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User Acquisition: An Indie Developer's Guide


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Good user acquisition doesn't have to be out of reach just because you're an indie app developer on a budget.

From our own experience working with more than 100 apps and droves of indie entrepreneurs, we've put together the best user acquisition marketing and strategy advice to help get apps off the ground so they can start scaling the market quickly.

Published in: Technology
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User Acquisition: An Indie Developer's Guide

  1. 1. User Acquisition An Indie Developer’s Guide
  2. 2. The Good Old Days are Gone • 1,000 new games come out every day. • It’s nearly impossible to secure a high download rate based only on high game quality & merit searches. • And the gaming industry “big wigs” aren’t exactly helping...
  3. 3. • Big-budget gaming studios spend $2 to $3 per user • But for the rest of us, that’s not exactly feasible • gets harder...
  4. 4. • If you offer a free iPhone app, you need 70,000+ downloads per day to get into the top 10. • If it’s paid, just 4,000. But that’s still four t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d downloads in only 24 hours. And then 4,000 more in the next 24.
  5. 5. The Secret to Success • We’ve got to get our hands dirty and get really creative. • The “secret” is a heavy dose of creativity & old-fashioned hard work.
  6. 6. There’s 3 Different channels of User Acquisition : • We’re going to show you how to use all 3 for your • • We’ll also show you some other cool tricks ;) advantage. So hang tight.
  7. 7. Organic Search • AKA merit search. • It’s all about how important & valuable a search engine or app store thinks your game is. There’s 2 ways to take advantage of this : ‣ Direct Search ‣ ASO (App Store Optimization)
  8. 8. Direct Search • The end-all, be-all goal of every gaming studio, direct search downloads happen when people type in your game’s title, knowing that game is exactly what they want. • Yeah, keep dreaming
  9. 9. ASO (App Store Optimization) • Here’s something you can actually work with. • But to be successful, you’ve got to make the description & presentation of your game absolutely rock. • How?
  10. 10. Killer ASO • • First things first, create a stunning icon. Follow the 10 ft rule: make your icon stand out from a sea of others, even if you’re looking at them from 10 feet away. • As you can see, none of these icons stand out. • Think it’s too hard? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
  11. 11. 10 foot Rule • • • • • Despite our mothers’ best efforts, we judge books by their covers. & subsequently, apps by their icons. Make the content elements pop out. The icon should make it obvious what the app is about. Consider using a border so it looks good on any background. Try 2 different icons to see which one converts best. It’s what we in the industry call A/B testing.
  12. 12. • • • • • So, how else to improve your game’s ASO? Intriguing screen shots A good video (for Google Play) Ratings & reviews Keyword integration
  13. 13. Intriguing Screen Shots • A good screen shot has life in it. It doesn’t look stale & static. It looks like something the user could jump right into & instantly be a part of. It invites him into the game’s world. • • • So, how do you make your screen shots look this good? Don’t know? That’s fine, that’s why we’re here.
  14. 14. • • • • Screen Shot Tips Add explanations Choose a screen that helps tell the game’s story Highlight the best features of the game Provide multiple screenshots to give the players a walk through
  15. 15. Getting a Good Video • According to Kamcord, 6% of people who watch in-game videos click through to download the game. Pretty good for something that only takes one session to make. • The percentage increases to up to 20% if the video is posted by their friends. • How do you get in on this slice of the user acquisition cake?
  16. 16. Getting Users via Video • First things first : practice the game & get good at it. Don’t make a fool of yourself.
  17. 17. • Next, choose a scene where the main character does something impressive • • • The more exciting it seems, the more people will want to be a part of it. rather than a run-of-the-mill “boring” aspect of the game. Tip : Show a victory so the viewer can imagine himself as a ‘winner’ as well. Also : take 3-5 videos of the game. Ask around for different opinions before choosing the best one to put in the app store.
  18. 18. • Use a decent video-capturing software. We suggest • They’re both intuitive softwares that come with easy-to- Everyplay (iOS only) or Kamcord. understand instructions.
