Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What the other app marketers are NOT telling you about app icons!

I was out visiting the local weekly night market recently. Its a great place to get all sort of stuff, food, and to see people.

Christmas Market Vintage Silhouette by Karen Arnold

From a distance, as I neared the street where the stalls are set up, the noise (and wonderful food smell) started streaming towards my ears (and nose). And as I approached the centre of the market proper, the screaming started to get louder and louder.

You'd think a triad has started a street war or something!

Hawkers shout at the top of their voices to get your attention. And while the loudest shouts usually did get my attention, it was often for the wrong reasons.

Which usually is that I have no idea what they're shouting, it gets hard to understand what they're saying in all that noise. Besides the shouts, the more outstanding the hawker stall, the more its going to get eyeballs towards it.

The calm after the storm

I walked over to the end of the street, zig zaging through the folks out to get the best bargain for their buck. I reach my favorite fresh sugar cane drink stall and had one iced cold cup. It gets pretty hot this side of the world!

While drinking, I looked around, and realised it was quiet at this side of the market. And another stall near me, where the owners weren't shouting away, well, lets say they got some of my cash for some snacks that I would soon munch while typing out this blog post for you.

Words of wisdom about the app icon business

My night market visit applies to the scenario of app icons. In an ever crowding world of the app stores, you want to be sure you stand out.

Check out your competition, check out the top performers. The problem is when all the apps are "shouting" at the same time, its hard to listen.

Every app store marketing expert will tell you that icon sells! But is that the whole truth? I've come to realise there is one important fact most app marketers have forgotten to tell you.

It is important to know that no matter how much you tweak your icon, it is not going to bring you downloads if your app is not search-able or ranking high in its category.

READ THE ABOVE LINE AGAIN... and let it sink in!

For that you will need to focus on keywords optimization and other SEO / ASO techniques (get the newsletter to get useful app marketing strategies in your inbox!).

So, should you actually even spend the effort on getting a great icon done? Well, you tell me what your take is of this.

Using screenshot as app icon

My top performing apps all have icons that are actually screenshots of the game:

App store optimization - icons

And they worked just as great as any other icons out there. I've got apps that hit over a million downloads in a month or two with these icons.

Of course, to say that the icons themselves generated the downloads is not right, its a whole chemistry of app store optimization and marketing.

Some time ago, I read that a good icon tells what the game or app does. And honestly, I still believe that's what matters most when making your app icons. Unless you're a big recognizable brand who can just put an F or a bird for icon, a descriptive icon works great.

What makes a great app icon?

If you are going to invest in an app icon anyway, here is a check list of what to do to improve your chances of scoring the download.

1 - Gives app functionality

Again, this is very very important! Your app icon should tell what your app does. And seriously, drop the finger image on the icon. Your apps are on smart phones, don't clutter it up.

2 - Be the sore thumb!

Think about the hawker stall folks. They are what your app icon is all about. The more "loud" your icon get, the more its going to garner attention.

But what happens if everyone is also shouting? Try a serene peaceful one instead. Go against the convention.

Check out your competition and see what the other icons are. and what you can do to be outstanding. Everyone using borders? You go border-less. Everyone is in 3D? You go for flat 2D look.

3 - Be unique

If all the other zombie shooter game icons are using a first person view of the gun aimed at a zombie, why not get a third person view of the zombies scrambling over to the shooter? Or an image of a zombie with its head blowing up?

But be careful though, being unique, if done wrong, might take away from your app's functionality (point 1). Find the right compromise.

4 - Look at all angles

Check out your app icon on various sizes and backgrounds. Sometimes details get so lost on smaller screens that your app icon starts getting rubbish.

As for backgrounds, well, the Google Play uses white anyway. But having an app that outshines on any background color will help increase your app's engagement after user installs it on his/her device. It will be like a shining star!

5 - Avoid text

Drop any text that you're thinking of adding to your app's icon. Seriously! They say, a picture tells a thousand words. Adding text to an icon takes it from the 1000 words to perhaps 1003 words. Just drop it, and use the space to get an awesome full icon out.


App icons are important salesperson of your app. They give the first impression, but an impression does not always seem positive when its too loud.

Being outstanding does not always mean shouting the loudest, it sometimes mean taking a step back and doing it calm and peacefully.

Make a great icon that explains the functionality of your game or app.

