5 more things I wish I knew when I released my first iPhone app

Haven’t read the first part? Read Part 1 and then come back, we’ll be waiting.

Okay, read that? Here we go!

 

6. Wise SEO choices can have a huge impact on sales

iOS App SEO is not exactly like web SEO. The rules are much more simplistic, based on fewer factors than google search for example. I’ve found that the App Store ranks search terms on a few key factors:

– Title

– Company name

– App description

– Keywords

I would venture to say they are even prioritized roughly in that order. To get started optimizing your keywords on the app store, you can check out your competition using https://sensortower.com/. It’s a free and easy site to quickly get a good estimation of the keywords other apps are using. This may give you some ideas for keywords to use in your own app. Testing it with some of my own apps, I can say the results are fairly accurate.

7. Piracy is a very real concern

I remember the first day I released in-app purchases for one of my apps, PhotoGoo. Users could now purchase “stickers” to place on their photos to make funny faces and pictures. When my analytics reports started coming in I could see there were many purchases being made! I was thrilled. The minimum cost of all these purchases to deliver content to the device would surely be lower than the amount users were paying, except one problem:

The next morning I woke up to find nearly 1% of the purchases actually showed up in my iTunes reports. Upon further investigation I discovered mass piracy causing my analytics to disagree with my iTunes reports, and it was costing me money.

Now, in this case it wasn’t costing much. All I was doing was delivering some png files to the users, and not very big ones. But, it’s important to note that the cost of bandwidth and other such services may be impacted by piracy if you are selling premium content through IAP, or just using your bandwidth to serve customers who you *assume* are paying you.

8. App development is expensive.

This one gets asked often, “How much would it cost to build and app that does xyz?” I may do a full follow-up post on this help people asking this question find a rough answer. But in short, the simplest of the simple apps will be a few thousand dollars to pay a developer to write, and anything substantial could be $30k, $50k, or more depending on the app. The technology is pretty recent, so there is also not much competition in the space of app development. If you want to get an app developed, contact some developers with your idea (and wireframe it as well as you can.) See what their average prices are, but just know it’s a relatively big investment.

9. Planning is key

This is one if the most common problems I find in app development. Now, I’m not advocating that we all abandon agile development processes. In fact I’m not talking about programming right now. What needs to be locked down before beginning a project is a solid business strategy. This strategy may change over time, but the developers and stake holders need a goal. It goes beyond technology, because technology is just implementing features, and feature are just implementing business logic, which are usually just selling points for a product. Most software development can be traced back to it’s original business value, and if it can’t… well then why are you building it?

Having great planning can be the difference between the MVP you need, and the bloated unpolished product nobody wants. Yes, I group early product testing in to this category as well. It’s important not only to plan the technical details of your product, but trace it back to marketing objectives. What do the customers really want? Hint: They don’t know.

10. The apps in the top 10 aren’t the only ones making money

Based on my own apps, and many conversations I’ve had with other app developers, I can tell you that being in the top 10 doesn’t neccessarily need to be the goal. Sure, it would be great to have a top 10 app, but there is plenty of money to be made in the 300th spot on the iPad Photography charts. I think it’s important to remember that you can make money without being the biggest app in existence. If you set your goals to be slightly less lofty, it will increase your odds at being successful in the development process. You may even find that you end up making plenty of revenue this way.

 

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4 Steps to Design Marketing into your App

This guest post written by Mike Davis, CEO & Founder of StoryPress

1. Think through the whole sale process before you write any code, in fact it should be a critical component of your UI.  Many people just “know” that it will be an IAP or ads and completely ignore it until the end.  Designing the sale process is as important as anything else and deserves the same level of attention as your apps unique or differentiating feature.

2. Think about social sharing in the UI stage as well.  When people are registering can you ask them to invite their friends?  Maybe show their contacts and/or Facebook friends with 1 click to invite all?  Designing this type of social impact can be critical to your success and not something you want to throw in after the fact.

