Niren Hiro: Behind SearchMan ASO Tool (Transcription)

Did you miss my interview with Niren Hiro? Did you miss my 1st ASO podcast episode? Oh… shame on you. But no fear, here is the full transcription so you can read and learn from the brains behind SearchManSEO 😉
Promo:             Are you an app developer looking for app success?  Are you ready to learn more about App Store optimization?  Then you are in the right place.  Welcome to the ASO Podcast.  The top podcast to learn the best tips and tricks of App Store SCO.  Now here’s that guy that eats, breathes and dreams app store optimization.  Your host Gabriel Machuret!
Gabriel:           Hey guys.  Welcome to the first show of ASO Podcast.  My name is Gabriel Machuret and in this show I’m going to start talking about app store optimization.  That’s the whole idea of the podcast.  Now, for many of you that listen to this for the first time.  The whole purpose of this podcast is going to be to introduce people that really involved in the app marketing scene.  I’ll try to talk a little bit about how we can actually improve the chances of our apps to rank higher in the app store.  It’s all about optimizing our apps and this is a brand new industry and there’s lot of information out there about what you can actually start doing in a practical to bring some results.  I’m very excited.  I’m also very nervous.  This is my first show.  I hope that you understand my accent.  I decided to start this show on the best way possible inviting someone that is really involved in the ASO world and this is [Inaudible 00:01:31].  He is actually the co-founder of Searchman.  [Inaudible 00:01:38] is an ASO tool provider so they actually create this tool that is going to allow you, as a developer, to be able to do some type of search engine optimization research, but for the app world.  Like a conventional ASO tool you can actually, literally, find whatever you’re looking for, what keywords are the more popular.  How difficult some keywords are and even more important is what your competitors are doing.  It’s a very interesting tool worth having a look and checking out especially if you’re going to start analyzing what other people are doing ASO wise.  This is my first interview.  I’m very excited because he’s someone that is…the does this every single day so hopefully you guys are going to get tons of tips from him and I hope you enjoy it.  See you very soon.  Bye.
Hey, so here I am in the first ever episode of ASO podcast.  Let me be completely honest I’m a bit nervous because I haven’t done this before, but the cool thing is I have a ASO super ninja star.  I have [Inaudible 00:02:44] from California and Niren is the…what are you, actually?  Are the CEO?  The creator?  The [inaudible 00:02:55] SEO?  Niren tell us…introduce yourself a little bit to the guys that are listening to the podcast.
Niren Hiro:      Sure.  Yeah.  I’m co-founder and CEO of Searchman.  Our company started earlier this year.  I’m really honored to be in your inaugural podcast.  I had no idea this was the first ever, so I’m thrilled to be here.  We’ve been building this service for SEO for app developers since June now, so it’s been about five months.  It’s growing fast.  I think that lots of app developers have been trying to figure out smart ways to get their apps more discoverable in the app store and search is one of the primary ways, I guess, and hence we’ve been enjoying growth and it’s been a lot of fun.
Gabriel:           Fantastic.  How did you start it?  I mean because, obviously, I mean ASO is completely new so what were you doing before?  What was your previous experience in this industry?
Niren Hiro:      Sure.  Our roots are, between me and co-founder; we’ve been in sort of ecommerce companies, games companies and advertising companies.  We tried our hand at producing a consumer facing app that recommended great apps to end users and like many developers we got stuck with one problem, which is how to get more people to find our app.  We started…
Gabriel:           Exactly.  Yup.
Niren Hiro:      we started running some data and we started sort of scraping our key words and starting scraping key words of other apps out there, so that we knew what we should present to our consumers and we discovered that this probably a more interesting business here of actually offering this keyword intelligence to app developers instead of focusing on consumers.  We came to this realization early in 2012.  We took a couple of months to sort of rerun a lot of data every single day.  We scrape 700,000 apps with about a million keyword and keyword phrases.  It took us some time to make sure that all of that technology could be put in place so that it was dependable and accurate and then we rolled out this service in June.
Gabriel:           Wow.  Okay.  Obviously, I mean, this is typically real start up like came from need because you actually came…I mean you were in the same need of app developers out there looking for these type of tools.  Wow.
Niren Hiro:      Exactly.
