App Growth Talks: Thomas Kriebernegg

This is the episode #6 of App Growth Talks, a series of interviews with ASO, user acquisition and mobile growth experts. Today’s special guest is Thomas Kriebernegg, app enthusiast, keynote speaker, CEO and co-founder of App Radar.

Thomas, you’re a CEO and co-founder of App Radar. How did you start this company?

The story of App Radar goes back to the days when I was working as a consultant in the area of online marketing, and then I was switching over to the field of app marketing once this was becoming a topic. I think back then it was a kind of the birth of the topic of app store optimization. 

And for me, as someone who had a really big interest in SEO, this was something really fascinating, which I was totally falling for, and then I started working as a freelancer helping various apps out there grow. But I soon realized that there was so much manual work, especially in analyzing data, interpreting data and also doing optimization for the clients I was working with. Then I was looking around with my friends and was checking out whom could I ask for help. Luckily, I found Christian [Christian Janesch] who is the co-founder of App Radar. He is the smartest guy in the field of tech that I know. I told him about my problems and asked him, “Hey, cannot we do something together and build a product around this?” He said yes, and this was the birth of App Radar, so to say. 

This was around 5 years ago and since then we’ve been working both together on the company of App Radar, building it up now to a little bit more than 20 people, and we are helping apps all around the world grow

I know that you’re extremely busy being a CEO at App Radar. But you share useful tutorials, participate in panel discussions and webinars…By the way, thank you for joining me for our “How to nail ASO with Apple Search Ads” webinar! So I wanted to ask: how do you manage to combine so many activities? Any time-management secrets?

Yes, we’re quite active on YouTube, participating in webinars, trying to share as much knowledge as possible and really educate. We are inspiring app marketers out there to become more successful in their jobs. The reason that this is possible is because we at App Radar are working together in a very cool team with amazing people and, luckily, they are taking work from my shoulders, so that I can focus more on really getting knowledge around ASO and app marketing. 

Nevertheless, this is the one part, but there is also the second part. I think this is a very strong focus, very strong discipline, and also learning to say no, and I think this is one of the hardest things when it comes to setting priorities.

Being an entrepreneur in the app industry, what’s your daily habit related to your professional activity?

Maybe one of the downsides of working within the app industry is, I would say, that I am quite addicted to my smartphone, which means that in the beginning of every day I am picking out my smartphone and checking out social media: Twitter and LinkedIn. Thus I see if there is any interesting industry news happening – this is how I keep myself connected with our really fast-moving mobile world. 

Also, besides tracking social media news, I am also trying to keep myself connected with as many app entrepreneurs as possible to understand what’s currently on their mind, whether they have challenges, whether they have problems and also identify ideas how we can help them to become more successful in what they are doing. And as mentioned, spending quite some time on my smartphone I am also spending a lot of time within the app stores trying to find out new app store trends, testing something new… Well, I would say I’m very interested in the industry that we are working in.

Speaking of the app store trends, could you please share some of them for 2020 and probably for early 2021?

One of the things that we’ve seen this year, especially with Apple releasing the new version of App Store Connect, as well as Google releasing the new version of the Google Play Console, I think that these two major “stars” are becoming more customer-focused. They are really trying to build up relations with the developers and are also making their life a little bit easier. And they are also trying to connect more with the people that distribute to this industry. Therefore I think that this is a kind of big change that I identified this year.

App Store and Google Play are becoming more customer-focused.

There is also another topic that right at the moment a lot of people are talking about. This is the topic of IDFA. It’s hard to predict where it will lead at the end of the day, so these are really interesting times. And I think this will be one of the major topics for the rest of this year and also for the beginning of next year.

Also, just recently, I’m quite sure you also have read the news about Epic releasing Fortnite and the troubles they were having with Apple. I am also really interested to see where this topic is going.

Note: when this App Growth Talks episode was recorded there was no information on the rest of the story.

What would you recommend to increase the app visibility and grow downloads in the app stores?

It depends very heavily on where you are at the moment with your app. This means, have you just released your app in the app store? Is your app already within the app store for a couple of months or maybe even years? So it really depends on the stage of the app.

Right at the moment I am thinking back to how it was ten years ago when you were pushing your app into the app store and all of a sudden you got thousands of downloads because there was not so much competition going on within the app stores. 

