LAUNCHING A MOBILE APP: THE BASICS AND ADVANCED STRATEGY TO GET YOUR FIRST 1000 USERS
“I have a new app start-up”
Ah yes, a phrase that can be heard from Silicon Valley, all the way to local coffee shops here in Columbus, Ohio and everywhere in between. The tech boom that brought us Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Uber and many successful start-ups, is also a barren wasteland where 99% of the “others” fail. We don’t hear about those apps, they don’t make movies about those and they certainly aren’t glorified. Truth be told, most apps don’t get funding and most do fail. If you are going into this space, you must be prepared to work tirelessly for years before you can expect to break through. Consider the fact that Uber, even after developing the apps technology (which took years), spent nearly 2 years just in San Francisco before branching out to new cities. This is a cut throat industry where your great idea means absolutely nothing if you’re not able to execute day after day with tireless passion and precision. If you are working on developing a new app, or just had your next million dollar idea, these probably aren’t the words of encouragement you were looking for. However, this is the mentality you better be able to accept if you expect your start up to be successful.
In other industries we understand this. If you want to be a doctor, you go to school for 8-10 years. If you want to play in the NBA, you play basketball every day for 18 years, to maybe go to a good college, to maybe get drafted into the NBA. If you want to be Mr. Olympia, you work out, eat right and run your body through hell for years for the opportunity to reach the top of the mountain. That’s how you should look at any entrepreneurial venture, but especially an app start-up.
Getting Featured On The App Store:
Getting app downloads is different than any other platform. Most people think that app downloads are driven from social media, Google, or some other traffic funnel. If you can align with the right influencers, social media can be a great way to build your app awareness and drive downloads, but let’s cover the grassroots basics in the app store first. Most of the app downloads come from search within the iTunes and Google Play stores. For that reason, you want to maximize your chances of getting found in those locations.
The first thing you want to do is focus on your developer worksheet/submission.
To find this visit: Appstore.com/promote
Some people simply do the bare minimum to get their app submitted, but this is your pitch to Apple! This is your chance to tell them what your app is all about. The app store features a few new apps every week and if they choose your app, you could be off and running with thousands or tens of thousands of downloads right away. You can submit demos, app screenshots, developer insights and more that may get Apples attention.
Importance of Keyword Titles:
Similar to Google, keywords are so important when optimizing your app, this starts with the title. You want to include as many keywords in your apps title as you can, especially if you are in a competitive niche. For example, let’s say you are starting a dating app for busy professionals that don’t have time to meet the traditional ways. You might be tempted to go for the catchy/fun name like “BuzyDate.” Instead, think about long term keywords and include your most optimal search phrases. Something like “Business Dater: Busy business professionals looking for love.” Maybe that’s not as catchy as the first title, but it will yield more search results, and will also help you with the next step.
- Use all available 100 characters
- Don’t repeat keywords from your app name, app publisher
- name or app category
- Make sure your keywords can be combined to each other
- Plural and singular are seen as two different keywords. Better to use singular target keywords with a high relevancy, high Volume and low competition = high conversions
- Localize your keywords for each language
- The benefit of using longtail keywords in your title, is that the app store will optimize those keywords in search, without it counting against the 100 characters they allow in the keywords section.
This bulleted list is a great place to start your keyword strategy. The reason that your apps title is so important is because those keywords in your title will automatically be optimized and you don’t have to use any of your most important real estate (your 100 characters for your keywords). The other important thing to note is that you only need to separate your keywords with commas, no spaces, so you aren’t wasting any characters. The format should look like this:
Make sure you are using low competition keywords as well if you can because words like Dating, or dating app are going to put you up against high competition apps with more users, ratings and reviews which will make it much more difficult for your app to rank.
Short tail vs long tail keywords:
Short tail keywords are the obvious ones, the ones that all of your competitors will also start with. For example “Dating” or “Business.” The more competitive your app is, the more you will want to add longer phrase keywords to help you break through and rank where your competitors are not. To use our dating app example, a long tail keyword would be “Dating app for professionals.”
Example: Let’s say you are starting an app on how to start a business or build a business plan. You would certainly want to target the short tail keyword “Business,” but you will also want to include longer tail keywords like “How to write a business plan” or “How to start an online business.” Think of things you would search, or things you would want your users to search to find your app.
If you want to find out how much search volume and how effective your keywords might be, I recommend Google Adwords keyword planner.
Knowing your competitors:
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of starting an app. You come up with your great idea and find a developer to build it and you are already seeing the million dollar future dreams coming true. You love music and decide to build an app where people can do live karaoke with their favorite songs and can do screenshares with other users to sing duets. What a great idea! You spend $200,000 designing and building the app and you’re ready to launch. The only problem? There’s an app called Musical.ly that already has millions of users doing the exact same thing, but they are 3 years ahead of you with a better product. This happens all the time and the excitement immediately deflates from your sails. You must then decide if you want to pump more money into this idea to compete with an established app, or quit and lose your initial investment. This is a miserable situation to put yourself in! For that reason, it’s vital that you understand the market and your competitors before you enter the space. Make sure you answer the following questions:
- Who are your main competitors?