Gabriel:           Okay so…
Niren Hiro:      You know a lot of the developers here in Silicon Valley, some of them are very well financed and they’re…a lot of the community here always talks about advertising cost and how cost for installs are inflating from one dollar per install to two dollars per install.  You get kind of stuck in your little bubble here, but as we started to talk to developers in other parts of the world and beyond Silicon Valley in other parts of America, we found that 99% of the developers do have the resources to spend on advertising and therefore SCO was one of their primary methods to grow their reach.
Gabriel:           Clearly because paper is [inaudible 00:06:00] like a little bit similar to paper click.  It’s very difficult to keep up with that system of keep paying to get traffic, so tell us a little bit for people that are just listening to this interview for the first time and they have no idea what Searchman is.
Niren Hiro:      Yeah.  Sure.  It’s a self serve web tool and essentially it does a couple of things.  The first thing it does is it tracks your applications daily search performance against competitors.  The second is there’s a bunch of data in there by keyword and by competitor that enables you to build a short list of keywords or sandbox of keywords.  We call it notepad, but candidate keywords for your next app update and then the third thing it does is you can bypass that entire short listing process and actually let our machine borrow keywords for you from other competing apps and recommend a data driven prioritized list of keywords that you should use in your next app update to improve your app name, improve your iTunes keywords, which are 100 characters right now and improve your descriptions.  One second.  Sorry, Gabriel.  Just one second.
Gabriel:           That’s okay.
Niren Hiro:      Hey.  Okay.  One second.  Can I ask for a big favor?  Laura’s at the door could you let her in?  Thank you.  Hey, sorry Gabriel.   I’m right back.
Gabriel:           That’s okay.
Niren Hiro:      Yeah, so those are the three things that we do and right now we’re used by about 5,000 developers worldwide and we have developers who are in the U.S. focused on growing U.S. discoverability.  We have developers in Europe who are trying to grow their fortunes in the U.S. and then we also have sort of developers in the west who are trying to grow their discoverability in Japan and vice versa.  So far we’ve crunched this data and every app store, as you know, is different, so we’ve focused on the richest app stores.  By that we started with IOS Apple and therefore, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and we started with U.S., U,K, and Japan.  I think what’s coming next for us will be Canada and Australia.  There’s been request for French and German, so we’re working on that pipeline and then the other thing, I think, that 2013 especially is going to be important for us is Android.  We’re getting a lot of developer request for similar tools, but for Android data and hence we’re in the process of building that.  Where do we plan to be or hope to be by the end of next year is that pretty much the top ten, twelve countries in the world for IOS and Android, we want to make sure that we are a one stop shop to help developers come in and make sure that their keyword selections are smart and that all of the search engines, whether Apple or Google can actually find their apps and help users find apps.
Gabriel:           Wow.  Great.  I mean this is a great overview about Searchman.  I’ve been actually using Searchman quite a lot and one of the things I like that most of the tool is that, obviously, you can use these when you already have an app in the app store, obviously, to improve your ranking, but it’s also…I mean let’s talk a little bit about using these before you even create your app.  It’s kind of a powerful tool to see what other people are doing correctly and even to discover weaknesses in the market.  Do you agree with that?
Niren Hiro:      Yes, so exactly…so one hack that we learned from our developers, so just generally first the philosophy at Searchman is that we build features when our users ask us for it and we also learn a lot, so we’re in constant dialogue with developers every day and we learn from developers who are trying to launch apps that they haven’t built yet that what they do is they actually, for example, if your building a bingo…today I talked to a developer of a bingo game app and what they’ve done is they’ve added an app to their portfolio which a bingo app that belongs to some other developer and used that as a way to sort of start to study what kind of keywords are being used by developers of this app.  With that they’ve started to put their candidate keyword list together and when they launch, I think, in a couple of weeks they will hopefully launch with a strong set of keywords from the get go.  The other thing that we’re going to roll out…the main reason for rolling out Canada, to be honest, is many, many U.S. app developers and non-U.S. app developers use Canada as a test market for U.S, rollouts…
Gabriel:           Oh wow.
Niren Hiro:      and hence they would hopefully roll out their apps in Canada, understand keyword rankings, understand what’s going on in the Canadian app store search results and then based on those learning optimize their keywords and roll out the optimized keywords when they pushed the product out in the U.S.  That’s kind of some of the…those are the two tricks that many developers are using and it’s working well for them for now.
