In this episode of the App Business Podcast Chris & David provide tips and tricks about the common question developers face after publishing their app: “I have an app, it doesn’t get any downloads. Now what?” Listen in as we discuss:
- Out of 10 apps how many actually succeed
- How you can have you a very successful app business with just a 10% hit rate
- Is your app worth reinvesting?
- Add retention and social sharing features
- Have good ASO
- Nail down your retention and monetization
- Target your keywords correctly
- Look at your reviews
- How does your icon stand up?
- Screenshots, are they telling the story of your app?
- Outsource some of your work
- Connect with Facebook groups and other communities of app developers
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Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode
Chris: Hi and welcome to another episode of the App Business Podcast. As always I’m joined by David Pfahler. Whats up David?
David: Its a pleasure.
Chris: Were getting better at this intro I think. Let’s read some reviews or A review. We got one out of Australia. Yes from Australia, “I really enjoyed hearing the journey of App Experts and discovering whats new in the app industry which is awesome.” I think she’s talking about us, about App Experts which is quite flattering.
Chris: Quite flattering. Okay so today’s episode, again with the three episodes a week format we can dig into a wide variety of topics. The last episode was kind of like future stuff, you know kind of what we think might be going on and what we can do and how it effects our current development efforts.
David: Lets talk strategies for them, right?
Chris: Yes, this one is like base on a user question. “My app has no mobile app downloads, now what?” And I think that’s a common question, should I ask myself that question all the time coz I have apps all the time that don’t get the mobile app downloads that I want.
David: Yes, its just very usual actually. Its just like okay, like out of 10 apps that you release, how many do actually “succeed”? Its not the majority most of the time.
David: Depending on what you do of course but..
Chris: Yes, if your in like the re-skinning type thing, or even you know using your own code and finding 10 different uses for that same code. I find that one or two out of 10 work do well. But that one or two out of ten does well enough to carry the whole series. And you can have a very successful app business just on. If you’re hitting 10%, then you can have a very successful app business just on that low hit rate.
David: And by hitting, what is like the metric for hitting some apps I think.
Chris: Yes, its not very well defined. But I guess for me, really its kind of a self fulfilling prophesy coz Im saying, hey if you hit, it carries the whole series. But the way I would measure hitting is if it can carry the whole series.
David: Okay, got it.
Chris: But I would say, you know 500 to a 1000 mobile app downloads plus a day, monetizing it 10-20% rate so you’re making a 100 dollars a day, 200 dollars a day from an app. That’s what I would call hitting. And I thought series were they all do 10 reskins or 10 topics and the 11th will be the one that carries the whole series. So you just never know and really I’ve done a lot of reading on this no one seems to know. Its like the market is so fickle. Who would have ever thought, Flappy Bird would be the number one hit. Its kinda those kinds of things. So yes, really this episode is about, you’ve got an app out there, you might have, lets approach from not the reskin stuff, were gonna do 10 other ones. But you’ve invested a lot in one type of app, and you’ve done some basic marketing and you’ve done some testing and you think the market wants it but you just cant get it out there. Like you’re not getting enough coverage or really not enough mobile app downloads to even see what if the market likes it or not. And the question would be, do I keep investing on this thing or do I cut bait and start out a new app. And that’s always a sad thing because you might have, if you develop it yourself or if it was a big app for you, that might be 3-6 months down the drain and several thousand dollars and a lot of hopes and dreams and all this kind of stuff. So I guess I wanted to take the listeners through what I kind of look at when I have an app that goes out and doesn’t get the mobile app downloads that I’m hoping for. What you can do before you decide “Hey this isn’t worth reinvesting in.” That’s a fair setup right?
David: Yes because sometimes its isn’t worth reinvesting in a lot but you should at least make sure your making that decision on numbers or what is close to statistics at least and having informed decisions rather than just you know throwing it all way because you’re emotionally attached and think hey why does nobody love my app or whatever it is. So the purpose of this episode is basically to help you get some data or at least better opinions like why you should work on this or skip it.