And nowadays there is really a lot of competition going on. So this tactics simply doesn’t work anymore if you’re releasing your app or game and new to the app store, 

So it’s really the question of what you can do initially to build up momentum and get people talking about your app, to get your app known. I think one of the good possibilities you have there is working together with influencers, trying ad networks. Maybe a short tip hack here: try out ad networks that are new, because if you’re going, for example, for Facebook – kind of everybody is there, which also means that ads will be more expensive. So identifying a new ad network could help you get very good prices as well. Not many people are thinking out of the box and trying to find good channels. 

Nevertheless, I also think and  you can also probably totally relate to this topic that the field of app store optimization: nailing your app store listing, making it attractive to users, making users want to download your app and try it out – I think it’s really the base that you need to do nowadays anyways.

Yes, I totally agree. And I also agree that nothing stands still and what worked earlier doesn’t always work now. And Thomas, could you please share how to choose keywords for an app store listing? Please name the main criteria.

I think that choosing the right keywords for your app is a massive and big topic. I also think that people are often overcomplicating it a little bit, so I am trying to make it more “touchable”. The first and most important thing when you think about keywords for your app is that they have to be relevant to your app or your mobile game. Because you have to keep in mind when we’re talking about people that are opening the app store on the smartphone, they are going in there entering a keyword, because they have something in their head, an app they want to use, a use case that the want to be fulfilled, so they know quite exactly what they are looking for. Therefore, you want to show up on the relevant keywords.

If you have a running tracking app, for example, and somebody is looking for buying a new t-shirt and your ranking position is #1 – they are not going to download your app because they were looking for something completely different. 

So, relevance is number one.

Number two: when there are so many apps in the app stores and there is so much competition, it’s really important to think about “rankability”, or, in other words, ask yourself, “Can I rank for those keywords that I would like to rank for, which I know that are relevant?” When you’re starting a dating app, for sure you want to rank for “dating app” – but it will be super-hard, especially in the beginning, so therefore you should think about which kind of sub-niches you’re taking with your app and really try to focus more on the long-tail keywords, which brings me to the last point.

It’s diversification in keywords. I think it’s important that you keep in mind that there are short terms that are relevant but there are also long-term keywords that might be super relevant for your app. It’s worth considering to optimize for both of them. 

Great tips, thank you Thomas. And now let’s move on to paid user acquisition: what do you think of Apple Search Ads? What’s your take on the future of this channel?

I think it’s a really great channel. Especially if you have an app or a game that is some kind of search-intent-driven. What I mean by that is when your app can be summarized in really good keywords, for example, like I’ve already mentioned, running tracking app or calorie counter app, or something like that where people already have a very good understanding of what this app might be. 

When they go to the app store and search for a keyword like this,

I think Apple Search Ads is an amazing channel because there you can position yourself on position #1 on such relevant keywords, super-relevant for your app business.

So I think therefore it’s a really great channel.

With IDFA, one of the side effects that Apple is pushing is also to make their own ad network, and in this case also Apple Search Ads is more attractive to the audience. So, therefore, I think that this might be also quite a massive push that we might be seeing for this channel over the next couple of weeks and months

Also, keeping on the Apple side, I’m interested to see where the ads of Apple within the Apple News are going as a topic. Also, in regards to IDFA because when we think of  that Apple has the possibility to place ads on content, and they know what this content is about and also have understanding who is the reader of this content. So, for example, if you think of news about the stock market, when someone is reading such news, chances that those people are also interested in trading apps are quite high, so this is a good match there. Really interested to see where it is going as a topic in combination with IDFA.

And for those who didn’t watch our webinar, could you please share your take on the correlation between Apple Search Ads campaigns and organic keyword rankings?

Yeah, so first tip for all the listeners, go out and check out our webinar that Lina and I had about this topic. I think it was really great, we tried  to talk with you about this topic in more detail. Kind of the summary from our conversation is that there are a lot of positive side effects between Apple Search Ads and ASO

So to name a few examples, Apple Search Ads helps you identify keywords that drive installs and also helps you find keywords that drive revenue, so that you really find out which keyword in the end is also bringing you money. You can take this knowledge and integrate it into the ASO strategy because you want to rank on those keywords that bring you money. You want to rank organically very well. So therefore you can really take those learnings and integrate them into your app store listing. 

And I think another very important topic in this regard is analyzing conversion rates by identifying screenshots that drive good conversions in combinations with keywords to boost more installs and generate revenue. I think you had a really great example in our conversation there with an app that offers the possibility to book flights as well as to book hotels. So it’s kind of two different use cases. When you know this, then you can really start optimizing for those different use cases with different keywords and screenshots in combination. And once again, you can take this knowledge into your ASO strategy and really optimize your screenshots further for such use cases as well.