Gabriel:           Wow.  Awesome.  I think…I mean I guess that also is ultra important to have different countries because I mean as you can…as you already know I mean sometimes the Australian market will type different things in a different way than the British market and the American market, so I guess for app developers initially when you’re in the U.S. you don’t expect that you will find different type of keywords an different opportunities based on the different app stores.  Obviously Searchman will allow you to be able to detect these what we call in SEO this long tail keywords and this…I mean the hanging fruit for to be able to rhyme these keywords.
Niren Hiro:      Yes, exactly right.  You know languages…even though the language appears the same, some slang and some keywords that Canadians use are different than Americans equally it’s different between the U.K. and Australia. And India and Singapore and Malaysia.  All of which basically use British English, I guess, based on how they spell certain words, but the usage of the language is different and hence that’s why we need to crunch data for every single market separately.
Gabriel:           Wow.  That’s a huge job for sure.  Let’s talk a little bit about something that excite me a few weeks ago and actually I made a video about this.  It was the visibility score that you guys have.  The reason why I love this tool and I mention in the video is because, I mean, it give you like an overview perspective of how you’re doing generally in the app store versus how just one keyword is doing ranking.  Can you tell us a little bit about the philosophy behind the visibility score in Searchman.
Niren Hiro:      Yeah.  Sure.  It was pretty simple.  We had developers coming to us saying, “Hey.  I love all the keywords your tracking and I love that you’re giving me ranking information, but how do I really get a simple metric that helps me understand whether I’m doing well or not?”  It was king of a collaboration between us and certain developers, but we figured out that if we take the keywords and multiply…look at the volume of each of their keywords and then multiply that volume by a discount factor and the discount factor was based on the search ranking of that app under that keyword then we should be able to roll up a summary sort of metric or a summation that tells you overall score.  Hence, for example, I may have an app and you may have an app and your app could be ranking really well under 50 keywords and I may be ranking only well under one keyword, which is say the keyword is Facebook.  I may still have much more visibility that your app even though you have 50 keywords under which you rank for and the reason for that is that generally, at least in the U.S., people are searching for the word Facebook very, very frequently.  Hence, if you’re ranking high or even if you’re ranking in number 10 or number 20 or number 30 the probability of that becoming an organic download is much, much higher.  We developed this visibility score as a way to help developers quickly understand their search performance and measure…it’s very hard to measure your performance if you are juggling hundreds of keywords and so this was the reason we did it.  Then it kind of turned into a different animal where we started to get requests for, “Hey, can you tell me how I’m doing against my competitors in my genre?”  So we rolled out market data and market data basically takes every app inside a particular category, let’s say United States iPhone and let’s say the category is education.  Under education, everybody so far, for the last four or five years, has been worried about app store category rankings, but now that search is becoming more prominent in IOS than category.  We started publishing top 25 apps inside that category on search visibility, as well as starting to tell you about who are the ones who are gaining the fastest and who are the apps that are losing the fastest.  Just so, you know, more people have a better understanding of what’s going on in the world of apps store search.
Gabriel:           I guess if you manage to be able to see who are the ones that having a massive jump literally in their visibility you can actually go and try to analyze what they’re doing.  I mean you can actually go and see…I mean what’s their social media strategy or why they got this massive spike on downloads or if they’re doing ASO or if their doing any type of press release.  It’s actually like a good way to detect the big apps before they become huge.  Especially when you see the top gainers on your list.  I’m actually…we’re looking right now at the top gainers and you can see guys that maybe move 50 positions very quickly so it’s a good way to try to spot who’s going to be the next big player, isn’t it?
