Are You Making These 9 App Marketing Mistakes?

By Dom Bracher | March 2nd, 2015

Regardless of experience, we all make mistakes. When it comes to marketing your application, mistakes often lead to over expenditure and disappointing results. In this post we have identified the 9 biggest mistakes that developers often make when promoting their applications, and have put together some actionable takeaways on how you can avoid them.

1. Developing Without A Monetization Strategy

There are now over 1.3 million applications on the App Store, whilst the cost per install continues to hover around the $2 mark. With user acquisition being a challenge across the industry, it is essential that you make as much money as possible from the installs which you do manage to generate. In order to do this, you need to plan your monetization strategy as early as possible.

In total there are 4 ways in which you can monetize your app:

Ad Revenue

Ad revenue is an extremely popular form of app monetisation. Ad networks now offer a wider range of ad units which give developers the opportunity to strike a balance between a high eCPM and minimal interruption to their user experience. Bear in mind, if your app is paid, then implementing ads will almost certainly lead to negative reviews.

In App Purchases

In app purchases (IAPs) are one of the most effective ways of monetising your application. At the time of writing, only 2 of the top 100 grossing apps in the US App Store are paid apps. The vast majority of the free applications in this chart are there due to their IAPs. Users purchase IAPs which can unlock extra features, remove advertising, or enable them to progress through a game faster. Clash of Clans and Candy Crush are examples of this business model in action.


Subscriptions are not as well adopted as in app purchases, but they can have a significant impact on the lifetime value (LTV) of a user within your app. In order to utilize a subscription model, your app needs to provide value to a user over an extended period of time. Some examples of applications which have successfully adopted this model are Evernote, Headspace and RunKeeper, where a subscription gives you access to extended storage, analysis and content.

app-marketing- runkeeper-monetization RunKeepers Offers a premium service which gives access to deeper insight on your activity.


Although this is executed by the minority of applications, sometimes it is best to just put a price tag on your app at the point of installation. The highest quality applications can certainly command a price for the value which they add to the lives of their customers.

Monument Valley and Minecraft are both examples of high quality applications which have been extremely successful through charging an upfront cost to their product.

Paid apps are certainly more popular and effective in some categories than others. In the utility category, 50% of the top 20 grossing apps are paid, and this figure sits at 45% for the business category.

If your app is paid, then you should steer clear of in app advertising, and you will have to clearly demonstrate how your app can add value to a user at the point of sale.

Overall, this is how popular each business model is within the world’s top markets:

app-marketing-paid adds- monetization Although the chart is 12 months old, this breakdown has changed very little

2. Failing to Adapt to Each Platform

The are significant differences between iOS, Android and Windows, meaning that a strategy which is effective on one platform may not work on another.

For example, on Android it is possible to release a free version of your application that has a limited number of uses, a strategy which is used in many desktop applications. However, this is not possible on iOS.

Also, ASO rules (mentioned in more detail later in this post) vary a great deal from platform to platform, so be sure to check in on the best practices for the store which you are developing for.

Finally, be sure to follow the relevant developer guidelines for each platform. Apple is particularly fussy when it comes to which applications are available on the App Store, so it’s important to understand if there is any risk to your concept being rejected prior to investing heavily in development.

3. Failure to Manage Consumer Expectations

Consumers are very quick to judge mobile applications, so it is essential that you manage their expectations in your in your marketing materials, be it your description, icon, screenshots or preview video.

If you undersell yet overdeliver, you are far more likely to attract positive reviews to your application. By all means, you should definitely highlight the unique selling points of your app, but don’t overstate their capabilities.

If you flip this around, and end up in a situation where you over promise and under deliver, then it is most likely that your app will end up being bombarded with negative reviews. With it now widely accepted that reviews count towards your applications search ranking, you can’t afford to have this happen.


4. Lack of Understanding on Analytics Data

Last year, we ran a survey within the Tapdaq community in order to better understand how indie developers approach data analytics. We discovered that although 95% of independent developers install some form of analytics product into their application, 88% of them don’t understand what actions to take based on their data.

app-marketing-tapdaq Source: Tapdaq Data

Firstly, it’s vital to understand which data points are most critical to your app’s success. You need to be tracking the key data points around user acquisition, retention, engagement and monetisation in order to paint a picture of just how healthy your application is.

I recently wrote a guest post for Developer Economics in which I talk through the 10 key metrics which developers should be tracking, you can read this here.

