Table of Contents
This is a case study on How to get millions of downloads for your app.
I was able to get 4 million downloads in 2 years without spending any money. The total downloads as of September 2021 are 4.6 million downloads. The total income generated from this app has been just over $150,000. In the case study below, I have outlined every step of how I did it.
Android ASO: Keywords are more important than Ideas.
When I first started learning making android apps, I was still in college. I was not very content with my life. In a country like India education is the only way to succeed, or so we are told. Indian culture doesn’t encourage innovation and creativity. We tend to choose the safest route. Throughout my life, my parents had reminded me that. Thus in college, I found myself suffocated because of this conditioning. It felt like I was giving up on my dreams. So I stopped going to classes. I didn’t have many friends and the ones I had always sought pleasure in demeaning others. I felt I just killing time and doing nothing with my life. It felt as if I was avoiding reality by playing computer games 24×7 which in turn piled over my misery and loneliness. I didn’t show it but in the inside, I was desperate to change my condition.
So one day, somewhere in September 2013, without giving it much second thought, I deleted all my games and decided to do something about my life. I somehow got into android development. My brother had recently bought a Nokia Lumia phone(not an Android phone) and I was mesmerized by the way it’s music player looked. The UI to me at that time was really beautiful. It was so different than the boring android designs back then. I found myself using his phone just to listen to music on it. At that time, I was using an android phone and I tried searching for a music player which was as beautiful as the music player on Lumia and I couldn’t find any.
While searching for music players, thousands came up on google store. I noticed that many of them had over a million installs which made me realize that so many people try out music players. It meant, there was a demand for it but it also meant there was a lot of competition. But if there is a demand, there will always be competition and I always had been a person who was never into knowing what others were doing and be intimidated by it.
I also realized, I had no money to advertise the app if I make one. So I had to make something, which is used by a LOT of people ! So; I decided to make an app with a simple idea, a huge demand, and not just a beautiful & easy to use app but one of the best in the market ! I ended up making a music player/media player and later called it ” La Musique a French phrase meaning “The Music” The Keyword here was Music Player. There are many other keywords which you can find easily. I have explained it below.
Note: Why are keywords important before you start developing the app? Because I could have wasted 10 months creating the app and ended up with no downloads if I the market/niche/keyword I had chosen had no demand. Mobile app development
So after deleting the app, I had an app to make but I knew nothing about android development. So, I did what any one would do in such a situation. I googled it. I googled how to make android apps. I was bombarded with tons and tons of blogs and video tutorials. I chose the The new Boston android tutorials because the guy who was teaching in the videos seemed funny and because I had to choose one. It is outdated now. It is a series of 200 videos each of about 5 minutes. After about watching 30 of them. I realized that I had to start my project. So I started it. Whenever I used to get stuck, I used to google it, if I couldn’t get the answers on google, I would ask them on Stack Overflow I was spending more than 16 hours a day, coding. Everyday I used to get up, skip classes, open my laptop lying next to me on bed and then straight up open Eclipse( the IDE I use to code on). No brushing of teeth,no washing my face,no brunch just straight to coding. I used to order food from a dhaba( a small diner) and then eat on my laptop. Once in a month or two, I would go out for an hour to talk to people so that I could feel normal again. Just before going to bed, I would leave 2-3 problems on Stackoverflow to be solved by others. Instead of reading Facebook feed at bedtime, I used to read online magazines like Entrepreneur , Business Insider and other tech and business magazines where I could find information on how to promote my app. On these websites I not only found how to promote my app, but I also came to know about how to have a mindset of Entrepreneur and the mindset is simply to never give up your dreams.
So after 5-6 months of coding, I had a product with a few features but the app didn’t look pretty. I knew I couldn’t design well, because I hadn’t designed any app in the past. Dribbble and in a period of about one month, I contacted over 200 designers to work for me. I was offering them 40% equity. The reply was always the same, they were all busy to work with some one without cash, or anything to prove his worth. But there was an app to be designed and it had to be beautiful. So I took a break and started freelancing till the time i could find any one to work with me. I freelanced for about 2 months. I earned about 1600$ and saved about 500$ from it. I was freelancing on www.freelancer.com. I decided not to hire a designer for the layout of the app because people were demanding much more money than I had saved and they weren’t of the same standard as I had seen on Dribbble. So I had three options, earn more money, convince some designer to work for me on equity or do it myself. I realized that it was only me who was supposed to do it. It was my dream to make it big and only I was responsible to make it big. So I googled up “pretty apps” and looked through the images and studied them thoroughly. I went to various websites which showcased app designs and I came to know a little bit about designing apps. I came to know which color combinations look good. What kind of fonts go well with each other. How many fonts to use. What kind of backgrounds to use etc. and by June 2014, I finished my app and it was almost ready to be launched on google play.
