to say it. Everyone who uses this is like “Yes, this is helping me.” Yeah, you’re not going to get five-star reviews every time. You’re going to get honest reviews. And if we ever feel like a reported user is not honest, we’re going to give them a warning or kick them out, it’s that simple. We’re not here to game any sort of system or anything like that. We’re just a niche social network, just like you said, David.
David: You’re talking about business as we’re on the “App Business Podcast.” You mentioned that the first app is free. But on the “App Business Podcast,” we’re really into business models and what different business models you could use. So, what’s your model?
Tyler: It’s really funny. I built this site kind of like a freemium app. Where your first app is free and every additional app is $5, unless you want to buy a bundle and then, it’s discounted. Or if you refer friends or if you buy source codes, you get free app credits. Let’s say you have two apps and no friends, you’ve got to pay $5 to have your second app in there. But if you have five friends and six apps, then all six apps are free. So, that’s kind of our model. That’s how, we’re, I guess, growth-hacking it a little bit. So, we’re using the Dropbox referral model. So, when you refer a friend, they have to actually add an app and give Karma. They have to be in e-mail (?). Because when you send an e-mail address, as you know, you could easily game it to get free reviews. But we want to make sure we’re building a community that contributes by generating Karma. So, that’s the kind of people you have to refer to get those reviews. And then our source codes, too, is our other revenue stream. Like right now, we have the Flappy Bird [SP] rescan. And you get $50 in free app credits, which is ten app credits. And that gives us a competitive advantage on selling source codes. And it also ensures your investment a little bit since the source codes that you’re buying and the apps you create from that are going to basically get guaranteed, potentially unlimited reviews.
David: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Chris and I were just talking right before the show about the episode. That we really thought about what your thinking was behind the decision making to basically have a one-time fee versus like a recurring fee for your apps. Because right now, you could, if I understand it correctly, just pay $5 for each app. And can basically get an unlimited amount of reviews for an unlimited amount of time, right?
Tyler: Correct. So, this is a two-part answer. The first part is…some people are like “Well, why don’t you charge for Karma” or “Why don’t you have a subscription” “If you don’t pay the subscription, then your app’s off.” Well, that gets kind of in that weird area where you’re paying for reviews and we wanted to stay clear from that. We wanted to make it feel like it’s a “Pay to get into the club” kind of feel. As opposed to “The more money you put in, the more reviews you get.” Because that becomes an FTC violation, where there’s a monetary incentive link to a review. So, we wanted to stay as far away from that as we possibly could, so that’s why we didn’t do a subscription model for the app to stay in. But we are looking at doing a subscription model that’s kind of similar to how Audible does their subscriptions where you get a certain amount of app credits. And if you’re a subscriber, you can get discounted app credits, kind of like that. But we always want to keep the potentially unlimited reviews, because we put Karma on a pedestal. It is the sacred commodity to us. And we know that if Karma every gets corrupted, then our service gets corrupted. So, we make sure that Karma is always earned by getting reviews, period. I don’t know if I adequately answered your question or not. But that’s kind of our stance on that.
Chris: It sounds like it’s a good thing, you have your partners and attorney.
Tyler: Yes, it’s a very good thing. Basically, I come up with the fun ideas that solve my own problems and he tells me how I can’t do it exactly how I thought I could do it. And then, we somehow come to a middle ground where he’s happy. And I always feel like I’m protected. Now, I don’t know if you would approve everything I’m saying right now, but I’m just going to be real with your audience here and just say “This is how we’re running things right now.”
Chris: David and I, we talked about your service a couple podcasts, 10 or 11. And the way I positioned AppReviewMe was…let’s see. “It’s a service for getting your app into the hands of other people that are likely to review your app.” Which isn’t totally accurate, but it’s very PC. So, I was trying to get it “Hold on, how would he position it if he were on the podcast?” You’re way more liberal than I was expecting you to be with how it works. But that’s exactly how it works.
Tyler: That’s my personality, man. I can’t put a mask on and be perfectly…I’m going to say “Hey, here’s what I created, here’s how it works.” I’m hustling to make sure that all of our users are protected and that everything is by the book and everything has been great so far. Everything has been great. [inaudible 00:25:08].
Chris: Well, I’m glad you figured this out because it’s something that was really needed and I wasn’t going to be able to figure this out and David wasn’t interested in figuring it out. So, yeah, this is a really cool service. I think this will air, let’s see, in a week from today. Which is a Tuesday, or I think it’s a Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. or something. We just started making the schedule. We’re still trying to figure out how many listeners we have. It’s hard to know that with podcasts. But we think it’s like…David, do we have some recent numbers?
David: Yeah. Depending on how you define a “listener,” whether it’s like a person that at least listened to one episode or like someone who listens to every episode, it’s in the range of a couple of hundred to maybe 2,000, 3,000. But it’s really hard to determine what you count as a listener.
Chris: Okay, so, 3,000. No, it’d be interesting to see if there’s a spike or something happens. Because I can’t imagine, if someone is listening to this and has a portfolio of apps or an app, they wouldn’t go right to your website and sign up. It’s just that obvious of a service. It took me a week to put it on my priority list to go “Okay, let me go figure this out.” And after three reviews, I’m like “Okay, here’s my whole portfolio.” It was that fast. So, I think this is a really cool service. I know you have some other things in the works. Is that something you want to talk about now, or we’ll have you back another time?
Tyler: Yeah, let’s talk about that another time. By the way, I appreciate all the kind words that you’ve said about us and appreciate this opportunity, I really do. It’s been such a crazy experience shifting from developer to developer, for developers, I guess. I just can’t thank you guys enough for having me on. Yeah, we can talk about the new projects in the works, in the future, if you don’t mind. We should be releasing a new product in the next two weeks, that is what you’re hinting at. Because I haven’t put enough thought into it on how I should present it to the world. But it’s pretty cool. That’s all I can say right now.
Chris: And this is too much of a tease, I’m sorry, guys, but it is pretty cool. And maybe we can just add it to the show.
Tyler: It’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life.
Chris: It’s like mind explosions, it’s amazing.
David: Let’s just add it back to the show notes.
Chris: Yeah, we’ll add it to the show notes. Come back and view whatever.
David: And it would be great to have you back, Tyler. It was great.
Tyler: Yeah, I would love to.
Chris: All right, well, Tyler, appreciate your time. Thanks for sharing this story with us. And I’m sure you’re going to have a ton of success with this and the next one, so we’ll have you back soon and thanks for joining us.
Tyler: All right, thanks, guys. Take care.