  19. 19. Rating & Reviews • Ratings & reviews are an absolute must. If other people don’t say good things about an app, the user isn’t downloading it. Simple as that. • Most of the time, when people take time out of their day to leave an app review, it’s because they’re really pissed off. ‣ • Not because the app is working exactly as it should & is making their lives more enjoyable. (It’d be nice, right? But it’s just not the case.) Unfortunately, You can’t get away from haters. ‣ ‣ • But you CAN find ways to incentivize or persuade happy users into leaving good reviews. And these good reviews are what will help improve your organic rankings. Each positive review given is like brownie points to the algorithms of both Android & iOS app stores. So... how do you get them?
  20. 20. Getting Positive Ratings & Reviews : A Mini Guide • In retail & real estate, it’s all about location, location, • In getting good app reviews, it’s all about • The key goal of presenting your request for an app location. presentation, presentation, presentation. review is to NOT get on the user’s nerves.
  21. 21. Good Review Mini Guide: Page 2 • First things first: we don’t condone black hat practices. They’re cheating & will probably only come back to bite you later on. So don’t demand your employees to write fake reviews. • If there’s one thing our mothers taught us, it was to learn from others’ mistakes & not to make the same mistakes ourselves. • We present to you: Apple’s big review collection mistake. (next slide please)
  22. 22. Apple’s Big Mistake : Mini Guide Page 3 • Once upon a time, Apple asked for app reviews when a user decided to delete it from his device. • This generated a lot of negative ratings & made developers pretty angry. (Imagine how you’d feel.) • Apple did delete this feature, but there’s something we can all learn from it.
  23. 23. How to Do It Right : Mini Guide Page 4 • Instead of asking disgruntled users to review your app, • • How? ask happy ones. Use Apple’s idea, but present it to frequent users. ‣ First things first: drop Appirater into your app.
  24. 24. • Appirater : Mini Guide Page 5 Once you have Appirater, adjust your settings so after a certain number of uses (or a certain time of usage amount), a user is prompted to give you a review. • They can choose to rate it, do it later, or simply not rate • Hint : Adjusting the language you use to ask for the it at all. review can do 2 things for you: ‣ Increase the number of reviews you get ‣ Improve the quality of the reviews
  25. 25. Asking for a Review: Mini Guide Page 6 • • • • Put yourself in the users shoes for a minute. Which are you more likely to react to? ‣ “Send us your feedback” -or‣ “Send us some love” See what we did there? Play with the language you use to optimize reviews from your target audience. And finally, one more tip for getting positive ratings & reviews...
  26. 26. Bonus Tip : Mini Guide Page 7 • Incentivize your reviews. ‣ You heard us right. Your users are scratching your back, so why not scratch theirs in return? • Offer free coins, an extra life, or some in-app credit in exchange for a review. ‣ Works like magic.
  27. 27. Keywords • And then, there were keywords. Here’s where it tends to • But having a proper app store keyword strategy is what get boring... zzzzzzzzzzzzz can make the difference between 10 downloads and 10,000. • Seriously.
  28. 28. How to Find ASO Enhancing Keywords • Hang tight, this can get really technical, boring & sad if • We’re really sorry - we’ll try to make it as interesting as • you’re not careful. possible. Just keep in mind that this section will be over in T-minus 6 slides.
  29. 29. How to Find ASO - Enhancing Keywords • If you’ve got an AdWords account, it’s time to log in. Because, unfortunately, Google took away it’s free Keyword Tool. :‘( • If you’re not buying into AdWords, you’ve got a few other • • Freemium accounts with iSpionage, Keyword Eye & MixRank. • Alternatively, you can use Bing Keyword Research with a options: You can also use Ubersuggest. It’s Googles old keyword database. It is outdated, but at least it’s something. Microsoft account. It’s free, but the search volume the data gets extracted from is only a small percentage of overall web traffic.
  30. 30. An Overview - Finding Keywords with Search Engines • • Go to & start typing a broad phrase Watch as Google auto-fills what the most popular search terms are associated with that phrase & write them down, finding more specific longer-tail keywords as you go. • Visit other country-specific Google sites (like for China or for the United Kingdom) to find localized keywords to use in country-specific versions of the app stores. • Wash, rinse & repeat with the search engines of your choice.
