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How to Validate Your App Idea With Customers Waiting in Line

In an earlier post, we discussed how to find app ideas that people want. For this post, we’ll take it one step further and show you how we had over 1,000 people waiting to download our app thus validating our app idea in the process.

When we released our first iOS app, we approached marketing from an online perspective since we had prior experience building and developing websites. Our plan was to create a website, and get optimize it via SEO on Google for a keyword that was very relevant to our app. By ranking in Google, we wanted to see how much traffic we could get but also how many email sign-ups we could capture for people who expressed interest in our app.

Keywords are the #1 most important factor before you begin any search engine marketing campaign. Not all keywords are equal. Some can be broad, others can be long tail and specific. Keywords can be commercial intent while others can be more informative. Lastly, keywords vary in their search volume and difficultly in ranking. A term like “best digital cameras” would be way more popular and competitive than a term like “cheap waterproof keywords for kids“.

So for example, if we were creating a tip calculator app, we’d want to find terms that are very similar or close to that. There are several free and paid tools available to help you do that. The most common tool is Google’s Keyword Planner (formerly known as Google Keyword Tool). There are also paid tools like SEMRush whose sole purpose is to provide you quick and detailed keyword information as well as keyword ideas.

If we follow the example above, a quick search for “tip calculator” on SEMRush shows us many similar keyword phrases but also a very high demand for it (volume column). If there’s interest on Google then there must be people typing in the same phrase in the app store. Just because a keyword is popular on Google does NOT mean it will be popular in the app store which we’ll cover in a later case study. Let’s be serious. Chances are if you are Googling for a tip calculator then most likely you are physically at the restaurant and using your mobile phone.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 11.16.19 PMFor our own app, we found several keyword variations with high search volume. The screen shot below is from the former Google Keyword Tool. All of the keywords shown were laser targeted to what our app was offering. The next step was to check out domains to buy to begin the website build.

gkwtool

When it comes to domains, a lot of people will argue that ‘exact match domains’ have more ranking power. These are domains that contain strictly the keyword in it and nothing else. An example would be ‘www.pizzatipcalculator.com‘. In our own experience, exact match domains do carry a little bit more weight but it’s not a deal breaker if it’s not available. For our own app, we did end up purchasing an exact match domain.

You can go to any of your favorite domain registrars (GoDaddy, Namecheap, etc) to see if any of your keywords are available to register as a domain name. Personally, I would ONLY register a .com/.net/.org and nothing else. Looking at the same example above, there are some golden nuggets. Can you spot them? Here’s a hint….

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Once you lock down your domain, now you’ll need to secure webhosting before you can even build a website. We highly recommend using a company like Bluehost which provides very affordable and reliable hosting for personal and small business purposes. For the sake of time, we’ll assume you know how to link your domain to your webhost and then install WordPress to begin building your website. If not, you can easily find many free resources online.

WordPress is our weapon of choice because it is extremely easy to use and supports thousands of different themes. Our goal here is to NOT create a full fledged website but rather a pre-launch page to generate hype and interest. Thankfully there are a ton of themes out there that are built for that sole purpose. You don’t need to pay for one but feel free to save you headache and time. Here’s a free launch theme from Appify. See this blog post for a list of more launch themes.

launchtheme

Getting traffic to your site is the next major component. You can buy traffic through things like Facebook ads or Google AdWords. We chose to rank it organically through SEO. Again, traffic generation strategy could be a post by itself. If you are interested in learning the tactics that are working today for SEO, we highly recommend you check out our friends at Niche Pursuits. Understand that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. So it might take a few months to rank on the first page of Google. This is why its imperative to plan ahead!

We went to work and were fortunate enough to rank our app website at a decent pace starting from early January 2013. By mid May 2013, we were averaging 500 visitors per day and still growing.

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How do you capitalize on all this traffic? You try to capture every visitors email address! Every lead that comes in is one hungry customer waiting to download your app. Best of all, you can market to them over and over again and even blast them with an email once your app is released. We recommend joining a hosted email provider like Aweber that will allow you to easily send bulk emails without any problems like ending up in spam folders.

For that same date range, we were able to gather over 1,000 emails for people who wanted our app.

aweberchart

aweberz

So what all this equate to? We found out there was a serious demand for our app. We released our app through a ‘soft launch’ where we did zero promotion to see what would happen naturally or if Apple would give us some love as a new app. Needless to say our app did ok but did not meet expectations. After a few bug fixes, we released and update and finally did a ‘hard launch’ and emailed our list of 1000+ subscribers which resulted in over 400 app downloads the same day. iTunes Connect doesn’t let us go back that far :( In total we got 1,572 downloads our first month which isn’t bad considering we released it mid month.

Instead of collecting emails on the site now, we just redirect people to our iTunes app store page where they can directly download the app. We believe that organic traffic is still a key driver in our app success but only a minor factor compared to being found within the iTunes app store.

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