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7 Strategies to Help Breathe Life into Your Dying App Know what a 'paid-to-free' campaign is? You should.

By Steve Young Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Attila Fodemesi | Shutterstock

Do you have a mobile app lingering in the App Store and prompting just a handful of downloads each day? Has the excitement of a huge launch waned, leaving you wondering what you should do with the app?

Related: 3 Essentials for Marketing Your Mobile App

I've been there, too. While the first app I ever created hit number eight under Educational Games, in 2011, my second app tanked: It generated a big zero on launch day. However, after a few tweaks, it went on to become my biggest revenue-generating app.

Sometimes, it's not your app idea that's your problem; the problem is that your app hasn't had a chance to shine. Here are seven strategies to revive your app's downloads and help you decide whether your software idea is worth pursuing.

1. A paid-to free-campaign

This is one of my favorite strategies, and on average it generates 5,000 to 20,000 downloads in a matter of days. In fact, we have generated hundreds of thousands of downloads for a few of our clients this way.

If you're not familiar with a paid-to-free campaign, it's where you make a paid app available for free for a couple of days. If you have a free app out there, you can also make one of your in-app purchases free.

However, the in-app purchase must be a non-consumable type, which means that the product is purchased once by users and does not expire or decrease with use. For example, your "remove ads" IAP is considered a non-consumable purchase.

Consumable purchases generally are subscription-based and can't be made free within iTunes Connect. To successfully run this campaign, you need to get exposure on a website such as AppAdvice or I've run this campaign without receiving press, and have seen only a few hundred downloads as a result -- whereas I've seen press coverage generate thousands of downloads.

For more details on how to execute something similar, see the Paid to Free Campaign on my blog.

2. App Store Optimization

Focusing on low competition, relevant keywords in your app name and your keyword field (iOS-only) can have a tremendous impact on downloads. Performing App Store Optimization, better known as App Store SEO, has resulted in a 277 percent increase in downloads for my app.

One of my favorite tools to generate keywords is OneLook's reverse dictionary. The tool will provide you with a list of keywords that are related to whatever you input.

You can then input these keywords into a tool like Sensor Tower or App Tweak to get a traffic and competition score. I tend to focus on keywords that have very little competition.

Related: How Dreamt It Got Approved for Apple's App Store in 2 Hours

3. Seek a publisher

There are many game publishers in the space that can provide you with immediate downloads. Publishers such as Ketchapp, Genera Games, Fortafy Games and others have the marketing knowledge, App Store connections and cross-promotional capabilities to ensure your game has a chance to become a hit.

Before approaching any of these publishers, make sure your game is as polished as possible. Do not pitch them your minimum viable product.

Even if these publishers end up passing on your game, the act of pitching them can lead to valuable feedback.

4. Revamp Your Designs

The design of your app plays a huge part in convincing users to download it. From the icon to the App Store screenshots, to the user interface, users will be judging the quality of your software based on these superficial parameters.

That's why it's important to test and have high-quality designs.

Rich Wagstaff, an independent app developer, doubled his downloads simply by changing his app icon.

He has been able to maintain his ranks by building a high-quality app that has good retention.

5. Make your app multilingual and local.

Given the 28 regions in the App Store, and the fact that there is an App Store in each country, you would be naïve to think that the world searches only for apps in English. Unless your app is designed for a specific language, you should take the time to localize your app in as many languages as possible.

Gonzalo Juarez, co-founder at eTips, reports that localizing his apps has led to a greater-than-200 percent increase in downloads, including downloads in countries without previous exposure.

Nick D'Innocenzo, founder at Noobs Limited, saw three times the downloads for his app after he localized for 10 different languages.

Juarez suggests first translating the words used in your app name and keyword field. Once you see an increase in downloads for a particular language, he suggests further translating your app description, then your screenshots and finally your in-app content.

6. Run Facebook ads.

You can revive a dying app by buying app installs with Facebook ads, but you need to have a strategy in place for those ads to be effective.

Buying installs provides two main benefits for an app that needs reviving:

  1. It moves it up in the App Store or Play Store rankings (because download velocity directly affects rankings).
  2. It helps you collect feedback from your new users, as well as valuable analytics data you can use to identify what you need to focus on to improve the app.

Andrew Hubbard, of Smart App Marketer, suggests starting with a $25-to-$50-per-day budget and testing three different "ad sets," with the budget split evenly among the three.

Each ad set will target a different audience. Have one ad set target a "look-alike audience" based on your previous app installs, and the two other ad sets target people interested in two of your closely related competitors in the App Store.

Let them run for at least 24 to 48 hours before turning off the worst performers. You can then also increase your budget allocated to the top performers (lowest CPI).

Be sure to have analytics set up using either Google Analytics or Flurry. Install the Facebook SDK in your app and test different ad designs.

7. Sell the app,

Finally, maybe, the time has come when you should move on: You've tried many of the strategies listed here, and still nothing has moved the needle.

When iOS 8 was about to be released, I decided to sell my portfolio of children's apps because I didn't want to update the code and graphics for my seven apps. They were still generating downloads, but I wanted to focus on games, so I decided to sell the apps.

Websites like Flippa and Fliptopia make it really easy to buy and sell apps. From my experience, Fliptopia requires you to connect to your developer accounts so the buyer has all the downloads and sales information before bidding on your app, whereas Flippa will ask you to input these numbers manually.

Muoyo Okome, founder of Daily Spark, sold his own app portfolio for multiple six figures on App Business Brokers. He suggests that having your business systemized will attract a higher bid from buyers, who typically search for a revenue-generating machine, not one that needs constant managing. Also, it is important to have a marketing plan in place to show potential buyers how they can grow revenues.

Related: Write an App Store Description That Excites With These 5 Tips


Each of these strategies works in a different way, and can have varying impacts on your downloads and/or your revenue.Of course, selling your app as part of the seventh strategy will end a potentially recurring revenue stream, but this might just be the motivation for you to move on to bigger and better things.

Steve Young

App Marketing Specialist and Founder of

Steve P. Young is the founder of where he interviews top mobile-app entrepreneurs from companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Shazam, Tapbots and more. He is also the founder at Pixel Happy, a marketing agency focused on helping companies with their app promotion.

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