10 money-making secrets of top apps (part 2)

10 money-making secrets of top apps (part 2)

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Do best-selling apps have something in common? The experts on our Marketplace team think so.

In part one, I shared some of the lessons they learned from studying top apps across Marketplace. Here’s the rest of the list:

6. Be quick to market

As my colleague Todd Brix mentioned recently, we’re planning to open new Marketplace storefronts in more than 100 new markets this year. By making your app available in these new stores early, you increase your odds of getting noticed and gaining a toehold on the download charts.

Apps that show up first in newly-opened stores typically have an early advantage because there’s often less competition. Early download momentum can also help propel and keep your app on the charts even after a store gets more crowded.

7. Think global—and local

Being first in a new market is just one way to win over new customers. Another is by tailoring your app to local customs, preferences, and languages—processes often referred to as globalization and localization. As Microsoft’s Kim Cameron notes in her must-read post on the subject, these similar-sounding expressions mean two slightly different things.

Globalizing your app means making sure things like money, dates, and symbols are expressed correctly for a particular market. For example, making sure your financial app expresses money in Chinese yuan instead of U.S. dollars. Localizing an app means translating it into one or more new languages. Typical elements that get localized are the app’s user interface text, Marketplace description, and App list title. (Localizing the title requires building a C++ resource DLL. Check out the handy utility Microsoft MVP Patrick Getzmann created that makes this process much easier.)

Yes, all this can take some work, but it’s usually worth it. Globalizing and localizing your app increases the odds it might be featured and promoted in a local Marketplace, which can drive up downloads. Generally speaking, people also prefer apps that speak to them in a language they’re familiar with. (This can be less critical for games, however.)

Besides Kim’s post, I also highly recommend How to Build a Globalized Application for Windows Phone and How to Build a Localized Application for Windows Phone to help get up to speed.

8. Optimize your app

Windows Phones come in a range of shapes, sizes, and prices. To help increase your downloads and ratings, try to ensure that your app works well on the widest number of devices, including lower-cost ones.

Mike Battista on the Windows Phone engineering team wrote an outstanding blog series that’s packed with advice on optimizing your app for lower-cost devices. It’s another must-read. For more perspective, watch Mike talk about these practices on Channel 9’s Inside Windows Phone.

9. Ask for reviews and ratings

Encouraging customers to tell you what they do and especially don’t love about your app is crucial to long-term success. Our analysis showed that highly-ranked apps have an average rating of 3.5 stars, about double that of other apps. Developers who respond to customer feedback and deliver frequent updates generally see their ratings go up, which in turn encourages more customers to consider downloading the app.

One way to encourage people to share their thoughts is to include an in-app link back to the app review page using the Marketplace Review Task Launcher. Community-powered services like Get Satisfaction and the Windows Phone Suggestion Box can also offer more insights into what customers are thinking.

10. Deliver frequent updates

Here’s a telling statistic: highly-ranked apps are updated, on average, more than twice as often as all other apps. Additionally, the developers behind highly-ranked apps deliver updates every two to three months, compared with four or more months for all other apps.

Besides bug fixes, what’s worth including in an update? User reviews are an important and obvious source of ideas. Customer and app behavior can be another. App Hub provides some of this info, but it’s also worth looking into analytics services to help you gain more insight into what users are doing with your app. Some you can check out include Flurry, Localytics, and Wensus.

As you add new features and fix bugs, make sure to update your app’s description and screenshots (if necessary) to let people know what’s included in your refresh. (But add this info after the basic description, so new customers  just looking for a simple description of your app don’t have to wade through the change log.) Finally, make sure that your app metadata is also up to date and includes any new features you’ve added.

Taptitude is a perfect example of how frequent updates can drive downloads. Check out what co-creator Brandon Furtwangler had to say about the benefits of frequent updates on Inside Windows Phone.

Bonus tip:

11. Get help from others

No software developer stands alone. One of the great things about the Windows Phone developer community is the amount of middleware available to help developers build or improve their apps.

ASP.NET evangelist Scott Hanselman provided a first-hand demonstration of this in his excellent post, “From Concept to Code in 6 Hours: Shipping My First Windows Phone App.” In the post, Scott talks about no fewer than 15 different third-party libraries and utilities he used to save time. The post is also filled with other fantastic tips—so don’t miss it.

Questions or suggestions for future columns on the business of making and selling apps? Make sure to drop us a comment.

9 Comments
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  • dave_t
    2 Posts

    And how about fixing search by keywords?

    When someone buys phone this person going to Marketpalce and looks for apps by typing keywords.

    And this someone is 99 % of all users.