  31. 31. ASO-Enhancing Keywords with AdWords • AdWords is not as good as it used to be, but it’s • Within a campaign, you can add select keywords • If they’re suitable, add them to your campaign & still pretty useful - as long as you pay for it. to get data on them. integrate them into your app store titles & descriptions. • If not, add them to your negative keywords so you don’t get traffic from them.
  32. 32. ASO-Enhancing Keywords with Freemium Accounts • Freemium keyword tools are generally quality paid service tools that let you keep data for 10 keywords for free, or use their service for a 30-day trial. • These are a good option if you’re only wanting to mess with your keyword • These services work very similarly to the way Google’s Keyword Tool used strategy once & for all until your app is ready for mass-market advertising. to: ‣ Type in a keyword term you think will work for your app’s search rankings ‣ See all the search, competition & cost per click data compared side-byside in a chart ‣ Track the keywords you like & see their performance over time
  33. 33. Keyword Problems • Keyword strategies are hard. Even for SEO experts, uncovering quality keywords & finding ways to effectively integrate them in descriptions can be like pulling teeth. Here’s why: ‣ Popular keywords aren’t always the best. Sometimes, it’s more effective to go after lower-volume, expensive keywords because those usually represent people who are ready to take action. ‣ The outside influence of how your competition interprets & implements some of the same keywords can change how users interpret them, rendering your initial keyword set ineffective. • But, not all is lost. Even an outdated keyword strategy is better than no keyword strategy.
  34. 34. Other Keyword Tips • Use SensorTower to spy on your competition’s • • Make your description top-heavy with keywords. keywords. It’s quite handy. Keep your keyword frequency high without over-stuffing: Write for people, not robots.
  35. 35. Paid Methods • Don’t worry, the big dogs use these shamelessly, so you • The 2 most effective paid methods : can too - even if you’re on a tight budget. ‣ Burst Campaigns ‣ Email Marketing
  36. 36. Burst Campaigns • Imagine getting 20,000 to 30,000 downloads in a short amount of time. • ‣ Now snap out of it. It isn’t the cheapest way to get things done, but it’s pretty darn effective - why? • As soon as you get a lot of downloads, the app stores notice. You get in the top lists, and if your game is good, it stays there.
  37. 37. Why a Burst Campaign ? 70% of smart phone users don’t bother to look past the top charts when they download apps.
  38. 38. So How does a Burst Campaign Work? • Typical burst campaigns involve hiring a 3rd party marketer and paying a • You’re lucky to find a company that doesn’t use download bots & charges set amount of money per download. $1 or less per download. ‣ But if you’ve got the cash, it usually pays for itself in a short amount of time. • Because you need thousands of downloads per day to get into the top charts & you can get punished for download bots, you might want to try some unconventional burst campaign methods. • Why? ‣ Money doesn’t grow on trees. ‣ Bots are bad.
  39. 39. Alternative Burst Campaign Methods • Free Stuff: Who doesn’t love it? • Smart Networking: Saying “hi!!!” to the movers & shakers • Email Marketing: The bulk of it all
  40. 40. But if You Hire Someone to do it for You? • Take these things into consideration first: ‣ The size of their user base ‣ The number & type of devices they can reach ‣ Countries & numbers within those countries ‣ Demographics & interest areas of their user base ‣ How quickly they can get you into the top charts ‣ How much it will cost to get there
  41. 41. • Free Stuff If your app is paid, offer it for free for a certain amount of time. ‣ Time sensitivity works hand- in-hand with a gratis price tag. People go wild. • Offer free in-app credits & let users know their value. ‣ Do this with time sensitivity as well.
  42. 42. Smart Networking • • Start saying “Hi!” to influential people. • Say “Hi!” without an agenda - and if you can help it, 6 We can’t promise they won’t bite - but really, what’s the worst case scenario? months before your app launch. ‣ This gives you time to get on their good side ;) (without losing your dignity, of course) • When the time comes, tell them about your app. You never know what could happen. ‣ If they decide to mention it to their audience, that’s another potential 20,000 downloads - for free.