- What differentiates my app from theirs?
- How strong is this app?
- Have they received funding recently?
- How many downloads are they getting?
- Do they have a lot of reviews?
- Can my app co-exist with this app or should we make changes?
These are questions that need to be answered because these will be issues you face when growing your app and these are some hurdles for ranking your own app (downloads/reviews/users are what rank your app).
App Success Routes:
Free Model- How does an app that’s free make money? Users! The same way that Instagram, Facebook and Snap Chat have become multi-billion-dollar entities. The number one asset in the app space, and digital space in general is attention! Attention aka user base= dollars. If you can attract users, that means you are doing something right. Your goal is to get that app on downloaded onto phones because, let me tell you a little secret, people don’t delete apps! Once you get users to download that app, it typically stays on their phone for a long time, especially if your app provides a value or service.
If you are looking to attract investors, they are going to ask how many users you have, and how long it took you to acquire those users. The numbers matter!
Free + Service- This would be a utility app, such as Uber/Uber Eats. The goal is to get users to download the app, then purchase services/products once inside the app. This is an effective strategy for any service/product based app because you are giving away the app for free, in hopes that your customer will pay once they get comfortable using it. If you are launching a service app, the best way to get your users to engage with the app is to give them an initial credit. $10 is a good industry standard. When they download the app and see they already have a balance to use, they are more likely to try your app. If everything goes well, they are more likely to make in-app purchases in the future via their credit card. In app purchases can become impulsive as you no longer need to type in your credit card. For most purchases, you simply enter your passcode or thumbprint to make a purchase. If a user can try your app the first time on your dime, there’s a good chance they will come back a 2nd, 3rd,4th and 5th time if your product/service is quality.
Paid App- If your goal is to gain millions of users and attract investors, this isn’t the recommended route. However, if you have a program/service for professionals that you are simply looking to turn into passive profits, the paid model can be great. If you have a large audience or are driving traffic from a different community (website, Facebook, Instagram), you can drive people directly to your app to purchase your sales course, subscription model, etc. There are many successful entrepreneurs that sell a monthly course at a nice price point $7-15/mo that attract many users and bring in a nice monthly income.
Translate your app:
Don’t overlook the importance of language options. When launching an app, you are trying to fill any and every gap that can help your app get downloaded vs your competitor. Every app launches in English, but with a large percentage of those living in the U.S. and globally, that speak other languages, you should try to provide as many as options as possible.
Launch your app:
You have decided your strategy, gone through your keywords, tested your app and analyzed all of your competitors. Now it’s time to make sure your app launch runs smoothly. At first, you will be tempted to roll out the red carpet and do a huge app launch party. It has probably been a long process and you will be very excited to tell everyone about your app. Be patient here, in fact, try to launch your app a bit under the radar at first. This will give you an opportunity to make sure the app works, and see how your UX/UI and keywords are performing before you tell the general public. Limit this pre-launch to family and close friends. Your search ranking will continue to improve and it will give you an opportunity to fix bugs and get some initial reviews from your power base. Pick just one platform and keep it simple at first. If there are bugs and/or users give you bad reviews, you can use that feedback to make improvements before the full roll out. If the negative reviews are too much, you could even delete your app and relaunch it when you do your full launch.
Once to have done all of your tests and have the app prepared for your full launch and influx of traffic, now it’s time to throw that launch party, figuratively speaking. You should consider rolling out an iOS ads campaign which will help paid downloads, but my recommendation is to also align yourself with those who already have a voice and an audience that listens. Influencers, bloggers, journalists and marketers that have built loyal followings on platforms like Instagram/Facebook/Snap Chat etc. that can tell their audience about your product. You will likely have to pay for the exposure, but aligning yourself with the right influencers will give you immediate credibility, and can also provide you with photo/video content to help launch your own social channels. Bumble does a great job with this, as they have campus representatives that they pay all around the company to post and share their app, while encouraging their followers to do the same. You may receive just a few downloads through the first few campaigns, and that shouldn’t deter you. It can take multiple exposures to make the market aware of your app, but if you continue to align yourself with the right influencers to create evergreen content, you will begin seeing the results through downloads and PR.
Press releases have become a bit outdated, but you should also start reaching out to local news outlets and letting them know about your app, especially if you are looking to penetrate your local community. The more press you can get about your app, the more conversations you will generate, and it will also help to boost the authority of your website/app for SEO purposes. Go on as many podcasts, reach out to as many bloggers and find anyone you can to help you gain exposure in the marketplace.
Starting and growing a successful app is not easy, and even though we discussed the free strategies to help you rank higher in the app store, you better be prepared with some initial funding if you ever expect to scale or bring on larger investors. Take advantage of every bit of free advertising you can, like keyword/title optimization, press releases, blog articles, podcast appearances, etc. but you also have to be prepared to spend money on influencers, events and iOS paid ads if your goal is to break through and create the next million-dollar app in the marketplace.