And remember, there is a lot more to get downloads than just app icons.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

8 Brilliant Ways to Make Money with Android (#7 is a shocker!)

Are you wondering if you can truly make money from Android apps business? Truth is, you can make pretty solid money from Android.

The Android ecosystem is really huge, that the slice of cake each developer can potentially get is, pretty sweet.

make money from android

I've been developing and making money with Android for over 4 years now. It took me about 2 years to get the "hobby" to start giving a stable enough income to leave my day job. And the 2.5 years after leaving the job? Well, that has been the best days of my life!

Here are some common, and uncommon, ways you can make money from your Android apps.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

3 Powerful Strategies to Get More Positive Reviews & Ratings for Your Apps

Have you published a pretty awesome app, but are struggling to get reviews and ratings for your apps? Worse still, are you getting negative reviews and ratings for your apps?

app reviews and ratings
App Reviews & Ratings
The mobile apps business is pretty complex. Its not a "build it and they will come" like it used to be. There is the app store optimization to take care of. And then there is the app marketing and promotion to work out. Don't forget the app development and publishing process itself.

One important aspect that many developers tend to miss out on is reviews and ratings optimization. Are you one of these developers? If you are, you may be missing out on one of the most important marketing machine your app has.

Why you need higher ratings and better reviews for your apps?

Reviews and ratings are powerful promotional tools for your apps. Studies have shown that word of mouth is currently the most preferred form of review of users. People tend to believe and listen to what their friends and families say.

Check out : An Easy Keyword Research Strategy You Can Use Today for Your Apps

Also remember, unhappy users are more likely to leave a (negative) feedback than happy users are to leave a positive feedback. Somehow users just need to let out when they are not happy.

Here are some benefits a more positive review and ratings strategy can have on your mobile apps and games.

App Reviews are Important Keyword Ranking Tool

If you only need 1 reason to look at reviews and ratings optimization, this is it!

With app discovery being the biggest issue, reviews can help you better rank for certain keywords when it relates to your app.

Take the example when you search for "Super Mario" in the Play Store. Do note that there is no Super Mario mobile game available legally in the Play Store. But we get a bunch of results. Lets take a look at the game "Lep's World 3".

How reviews affect your app store optimization (ASO)

Now, this game is pretty well done, and nowhere in their description or title have the developers used the term "Super Mario". Yet this game comes up for that term because there are so many reviews of it where the users have used that term.

Word of Mouth Recommendations

When someone you know provides a positive review and rating, it gives you more confidence in the product. This in turn gives a higher chance that you might also acquire that product.

Google's +1 Shown To Contact's Lists in Play Store

When your friend clicks the +1 button of an app, their action is shown when other games and recommendations are prepared for you. Your friend's +1 ratings are also shown when you look at the app's page. This too further builds your confidence in the app, this which we call the power of word of mouth.

Google's +1 shows my friends who have rated my football game on Google Play

Showing your professionalism level

When you reply to issues or critical reviews, you establish yourself as a respected app developer or app development company. Taking user feedback seriously makes you look good in the eyes of potential new users. It also gives existing users a better confidence in your brand when you do this, and in turn will further explore what you have to offer.

As an app's testimonial

A review and rating also acts as a testimonial of your app. It tells whether your app is really living up to what its promised, it highlights the benefits and strengths of your app, and it also shows its shortcomings. And these showing of shortcomings is what you want to reduce.

How to ensure the app review and rating is positive?

The following are 3 ideas on how you can get more positive reviews and ratings for your apps.

1 - Launches App for the Xth Time

A user of your app is considered a loyal user when he/she runs your app a few times. This is a great sign that they are enjoying your app and finding it useful or entertaining, and probably you could get a positive feedback from them.

What's the optimal value for X? That's for you to define. For me, I'll probably get it over 3 usages before requesting feedback. You should not put a very high number either, as app lifespan on your users' devices is very very short. You want that positive feedback before they leave your app.

2 - Family and friends

Get some feedback from your family and friends for your app. Remember, you want an honest (but preferably positive) review and rating from them. It's really a turn off for me when I see an app that has less than a hundred downloads, but having all 66 ratings as a five star one. This is definitely a sign of faking, and you don't want a wrong spotlight headed towards you by Google.

This is why you should ask for an honest review from your users. Don't worry about 5 stars here. Initial reviews will help show some stability of your app.

A word of caution: Do ask your family and friends to leave your app on their devices for a few days before uninstalling. I've often come across fellow developers whose app tanked down after the initial boost by the downloads and ratings because all those who installed the app have uninstalled it. It's a pretty negative ranking optimization.