Niren Hiro:      Yes and we kind of started surfacing or getting requests from non-app developers.  Basically, financial analysts, VCs and others who want to go…want information deeper than number 25 to understand who are the apps out there that are doing well and organic [inaudible 00:16:49].  Who also have good quality scores.  Who also have good retention.  Now we have quality score information and we have organic discoverability information and then I think they take our data and triangulate that with other data they may have to figure out who are the hot companies that they should be focusing on.  Right?  The other thing I should mention is that you can look up any app in the app store on Searchman, but you basically get only 50% of the story.  Right?  What’s not included is the secret iTunes keywords that our developers copy/paste and put in to the tool and that, first of all, secret is confidential.  We never share that with anyone and secondly unless you put those in, unless you copy/paste that into the tool you won’t get a truly optimitized list or truly…how should I say?  Prioritized list of what keywords you might want to use and the simple reason is that if you…if the iTunes keywords are missing, we don’t have that data then we don’t…we’re recommending something without the full picture.  This kind of market data product is for everybody’s enjoyment and it’s a good research tool and we’re trying to spread awareness of ASO.  Kind of like you are and we’re trying to spread awareness of search, but in order for a developer to actually capitalize on the data we have they get much better results if they copy/paste their own iTunes keywords and look at the full picture.  Yeah.
Gabriel:           I guess like going to a doctor.  I mean a doctor has to physically see you to understand what’s going on.  Going back to the visibility score, I mean, I guess it’s also going to be like a wakeup call for the apps in the other side that they’re not doing so well.  I guess that the top losers…I mean I was looking at many of the top losers and it’s funny that sometimes you can actually see some kind of relationship between the ones that are losing the more visibility.  For developers that potentially are a bit confused of what’s going on because their losing…I mean this could be a very useful tool to be able to understand what’s going on.  Also, I mean one of the things that I was looking and actually I mentioned in one of my videos is that one of…these tools are going to help you to understand a little bit the visibility score when the app store makes, potentially, what we call an update or the dance when everyone goes down and everyone goes up.  Let’s say 48 hours later.  Usually when an algorithm gets released or an update and this is by looking at the competitors visibility score.  In many cases you actually see everyone going down and then going up, so it’s going to help also developers to relax a little bit and not have like a breakdown.
Niren Hiro:      Yeah, you’re exactly right.  You’re exactly right.  The market data you can see it by app or by genre, but inside the portfolio if I was, for example, in the business of education by app and I was using the keywords Con Academy, then I would have noticed that not one, but ten apps spell in the last week pretty aggressively in terms of visibility and that would teach me either that I don’t need to panic because something went on with the real Con Academy’s real app or I may decide, “Oh my God.  I should panic because all of us are sinking.”  Right?  Our aim is to just spread awareness so that all the entrepreneurs out there are empowered with information, so they can grow their businesses.
Gabriel:           Exactly and I guess if you don’t have the tools, I mean the only option that you have is to panic because it’s going to be very difficult for you to know what happened and what kind of ranking someone else had before.  Let’s talk a little bit about, I mean, how you guys see 2013 coming.  Where do you see the abstract optimization heading and what are your plans for next year?
Niren Hiro:      Yeah, so I think that a couple of things.  One is as time progresses and we get more information and we scrape more data our system becomes more intelligent.  We hope that as time progresses we’re able to deliver more and more intelligence in the keyword library where we propose words and also in the stack ranking of prioritized keywords.  That’s one from our customer’s value point of view.  Secondly, at a market level, we think Android is going to be very important.  Third, we think China.  China is going to be important.  We already do Japanese, that’s the good news.  We’re able to understand [inaudible 00:21:36] characters and interpret what they are and what they mean and we have a whole library.  Chinese and Japanese are in some ways related and hence we intend to be able to offer this to…I think there’s a lot of developers outside of China who want to make an impact in China and, equally, we need to deliver a Chinese language interface for Chinese developers who want to compete in the U.S.  So far, as you probably know, the Koreans and the Japanese are doing very, very well in the game space and other spaces here inside the U.S. market and I’m sure there’s a lot of talent in China that would like to push their stock…their great apps to American users, so those are the two or three bigger things we see for 2013.
Gabriel:           Now regarding, I mean obviously. I mean people listen to this podcast potentially it’s the first time that they hear about [inaudible 00:22:26].  They’re going to be launching an app very soon and it’s a big jungle out there.  Let’s face it.  They put hard work.  They suffer launching their first app and there’s tons of dreams and emotions.  What are your tips for these developers that are out there?  We’re not talking about the big company with the big volume…we’re talking about the small indie developer.  What are your tips for these developers toward the approach you have to take with app store optimization?
