Live life outside the rat race.
Download my bestselling book, App Empire, for FREE by entering your email now:
Optimizing your apps is another way to talk about my favorite phrase, “tweak like a freak.” You won’t get millions of downloads upon launch (but then there’s those crazy stories of getting acquired in 30 days), which is why the most important time for your apps are the 1 – 3 months after launch. This is when you’ll be collecting the most data which will provide you with the best intel to tweak like a professional freak.
While apps may be small, there are a ton of little changes you can make to optimize your app in order to increase download and retention rate. Front-end changes such as screenshots, in-app graphics, and icons are critical, but also a little easier concept for people to grasp because they can see what they need to work on.
An equally important but more “mysterious” form of optimization is the always dreaded ASO (App Store Optimization). People really hate ASO, and I don’t blame them. Apple likes to frequently change its algorithm, so what worked last month, may not optimize your app the next month. This is the game we are all constantly playing, but a game worthy of our attention.
A common mistake I see people make is when they see their downloads dropping, they stop putting effort into optimizing. This will kill your business, period.
Today, I’ve brought in a special guest to unleash some of the questions most people have with ASO.
AE member, Justin Malik, has written an easy-to-follow, don’t-even-think-about-it keyword optimization game plan that you can follow step-by-step to make your ASO efforts easier.
Justin Mailk, MBA, left his full-time job to pursue app development in April 2013 and since has launched over 60 apps in the App Store and acquired nearly 750,000 downloads. (You may remember him from his AE success story here.) When not developing apps, he is blogging about the process on Moneyfromapps.com and binge-watching Netflix. (Aren’t we all?)
ASO (App Store Optimization) is a gigantic topic fueled by debate, but I’m going to do my best to cut through the speculation and give you a step-by-step process of how to get downloads consistently and increase those downloads over time with keywords. When my partner and I first started developing apps in 2012, we had no clue what we were doing, and we picked keywords that just made sense to us. However, over time, we’ve come to realize the importance of it, especially as the number of apps entering the App Store continues to increase.
Our efforts have paid off; since we’ve started paying more attention to ASO, our metrics have improved. We’re quickly approaching a million downloads across our apps, and we’re seeing twice the retention as we target more appropriate keywords. In terms of revenue, an app that would normally make $10 a day for about 2 weeks and then die off will now make us over $10 per day for the life of the app. This change has helped us to create the profitable app business we’ve always wanted, and one that brings in six-figure yearly revenues. Doing our ASO homework has made all the difference, and I’m going to share with you exactly what we’ve learned along the way.
With respect to Android developers, I’m going to be focusing on the iOS App Store because first, it’s what I know best, and second, most people that enter the world of apps usually start with, or at least have some apps developed for, iOS. There is also a great deal of cross-over with the app stores.
This post is not comprehensive (the topic of ASO could easily fill a textbook), and I’m focusing on Keyword Optimization because that tends to be what we get the most questions about. Don’t get me wrong—icon, screen shots, and description are incredibly important in ASO—but I find keywords to be a little less straightforward and a bit more interesting. Some people argue that you shouldn’t spend too much time on keywords and that they get a good amount of downloads by spending only 10 minutes on it, but I would argue that their metrics would improve if they employed some ASO tactics.
If you’re an entrepreneur and not interested in developing apps, you should still listen up. You can use this information to help you research ad keywords for any business, or this can help improve SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your startup’s website. Many of the principles of ASO cross over to the world-wide web.
The greatest gift technology has given modern day entrepreneurs is the ability to see the once guarded information of what other successful people are doing. We have all heard that success leaves clues, so when you are reading our guest blogs, make sure you see what specific nuggets of wisdom you can take and implement into your own business. It’s not just about emulating the Cubans or the Bransons, it’s just as important to see how “regular” people with a passion created their dream life.
Today, we’re excited to have one of our members share their success story with you.
Shaun Gianetti was actually one of our original AE members back in 2012, and has been a consistent power player and contributor in our Alumni group. Shaun has a ton of experience producing a wide range of apps, which gives him a unique insight on this business. Originally his app business started as a passion project with his son, but now has grown into an established machine of 45 published apps with 10 in progress. Shaun is now the largest publisher of apps in his country and has been a regular guest speaker in Trinidad.