3 - When User Completes a Task or Game Stage

This is probably the best way for you to get positive feedback from users, especially for your games. Users emotional state is at the best when they are happy. Having successfully completed a level, users are more likely to give a positive and constructive feedback.

Do note to not interrupt your app usage to ask for reviews. There are many apps that just pop-up a dialog asking for reviews and ratings, that it spoils the flow of the app's usage. This is much worse when it is a game.

So, what's the best way to get a positive 5-star rating and review for your app?

Filter Negative Ratings

Just forcing or begging a user to review your app is just not the way to do it anymore. If you were to ask a use for a review of your app this way, even when a user likes using your app, you are potentially spoiling their experience, and thus might get a negative review.

What you need to do if filter your user's feedback before heading to the store. This "trick" was made notorious by EA's Dungeon Keeper game. In that game, users would be asked how many stars they would rate the game with, and if it was anything less than a 5-star rating, the user would be directed to email EA their feedback. A 5-star rating would bring the user to the store for rating it there.

Process of getting rate and review of your app

You can apply the same mechanism in your apps. The best way to get a review is first asking if they enjoy using your app. If the answer is a yes, then ask if they would mind leaving a rating and review on the store. Give the users options to be reminded later and also for not asking a rating again.

This way, the feedback from happy users will increase. And that is what you want from your app users, happier positive ratings and reviews.

The 5-Star Rating Psychology

Another method to direct users to a 5-star rating is by using an image that shows 5 stars in the dialog before sending the users to the stores. This idea is hopefully to influence the user's decision. Its the same concept that politicians use during elections, where they show their ballot logos with a check mark beside it. Its to influence people's decisions.

No Incentives

Avoid giving incentives to rate your app higher. This is against Google's policy, and may result in your app getting suspended.

By the way, Have you signed the petition for a fairer Google?

Conclusion - Reviews & Ratings are Important To Your ASO Strategy

Reviews and ratings do influence your app in many ways, from whether users will download your app, to the image it projects of your company, to app discovery. Play it right and get better reviews and rating for your apps.

What's you opinion on getting reviews and ratings for your apps? Have you got other tricks up your sleeve? Do you find the rating filtering idea unethical? Share it below!


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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Support Android Developers : Sign Petition for a Fairer Treatment from Google

Android developers, especially the small indie ones, have one big concern when it comes to publishing apps on the Google Play store.

Apps suspension, and ultimately account banning from Google. And that too done in such a way that developers don't have ways of defending themselves or given any opportunity to fix the issues.

Sign the Petition Here!

Check out following problems reported by Phandroid and another developer on Reddit. There are countless other similar cases that's been reported by developers.

Is Google Evil?

Okay, to call Google as evil is ridiculous. Google has done much good for the world, and they are still doing more.

Maybe you have a different point-of-view from me on this, and that's fine. There has been much advancement in the human life with Google's help. Self driving smart cars reducing fatalities on road, for example.

But when it comes to apps suspension or banning of developer accounts, Google could really use a human touch.

This is how it goes. An app developer receives a suspension notice from Google, and the app is suspended. The developer can't make any changes to fix the problem anymore, most of the time. Most of the time when an appeal is done, it is almost automatically rejected with a final email from Google.

On rare occasions apps get re-instated. Increase your chances of getting your app re-instated or un-suspended, read on how below.

Why it Matters?

When you look back at the start of the Android world, indie developers were there. Indies, most of them a 1-man (or woman) team made apps after apps that grew the then Android Market to what it is now.

The interest of the market attracted more and more users over to Android. And it also attracted bigger brands. EA, Gameloft, Disney, Zynga and many more started getting involved too. Somehow Nintendo isn't there yet.

Without indies, this success that Google has had with the Play Store would probably not have been possible. The whole ecosystem was what indies have worked hard to grow.

Why it Happens?

Unfortunately, no matter where you look, some people take the wrong advantage of everything. Google has provided a great open system, allowing all developers a chance of publishing their apps, and monetizing the apps.

The system was open to other ad networks. And other analytics companies. Google could have limited these to their own Admob and Analytics tools, but they allowed it to be open.

That's where the abuse of the system started. Developers started using the open-ness for taking advantage of users' innocence, stealing valuable and private details of users. Numerous apps were released which violated trademarks and IPs, and providing illegal downloads of sings and movies. Ad networks started tracking users, sending out ads to the devices via notification and icon ads that suddeny pop up without users' permissions.

