How Entrepreneur and Kissmetrics Got It Wrong About How To Get More App Downloads

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I really enjoy Entrepreneur. And I’m a HUGE fan of Neil Patel & Kissmetrics. I’ve got a ton of value from his blog & love what he does. Recently he posted an article by Brian Honigman, a content marketing consultant & contributor to Forbes, the Huffington Post, Mashable & Entrepreneur (also posted) which I felt I needed to respond to.

I wanted to set the record straight based on what REALLY works to get more app downloads, based on what I’ve seen in the app market over the last 12 months.

Here the original Kissmetrics post and Entrepreneur reprint. Here’s my reply back. Would love to get your views and thoughts on this.

ent

kiss

Hi Neil & Brian, I have to respectfully disagree with a lot of this.

I’ve published over 200 apps in the last year and tried most of what you have suggested in your article. A lot of it honestly just does not work in real life.

1. “You came up with a great idea” – this is actually the MOST important part and really needs more discussion… to get more visibility in the store this NEEDS to be a great idea… would love to get your angle on how to choose this :)

2. “[You] hired developers and designers” – Easier said than done. Also its the fastest way to lose your money and put an end to your dream of app development when it all goes wrong and your developer has disappeared off the face of the planet and isn’t answering any of your emails any more. In the first few months of business I lost thousands of dollars like this, until I started to use the Haystack Method.

3. “Every developer dreams of experiencing the same kind of success as apps like Angry Birds, Waze, Instagram, and Snapchat. A huge part of the success of those companies, besides their development, was their marketing strategy.” Stop dreaming those dreams. There really is no such thing as first time success. Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd game they published, and their first big success. They spent 8 years and nearly went bankrupt in the process. Overnight success doesn’t really exist in the app market. Success comes after a ton of hard work that often you never hear reported in the papers.

4. “Let’s start with the basics – the app’s description”. Honestly? No. It’s useful in the Play store for ASO, but it’s only the rare person that ever READS the app description. Do you? Or do you see a great icon, glance at the screenshots, see they look amazing, see its got great reviews and then download it to your iPhone / iPad / Android device?

5. “Need some help finding the best keywords?” Yes – they are literally gold to get your app found in the store. It would be worth including if people DO need keyword help, that they should

A) Remove any spaces to maximise their 100 character keyword limit in ITC
b) Localise their keywords for more downloads in non English speaking countries

6. “Invest in Stellar Graphics”. Yes. ESPECIALLY in your icon (which people see first. If this is bad they will never see your screenshots, or read your description)

7. “When emailing a member of the media”. Honestly, for apps unless you’ve got a monster budget and put your ads on TV etc, this is a waste of time. PR releases, etc, tried them all with no visible impact on downloads. A friend made page 1 of techcrunch…. great DLs for one day, then back to normal.

8. “Generate Buzz on the Right Media Outlets” Again not a valuable use of your time. Much better to spend your time on ASO (app store optimization).

9. “Advertise Where Your Audience Lives Online” Until you know your ARPU (average revenue per user) do NOT pay for any ads. This is just a fast way to spend all your money without much of a return.

10. “Engage on Social Media” Again, I saw no increase in downloads from doing this. Would love to hear from anyone who has.

11. “Create a Website with Great Content”. You app does not need to exist outside of the app store to get maximum downloads. Does your app website get any / much traffic? People already in the app store are READY to buy your app. People browsing your website and just browsing the web. Bar a rare exception I haven’t seen this to work. Again, love to hear from anyone who has in the comments.

12. “Make a How-to Video” Where will this video be? On your website? Emails to reviewers? See my previous points.

13. “BONUS TIP: Ask for Reviews” Definitely this is really important, more so now than ever. You can use a free service like Playhaven to have these popups appear when the user has successfully completed your app / game (and hopefully then is enjoying it and will give a good review).

Best wishes,
Elaine Heney.
Chocolate Lab Apps.

I’ve contacted Brian & Neil so would love to get their views on my feedback.

In the meantime for all app developers reading this – let me know your thoughts. Have any of the suggestions worked for you?

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Elaine Heney is the CEO of Chocolate Lab Apps, #1 Bestselling Author of "The App Escape Plan". Elaine has over 200 apps published with over 3 million downloads, 5 online App Development Courses, and mentors international mobile startups.

{ 22 comments… add one }

  1. 1 Chris November 15, 2013, 11:36 am

    I would say ASO (name, keywords, ratings) gets you found > Icon gets download or gets prospect to view app page > ratings closes deal along with congruent screenshots.

    Asking for ratings and reviews in app – ideally using smart triggers (like after level complete or after game complete as you mentioned) should not be a bonus tip, but in his top 3-5 things. The quantity, quality and velocity of reviews/ratings seems to be having an increasing impact on rankings (and downloads). Funny as description should be last/least important (at least for iTunes – the screenshot he provided).