  43. 43. Email Marketing • Email marketing gets a bad rap because it’s hit-and-miss for inexperienced marketers - causing a lot of frustration. • But if you know what you’re doing... Say hello to downloads.
  44. 44. • What’s the point of writing a killer email if only 3 people will read it? ‣ You might not be able to control what happens to your emails when they get into a person’s inbox. ‣ But you can control how many inboxes your emails reach & their relatability to the recipients. • To have a successful email marketing campaign, you • And if you don’t already have an email list of 50,000 to need to target LOTS of potential users. 100,000, it’s time to get to work.
  45. 45. • So - say you’ve got an email list of 10. And 6 of them • Don’t lose heart. A successful, affordable email are your parents and grand parents. campaign with thousands on your list is still possible.
  46. 46. Get those Emails! • • Getting lots of emails is very possible, but it isn’t pretty. • Data mining for email addresses has no magic formula, Data mining is a grueling task, but if you put in the work for it, you’ll reap 100x what you sow. but we’ve got a few insider tips for you:
  47. 47. Email Mining: Insider Tips - Google • Use Google - the tool we’ve been using to answer all of life’s important questions since 1998 (ok, so maybe this one’s not that “insider,” but it’s still pretty darn good) ‣ • Search terms like “list of tech reporters” - you’ll unearth the mother load Want a real insider tip from our experience? ‣ Go deep into the search results. Like the 5th or 7th page & beyond. Willingness to do this is what separates the boys from the men. And the effective email lists from the not-soeffective ones.
  48. 48. Email Mining: Insider Tips - Alexa • • • • • Go to • • Pick your sub-category. • Easy, right? Sign in with Facebook Click on the “Top Sites” tab Click on “By Category” Click on “Science” (or other related category for your app) Get an instant list of the most popular websites to try to get coverage on.
  49. 49. Email Mining: Insider Tips - Quora • Search Quora with the same kind of terms you searched • • You’ll get a lot of good info for adding emails to your list. using Google. Bonus: Quora is part the “Smart Networking” we mentioned earlier. If you’re nice to people there, they’ll be nice to you back. And maybe even help promote news about your app, boosting downloads. ;)
  50. 50. Email Mining: Insider Tips - Writing Emails • Now that you’ve got a huge list, it’s time to wow your new audience with your app. • Thankfully, the formula’s pretty simple: ‣ Introduce your app as the THE thing they’re looking for (& why) ‣ Tell them the cool features that will make their lives better & revolutionize X, Y & Z (whatever those factors may be) Show them what it looks like, give a happy testimonial or two, ‣ and make them an offer they can’t refuse (free download, inapp credits, etc.) • AND!! Tailor the email message to your different lists. Words can’t describe the ROI of your time on this one. Really.
  51. 51. Email Mining: Insider Tips - List Management • • Use an email list management service. Good ones to start with are: MailChimp, Amazon SES, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor & Sendy. (Note: you will probably have to start paying after a certain number of email IDs are saved and/or emails are sent out. But the costs are minimal in comparison to what reaching all these people could do for you.) • Keep your lists separate. Base different lists on where you get the emails from & what interests the recipients would have in your app. For example, if it’s a strategy game, separate the potential players from the tech reporters and app reviewers.
  52. 52. Why Email Marketing? • If you do it with taste, you’re not a spammer. • ROI of $40 for every $1 spent - that is, if you spend money hiring someone else. Otherwise, it’s straight profit in exchange for your time.
  53. 53. Other Channels • Aside from paid methods, you can really refine your online user acquisition strategy in 5 key ways: 1. Social media marketing 2. Review exchange websites 3. Competition marketing 4. Press releases 5. App review sites
  54. 54. Social Media Marketing • Find your users where you know they’re • • ...Facebook!! already hanging out... But, you have to do more than like pictures chat with your friends
  55. 55. • Social Media Tips Your mission, should you choose to accept it: ‣ Get new users’ attention away from distraction of pretty pictures & status updates. • How? ‣ Integrate your game into social media. ‣ It’s really easy - especially with Facebook. Read about it here & get all the tips you need to make & implement a good strategy.