Note: If you do not have the money to hire someone? Do it yourself. If you are doing it yourself, try to do it with as little money as possible. You will learn a lot.
I would have always thought that I was a bad designer, if I hadn’t tried.
How to make your app go viral: By designing a great looking app !
App Icon: How to create a million downloads app icon
So now it was time to polish the app and it was time to use the money I had saved up while freelancing. The first thing I needed was an icon, because on google play it is the first thing a user sees. A good and unique icon was a necessity. Even though I had managed to design a good UI for the app, I was bad at Photoshop, I had never drawn wire-frames. So this time, I decided to take some help. I created a contest on Freelancer for the icon for 40$ so that I can get ideas. I got lots of them but most of them were trash, except one, so I hired the designer and awarded him the contest with a deal that he would be making more mockups for me.
Android phone mockups & awesome screenshots for your app.
After the app icon was done, I hired the same guy for the screenshots. You can also get professional screenshots just by googling it. A google search of ” android psd mockup” results in thousands of mockups which can be used in a screenshot. But I decided that I would hire some one to do it. Also a cheap solution can be Fiverr, where professionals can be hired for 5$ to do the screenshots. The reason I wanted to make professional screenshots were because people pay more attention to visual content than text. The selling point for my music player was the UI/UX. Being on a short budget I wanted to convert every click into a download and the presentation was my biggest tool. There is a high probability that a person clicks on the link, goes to the download page but doesn’t download because of poor presentation. I had to make sure that it didn’t happen.
App Presentation A
Build a landing page for your app.
After the screenshots it was time for a website and a video. The reason I wanted to get a website was, when I had to submit the apps to the review websites, my app should look professional. The good review websites out there get a lot of apps submitted to them on a daily basis, they don’t have the time to go through all the apps in depth. So they judge your app, on how it looks, how professionally it has been presented, which includes a website and a video as well, besides obviously the screenshots. I paid around 60$ for the website to a friend ,but you can get it done much cheaper. A website with a single landing page, wont cost more than 40$ if you hire some one to develop it from the freelancing websites like Freelancer . The other way is, getting a template from ThemeForest for around 20$ and doing it yourself.
Create a Video for your app
Now if you are not aware enough, you might end up paying around 200-300$ for a video like this But I got it done for 65$ with a help of a freelancer and this is how we did it together. First we went to videohive and decided on the video template we wanted to work on. It was of 25$. Then he told me that he will be working on Adobe after effects of some other video editing software and will be making the changes. So if you know how to work on these softwares,the video wouldn’t cost you more than 25$, if you have an audio already. He was ready to do it for 20$,but I told him I will be needing a lot of revisions so I paid him 40$. About the audio, he already had purchased a few audios which he used in the video. But you can get the audio,from the same website for roughly the same price. If you are looking for a voice over, you can get some excellent voice over done at just 5$ from Fiverr
Making money from the app
I somehow knew that if I put it up for a price, not many people would buy it. I have never known a person who has bought an app or paid for an app/software/ or a game. Maybe it comes with being an Indian that no one buys digital goods around you, so you already know, that selling is hard.
So the app had to be free, and the money had to come from ads, since there aren’t many quick alternatives that you can find. Other ways obviously include getting sponsors (not very easy to find) ,selling usage data (which a lot of users frown upon) and few more whatever you can think of in any other business. Another advantage of ads is, as the user base increases, the income per month increases. It’s not one time sale, so even if no one is downloading the app,but all the past users retain it,you will still earn approximately the same as you did in the last month.
The earnings started from 3$/day to 130$/day. With some experiments, I was able to reach 300$ a day. The growth in the income can be seen due to growth in the user-base. The first 6 months got me roughly 8000$. In the next 12 months, made 50,000$ from ads. In the year of 2016, the expected income is above 100,000$.[/caption]
Marketing the app to 4 million downloads
It was 8th July and I had launched my app. Until this time I had been adding random people on my Facebook from college , any acquaintance or any person indirectly related to me. I added about 1000+ people.
App Store Optimization (ASO)
- A keyword should be around 5 times in the description. Evenly spread out all over the description. If the description is reasonable long, then this limit can be exceeded. If you overdo it, google might penalize you. If you don’t want google to penalize you, just put admob in your app. Google ignores small issues then. I have personally tested it.
- The main keyword for the app should be inside the name of the app on Google Play.