Overall, how would you recommend to combine ASO and paid user acquisition strategies (ASO with Apple Search Ads in particular)?

I would say in a kind of perfect world scenario you would be ranking on top positions for all relevant keywords. This is, let’s say, the mission to go with your ASO and Apple Search Ads strategy. It’s a way to get there, because on the one hand, as mentioned, there’s really a lot of competition going on, not only organically, but also for very competitive keywords on the Apple Search Ads side. So therefore, it is really important to keep those both sides in mind and try to rank as good organically as well as within Apple Search Ads, in terms of Share of Voice for the super relevant keywords that you have.

One downside of the search channel is that it is a limited channel in terms of maximum search requests per day, because we’re talking about people that have in mind what they’re looking for, they are going into the App Store and searching for something particularly, which means that this audience is already quite prequalified. So therefore, those people already know what they’re looking for.

But for sure, there are also other channels where you can try to convince people or show people something new that they don’t think about yet and make them interested in your app, in your mobile game and also move them over, so to say to the app stores to download your game or your app there as well.

Thomas, could you please share a couple of ASO and/or user acquisition tips that proved to be efficient?

I think that the most important thing is really to get the ASO basics right.

This means you need to understand what are keywords, on the one hand. You need to find out which keywords are relevant for your target audience, for which keywords you can rank, where the competition isn’t too high, or you also have a chance to beat them. Once you have identified such keywords, it’s about integrating those keywords into your store listing, implementing them into your title, subtitle, keywords and so on. And once you did this, you have to check out if the strategy that you had is also working and if you are ranking for those keywords that you actually want to rank for. As you can see, this is really kind of a process, always analyzing where you are, then taking decisions, optimizing and once again analyzing. And this is going over and over and over again. So I think that this is really the first and most important thing when it comes to the topic of app store optimization.

Secondly, I have to say that understanding app metrics and identifying good opportunities for growth or identifying markets are actually getting a lot of momentum. It’s really kind of the next big thing because those learnings you can integrate into your user acquisition strategy. For example, if you figure out that you’re ranking or that you are getting a lot of organic traffic from a specific market, for example, in Brazil, then you want to find out why this is happening. And when you see, because your app is just a super good fit to a specific target audience over there, then the next question should be: how can I get even more users from this specific market, from the specific target audience? And therefore, I think user acquisition is really great based on metrics.

And I think the last point here, once again, so much competition is going on. I think it’s really worth considering thinking a little bit outside of the box and maybe not doing what everybody else is doing – could be also really good tactics.

What KPIs do you use to measure the effectiveness of your clients’ Apple Search Ads campaigns?

It depends on kind of a very aggressive strategy, but the high level thing is once you’re starting out, setting up Apple Search Ads, the first thing you want to identify is how many impressions you are getting. How many people out there are seeing your app as kind of the first step? And the next thing is from those people who see your app, how many of them are really going to end up installing your app. Which means that the tap-through rate is also very important in this regard between the impression, then the store page and then the install.

And if you have the possibilities on the technical side, if you’re using an MMP, I have to say once again, IDFA – let’s have a look at how long the strategy will be working in the future. But if you can identify which keywords bring you the revenue, this is the end goal. You want to optimize for exactly those keywords because this is where the money is coming from. And I think in combination with Apple Search Ads, that’s the topic of app store optimization. So you’ll also want to monitor your organic rankings for those keywords that bring your installs and especially those keywords that bring revenue, because this might be also a really good growth accelerator.

And could you probably name a couple of cases when Apple Search Ads brought great results to your clients?

In total we have been working with a little bit over than 100 apps in the field of Apple Search Ads already. Full hand up, not all of the campaigns that we are running are super successful but luckily, most of them are. The thing is that it really depends on the use case, but it also strongly depends on the product itself as well, if a campaign is successful or not. I mean, there are also other values to play into this calculation, like the lifetime value of the users that you’re generating through the Apple Search Ads channel and all the stuff which comes into play.
Personally, for me, I really like working together with freemium games in the field of Apple Search Ads because there are the numbers that really, I would say, very easy to analyze. Because, you know how much money you are generating and you know how much you are paying for a new install. So it’s quite cool.

And I have to say for me personally, it’s satisfying when those campaigns are working out very well, because then you see that you’re doing a great job. But yes, as mentioned, in the end, it’s really about a lot of testing, optimizing and trying to get the best out of it.

What do you think of cannibalization in Apple Search Ads? Is it a big issue, in your opinion, or it’s not an issue at all?

