Part of why I built my iOS "Connected Diary" app Remembary was to learn about promotion and product management. It's one thing to read about it, but it's another to have a real product out there in the world that you can use to experiment with different techniques.
I tried Google Adwords (no good), reached out to App Review Sites (worked out eventually but mostly by chance), name-dropped influencers in blog posts (fun but not a big impact), set up a scheduled email training program (brings in some attention but doesn't convert much), wrote blog posts that got on the front page of Hacker News (lots of traffic but no sales), and built connections on Twitter (surprisingly effective). But there was one thing I did that worked above and beyond all of the others, and which is still paying dividends to this day:
I wrote an SEO-loaded listicle.
I'm a bit embarrassed about this, but it's probably the best thing I ever did for my app. Here it is: Starting a Diary? 6 Tips for Getting Started (And How Remembary Can Help).
A lot of people like to start diaries in the new year, and so I thought it might be useful to have a heavily branded guide to diary-writing go live around the time people would be considering it. I spent a few hours on the last day of 2012 writing this up, did the usual one-time Twitter and Facebook postings about it, and basically forgot about it.
Two years later, this one article gets more traffic than all of my other websites combined.
So here's another listicle:
If you go on to Google right now and search for "How to start a diary", my article will probably show up somewhere on the first page of results. I've seen it as high as first or second place. It's usually beaten only by dedicated how-to / SEO-focused sites like wikihow. A lot of this prime placement comes from the power of the title. The first thing it says is "Starting a Diary?" - which is basically the question people would be asking. A long title with all the keywords is often better for SEO, but it's important to have the most important parts up front so they show up in the search results. As for SEO-bait, I have all the keywords: "Started" is actually in there twice. "Tips" and "Help" are in there too, and I have the name of the app as well, to help raise its Google profile too.
A quick look around the modern internet, or any magazine rack for that matter, shows the power of punchy how-to articles with numbered lists of tips. This article has been vastly more successful than any of the other ones on the site, even if they might have been better written or more profound.
I haven't done any explicit promotion for Remembary in about a year, since it's been stuck in a messy iOS7/iOS8 upgrade and I've also been distracted with other projects. I haven't even touched the Remembary website in almost as long. However, this post still gets about 2000 unique visitors every single month. Some of those visitors buy the app, and the rest now have an impression of Remembary as an interesting diary app with a helpful creator.
In August, I was contacted out of the blue by a journalist writing a story about diary-writing in the 21st century. We did a phone interview and she even sent a photographer over to take a picture of me with my iPad. It turns out she didn't write for just one local newspaper but for the Canadian Press, and a few days later the article showed up in dozens of newspapers and websites all across the country, often with my picture on the top. For the next few days, Remembary was among the top charting iPad Lifestyle apps in Canada.
After the dust cleared a bit, I asked the journalist how she had found out about the app. Was it the TV appearance on AppCentral? The online reviews? Did she just find it in the App Store? It turns out she simply searched on Google for Canadian diary apps and came across the blog post.
It's difficult to imagine how many cold calls or emails I'd have to make to even get the slightest chance of connecting to a lifestyle journalist just when she's planning to write an article about diary apps. Instead, the blog post's search placement meant that it was found just when it was most important for her.
All of this is the result of one single blog post. Imagine how much more attention Remembary would have if there were dozens of high-quality, helpful, well-titled articles filling up the results for this popular search? How many sales and opportunities have I missed? Of course, it's hard to know which posts will work out and which won't - but not posting at all has terrible SEO. So even though Remembary 3.0 is still a work in progress, look for more writing about it coming soon - as an investment in the future for the app.