    Agree with every single point for exact same reasons.

    The rest is what looks pretty from outside but has little to no effect on ultimate success of app.

  2. 2 Garry November 15, 2013, 12:15 pm

    …thanks Elaine- separating the cream from some of the fluff is always beyond beneficial to those of us manning the everyday real world. Thanks as always for your thoughtful insight…

  3. 3 Iain November 15, 2013, 1:05 pm

    Nice counter-post Elaine, although maybe we shouldn’t be telling Kissmetrics this, more downloads for us! muahahha (just kidding ;-))

    Seriously though, I agree good reviews seem to have the most affect for me at the moment

  4. 4 Muller November 15, 2013, 1:47 pm

    I think you got the App description part from the original post wrong.

    He wrote about an application NOT a game.
    For games I agree….no one reads it. If anything then only the 1st sentence.

    For Camera/Video/Utils apps app description makes sense where features are important

  5. 5 Brian Honigman November 15, 2013, 2:20 pm

    Thanks again for the follow up post Elaine! I’m always up for constructive conversations.

    1. Yes, the idea is crucial to the success of your app. Good point. My article assumes you already came up with a great idea and need to take the next steps. A great idea without the proper marketing might never see the light of day.

    2. Of course it’s easier said then done, developers are one of the most in demand talent today!

    4. You’re right about the description. What I should have stated, is that it helps in search discovery, not necessarily influencing a user to download it or not based off the description.

    7. Disagree 100% on this point, amazing press can be achieved with any budget as long as the idea is there and the drive to get in front of the right people. Don’t reach out to 10 press contacts, reach out to 250!

    10. It’s not a good piece of advice to ignore social media.

    11. Your app should have a website for added visibility online.

    12. Yes, the video will be on social media, your website and anywhere else possible traffic will see it and learn about your app.

    Thanks again, have a good weekend!

  6. 6 iMommy November 15, 2013, 2:21 pm

    I agree with most of what you said..a vast majority actually…but with one exception…when I first started out I did use social media to get people to try the app and review it and it’s what helped ‘get the word out’ for me. But all in all it was 3 1/2 years of lots of hard work that got me to over a million downloads this fall..and rising…
    It really bugs me when people think it’s so easy or an over night success story..I always reply.. “well that’s the longest night I’ve ever known!”

  7. 7 Karen November 15, 2013, 2:31 pm

    Great post. However I feel there is a big difference in games versus non games. Some strategies that work for games/reskins may be different for non games. But of course, icon/screenshots/keywords are essential for any app whether iOS or Android. I absolutely agree with landing page/website. That is a great point, Elaine. I have a website where I’m paying for hosting, paid for the domain, paying developer every time a new app is released to update the site. Now that I think about it, such a waste of money. I already have a Facebook page so why not just use that as the main website.

  8. 8 Karen November 15, 2013, 2:37 pm

    Hi Brian – With website, app videos, social media…I have not seen ANY increased downloads at all. I have videos of my apps on Youtube, displayed on Twitter/Facebook. I tweet them all the time. I engage with people but not one response whether on Facebook or Twitter. I have tried it all. No luck. Perhaps I’m doing something wrong but based on my experience I’ll have to agree with Elaine. Howevwer, thats not to say that others havent experienced the success with website, landing pages, social media, vids. For me personally, hasnt worked at all.

  9. 9 Brian Honigman November 15, 2013, 6:00 pm

    Hi Karen

    Okay, how are you measuring if website, app videos or social media drove downloads? You’re right in some cases these techniques work and for others, they do not. Like anything else, these are tactics to experiment with to see if they are a match for you and your business.

  10. 10 JC Haswell November 15, 2013, 8:14 pm

    Brian,

    Do you have any data on the actual effect of a social media campaign on an app? A lot of Elaine’s readers, myself included, have attempted marketing and promotion outside the iOS appstore and, for me, it has been 100% wasted effort that I could have applied to other areas with a better return.

    “Ignoring social media is not a good strategy”
    Wasting time on low ROI activities is not a good strategy.
    What if by ignoring social media I have the time to enhance my product, and thereby get more organic DLs and better reviews? I had a conversation with an ex-Zynga employee yesterday who said they have tried countless methods to acquire users from outside the app store and they have all pretty much failed to give a decent ROI.

    “Your app should have a website for added visibility online.”
    Really? Do you have data on conversion rates from web traffic to downloads? It’s horrendous. The problem here, and it’s not just you but pervasive to the industry, is that you are partially right. Of course a website with info and links to your app will help, but the question is *how much* it will help. IMO, the ROI on the investment is not at all there, except maybe for very large companies/apps (but I’ve yet to see any data actually proving that).