Remember, in an ecosystem where nearly every customer action is trackable, there is no excuse for not making decisions based on data :)

5. Not Understanding the Value of ASO

App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing your app’s sales page in order to improve discoverability. The key points to bear in mind with ASO are:

  • Rules and best practices vary from platform to platform. Be sure to read up on the differences, particularly between Android and iOS.
  • ASO is largely built on assumptions. Both Apple and Google give very little away on the actual search volume and competition within their stores. With that said, a number of entrepreneurs and 3rd party platforms have done extensive research on ASO, with their work taking some of the guess work out of the process.
  • ASO is not an overnight process. Test, measure and iterate in order to get optimum results. Have patience.

When executing your ASO strategy, there are 2 key components to focus on. Keyword Optimisation (KO), and Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO).

These quick tips can add value to your ASO strategy:

  • Bundling your apps together, now possible for paid apps on iOS, also bundles together the keyword data. This further increases the discoverability of your applications.
  • You do not need to leave spaces between keywords in your keyword field, a comma alone is sufficient.
  • On Google Play, keywords in the app description have an effect on discoverability. On iOS, they don’t.
  • Make sure your icon stands out, and says a lot about what your application is or does
  • Focus your app description on the value your app brings to the user, and why they should download your app

6. Poor Understanding of LTV

Lifetime Value, often shortened to LTV, is the measure of the revenue a customer will bring during their lifetime of using your application.

If you know the lifetime value of your customers, you have an understanding of what you can afford to invest in acquiring new users, and how much you can spend on updating and improving your application. If spending on either or both of these is higher than the lifetime value, you’re going to run into problems.

Currently, the challenge for indie developers is that there is no affordable way to calculate your average user LTV, meaning that this is manual process. On top of this, as already mentioned, the average cost per install is continually rising, meaning developers need to achieve an even higher average LTV per user.

7. Testing on the App Store

When releasing a new application, there are a huge number of scripts and robots that scrape information (their names, prices, developers, screenshots, etc) and post them to listings and directories for those who want to be the first to get a new application. Most significantly, Apple’s own lists feature new apps in the store, which almost always generates a spike in downloads at the launch of an app.

If you launch your app before it is ready, then you are wasting your opportunity to capitalise on what is essentially free/automated publicity, as your app will create a poor first impression and generate no viral traffic at all.

However this doesn’t need to be the case. Beta testing is of course vital to building a successful application, and Apple recognises this by providing TestFlight to all registered iOS developers. TestFlight enables developers to distribute their app to up to 1,000 beta testers, all before your app even enters the App Store at all.

8. Not Executing a Viral Loop

A viral loop is where the consumers of a product become the primary marketers. Growth is fast, cheap, and self sustainable as users are driven to generate more users.

By creating a hook that brings your users back into your application, and encourages them to share the app with their friends, you increase the engagement of your users. Let’s take a quick example of what constitutes a viral loop.


  1. Please download this app. [Not Viral]
  1. This is the best app at doing X. I’m going to invite my friends to this app. [Viral, but not a loop]
  1. This app is so much better when all my friends use it too. I’m going to invite more, and more, and more. [Viral loop]

A viral loop could include either of the following:

  • A social competition or sharing incentive. For example, Dropbox does this by giving you more storage in return for successful referrals.
  • Enable users to get help from their friends in order to progress through your app. For example, 4Pics1Word lets users invite friends to help them guess the word from the four pictures.
  • Queue jumping, as implemented by Mailbox. Invite your friends in order to get quicker access to a product.

9. Lack of Research

This is probably the most common mistake of them all, and one that I have certainly made myself. It’s human nature to be excited by new opportunity, but it’s important to remember that the less research you do, the higher your chance of failure.

As a rule of thumb, you should always aim to make your app either better, faster or cheaper than it’s competition. But, with over 1.3 million apps on the App Store, and even more on Google Play, it has never been harder to achieve this. As a result, it’s vital that you do your research to ensure you stand out from the crowd.

If you discover there are a number of apps similar to your own concept, then download these apps and see if how/if your product will be better. Learn from their mistakes and ensure that your app doesn’t fall into the same trap. And remember, if your app is better, faster or cheaper, then you’re much more likely to succeed.

To recap, here are the 9 biggest app mistakes.

  • Developing without a monetisation strategy
  • Failing to adapt to each platform
  • Failure to manage consumer expectations
  • Lack of understanding on analytics data
  • Not understanding the value of ASO
  • Poor understanding of LTV
  • Testing on the App Store.
  • Not executing a viral loop
  • Lack of research

This article was originally published on Tapdaq's blog and it can be found here.

Dom Bracher
Dom Bracher is co-founder and CMO at Tapdaq , a direct mobile advertising network. Grow your app by trading installs with other developers, or by cross promoting your own network.

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