While it was fine back then in most cases, the abuse started getting a little out of hand. Thus Google introduced many new policies along the way, and developers had no choice but to comply with it. That's fair, after all, Android is Google's, and giving the end users a fair and enjoyable experience is really fair policy.

To avoid those handful of developers (okay, maybe more than a handful) who abuse the system, Google has resorted to using a very unfair style of handling this issue.

Common Mistakes that Cause Apps Suspension

Developers have often made innocent mistakes with their apps. Just watch out for these common mistakes that developers make that can cause app suspension:

1 - Using a trademarked name in the title. 
Watch out for names such as "Flow", "Play", "with friends" and "Candy". Some of these are ridiculous to be trademarked!

Check out these 4 easy steps to keyword research you can implement today!

2 - Using copyrighted content, including movies, music and images / logos.
Beware when you use icons for apps related to social related apps. Also avoid showing Youtube clips in your apps.

3 - Having too many keywords separated by commas in the app's description. 
Try to make full sentences of your relevant keywords.

4 - Showing ads out of app. 
This is a common problem when developers use exit ads, or code with a timer to show ads. Also stick to reliable ad networks. I recommend Heyzap if you're developing games.

Sign the Petition for a better developer - user - Google experience!

Sign the petition to make the Google Play a fairer place for all. This can easily be done by Google. If Apple and Microsoft can do this for their markets, Google can surely do it too.

Will this petition make a difference? I always believe in the positive (or try to at least). And believe that it can make a change.

As of this writing, this petition needs about 131 more signatures.

Please support and sign the petition.

Increase Your Chance of Getting App Out of Suspension

Now, if your app has been suspended, what do you do? Often the instinct is to get back to Google, and hope you get a proper response. Unfortunately, its almost guaranteed the response from Google won't help you at all, and they will refuse to further entertain you on this matter.

Instead, a fellow developer has got his app re-instated. He took a while to reply to Google, as he was waiting for response from the copyright holder. From the looks of it, it's like you have 1 chance at appeal, and to do that, you should provide all necessary details in screenshots and links. Give all and every detail you can in your email. And hope for the best.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

An Easy Keyword Research Strategy You Can Use Today for Your Apps

Like it or not, we've got to accept the fact that the Apple's app store and Google's Play store are both getting terribly crowded.

(Psst! Read to the end for a hot tip on app naming!)

Keyword research play an even bigger role now. Gone are the days where you could slap together, for example, a  flashlight app, and your app would show up for flashlight searches. In fact it's gotten so bad for flashlights, that Apple has even stopped accepting flashlight apps!

A new year, a new look!

Before I proceed, I would love to wish you and all your loved ones a wonderful 2015! May you publish a new flappy bird killer app or game this year.

This blog has just undergone (still is undergoing) some renovations, and hopefully this new look gives the blog a more professional look. But the changes are not final, and not only limited to how it looks.

This year MobiAdage changes its tag line to "the business of mobile". With that, I am striving on providing you with much better articles, comprising ASO / SEO, app marketing and mobile advertising. I'm also in the midst of working out some useful products and tools that will be beneficial to the small indie developer community.

Let's see how it goes then. Stick around! And please wish me luck!

Now, back to the topic of keyword research strategies that you can use TODAY for your apps.

Keyword Research for Mobile Apps and Games

Keyword research should be looked at even BEFORE you start your development. The market is so packed and vast now, that its really tough to stand out from the crowd. What's going to make your flashlight stand out? Should you even bother with a flashlight app? Is it worth your time and effort?

Every developer with a sane mind will advice to stay away from making a flashlight app. But we know the insane ones are the ones that make this world a lot more exciting right?

Flashlight apps are like the countless hello world codes developers all around the world have written. If you're new and just starting out in this world of app development, then I do recommend you try making one, if this interests you. You'll get the experience of developing a useful tool, and also learn the app publishing and marketing parts too.

The thing is, the flashlight app market is just too crowded, that Google perhaps should make a sub-category called "flash lights". And for cameras and alarms too. How you get outstanding here is what's going to make the difference whether your app succeeds or not.

I'll be using flashlight app as an example here, the theory can be applied to any apps of course.

How I do my keyword research

This is just one of the ways you can do your keyword research. This strategy gives you fast ideas for keywords. Remember though, that like everything you do in your app marketing, nothing is guaranteed. Luck plays a role too.