  56. 56. Review Exchange Sites • • “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” On a review exchange site, you given an honest review about another developer’s app & they do the same for you. • • Just be careful not to do too many of these exchanges. A couple of our favorites include AndroidKi and Review Exchanger.
  57. 57. Competition Marketing • So, the big guys want to play dirty by driving up the cost of • You can play dirty by doing the things they don’t have time • How? user acquisition? to do. ‣ Find a similar game from a big-wig competitor. ‣ Go to forums, blog comments & social media threads where people are talking about it & complaining about the various problems the game has. ‣ Build your credibility as a game expert in these forums and start to offer your (obviously better) game as a solution to their problems. It’ll drive some downloads.
  58. 58. Press Releases • • Press release services are both free and paid. • Let the world know about your game, get a credible • People will want to be the first in on a new game or killer Obviously, you sometimes get what you pay for, but even the free ones are better than nothing. “news” link people will trust, and spread it around. update, especially if a trusted news service reports on it. Downloads will happen.
  59. 59. App Review Sites • Though tough to break, these are a gold mine for indie • A review on a high-ranking review site gets your app in app developers. front of the eyes of thousands upon thousands of serious gamers. • Here’s the trick: you only have one chance to get • So how do you do it?? someone’s attention in an email. ?
  60. 60. Must Haves • First things first. If you don’t have these things, forget getting a review: ‣ Short, concise description ‣ Free download code ‣ Smart subject & intro ‣ App store link ‣ Price ‣ Video link ‣ Relevance to site’s audience ‣ Uniqueness - reviewers are tired of “me too” apps
  61. 61. The App Review Guru • • Here’s advice from Erica Sadun She’s an iOS developer, author of the iOS Developer’s Cookbook series, writer at TUAW, and basically the endall, be-all guru of getting your app reviewed.
  62. 62. The Guru’s Advice • “We just want to see what the app is about without having to download • • “Always include 2 links. OK?” (product page + download link) it.” (thus deciding if it’s worthy of a review) “In your paragraph, this is what you got to do. You have to say what is your app, who your audience is. Oh my gosh, that is so important. We want to know who the app is for. Please, please, please tell us.” • Here’s the full interview courtesy of App Design Vault
  63. 63. Where to Start? • • • Phew, still there? That was a lot to go over. Now you know what steps to take, but exactly which order to take them in can be difficult to assess & varies from one game audience to the next.
  64. 64. • Getting Started Here’s our suggested outline of how to get started with user acquisition as an indie game developer: ‣ Design & implement a simple strategy to integrate the social graph. Like incentivized invites. This can’t be under estimated. ‣ Optimize your app store presence: description, video, etc. ‣ Publicize with app reviews and press releases surrounding your launch and all significant updates.
  65. 65. Or..... • You can leave the headache & work to us. • We’re experienced at attaining users for a wide variety of apps, from children’s games to dieting apps to business solutions. • And we’ve got some budget-friendly packages for you to choose from.
  66. 66. $1,200 Fixed Package • Setting up the campaign tracking SDK - • • • • Refining target audience • Deciding KPIs and tracking metrics for HasOffers, Kochava, etc. Selecting most effective advertising networks Integrating SDKs Advertising campaign setup: creative aspects & financial settings effectiveness
  67. 67. $1,600 Paid UA & ASO • Everything in $1,200 Fixed Package • Keyword optimization • Competitor keyword tracking • Keyword rank tracking
  68. 68. $3,000 Premium Downloads Package • Everything in $1,200 Fixed Package + $1,600 Paid UA & ASO • Social media management • Press release • Outreach to app review sites • Competition marketing
  69. 69. Ready for more users? Call or email us today. We have app marketing experts on hand to help you come up with the most effective user acquisition strategy for your app. 415-758-1522