So, you’ve built your app and tested it to the nines. You’ve uploaded it to the App Store, Google Play too (because you know that covering both platforms doubles your potential customer base) and the lead up to the launch is upon you. You’ve even kept a little cash spare for marketing, so you fire on all cylinders and launch your virtual assault via Facebook and Twitter, certain that your amazingly creative and engaging creation will be a hit with the jaded congregation of smartphone enthusiasts. Even better than that, you’ve done your homework; you’re pretty certain there’s no competition in the niche you’ve found in the market, so you’re sure your app won’t get lost among similar-minded wares. The stage is very much set.
The day after the big release you bolt up from bed, eager to check how many times your app has been downloaded. It’s been sixteen hours already. Surely you’ve hit four figures by now? You stare in horror at your screen. Nineteen downloads. Ten of them friends. Twelve of them family. Nine of them half-interested App Store trawlers. All of them distressing (not least because no one bothered to leave a single review). Sadly, this is the case for a large number of app developers who follow all the right steps, but just don’t have the edge needed to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of app commerce. Contrary to this article’s title, there’s not one big secret (I’m afraid it’s just not that easy); but there are a number of tips and tricks you can use to push your app up the charts and get that download counter spinning like a Catherine wheel.
I’ll start off with some obvious ones and then move on to some industry specific titbits. The first rule about app development is content is king. It’s not enough to have a good concept. It has to be a great concept. The nearest industry I can align this to is screenwriting; it costs nothing to write a script, therefore a lot of people do it. I know it costs money to develop and release an app, but that price is comparatively negligible when stacked against the financial rewards developers expect to reap. So when you’ve got a lot of people writing screenplays, the idea has to be great, not just good. The execution has to be great, not just good. The presentation has to be great, not just good. And so on, you get the idea. The other thing about that script is that it has to be original. Scripts are divided by genres, you have horror, thriller, rom-com, western, crime drama, science fiction, etc. You better be doing something original with your chosen genre or you’re going to have a hard time standing out in a crowd. Same thing with apps. You can call the divisions of game, lifestyle, social networking, entertainment etc., separate ‘genres’ of app, and you need to be similarly inventive with your creations here. Bear in mind too, that app competition is far more severe than screenplay competition. There are hundreds upon thousands of apps out there. You need to have a great concept and an original take. It’ll do you no good to have one and not the other; you might have a great concept that’s similar to other great apps or an amazingly original take that really isn’t all that great. One isn’t enough for staying power and continuous downloads in the cutthroat charts of the App Store.
The next big thing is marketing. While our friend at the top of the article was smart enough to hold back a little cash for a marketing push, simply getting the word out isn’t always enough. Ideally, during development, you could consult with or even hire someone well versed in app-marketing and applicable strategies. Failing that, you need to step up to the plate and decide upon an original and inventive campaign that covers all the social media outlets. Send links out to review sites before the release to build a bit of momentum; the reviewers will like the fact that they’re getting their hands on something exclusive, while a good article is worth its weight in gold to you. Also, a crucial step is continuing the marketing push throughout the lifespan of the app. Of course it’s important to make the most noise on launch day. But it won’t provide you with much traction for the long run to simply shout it from the rooftops for twenty-four hours (though it might get you a good ranking on the charts, so do make sure that push is concentrated at launch). The Internet is constantly in flux. You’ll never reach all your potential customers at once, so make sure you give yourself the best chance by planning a long term campaign. This doesn’t even have to be all about the hard sell, in fact, it’s better if it isn’t; you can share articles or items relevant to your app genre, get creative with videos and other engaging content, or start building a community centred around your app. Also, it’s a global business, and downloads are downloads; if the scene seems too crowded in the US or UK, branch out to some other territories that are a bit quieter. The users are still there, don’t worry. It just might be that much easier to reach them.
Building a community will also help you to get feedback on your product, an important part of every developer’s trajectory. Remember, an app isn’t necessarily a completed product once it hits theApp Store or Google Play; there might be bugs to fix, sudden surges of inspiration to add on, or new features to be tweaked. With every update comes something else for you to shout about online, so keep in mind that updates are your friend. I know these are all broad points, but they’re the foundations of every successful app, so it’s beneficial to keep them in mind at all times. So now we’ve laid those said foundations, I’ll move on to the specific things you can do to increase your downloads. The first thing is jiggling the price of your app. If it’s not free, then even just lowering and upping the price while measuring your statistics could help you hit a sweet spot where you downloads suddenly increase exponentially. Another trick is offering a discount for a certain period of time. If you cut your price in half for twenty four hours and advertise the hell out of it, you could see a huge boost in downloads, resulting in you being pushed up the charts and gaining more visibility. And keep in mind, all these flourishes give you something new and immediate to shout about over social networks. Unless of course you’re raising the price as a test, in which case you might just want to do it swiftly and silently at three a.m.
Another worthwhile point is keywords. Remember to use your keywords. If your app is called ‘Wicked Stream Video’ (don’t call it that, ever), then make sure you have the words ‘stream’ and ‘video’ in your app description at least half a dozen times over. Search for lateral keywords that will improve your chances of being seen when people search for one of your main ones. But don’t overdo it; keep all keywords in context and use them evenly over the whole text. Lastly, use App Store Optimisation to push your app higher up the charts, increasing visibility. Make sure your title is direct and concise. Make sure your description is engaging and utilises the correct keywords. Make sure your thumbnail picture is enticing and your screenshots put your best foot forward in terms of your app’s interface or graphics. Since Apple doesn’t release the algorithm they use to determine an app’s rankings, this is a trial and error process; it might take a while, but it’s worth it in the long run.
And it a long run; a marathon, not a sprint. Building your app constitutes a third of the lifespan of your start-up. Getting folks to use your app consistently is always the toughest part .Is there some good news at the end of this dark, challenging tunnel? Of course there is. The great thing about the App Store and Google Play is that they’re self-sustaining. If you can battle your way to the charts, you’ve got a good chance of being featured in the stores, or at the very least, being constantly visible. You’ll have new potential clients checking out your app every minute of every day, and naturally, the more people who download it, the higher it goes (and/or stays) in the charts, thereby maintaining visibility and increasing downloads, and so on and so forth. It’s like being rich. Once you find yourself with a ton of money, opportunities to make more tons of money suddenly present themselves at alarming rates. Heed the dangers outlined above, always be discerning and utilise your newfound knowledge so great success can app-ly to you too.