    #13 – Same thing as above. Sure, you might drive a few downloads…if you get a few hundred thousand impressions. But the time/money could usually be better spent elsewhere.

  11. 11 Manny November 15, 2013, 9:07 pm

    Great post Elaine. I see stuff like this, and I’m a bit disappointed in the “fluff” of the piece. Brian is a good writer who knows his stuff and there’s a lot that can be shared that will actually help people.

    However here are few points I’d like to bring up
    1. Media & PR outreach: Brian is right you should target a lot of outlets, however that is a FULL TIME job. It’s not just about sending out some canned emails, any schmuck can do that. You have to plan and target your efforts for maximum effectiveness.

    If you are a one man operation, focus on honing your ASO skills and getting reviews. I personally know how to do SEO with blackhat ninja like skills and I’m getting better at ASO everyday and it’s still a full-time job when we get to marketing. Should you do it? Yes, but I think you really have to weigh what your app’s value is, to your target market vs. the marketing effort and $$ that is worth putting into it. You really need to be honest with yourself about your apps true value and shelf life.

    3. Press releases: Completely useless. Unless like me, you know a quite a bit about SEO and know how to use them to drive traffic effectively. Even then, they are very short lived. No one ever really reads PR releases. Having your release up on a site like PRWeb is kinda pointless unless you are in the business of building low quality back links for your app. A better use of time and money, is to head over helpareporter.com and start building relationships with journalists that are writing about your company’s or your app’s niche.

    4. Social media: You should set it up for your company, but don’t waste time on the app’s until you know you have a winner and can justify the effort. SM is for relationship building, customer service and letting RAPID fans know about your next app, not marketing unless there is enough ROI. One Caveat, if you are building FB apps, an FB Page is critical.

    6. Website content. You should not waste any time on website content until you have the traffic to justify it. Unless you are on page 1 of Google for your #1 to #3 search term, throw up something basic and call it a day. Ideally it should just be the same copy and images that are up on your apps store page, that way you kill 2 birds with one stone.

    5. Video: Point to Brian. Only because of the SEO goodness this can bring you. Don’t ever expect to have tons of views. You will never beat a cat video. Ever. That’s not it’s purpose. But again, you should only do this with an app that is worth the effort.

    Most app developers know very little about SEO & ASO . If anything, you should focus on developing these skills or working with someone who does. Understand that SEO & ASO are about manipulating algorithms. Not about producing “good content”. Algorithms can’t tell the difference between a poorly written Dick & Jane for the visually impaired and the greatest thing since War & Peace. Focus on Dick & Jane if you must go the content route, until the audience, traffic & DLs justify the effort and cost War & Peace.
    YMMV

  12. 12 Iain November 15, 2013, 10:45 pm

    Actually no, I’d disagree slightly. Personally I’ve found social media a very useful marketing tool although not in the way Brian implied/suggested.
    Social media , i.e. facebook and twitter, has been very useful in getting reviews in from other developers who are most willing to give an honest review exchange.

    Unfortunately, as far as true fans go it’s a pretty tricky unless you have a lot of marketing budget or a lot of years for building up an audience.

  13. 13 Kristjan K November 16, 2013, 10:06 am

    Superb comments!
    I totally agree with people above!

    You have to know what your goal is.

    If we are talking about a paid utility app or sometimes paid game, yes, description does matter. If it is free, no one cares.

    If you want to break into top 25 social media, helpareporterout.com press contacts, videos, good google ranking with your homepage might be that final 4% to push you over the edge.

    But I mean, you can get tens of millions of downloads if instead of wasting your time on webpage, social media, pr (and I really do call it waste). You focus on building a network of friends with high download numbers. And do a bit of localized ASO.

    So, overall, if you want to get a lot of downloads it comes in that order:

    1) Cross-promo in same niche
    2) localized ASO
    3) ASO (English)
    4)Optional: Buying installs (but know your numbers!)

    To conclude, I rather suggest putting effort into cross-promo and ASO.

    By the way, isnt there a time already when we start seperating marketing types for different types of apps?
    term “app marketing” really doesnt mean anything anymore.
    Also, does anyone know to recommend some great blogs as this one?

  14. 14 Elaine Heney November 16, 2013, 11:49 am

    @Chris “The quantity, quality and velocity of reviews/ratings seems to be having an increasing impact on rankings (and downloads).” – Agree.

    @iMommy, Gary – Thanks for the feedback guys!

    @Muller for any apps on iOS, I’d still argue that awesome screenshots that explain the features really well is a lot more effective than a description.

    @Brian “My article assumes you already came up with a great idea and need to take the next steps. A great idea without the proper marketing might never see the light of day.”

