Buying your way into the App Store’s Top 25

Is it possible? Yup. Read on!

I’m the lead developer for Fairlady Media, Inc where we’ve developed 10 games (and counting) with over a million downloads. The projections that follow are based on our experiences with advertising games for the iPhone and ipod Touch on Apple’s App Store.

More than 125,000 developers are registered to create apps for the iPhone. That’s a lot of competition. Can only the biggest developers (EA,Gameloft,Freeverse,etc.) make it into the Top 25? Nope, everyone’s welcome!

While its certainly possible to make great money with apps that never get into the Top 25, most developers want very badly to be on that list. Being in the Top 25 during the last week in 2009 meant a profit of between $12,000 and $22,000 a day.

Conventional marketing ideas have evolved as hoards of developers fight for spots in the lucrative Top 25. Outside of getting lucky (defined as getting featured by Apple, getting reviewed by one of the major review sites or getting into the Top 25 through pure chance), most developers end up looking at buying in-app ads for your app to boost sales numbers long enough to raise your rankings.

To get into the Top 25 with a free game, you’ll need to average more than 10,000 downloads per day. A Top 10 free app will average more than 20,000 downloads a day. Less ambitious? To be in the top 100 free games in a gaming category like Family Games, you’ll still need to average more than 2,000 downloads per day.

AdMob is currently the leading in-app advertising company. At AdMob, the minimum cost for a click on your ad is 5 cents. The highest conversion rate (how many people download your app after clicking on your ad) we’ve ever experienced is 20%. Using that as an average, you would have to purchase 50,000 clicks to get 10,000 downloads. That would add up to $2,500 per day. Note that this conversion rate would be optimistic for free games and would be much lower for paid games.

AdMob’s cost structure is based on bidding. That means that by bidding 5 cents per click, you’ll be competing against others who bid as much as 60 cents per click. In our experience, you would need to average at least 20 cents per click to actually get 50,000 clicks in a single day. That means $10,000 per day.

Our experience is that rankings on the App Store are based on a 3 day average. That means that you would need to maintain your ranking for 3 days to achieve the highest ranking possible.

Total cost to be in the Top 25 by advertising with AdMob? At least $30,000.

Too much? How about raising your ranking from 75 to 10 for a free game in a gaming category like Family Games? That would mean going from 1,000 downloads per day to at least 4,000 downloads per day. At least $9,000.

We have now tried this experiment 4 times for 3 different apps. Results have varied and are very hard to quantify. Our best results were for Spazzle, which went from several downloads a day and complete obscurity to 14th overall. Total ad spend: $5,850 (with another $4,600 after we got into the Top 25). This was in February of 2009 so the volume of the App Store was much less at the time. We were also on the front page of CNET, Digg and several other sites during that month.

Let’s say you read this article and decide to take the plunge (we’re not liable!). Let’s further say that you achieve the expected results (don’t blame us if you don’t). Congratulations! You now have a highly ranked app!!! How long will that last? For us, it depends entirely on the quality of the app. A great app with a great icon, name, screen shots and description may retain its position for months or years. Spazzle is still ranked in the top 50 in the Family Games category a year after its release.

Well, that about sums it up! Please let us know if you would like more information about any of this. Why not download Spazzle now! 😉

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Admob vs. Mobclix: Who will win our business?

Three of Fairlady Media’s iPhone games are free to customers (Spazzle Free, Spazzle II Free, and Puzzle Sleuth Free). In these games, we use in-app advertisements as a source of revenue from the game. The majority of our advertisements have been managed by Admob. That is, until we heard about the Mobclix Challenge. Mobclix is a competitor of Admob’s, and recently announced a challenge in which developers could sign up for both company’s advertising services, set the ratio of ads for each service to 50/50, and see which company would provide more revenue for those ads. Mobclix is so confident that they will win the challenge that they have promised $10,000 worth of free advertising to any developer who does not make more money by using Mobclix. So, for us, it’s a win-win situation… we’ll either bring in more revenue this month due to incorporation of Mobclix ad services, or we’ll get some free advertising for our newest game, which is due out in January 2010. Plus, it will be fun to watch the two companies compete this month in the head-to-head battle for dominance of the in-app advertising market space!