Chris: Right and you know another thing is, a lot of the suggestions aren’t related to hey, you have social sharing or is it better with friends. I mean that’s really something that should be designed into the app from the beginning, just like monetization should be. Retention and social sharing and all this kinds of things are part of initially building an app and you should be thinking about this things as you’re building an app. But lets say you already got the app out and maybe you didn’t address those things as well as you could have or maybe the app just doesn’t support it. You know its like some kind of utility app and okay you’ll do better next time and you incorporate social sharing and you incorporate better retention features but your app is what it is right now. So what can you do? I would say, number one thing, we’re big fans of ASO, most people are, they recognize that just as a must have, you have to have good ASO to compete or just to give yourself a chance. You have to have a good ASO. Unless you have a big marketing budget where you can buy mobile app downloads and traffic and so the number one thing is check your keywords, and see if you’re ranking on anywhere on any of them. And a lot of times what I do is I shoot for a couple, its almost like a point of colleges. You shoot for a couple, like which colleges, dream colleges, and then you have a bunch of safe colleges. So I do that for keywords, where I have a bunch of keywords that have you know, 2 and 3 traffic and under 2 competition or, and this are using Sensor Tower kind of metrics or you could do it by the number of competing apps. And then I go for a couple bigger traffic ones, coz you never know if your app really hits it, you don’t wanna be left out of those high traffic keywords. But if you’re listing a bunch of five plus traffic keywords in your app and you’re not ranking in any of them, then you need to aim lower. You need to find some relevant keywords that don’t have as much as competition. And the way you might do that is by targeting phrases. So you can do a lot of research, there’s a bunch of information on this, I’d recommend reading Sensor Tower blog, they have a blog post that they have which is like their what you call it like hub. Their hub of other content.
David: Yes, its a giant list of what you should check out and what their best ASO optimization strategies are.
Chris: Yes, and they don’t include some of the other topics that a lot of different people talk about. And some examples are using Google trends or Google Analytics, not analytics sorry. Google Keyword Tool and using the Auto Complete in iTunes is a good tip, but theres tons of that and this is not an ASO conversation, this is just hey, you need to have ASO nailed down. And if you’re targeting really competitive keywords, then its gonna be hard unless you can buy traffic or you have this some other things that we’re gonna talk about. And another real quick thought here and related is, look if you have a slot machine game and you aren’t getting mobile app downloads, well its because there’s 20,000 other slot machine games. And its just like, hey I have this really great thing where I’m selling books online. Yeah but there’s Amazon. You know its a little bit like that where you , if you aren’t different enough then what are you really, its almost like you need to be more honest with yourself about. Look, if you had a choice of 20,000 apps, would you download yours? And why? And you know, trust me, I see slot apps as being hugely lucrative if you can get mobile app downloads. But getting the mobile app downloads is not easy unless you’re willing to drop some money into buying the traffic. And if you’re willing to do that then you better have your retention and monetization nailed down. So, were gonna assume that you’re not trying to get mobile app downloads in this insanely competitive place like a Flappy Birds clone, or what is the game 24 game clone.
David: Because if you are you probably know what you’re doing or your screwed anyways.
Chris: Yes, nothing’s gonna save you.
Chris: Okay, so assuming that that’s not the case, assuming that you have this really cool idea you just cant get traffic to it. And you checked your keywords, you’ve read, mojoed your keywords and you’ve got some phrases in there that are height is very relevant. I guess that’s another point. Are the keywords relevant that you’re targeting? Is it just high traffic stuff? Or is it super relevant so people see you in the results. They would download your app, right? That’s a basic SEO stuff but its relevant for ASO too. Okay so you’ve done that kind of scrub on your keywords, now you give them yourself a fighting chance to rank in the top 10, top 12 of keyword results or phrases. The next thing is look at your reviews and ratings, and if you don’t have 5 on your latest release, then its not showing anything and that’s by country. So if your main target is United States, then you need to make sure you have 5 ratings or reviews for your latest release in the United States
David: Preferably good ones.