Niren Hiro:      Yeah.  Okay.  I would say…that’s a very good question.  I would argue that, probably, in terms of time spent, here’s what we’re finding.  A lot of indie developers get very emotional and very excited about their app and then end up spending 99% of the time available that they have in making the product better and very little time in marketing it.  Right?  That in an ocean of 700,000 apps which probably will cross a million by next year is not very good.  Sort of the recommended mix is a 70/30 mix or a 50/50 mix.  Where half of your efforts are on product and half of it is about discoverability.  The second thing if that much resource is allotted then I think optimizing keywords, optimizing images, making sure that the quality is good and that the people who are reviewing your app are happy.  Doing things like app review submissions to websites that cover…who write apps for cool new apps.  Things like that I think you need to…it’s not a money question.  It’s a time question.  I find that there are plenty of developers who seem to be like 99.5% product, 5% promotion and I would argue that probably 50/50 or 70/30 is a healthier mix.  I think that the ones who do do that, learn a lot because you continuously make a mistake.  Even with SEO…even in Google SEO, which has been a business that’s been going for 15 years or more, continuously customers try keywords, change keywords, try, fail, change, improve, etcetera and that is true of app icons, of images, of descriptions, of iTunes keywords, third party app reviews and the list goes on and on.  The to-do list for a developer probably has ten to twelve things from a marketing point of view and I think that if those ten or twelve were covered because there was enough time allotted to it, then developers would be more successful.
Gabriel:           I have to agree with that completely.  I have the feeling that many app developers face app store optimization like a onetime thing.  Like that thing that I need to do once, but it’s more like going to a gym.  You need to literally be testing all the time and comparing and only until you test, you can actually see if things are working or not and obviously that’s where tools like yours are extremely important to have.  Otherwise testing becomes a nightmare.  There’s no real ways of doing this manually like in the SEO world.  In the SEO world you could test things a bit easier, but in your case you guys have the data that no one else has, more or less.
Niren Hiro:      Right.
Gabriel:           Where did you see…just to finish, I mean thanks for  your time.  Where do you see things heading in the app store optimization world?  How do you think things like social media is going to start counting?  My theory is it’s going to be impossible to ignore external factors to the app stores.  We see Android and Google right now doing it a little bit, so how do you see that it’s going to develop and do you see that Apple is going to be able to keep up with the kind of system they have that is like literally a bit messy kind of directory kind of style?  I mean where do you see it heading in a few years?
Niren Hiro:      Right.  Okay.  First let’s talk about the directory thing and then let’s talk about an overall sort of marketing agenda and app store optimization for a developer.  I think that IOS 6 was a lot of evidence that categories are going to die over time and search is going to take over and we’ve seen that story before on the web.  It used to be Yahoo directories and all of us now don’t even know what that is because we use Google search for everything.  Simply human curated category system cannot catch up with the innovation.  All the innovation that’s going on across hundreds of thousands of developers.  Search is the only way to do it actually.  I think that if you project forward…today in larger development studios a full 80/90% of the marketing team is devoted to user acquisition…paid user acquisition because that used to…that level of boost marketing used to push you up in the categories and then from there you would…your app would take flight.  But that paradigm is shifting and a lot of bigger developers are now starting to move towards, “Hey, we need to do app store SEO work.  We need to improve our images, icons, etcetera and get back to the sort of…”
Gabriel:           To the basics.
Niren Hiro:      to the basics.  That’s one definite trend.  The second trend is definitely Android.  I think that we’ve all watched and waited for long enough.  Now the numbers are so big that it’s just impossible to ignore and hence as much of a pain as it is to develop an app for both platforms, I think that leaning forward on Android, especially with their tablet penetration will probably be important for many more developers.  I think the third thing going forward is just using tools to globalize and being more relevant in the local markets that you compete in, right?  That can be based on price testing, it could be based on keyword testing, it could be based on localization of your app, etcetera.  Those are probably the three things. One is sort of get away from paid acquisition and start to do some basic stuff for search and app store optimization because that’s the way that app store users are going.  Android is the second and the third is how do we globalize effectively without spending a ton of time and money.  Right?  Those are the three and then as far as social is concerned, you’re absolutely right. I think Facebook announced a couple of days ago about I forget how many, but I think it was about a hundred or two hundred thousand apps that are Facebook connected.  The apps that actually deliver valuable social sharing through their mobile apps back to the Facebook feed are the ones who are going to win.  In other words, in my past, I used to make social gains for the Facebook platform and we had millions of users and we found that there were many players out there who exploited Facebook for spamming purposes.  I think that now the systems that Facebook has are much more sophisticated and those apps will probably see a lot of penalty and the ones who actually deliver value.  For example, an instagram post where I post from my phone and 50 people comment on it.  That’s high value, but something that the app automatically posted on the feed just to spam my audience, that’s…even I think people who do that will not see much gain inside Facebook at discoverability.