3. Where will your app be sold?  Is it only inside the app or on the app store?  Many of the leading app brands leverage their website and social media to generate sales.  With tools like AppKeyz now available, you can create a product page on Facebook and a mini-site capable of generating sales to promote on social media, including Facebook and Twitter.  Use these mini-sites to reward social sharing with 2 for 1’s or discounts on your apps.

4. Don’t waste your money on posters and t-shirts at trade shows.  It’s too much clutter and too expensive to stand out from the crowd.  Similarly expensive and extravagant launch parties almost never generate enough buzz or sales to come close to paying for themselves.  A better investment would be a PR person and several way placed interviews or articles.

Related article: Making Apps That Spread

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5 things I wish I knew when I released my first iPhone app

I’ve been writing mobile apps for roughly 4 years. I’ve seen dozens of apps come from concept to completion, and I’ve learned many lessons along the way. Here are the top 5 things I wish I knew when I first started out making iOS apps.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Your icon and name will make or break your app.

You heard it here first. The most critical factor of your app’s success is not your beautiful algorithms, your revolutionary ideas, or even a great marketing campaign to drive initial customers. No, the most important factor is the icon, and the name. This is all most of your prospective customers see before making the decision to learn more. I’ve been able to measure this first hand by using two different icons and names for two otherwise identical apps, and I’ve repeated the experiment several times. I can say without a doubt that this is the most critical factor to getting downloads. In my last experiment, the app with a brighter and louder icon results in an average of 263 downloads per day, while an identical app with a softer and more toned down icon results in only 2 downloads per day. Wow.

2. Apple provides no way to keep in touch with customers.

So what happens after you get your first 10,000 downloads? What if you want to create a spin-off app leveraging your existing audience, or offer new products within your app? Well, you can always introduce an update, but who knows if your customers will actually download and run it. Furthermore, maybe they have already deleted your app? Previous behavior is the greatest indicator of future behavior, and the previous behavior of your customers is that they *bought something from you*. If you want to grow your audience and generate more revenue from your apps, it is critical that you offer a way to keep in touch with your customers. Set up a Mailchimp list, have them subscribe for push notifications, or have them make an account. Whatever route makes the most sense for your product, just make sure you have a way to keep in touch. You will be glad you did on your next app launch. Apple does none of this for you, they don’t even provide emails or names of the people who purchased your app, so this one is on you!

3. Apps that are too simple will be rejected.

Apple has a lot of rules concerning what is “fit” for the App Store, and what isn’t. One of the most difficult to resolve is an app being “too simple” by Apple’s standards. They are very directly telling you to go spend more money and bloat up your app with features you didn’t think were necessary. So what do you do? Well, my advice is to make sure you are not making an app that only does one simple thing. This is something that needs to be resolved before any development begins, or else you may be faced with a product that you simply can’t release.

4. The app store is not the gold rush it’s touted to be.

There is certainly money to be made on the app store, but don’t expect to publish your first app and rake in millions of dollars in free money. Making a successful app takes a lot of time, money, and great intuition about what people are going to like. Be reasonable with your approach in producing apps, and don’t bet the farm on a single strategy. Even if you are working with only a single app, you should make sure you have other distribution mechanisms outside of simply being on the app store.

5. Analytics are crucial.

Without some basic analytics, you will quickly find yourself wishing you knew some things about your users. This will probably hit you immediately after publishing your app. How many users are using the app? If you don’t implement analytics, all you will get are your daily iTunes sales figures, and I know we’re all more OCD about what’s going on than that. This is your baby after all. Take the time to invest in integrating a good analytics platform. There are some decent free options out there such as Flurry or Google Analytics for iOS.

In the spirit of keeping this post short, I’ll continue with the rest of my list in a later post. To get it delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe for free.