Chris: Yeah, preferably good ones. And there’s a lot of ways to get ratings and reviews. You know there’s popups inside the app that you can’t incentivize it. You can’t say, hey I’ll give you coins, I’ll give you content if you review me. But you can make it easy for your users to review you. There’s other tools there’s like a community for trading, you get into the community of other developers and publishers who are publishing apps and will review you, like basically give you feedback on your app and so it doesn’t guarantee you 5 star reviews by any means. But it does give you an ability to get feedback from your peers and then it also allows for Apple to have like a thriving review, a community I guess or its not a community but like a, it shows that there’s activity in the Apple review system. I don’t think anyone, does anyone enjoy rating and review apps? Like my favorite apps..
David: Its a horrible interface.
Chris: Yeah it is.
David: Its kinda feels like cheating and I hate to do that kind of stuff. But on the other hand, Apple really kinda encourages it by making it so damn hard and stupid to leave a review. So yeah I wouldn’t think too much about it. I mean just go to, we had Tyler on AppReviewMe, this kind of services. Check it out, if you’re struggling with getting mobile app downloads its just one thing that you should do I guess.
Chris: Yes, were talking about this often. Do whats best for your users, right? And if bugging them for rating and reviewing your app is what you think is best for your users, then yeah do that. But I don’t think that’s cool. I don’t wanna bug my users to costly rate and review my app because Apple deems it, somehow relative to a top app. There’s so many other ways to determine if an app is good or not. Time spent on an app, how long the app has been on your device… There’s so many things. So yeah Apple wants users to rate and review but users don’t want that so I’m not gonna force them to in my app and that’s kind of the position I have taken with m apps. Luckily there’s a bunch of communities, there’s Facebook Groups but I’m a big fan. Were both are big fans of Tyler and AppReviewMe. So go check that out and moving right along, how does your icons stand up? So lets say you are, lets say but Chris, David, I’m in the top ten for some god keywords and I have the reviews and ratings and people like my app. But I’m not getting mobile app downloads still. And that could be related to your icon. Does your icons stand out? So people are seeing your icon in the results but they’re still not choosing to download your app. Does your icons stand up and stand out with the others in its category, right. So you do a couple searches for the top kind of most relevant searches that you would be appearing in and just plug your icon in to where all this other icons are and is it, does it stand out to you? And you can use Facebook as a way to gauge if it stands up to others coz really your opinion, while interesting isn’t relevant. I love that saying. Your opinion doesn’t matter, go ask people who aren’t you and maybe don’t know you and let them tell you what they think. Does it stand out or what you could do to make it stand out or make it more relevant to what the app is, right? Because really after you showed up in the results, there’s nothing that gets them to choose your app other than the icon. I mean maybe the name helps it a little but
David: Time it maybe, maybe a 1% or 2% actually look for the name. Even for apps that I totally sure, I note the name off, I will have remembered their icon and just look for the icon and if someone changes the icon then that’s, you know, very confused sometimes. So yes it is absolutely vital for getting found.
Chris: Coz you ever think the user process is type in the search results, type in the keyword or words into the search, see the results and then they see the icons. So then they click on the icon and now they see the description on the screenshots and actually they see the icon and the rating I believe right at the beginning. But then you click on the icon and then you see the screenshots and description and some of the other stuff. But those things are all part of the process before a download occurs. So having all this things lined up, like you don’t wanna be missing a step, don’t give up on your app because it doesn’t have mobile app downloads when you haven’t even taken a real critical look at your icons and some of this other things. So the obvious next thing is the screenshots, are they telling the story of your app? In fact we just got a question from a listener about, hey my retention is messed up and how do I get this and that and we’ll try to talk about it on another episode once we get her permission to talk about it. But I went and looked at her screenshots on Google Play and I can’t tell what the app does. Like I don’t understand what the gameplay is. I have to download it to figure it out. And really the screenshots are built there to sell your app. Its one of your small opportunities to sell the app under your terms. Hey go tell your prospective users what is so cool about your app and tell what it is. There’s so much out there.