    Yes, but that in my experience is the MAJOR part of the whole process. As you said, get it wrong (and I’ve got it wrong tons of times) and you make little/no money. Would really be interested in a followup blog of yours on how you would do this.

    Also re “It’s not a good piece of advice to ignore social media. Your app should have a website for added visibility online.”

    Would love you to share any stats on this. I just haven’t found it to be true. As JC said, when you could be working on ASO, new apps etc, is spending time on these really the best use of your time?

    @Karen, I have a website I put up myself in about an hour. I don’t really do much updating, its just there in case anyone really wants to go looking for it.

    @JC – Agree. In any business time is money.

    @Manny “Media & PR outreach: Brian is right you should target a lot of outlets, however that is a FULL TIME job. It’s not just about sending out some canned emails, any schmuck can do that. You have to plan and target your efforts for maximum effectiveness.” Yup :)

    @Iain, I’d say those social media reviews were because of past relationships you had with those people… I seriously doubt you’d get the same number of reviews if you set up a random facebook & twitter a/c for your business and asked people you didn’t know to review.

    @Kristjan cross-promo carefully as you’re losing money on your advertising. I’d also add theme choice as a big factor to your list.

  15. 15 Iain November 16, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Ah no Elaine, you misunderstand my point. I’m talking review exchanges with other indie developers via SM, and yes there is a certain amount of relationship building but not much because they’re desperate for reviews too.

    As far as customer building goes twitter and Facebook are both poor for mobile games so far.

  16. 16 Derval O'Neill November 16, 2013, 4:40 pm

    I believe my Facebook campaign definitely had an effect on my DLs.

    The increase in DLs clearly match the increase in “likes” for my app FB page.

    Here are the charts:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/nxext5nmbaqr3rh/Screen%20Shot%202013-11-16%20at%205.32.26%20PM.png

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/ay6qx6dtou7qnif/Screen%20Shot%202013-11-16%20at%205.33.26%20PM.png

    Thanks for addressing this hot topic Elaine!

  17. 17 Kristjan K November 17, 2013, 10:21 am

    @Elane “cross-promo carefully as you’re losing money on your advertising. I’d also add theme choice as a big factor to your list.”

    Sorry, I was vague myself. I meant cross promo for bigger apps where you dont have ads in them and you earn money with iAPs. For example, Zombie Gunship is promoting Zombie Highway. Yes, it isnt wise to use cross-promo for smaller apps.

    For smaller games its mainly aso + theme choice and you make money with ads. Bigger games cross-promo + theme choice + aso + (optional) buying ads and you make money with iAP.

    Theme choice – yeah, I totally agree. It was so natural to only make games with proven themes that I got professional cretinism about it.

  18. 18 Georgie November 20, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Great retort Elaine, from someone actually marketing apps and with the numbers to back up your claims. I’m curious to know how many apps Brian Honigman released and what sample size he’s working off of.

  19. 19 imobdev Tech December 4, 2013, 1:19 pm

    iMOBDEV team really appreciates this a lot. Keep sharing interesting facts on your next blog.

  20. 20 Eyal Dessou Tzafrir December 21, 2013, 7:47 am

    Thank you for this great eye opening post.
    Reading the comments I think that no one is in the kids/educational market.
    In this market –
    -Pictures are important but also description because the ones who download are the parents.
    - Social Media and bloggers helps a lot to spread the word – not paying for ads
    - Great app doesn’t mean great success.
    - There are many methods that we can’t use in this market – ads, in app in education (big no no from parents and if u want to get into schools)
    - COPPA – big limitations on developers because we can’t ask for review – we can but it’s behind a parents gate where till u get there you really don’t care anymore
    - Reviews are very very important on the store
    - Website – very important – again for credibility

    Thanx

    Eyal

  21. 21 Bennett January 9, 2014, 2:44 pm

    This blog post is sheer gold Elaine and I couldn’t agree more.

    We’ve just released our first serious app “Warriors vs Zombies” on the 2nd January into the app store as both ipad and iphone freemium and paid versions.

    Downloads have been decent enough achieving around 2,500 in the first 5 days although we hope to increase this # dramatically over the coming weeks through testing new keywords (via Sensor Tower) and also by requesting positive reviews from happy users.

    The app has Game Centre integrated so we have taken to adding the 50 Top Scorers from each version as friends, commending them on their awesome score and asking that they provide us with a positive review provided they’ve enjoyed the apps.

    Constructive suggestions to improve the app are also encouraged(0;

    What could possibly go wrong…

    Once again, AWESOME post & website Elaine. Keep up the great work!!

    DB
    Samurai Software

  22. 22 Elaine Heney January 24, 2014, 8:45 am

    Thanks Derval!

    @Kristjan K & Georgie :)

    @iMOBDEV & Eyal = thanks!

    @Bennett = glad it was useful!

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