- A keyword should be inside the package name.
- Link building: Spreading the link of your app on websites, social media, forums helps in ASO.
Facebook Strategy for downloads.
I set up a Facebook page ,and bought some 40,000 likes from freelancer for 40$. I thought I might be able to promote it to the people there. But it seems like all the likes were from fake id’s. Even if they were real, they were generated from scripts without user’s knowledge. I thought it can be used as an audience, but turns out it was a waste, as Facebook has changed it algorithms, and a post’s visibility only increases if it gets enough momentum(i.e comments and likes). It is quite obvious that no one would be interested in a post from a page which they never liked themselves. The post never reached 40,000 people which was my intended target.>
I put up a status on my Facebook page thanking everyone on how everyone accepted my friend request and then putting up the story of my app and a link to let them know where to get it from. When you start your post with “Thank you everyone………” it usually gets attention because it seems as if you are making an announcement. If you achieved something and you are thanking random strangers for it, people are pleased, which is shown by them liking your status and hence downloading your app. There is no denying that a large portion of people feel happy for you as well and hence like your post. Usually if you give people credit, and some how justify it( i justified it by letting them know that they accepted my friend request ) people will take the credit even if they had nothing to do with it because it makes them feel important. Everyone wants to feel important, because it makes them feel better about themselves. It’s an insecurity created by a void. A void created by lack of abundance, one of the reasons you can easily spot the difference between a “new rich” and an “old rich”. Lack of abundance creates an ever longing desire to prove to everyone that you are rich, that you have made it. There is a need of being validated by others because there is no security within. One of the reasons that everyone wants to feel special and they get offended when some one says they are not. One of the reasons why everyone is waiting for that one idea that would change the world to start their own business. If everyone was special then what would special mean ?
The way to realize your insecurities, in fact every action you do, every reaction you make, every habit you have, the way you walk, the way you talk to everything you do can be realized by meditating. I have always felt mediation is way more than a tool to relax. Rather relaxation is just a side perk of mediation. But we will talk about meditation some other time. The reason why I felt the need to share this is because once you know the scarcity and insecurities within you, you will be able to see it in the world . How you use it is up to you. Skin-whitening creams created a multi-billion dollar industry out of it, I just said “Thank you ….”
I was at my home during that time, it was the summer of 2014 and our college had closed for the summer vacations. I changed my schedule and started sleeping 9 hrs in 2 days .i.e 4.5 hrs a day. I remember I never wanted to sleep during that time, I can’t explain why. A lot of things had to be done and there was no time to sleep. I remember trying to wake up until I couldn’t open my eyes. My eyes would become all watery due to the strain from looking at the laptop screen for I searched for lists of websites which review android apps. Sent them a copy pasted message and often making intentional mistakes while typing the subject like “Android ‘ApP’ Review”, to get their attention as they get a lot of emails during a day. I tried to make it look as professional as I could. But tried to keep the message friendly and short. I wrote about 100 emails each day.
I created a list of all the emails for future use and to help out other people.
I started Posting on Facebook groups. The groups on Facebook are full of advertisement from startups and app developers. The post here shouldn’t look spammy and should get attention. I didn’t post pictures that would blend in, and user would ignore. A picture with white or black background might blend in easily. Material design blends in, because every other app looks the same, one of the reasons I didn’t put it in my app. It was something I realized from dribbble, every other designer was designing apps which showcased material design. I tried making the posts look like a request, and not like an advertisement. I asked for feedback and posted some nice screenshots that people would find tough to ignore. Many times , I got 1000 downloads a day just from Facebook.
Sometimes I told stories. No one wants to listen about your organization, your culture etc because these things don’t appeal as personal. To be honest, you are not a glorious entity that anyone would care about your culture. But personal stories do matter because people can relate. The most important thing of all was, instead of focusing more on the features, I focused more on the User Interface. I posted on about 100 Facebook groups each day.
I started sending messages to YouTubers to review my music app. I targeted keywords like “android apps” “android” “technology” “android app review” “best apps” and search these keywords on YouTube and filter the results by channels and sort by view count. Then I used to open their about page and drop a message. The message shouldn’t be longer than 4-5 lines. I sent the message to about 3000 YouTubers. If you search “Music Player” on YouTube, the video containing link to my app comes at #2.
App link building.
I started writing on Quora and reddit and a lot of forums about my stories on how I was doing it or I posted about the app. After 3 months of doing this, I had gained near to 100,000 downloads and a steady download growth of 9-10,000 daily downloads which ultimately got me to 2 million downloads within one year. And a total of 4 million downloads in roughly 2 years.