    Search by keywords is the most important tool !!!.

    Michael,

    Why would not you address it in your next blog? Just be specific.

  • Thanks for awesome tips and great links for detals of each tip.

  • You know what? METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO METRO!!!!  I'm sick of these silly games with a WORD.  The UI is Metro.  It doesn't matter if it was ever the "official" name, it's what we've been living with as a perfect description for the interface for TWO YEARS.  If Microsoft wants to start all over again with their campaign, that's their decision, but I'm going to continue referring to it as the Metro UI. Screw Metro AG and any other company that wants to pretend to be all upset.  They can all crash and burn.  Harsh?  Probably.  But this is beyond stupid.

  • thanks for this awesome share :)

    myblogginglab blogspot com

  • One thing I forgot to mention: If you want to see how we use twitter to promote our apps, or you are just interested in receiving a continuous twitter feed of Olympic news, look at our twitter account for these apps: http://twitter.com/L2012Exp

    To create more exposure, our Azure index servers supply content for our apps and the summergames web site, but also tweet every news item, together with links to our apps, max one tweet every 90 sec, to give you an idea of the number of new articles we supply for our Olympic apps. This way of "advertising" our app via twitter has probably brought us most of the new downloads, if we stop the twitter feed the number of new downloads drops, when we start the twitter feed, we see more new users.

    Another aspect is that it might take a while to get the right exposure for your app, new followers on twitter etc. In this case, we really made a bad decision to program for the olympics, because after three weeks it is all over and you probably need more time to have a better life-cycle for your app (updating your app several times in 3 weeks is impossible) and to get a larger amount of users. But we like sport and love the Olympics, so the passion can sometimes be overwhelming in your decisions :)

  • Maybe a side-step, but I guess what would really help to make money with apps, is to get more wp7 phone users.

    Released some apps for London2012 combined with a web site, live tiles, Azure content database, continuous twitter feed etc, but the amount of total downloads is low, the profits are hardly enough to buy some hamburgers. Maybe the app is not good enough, maybe the target is not the most profitable one, maybe the marketing can be better (marketing seems to be the most difficult part, @StevieBallz: you make a very good point), but when I look at our accompanying web site summergames.uxadditives.com , the differences in visiting operating systems is dramatic, for a certain period of time comparison of visits. It is different per day, but the rough comparison is about the same each day:

    Windows 293

    iOS 154

    Macintosh 86

    Android 21

    BlackBerry 13

    Linux 7

    SymbianOS 3

    Nokia 1

    I really love the WP7 and don't want to change it for another phone, and I love to program in Xaml, Azure and SQL, but when I look at these numbers I probably better go programming for the IPhone if I want to get more downloads and probably some profits.  For the moment I consider our first apps as learning time and investment, hopefully we will make a profit later on when the Windows Phone has a larger user base.

    One light I see at the tunnel is with W8 we can create cross-selling of apps for phone and desktop, especially the desktop might be interesting. Of course not all apps will be successful but the difference in users is still so huge. Above secrets are very helpful, but it would so much better to take a slice of a bigger pie. On the other hand, because the market is so small at the moment, the secrets mentioned in this blog can be even more valuable to get some pennies.

    If you're curious about our apps I'm talking about look here:

    London 2012 Experience: http://bit.ly/LUPLah

    Olympic Flow: http://bit.ly/Mg62Jp

  • @ GoodThings2L: Appreciate your thoughts.

    @StevieBallz: A good point--and an area we're hoping to address in future posts.

    Would love to hear what others think, too.

    Anybody else have best practices or tips to share? Or requests for future posts, either on either the technical or business side of app-making?

  • I believe one very important part is missing from all this. If your App is coming up, just released it is important to also "advertise" it outside the Marketplace. If it is something really new/great contact Windows Phone blogs like WMPowerUser or WPCentral. It can snowball from there.

    There simply are too many new apps coming out everyday to rely on people finding it in the Marketplace. All the advice in the article is great but if you really want to be successful building a great App and just putting it into the Marketplace just is not enough. If a worse App gets more exposure on those sites it will outsell better Apps in the beginning and cement it's position on top as the Marketplace ranking includes the number of downloads.

    So spread your information (I don't mean spamming but try to get your App on the "news").

  • These tips are excellent, and while I hope every serious developer takes them to heart, I admit I'd like Microsoft to do so as well. Some of the Microsoft apps rarely get updates (if ever). Case in point... Fruit Ninja. It's a popular, well-liked game, but still hasn't even been updated for Mango to run in the background or any new features from the more full-featured game on other platforms. I love Windows Phone, I just want Microsoft to lead by example!