Continue to Part 2

Related article: Top 10 Lessons learned from launching iPhone Apps

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Making apps that spread

I hear tons of app ideas that seem like really great ideas, but lack one critical feature: virality. It’s not just marketing speak, creating virality is something you should be responsible for if you are making an app without a huge budget. I’ve done a lot of research on users of my apps, of my client’s apps, and listened to tons of advice from other software entrepreneurs, and I’ve learned one important fact about making viral apps that I think is the key factor in determining viral success.

User’s share for selfish reasons.

Let me elaborate.
I’m not saying everyone is only self-centered, but sharing content has to be personal in some way. Simply sharing someone elses content is the result of it being highly interesting content. A great photo, an important message, or maybe an event you want others to attend. But that’s not why most sharing happens. Most sharing on social media is a form of self-promotion. Whether for business or personal reasons, people like to share things that make them feel good about themselves.

Some of the most viral marketing campaigns I’ve been involved in have involved a personalization feature of some sort. That’s why PhotoGoo has been so successful. PhotoGoo is all about creating something cool, and showing your friends. The same goes for all the apps in the genre. The ever-popular FatBooth is just another way to create something cool that other people will enjoy. It’s about user’s sharing content that they feel they had a hand in creating.

I think this is why photo sharing is such a big deal. When Facebook bought Instagram lots of people had questions about why. Well, think about it. Do you still have a photo album, or is it mostly digital these days? Is there a cutoff time where physical photos stopped existing and everything went digital? What did you do with those photos? The good ones get shared on Facebook. A flattering photo become the profile photo. Something showing off how cool, successful, or interesting a person is becomes a post. Everyone is a champion for themselves in some way or another.

No one is going to share your app just because it’s cool

People don’t care about being the person to have shared your app (unless it’s super cool.)  What they care about is exposing the favorable portions of their life or personality with their circle. This is why personality tests and “see who viewed my facebook” apps are so common. People are self-oriented, they want acceptance and feedback on the things they do from their circle of friends.

So if no one cares about your app, and only about themselves, how can we properly motivate growth of our user base?

Twitter is extremely selfish

Twitter’s growth since it’s inception has been phenomenal. Is it because posts of 140 characters are just that interesting? I think Twitter’s growth is the result of self-promotion. You tweet, it’s easy, it’s creation, why wouldn’t you recruit others to hear your great insights? Facebook is the de facto selfishness platform. It’s all about the individual.

What are you doing to make users feel proud of what they’re doing on your app? Do they have a voice? Do they feel personally connected to the content they make and consume? If you can combine the practical with a self-promotion strategy you will have users recruiting other users, and that’s what is needed for real growth.

How?

I hear you saying, how do I make an app that allows for selfish behavior if my app is not about creation or sharing? Well, the easiest thing is to integrate sharing in to the basic functionality of the app. Is it possible to use the app without sharing? It may seem like a benefit to not require interaction in an app, but in the end it’s the co-dependent relationship between users that drive real growth. Think about Word, does it have sharing as a key feature? It doesn’t seem like it, I can’t share my content on any social networks. However, the first time someone sees a .docx file from me, they know they need Word to open it. This kind of word of mouth is unique. The same effect occurs on file sharing services like Dropbox. This is the golden ticket to growth, but I think you can implement the same kind of sharing functionality in any app, you just have to be creative about it.

When I released Finch, a Mac OS app that makes it easy to track your billable time, I had a very hard time thinking of ways to make the app spread. I put Facebook like buttons and Twitter share buttons on the app screens, but that didn’t lead to much sharing. But when I shared my usage data with reddit, showing 18 hours (WOW!) of usage on reddit.com and 2 hours of “work”, the reddit community found this relatable. This was an example of content that allowed users to take pride in how they spend their days. So, after the success of this post I made it easy to share some pretty time reports for Finch, and soon after downloads rose. The number of users we gained from that concept was over 900% of the total userbase, all within a few weeks.

Sometimes it’s just something silly that leads to the great sharing concept. What can you encourage users to share within your app?

 

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