Q: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with our community, Shaun! Walk me through the step-by-step process that you went through to get to where you are today. What was the first thing you did? Next?
A: Although my first app did not make me much money (to speak of), it is what launched me into the business. And for that I am grateful. My son was having learning difficulties and a teacher suggested “Fry’s Sight Words”… so I downloaded several apps that fit that description. But I was not happy with the UI/Functions and general abilities. I thought, “I bet I could design a better app.” Fresh out of a webinar on publishing apps with no code writing experience, I searched for more and more info about getting into this business. I came across the App Empire course, I was also attending Trey Smith webinars too. Luckily for me Trey was a friend of Chad Mureta and was offering Chad’s course and a bonus to his “Mobile Game System” and “Project Zero.” So that is where it started.
The App Empire Alumni FB was a buzz of activity and ultimately one of the greatest resources for information and encouragement from my peers. I was among the first to reskin a game app. Avalanche Mountain. I was also fortunate to find an excellent Art Studio and quickly became friends with the Lead Art Director. He in turn put me on to a Ukrainian programmer who built my first “from scratch” game that was amazingly successful and yielded 700% ROI.
Q: Amazing – we’re glad to have you in the Alumni too! You’ve always been super helpful to other members. And it’s a testament to why you’re successful that you kept going even though your passion project didn’t return the results you hoped. Many people stop there! Why do you feel your “from scratch” game saw 700% ROI? What do you attribute that to?
A: Haha, At least I can say that the passion project is what got me into the business. The tricks back then to get noticed (and high ROI) no longer work. One of the Ninja tricks for that app was to release it as Paid at $4.99 for almost a week. It was nerve wrecking as that first week had dreadfully low downloads. Then I switched to free at midnight on Friday. The app got noticed by websites that track price changes. It took off like a rocket. Averaging 20,000 to 25,000 downloads per day for the first week of being free, then the next week 10k-12k per day and so on. Of course the ad network was switched on. Back then RevMob had an eCPM of about $20. So earnings were excellent. Within 2-3 weeks my app had paid for itself and it was all gravy from there. I repeated that Free/Paid trick with many games, over time it became less and less effective. Funny story: I knew it hit a nerve when I got flagged by Apple with a request to change my App name. It was “World of War Tanks”. There was a PC online game called “World of Tanks” that complained that mine was creating confusion with their game (even though they did not have an iOS game). 2 years later they created an iOS game. I changed my name after arguing with them for a month. It was during December. I changed it to Global War Tanks in January.
Q: You know you’re doing something right when you’re creating some waves! What were some of your biggest obstacles? How did you get through them?
A: I can’t say that I’ve had huge obstacles. My education app that was my first development missed its launch window and bombed. But all of my games have covered these costs. The biggest hurdle for any app publisher now is “discovery”. Compared to a year and a half ago, launches have had really poor results by comparison. ASO is more and more important to each app.
Q: Would you say your game “bombed” because your launch window was missed or did you feel other factors were involved? And how do you assess apps now that you think will fail or be successful? What do you look for before building it out?
A: When I first researched this app and keywords, the peak search period on Google around the World was September/October. Why? Because parents would have had their first meeting with their child’s teacher and the recommendation would have been get “Sight words” for your kid… and parents would go Google it. My launch was mid to late November… ack!!! Close to the end of the School Term. I missed the boat. It was either that or wait a year… I dove in and eventually recovered 20% . The key to assessing apps is ensuring that you have done your best at producing a quality app. Don’t cut corners for expediency. Do your best to research ASO and trends.
Q: Did you ever having a turning point or hallelujah moment that really cemented things for you?
A: For me the realization that games should be my focus came early. Most of my apps have done reasonably well. A couple duds here and there, but despite this, my profitability is at about 80% above cost. Many who entered a year after me are still underwater.
Q: What do you see as common mistakes people are making that keep them underwater?