Once again, in a perfect world scenario, it would be great if we would not have to talk about the topic of cannibalization because then you would be ranking organically number one on your most important keywords and you would not have to pay for ads for it. But as I mentioned, this would be kind of the perfect world scenario. 

Nowadays, you can be quite sure, especially if your app or if your mobile game is already a little bit bigger, that there will be competitors out there that want to rank on your brand keywords. 

And so I think that cannibalization is a topic but what would be the alternative that you don’t do it? But then chances would be that your competitors are sneaking in and stealing a lot of your valuable traffic. Therefore, in my opinion, yes, it’s a topic that somehow needs to be done, no matter if you like it or not.

Let’s discuss IDFA. Will the entire industry be affected by this change?

I think this is really one of the hottest topics that is going on within our industry. And I think the summary of it is that 2020 probably wasn’t the year of good news because it started off with coronavirus and then, you know, IDFA and a lot of other topics as well that occurred. So, I think that this is the kind of the stage that we have there, but nevertheless, with IDFA there will be a lot of changes happening to the industry. I think right at the moment it’s really hard to predict what exactly those changes will be. Also, the people that I’m talking to, most of them, are waiting. They’re checking the news more or less every second and see if there is something new happening, trying to be prepared once it is happening to really switch their tactics in terms of user acquisition, optimizing their strategies. 

So personally, I think that it will have a massive impact on our industry in the kind of craziest, wildest version. It can really also go to into the direction to running ads for mobile apps more compared to running ads on television, which means that you have the possibility to identify which kind of TV channels do you think that your target audience is, if you can then also identify which time of the day you think that those people are watching TV, and then you can run ads there.

If it is working out or not, you will get spec that will give you insights into the campaigns that you’re running. But it will be super hard to analyze in very detail exactly the effectiveness of your campaigns that you are running.

From my point of view, with the information at the current stage that I have, I think that this scenario might be also quite comparable to what is happening to advertising apps on other networks as well. Think of running ads on Facebook. You can set the target audience and you want to run ads for, you can set the time where you want to run your ads, but it’s going to be super hard to analyze your efforts in detail. So you have to take what you’re getting on the quite high level.

At least this is where I see that it could be going. There are also other people out there in the industry, for example, like Eric Seufert from Mobile Dev Memo talking about bigger game publishers, how they are reacting to the IDFA news.

Listen to the audio version of this Talk to learn the case mentioned by Eric and Thomas.

Very interesting and insightful, thank you Thomas. What’s your optimum toolkit for successful app marketing? App Radar is definitely part of it, isn’t? Tell us more about this solution.

Yeah, sure. You’re totally right – App Radar is really the number one tool on my list, because I think what we’re doing over here at App Radar is that we’re building a really great tool that helps you analyze the performance within the search channel all over different countries and markets. So it really gives you insights on where you are already being found, what you could optimize. I think, therefore, App Radar is really my personal favorite tool in this regard, and really guiding you through optimizing for the search channel.

On the other hand, I have to say that I’m a really big fan of App Store Connect and the Google Play console, especially since the relaunch, because they’re giving really a lot of information and a lot of data which you can actually take to optimize your app, to optimize your performance, to get more users and identify what is working and what is not. 

When talking about getting users, I think, ad networks and also using the analytics tools that they are providing is the next kind of choice for me personally. I also like digging into, for example, Facebook and checking out the performance over there at Facebook, because I think if you’re using Excel tools, they might not be giving you the full truth of what is happening. So therefore, I personally like really being where the action is happening. 

And once you’ve set up the user acquisition strategy, then the next thing is really to analyze your app or your game, its performance, to find out what is working, what people like, which features are the most favorite features. And therefore, I’m using analytics from Facebook or GameAnalytics for games.

And last but not least: we are also using SearchAdsHQ if we run Apple Search Ads campaigns with bigger budgets because Apple Search Ads is a nice platform, but there are still a lot of stuff to do that it’s becoming super usable and therefore I’m also super happy that there are great tools out there like SearchAdsHQ that are really helping to optimize this process. 

Thank you, Thomas, for sharing your opinion, really valuable insights and tips.

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Lina Danilchik
Lina Danilchik
Content Marketing Lead & App Growth Evangelist at SplitMetrics
Lina is Content Marketing Lead at SplitMetrics. She provides mobile marketers with best practices and tips on app growth, ASO, user acquisition and Apple Search Ads. Lina is also the host of App Growth Talks.
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