David: And we still call it screenshots but it really is just marketing material that coincidentally has the same size as your screen but actually you know the actual screen shot of your app might be a small part of it or might be the major part of it. But you have to, I think in my opinion do more than just take a screenshot and put it in there. You know there has to be some kind of very short but big text and you know preferably non-text that explains something of course but working with the visuals, powerful visuals is something that you have to do and that marketing material because that’s what it is.
Chris: That is a huge point, and in fact you know how Eskimos like have 40 words for snow. You know how language drives behavior oftentimes. We shouldn’t call it screenshots because its more than screenshots. You’re right, it happens to have the same size as screenshot, its not doesn’t happen because they wanted to fill up the whole screen in your…
David: That’s what they thought it would be in he beginning. That’s like a developer thinks when they implement this. They think hey and that’s where we gonna put screenshots like actual screenshots and then you know the first market there coming around the corner says, hey I can do something with that.
David: So yeah, if you’re just doing screenshots or you know maybe doing a frame of the iPhone around your screenshot, that’s all , I mean that’s nothing that gives me any information so.
Chris: Right. Good reminder that when your negotiating with your designer. Some people have two different designers. One for the designs in the app and then one for the icon. I would think this is a better fit for the icon designer. Unless your using the same designer for both. But you know you should negotiate them building out screenshots for you as well. What is another term for that? Not using screenshots for like a..
David: I’m trying to figure it out, I don’t know. Its just visual marketing material. I don’t know.
Chris: Yes, the five spots in iTunes do market your app. That’s base. Yeah you should have your designer give you a quote for the icon and that because its that important. About a year ago I went to moving to, moving from screenshots to like descriptive (here you again) screenshots where you have like text over it and it told the story of who the user was and what the experience is and what the goal was and all this kinds of things, right. Five screenshots is five spaces is not a decent amount of space to tell a story so yeah just take another look and make sure your utilizing that space as a marketer or sales person would. Because really its not an afterthought. People used those things to determine if they’re gonna download your app or not. And again, if there was a slow traffic market, then that’s one thing but its not, there’s 45 million people searching. No, there’s 45 million searches a month in iTunes. And I think that means iTunes is the whole thing, like movies, books, the store, the podcast, everything. But still that’s a, that’s a ton of traffic so you get, you know you make this little adjustments and you can see it right away in your results, at least I have. Okay so those are the main big things, right? And a lot of them are obvious but sometimes its a good reminder and I do the same thing, I have to remind myself, hey have I really given a critical look to all this components. And for those of you who are newer and you know, not even newer. A lot of times you spent so much time on your app and you’re so heads down on it, that by the time its submitted, its just kind of like a relief, like okay I got it done. And you tend to like even forget what the icon looks like or the screenshots looks like and you need to go back and really give it another look.
David: Oh there’s definitely this mental task sizing going on where you estimate like how much work as if that was a measurable unit but I think that’s kinda how its going on. At least in my brain is you measure the kind of work that’s remaining until you get it done and that getting it done means you know its feature complete and it kinda doesn’t have critical bugs. But that’s the problem, you know you measure the time remaining and the work remaining to that point and not to the point where you’re actually selling a lot of this things or at least getting mobile app downloads. Because they’re so much more to it. You know there’s all this kinds of things, ASO, screenshots, icon design, and that should be accounted for in the beginning and if you do, there’s not so much frustration going on, you won’t hurry too much at the end which could potentially you know be harmful for your mobile app downloads.
Chris: Yes. Another reminder to outsource. So you have the brainpower and the energy left to do some of this things and you know what, you could even outsource this part of it to a VA. There’s no limit to or there’s almost no limit to what you can outsource. So I wanted to reference a couple of those tools, but I’m forgetting the names David. You know the tool, the website where you can add your screenshots to an active image where someone’s got, you know walking down the street and then looking at their iPhone and you can add your screenshot to that image.