A: I think I was lucky to get in when I did, when discovery was much easier. The most common mistake people make is to think that stock art will cut it. Another is hiring a lousy graphic designer or buying code just because it is cheap, but may have poor user experience or potential for retention. But there are also other problems that don’t help the situation, sometimes the App Store is just broken and your app is never discovered. I recently released a beautiful puzzle game and discovery has been non-existent. It peaked at 90 DLs and reduced to 0-5 per day. It’s 2 weeks old with some good reviews. Too much crap to compete with out there? Maybe.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about this business? What drives you to keep going?
A: I love the creative aspects of this business. Years ago I was an advertising Creative Director. So this keeps my creative juices flowing. It’s fun. And all my 10 y.o. son’s school friends think he has the coolest Dad, cause I make games
Q: Haha that’s awesome. Love to hear that! What is one of the most memorable pieces of advice you ever received?
A: Simplicity of App names… I showed Trey Smith a game of mine about 1 1/2 years ago. I thought I had a super cool game name. He suggested “Just call it: Helicopter War Game”. It was a hit and my most successful Project Zero Game.
Q: Right, it’s amazing how often people tend to complicate things. I’ve definitely been guilty of it.
Q: The inconsistency of Apple reviewers – just crazy. What are other things you or you feel people need to simplify in this business?
A: App names should be 2-3 words at best. Long names just look like a scam. Unprofessional. Developers need to concentrate on quality, not necessarily quantity. (Less stress too)
Q: It’s one thing to get started (a huge struggle in itself!), but it’s another thing to get over those first hurdles and become what we call a “success story.” How do you feel others can get over these hurdles to really accelerate their growth and find their own success?
A: People have to know up front that this is not a get rich quick scheme. Your first app is not going to make you a Bazillion Dollars. You need to keep publishing and build experience. Being reasonably well capitalized is also pretty important. Because some apps are going to be duds and some will just get your money back. Always aim for quality. There is so much crap in the store, I don’t know how some get past review. Once you have gained experience, then you need to consider several business models. E.g. partnering with some other Indie Publishers and pool your resources to get into the AAA category.
Q: I’d say a common concern people tell me is, “I don’t know how to partner with other publishers when I’m not successful.” What would be your advice to them?
A: Sounds like a Catch-22 situation. Success attracts success. I would say that you need to network a lot, be visible on Facebook groups and participate in the forum discussions to build credibility. Eventually you will come across a few peers that are at the same level of production as yourself. Try and start a small project together. Small: 5 people – $1,000 each. Now you have a $5,000 app (potentially). You have group participation of ideas, pool the apps earnings into a small business model. Rinse, repeat.
Q: Great advice! What do you see as the main reasons people do and do not succeed in this business?
A: Under-capitalization. Without enough money you won’t be able to stay in the biz too long. No business plan. If you don’t know where you are going… any road will take you there.
Q: When you look at the future of this business, what do you see? Are you planning to make some big changes? Are you sticking with your current model? What are your plans?
A: The quick money for most small apps is gone. Discovery is harder and harder. Reskins had a lot to play in this part, not too different to what happened in the introduction of the internet. Every rope has an end, but we still have some good years ahead if you move smart. So you either have to grow or get out. I’ve mapped out several business models. Scaling up in size is key for me in the next year. 1. To increase the number of published apps x 20. 2. To build a select number of medium apps that can be resold as turnkey solutions 3. To continue pursuing a partnership with some selected friends and build several super AAA games. 4. To consult with local companies for customized apps.
Q: a) And where are you focusing your efforts in order to start scaling faster and grow your app publishing by 20? b) Also, how effective have partnerships been to your business?
A: a) To scale faster, I need my wife to quit her job and project manage full time, followed by hiring some virtual assistants to remove the mundane activities from day to day. I already have an artist who can scale up with me at any pace I require. I have also expanded my base of developers. So my objective should be achievable. b) The partnership I have is a group of individually successful appreneurs, each with their own strengths that compliment our group. We are currently in production mode on several projects simultaneously.
Q: If an aspiring entrepreneur walked up to asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give ‘em your best tip, what would it be?
A: Reskin a few apps and publish them asap to gain experience in the “Process” of 1. Outsourcing & 2. Publishing. More importantly, DON’T make your first app your passion project.
Q: Beautiful, I love that. Gaining experience and being strategic instead of emotional is huge! Anything else you would like to add?