Using this simple strategy, if I were to develop a flash light app, this is how I'd go about with it.

1 - Keyword research on Google Play

One of my favourite keyword research tool is the Google Play itself. The suggestions that Google displays as you type in the search field are a treasure trove of keywords ideas.

I loaded Google Play on the browser, and started typing "flashl", and I get the following suggestions:

Keyword research on Google Play

This in itself gives me a great idea for the keywords I'd use for the flashlight app. You will notice the keywords "free", "app" and "widget" there. If I'm just using this, I'd title my app "Free Flashlight App & Widget". This title covers all the suggestions that Google Play provided.

The problem with this is that your app is just another one of a bazzilion out there that use these keywords. Remember, you need to make your app stand out!

2 - Get more keywords research done via Google's Keyword Planner tool

Google's Keyword planner tool is based on web and internet searches. While it's not quite used in the app world directly (my assumption), you can get some really useful ideas from here. After all, this important keyword tool highlights what humans are actually searching for anyway.

So I searched for "flashlight app", and the following were returned (sorted by average monthly searches):

Google Keyword Planner ideas searching

A couple more ideas pop up here, such as "LED", "Brightest" and "Torch". Again "Free" and "App" shows up here as what I found from step 1 above, adding further value to these words.

Do these basic words matter? There are certain parties that say we can remove them as these don't carry much weight. But end users still use these words for searches, thus there is an importance to be placed on them.

3 - A look at the competition.

So I head back to Google Play, and do a search for "flashlight". This is what the search returns:

Keyword "flashlight" search result on Google Play

Look at the titles of these apps. The first 7 out of 10 apps have the word "Torch" in their title. LED is used quite often too. "Bright" and "brightest" are there too. So these are indeed useful keywords to use for the flashlight app.

Surprisingly "free", "app" and "widget" don't appear in the top 10 flashlight apps' names. This is an opportunity to use them as keywords in your app, MAYBE there is search volume? You've got to test these out. (One important point about keyword research is testing it out to find out what works best, and do note, testing takes time).

4 - Brainstorm ideas to make the flashlight unique.

The best way to stand out is to make your flashlight app have unique and interesting features. You brainstorm some ideas and look at the competition.

Strobe light effects are popular among the top flashlight apps. You can also add a police light effect, and SOS light effect. Maybe also a disco light effect and even a message light you can personalize.

These features make your app still the same as the top apps. An idea that can make your flashlight unique is perhaps a night camera mode, where you have the flash light on, and at the same time your can take pictures.

You could also make a game where your flash light is used as "tactical" flashlight (another keyword suggested by Google's Keyword Planner). You can play a real-life multiplayer game with a fellow friend, where your phone becomes the gun, and there is a crosshair on screen and using the camera, the front views are shown. And when your opponent is in sight, tap a button on screen to "shoot".

You can use many other related keywords that we went through to get more ideas for your flash light app.

The app marketing and ASO has just begun.

The keyword research step is just one of many the developers need to go through. There are many ways to do it.

And seriously, please don't copy other developer's descriptions 100%. I've experienced these a few times, and the copier never gets their app high anyway. There is a lot more to an app's rankings this than just the title and description.

Hot ASO Tip!

It looks like Google might be treating plural and singular words with the same weighting. Check out the graph below for my Aztec Mini Golf Games 3D game on Google Play.

Singular and plural naming rank effect on Google Play ASO

Some time in October, I updated the app's description to have "golf games" (plural) as its main keyword. You can notice that the game started ranking much higher for "Golf games", but dropped in rank for the singular form.

And then, in December, Google did some changes I'd guess, and you notice that both singular and plural names now rank about the same.

Do let me know if you've experienced something similar.

Conclusion - Keyword Research Rocks!

Keywords research is just one part of app store optimization. And there is much to be done. It does not mean this is it for keyword research. It would make sense to keep trying out more keywords if your app isn't ranking well.

But sometimes it's not the keywords that's holding your app back. I'll look into these in upcoming posts. Do sign up for the newsletter to get updates into your inbox!


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About Me

Hi, I'm Bill!

I make mobile games and apps, and have had much experiences in ASO, mobile advertising and marketing over the past years in this business.

Do buzz me up for a chat or if you need opinions on your app's marketing and performance optimization:

bill at mobiadage.com
Twitter - mobiadage
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