David: Yeah, well have that in the show notes, yes we’ll add that to the show notes. Check out appbusinesspodcast.com. I totally know what you mean, but I can’t remember the site’s name. That’s very cool where you can like drag and drop on a certain image and then you can just buy that with your screenshots in it and it looks really gorgeous.
Chris: And they have hundreds of images now, they started charging. For people who are business minded, guys this is the benefit of charging that you can offer more value and that’s the whole point. So they have hundreds of images now across iPad and Android and tons of Android devices and its really cool. And there’s also a couple new free ones that the guys in mobile10x were talking about that we can post on. So we have 2 links to, kinda lower hanging..
David: Its Placeit. placeit.net
Chris: Oh Placeit. Got it, cool. So well add placeit.net and there’s another one to the show notes and yeah that should help you if you don’t wanna engage a designer and you wanna kind of just test this out and see if fixing your screenshots isn’t really a viable thing for you, if it makes an impact. Some other basic high level things we wont dig into it too much, this is supposed to be a 10 minute episode before I double that already, as we tend to do. There’s a lot of other things outside of the line on app store traffic that you can do. We talk at the very beginning about adding like retention and social sharing features. Any game or app or anything that’s more fun with friends is gonna have that built in sharing viral thing. More mobile app downloads type of deal. And it could be anything from basics stuff like hey, share your top score on Facebook to the Candy Crush map where it says hey here’s where your Facebook friends are, on which level they’re on, to big things like, hey you’re playing versus someone or with someone. But a lot of that stuff needs to go in the beginning of your app creation, right? You gotta think about that at the beginning. A couple other things that people had success with are a landing page, driving traffic to the landing page, collecting emails and then blasting out to an email list.
David: That’s for like a bigger kind of apps or bigger projects, probably not so useful for reskinning or something like that.
Chris: Definitely not. You know the thing with reskinning is, its kind of like you reskin it, you throw them the store and if it works, if it doesn’t you move on. And its almost like, I’m thinking that we might wanna start taking our discussions away from the reskinning audience. Not that they won’t get value, if they’re gonna be reskinning for the rest of their life, then they’re probably not gonna get a lot of value out of this podcast because were gonna try to support people who are really investing in this app space. Which means building apps outside of their..
David: And there’s lots of facets and gray like shades of gray to reskinning. But the hardcore by code reskin it 10 times reskinning model is something you can definitely start with but something that we are slowly moving away from I guess as an industry.
Chris: Yes, there’s not too much value you can add to that scenario. Just build a better functioning process or system and there’s not a lot of analytics and retention information. Not a lot of focus in that. There’s not even a lot of focus on submitting another version. Its kinda like, okay it worked or didn’t next. And that’s just not the direction David and I are going and I don’t think that’s the direction, long term the industry is going. I know that its a great place to start and its been very good to the people selling code. And not taking away anything from some of the guys that implemented that and done very well. But I just think when you got too many people selling the same code, of course you’re gonna run into issues where, hey, why won’t my app get downloaded? I’ve got a great slot machine. Its that thing. And that was actually the last note I had. Its easier app in a very competitive niche. You know the goal isn’t, hey you made an app, so now let me, I deserve to make some money. Its hey are you solving prompts or adding something unique. And that’s how you make money, solving prompts, whether the prompt is as simple as “Hey, I really want to build a business, I really want an app that lets me build a little business, like a SimCity for business. Its not a problem like drinking water or food, but its something that the market wants and needs and if you can solve that little problem, then you can make a bunch of money. Being the 20,000th slot machine, I have 4 slot machine apps too. But you know how much focus I’ve given them? Zero because I recognized, Oh my gosh, everyone moves to this space at the same time. There’s no reason for me to invest more time and money into this space. I’m not gonna do anything that adds any incremental value at all, let me go somewhere else.
David: And quick closing note on this.