Gabriel:           I think everyone needs to understand is 2013 now and I mean the whole idea of the short cut.  Even with Google with all these updates and the SEO world and all these shortcuts when you can build something crappy app and just pay for download very quickly and voila you are in top 25 and you’re going to make quick money and then you [inaudible 00:30:32] are repeated.  Literally, that doesn’t work anymore and people have to go back to the basics and do things properly. Listen, I mean I complete feel of having tools like yours.  I mean I’m a huge fan.  I’m pretty sure you’re going to come up with new tools and it’s pretty amazing that you can come up with tools that I mean are literally…I mean educating developers out there about how important a search is in the app store.  So kudos to you and your team.  I’m pretty sure it’s not easy to gather all this data, so you guys are doing an awesome job.  Well done.
Niren Hiro:      Thank you very much.  It’s music to my ears to hear that.  There’s a lot more coming and I think that my hope is that small developers who start small can actually grow big just by focusing on quality, focusing on good marketing and it would be disappointing if only the top hundred guys stayed top hundred and everybody tried making apps and failed.  That would be a very bad outcome, so we’re trying to stay focused on enabling entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.
Gabriel:           Absolutely and I’m pretty sure the guys that are doing app store optimization and it’s working for them, it’s a little bit like the SEO world I mean ten years ago.  You don’t tell anyone.  What you’re doing something that is working very well, you stay quite.  First rule.
Niren Hiro:      It’s hilarious.  This is a true story, but I had a client today who emailed me saying he’s been using our tool.  His visibility has grown many fold in the last few months and he only had one request, which is to please do not contact any of the listed competitors in our site and tell them about Searchman because then if they find out that would be bad for him.  That was a hilarious email of the day.  But you’re right.  I think that it’ll take some time to grow.  The perception of SEO is that it’s very, very complicated.  We tried to make it really simple and I think over time people will understand that it can be simple.
Gabriel:           Fantastic.  Absolutely.  I mean it’s not very complicated.  You do…actually start using the tools…the most important thing for ASO  is do something about it instead of reading and listening to this podcast just go to Serviceman today and give it a go.  Register and start playing with your app and with your keywords.  Niren, I know you’re very busy and I don’t know what time is in California, but thank you so much and for taking the time.  Sorry for all the technical troubles that we had initially.  How people can contact you?  Quick point before we finish.  How people find more about Searchman.  Give us the whole URL and Twitter and everything and how they can follow you.
Niren Hiro:      Sure.  It’s and everything is self serve and then there’s plenty of email spots there if anybody has questions or are not clear on exactly how to use it.  They can write to us.  We respond in less than 24 hours except weekends and we respond as fast as we can.  That and then we’re all over the usual.  The Facebook, Twitter, etcetera so that’s what we try to do on our Twitter and Facebook pages is not push so much our product, but we try to gather everyday market news that helps developers.  Today there was a piece from [inaudible 00:33:51] which did a fantastic comparison of app analytics tools and other tools, so whenever we see something there that’s for the greater good of the developer community, we try to post it.  If you’re listeners can follow us at searchmanseo or on Facebook if you look for Searchmanseo then hopefully they’ll benefit from the news and they should definitely follow your service ASONinja because I think that there’s a lot of good stuff coming from your stable, Gabriel, that we read every single day.  Thank you.
Gabriel:           Thank you so much, man, I appreciate the plug there.  Okay.  So thank you so much, Niren, and I will be posting all the links if anyone has any questions, they will be contacting you directly and I’m pretty sure that after this you will be getting some avid developers looking to improve their ranking.  Thank you so much, man.
Niren Hiro:      Thank you.  Have a great day.
Gabriel:           Okay.  Cheers.
Niren Hiro:      Bye.