There is so much more developmental resources available now compared to 2 years ago. There is still good money to be made out there, if you have the right plan and money to work it.
The Apps Market is growing faster than ever and with so much competition, it’s getting even harder to find app success. Recent research shows that over 90% of mobile apps are abandoned within a year. Only a select few will make it through to become indispensable to a number of users – and even fewer will become global sensations.
So where’s the disconnect? It’s amazing how often we see developers overlooking essentials. We see super technical developers not understand the concept of marketing or promotion, or we see market-minded entrepreneurs ignoring great UX/UI basics.
The good news is there’s SO much free information out there now, so you don’t have to be left in the dark or launch your app with a half-assed plan.
In fact, we recently read a super extensive guide from our friends at Apadmi.com. They’ve been in business since 2009, and have worked with a variety of developers and entrepreneurs, which has helped them acquire a lot of “dos” and “don’ts” over the years.
Their newly released (and free) advanced guide to making your apps successful is for independent app developers and startups, and we wanted to share it with you. The guide includes tips that Apadmi has learned through creating apps for clients such as the BBC and the Guardian. It contains over 200 tips and tactics on creating, marketing and gaining users for your app, even one with a small budget.
Since their guide is super extensive, we invited them to share their top 8 best pieces of advice for our community:
Most think a lifestyle business is raking in a ton of money while working only “4 hours” a week.
The truth is it is a way of being and a way of feeling more than anything. A life full of choices and opportunities where you’re truly living on your own terms. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and a true lifestyle business usually is not.
For many, a lifestyle business simply means being able to work for themselves and make enough to enjoy life. Whether that looks like $40K a year or $400K, it’s about taking your life back. It’s the emphasis on putting the “lifestyle” into your business.
You do things you want to do because you want to do them. Working hard and doing what you want are not mutually exclusive.
You travel where you want to go, because you want to go there. Or stay in place because all you want is more time around friends and family.
You decide what your day looks like because you’re the boss and you make the decisions. You are no longer tied to the stress of your employer or the office politics of your coworkers. Your business depends on you. When something isn’t going right, there’s no one to answer to but yourself.
You are not a “9 to 5.” Maybe you’re a 12am – 5am, maybe you’re a 8am – 12pm. Maybe you will still work 9 to 5 because YOU want to. Your life and your business is not restricted to social constructs. You’re able to build your business around what’s best for you, and when you play to your strengths rather than fighting your nature, you’ll be happier and more productive. You are constantly growing, experiencing, learning, and living.
Think about it like this (and if you’re an over-achiever draw this out)…
Lucky for us, success leaves clues, which means you can forge your own path by learning from other entrepreneurs. It’s not just about emulating the Cubans or the Bransons, it’s just as important to see how “regular” people with a passion created their dream life.
Today, we have one of our AE members who we’d like to share their success story with you. Justin Malik has been an AE member since 2013, which ultimately led to Justin leaving his job as an analyst and becoming a full-time app developer. Justin was able to sell a small portfolio of apps for $25,000, and since has produced over 20+ apps making $40K in net revenue with over half a million downloads. Justin and his partner, Lee, regularly help fellow appreneurs on their road to success over on their blog MoneyfromApps.com.
Q: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with our community, Justin! Walk me through the step-by-step process that you went through to get to where you are today. What was the first thing you did? Next?
With Apple’s newest announcements yesterday, you can expect some exciting changes in the next couple months. Surprisingly for the first time the iPhone wasn’t the center of the announcements. With Apple’s release of the Watch (not iWatch as we all assumed and will continue to call it anyways), they delved into a new product category for the first time since the iPad release in 2010.
Remember as a developer it’s crucial to stay informed and ahead on any feature or product changes – and Apple just released a ton! Below we’ve outlined some of the most exciting changes happening and how you should be looking at it:
- Step-by-Step ASO – Get more downloads QUICKLY and CONSISTENTLY
- Appreneur Success: From Failed Passion Project to Building 700% ROI Apps
- 8 Tips for App Success (from 5+ years of trial & error!)
- Top 5 Ways to Build Your Lifestyle Business (that aren’t too good to be true)
- From Full-Time Employee to Appreneur in 7 Months