David: Because its something that I recognize lots of, like just in real life and even outside of app, mobile and app business where people say, hey this business model, like X business model is working so great at the moment. I need to do this or I need to get into that space. And its like even usual people who aren’t even like entrepreneurially minded and lets always like the exactly the wrong thing to do. I mean most of the time, people don’t really do it but if they would, its absolutely wrong thing to do because once the ordinary not in at all connected to the industry, like that particular niche or that particular industry person recognizes that there’s something going on and there’s lots of money being made. The ship has sailed, like there’s, the time it takes you to get into that business and to get clients or sell product or whatever it is. Then the industry will have moved on to another thing. And you will just have invested in something that’s already dead, its beyond its tipping point. And so if you see something like that in the app store, if you see everybody’s doing 2048 clone or everybody’s doing slot machines and you’re not absolutely intuned with like the pulse of the industry and whats going on there, chances are you’re behind the curve.
Chris: Yes, I mean David and I were building the business app thing and we still are, but you know 3 weeks into us, wire framing it and building out the framework for it. Make It Rain became like a really popular app. We had, that was not on our radar at all but we just, they just saw the same thing that we saw and now that has been a pretty successful app. We’re hoping that that doesn’t become a super reskin app, but even if it does I think we’re gonna do some things that are unique enough. But the idea is that if you’re one of the guys that are recognizing opportunities and leading into that space as oppose to coming from behind, being the 30th person to that space, you’re gonna do a lot better. I mean, this is obvious stuff but sometimes its a good reminder that, look just because you bought some code and cemented a bunch of apps in it didn’t work doesn’t mean that app store dream is gone. This is an amazing space and you guys know that David and I are super committed to this thing, this space and investing a lot of time and money and effort. So we’re just hoping that, well this is almost like, for listeners that are discouraged with their apps success, were not selling you like some get out of jail free card or some amazing, just do this and it will work. But look there’s more you can do with your app if it doesn’t have mobile app downloads, don’t give up on it yet. Or if your app does fall into one of those super highly competitive areas, where maybe you didn’t add as much value as you would have like but as long as you learned something and you can go build another one, then go build another one, then take those lessons and go either build another one or do some of this things that were talking about in this episode.
David: Yes were doing a little teaser on this episode, so we’re going to start a series of episodes that will basically walk you through the journey of creating an app from scratch, from the very start of getting into business to like selling, making money, working on retention, optimization of your portfolio, etcetera. So basically just you know from A to Z, the whole thing and so if you are thinking that, hey I tried this, it didn’t work, I did learned a lot but it made a bunch of mistakes. There will be episodes coming out that will help you reevaluate what you’re options are which market you’re going to get into and just get started “the right way” as much as we know at least.
Chris: Yeah, right. Yes, if you have listened to any of the reporting episodes that we have done, the numbers are insane. So this isn’t like a normal opportunity, this is an amazing opportunity and I just, I think there’s a lot more to do here and hopefully a lot of the listeners can comment and ride the wave with us. I know a lot of them are, a lot of the 10x guys are, have twice as many mobile app downloads as I’ve got, I have over my portfolio so a lot of the people listening are way, much more successful as measured by mobile app downloads I guess as than David and I are. But they see the same things were seeing so its really fun to like all go do this together. All right cool, so that was a three times as long as we thought it would be but hopefully there’s some nuggets in there and maybe some encouragement for those that are still trying to pump through and make their app happen. We’d love to do a case study, so go join the Facebook Group, again we don’t know how to tell you where to go. Go to our website, and we’ll, there’s a link there. Or you can type, go to appbusinesspodcast in Facebook, and like our will be in the results. And its brand new, I think its like a week old, so we’re just starting that out and hoping that people want that and want to converse there. But yeah its a huge part of getting better is creating conversations with people that are doing it. So hopefully, you’ll join us there and hopefully your strong enough, confident enough to post some failures and say look, I’m stuck here, what have you guys done?And that would be great, we’d love to see you there and we love to see you in the comments section on the podcast, on the website. So yeah, thanks for listening. David thanks for the conversation and guys we’ll catch you next time on the appbusinesspodcast.