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How to Run an Apps Gone Free Campaign

Want a quick and easy way to generate more than 100,000 downloads in a couple of days without spending a dime?

Running a paid to free campaign for your app can drive huge numbers of downloads your way, generate thousands of new users, and even make you the #1 trending keyword in the App Store.

In this post, I’ll outline the step-by-step guide to maximizing the “apps gone free” strategy.

#1: Get Press Coverage

Past guests used to tell me that running the paid to free campaign could drive millions and millions of downloads for your app.

So I decided to test out this theory.

I made my app, oSnap, free for a day and I gave the exclusive to AppAdvice just to see what would happen. That press coverage drove 38,000 downloads in just a couple of days.

I thought to myself, “Wow! This strategy really does work.” So I said, “Hey, what would happen if I didn’t tell anybody?” So I waited about a month, and ran another paid to free campaign without telling anybody about it.

Guess what happened?

I only saw hundreds of downloads instead of tens of thousands of downloads.


So the number one thing that you have to do to make sure your paid-to-free campaign succeeds is get press coverage. This leads us to number two.

#2: Give an Exclusive to a Big Site

Giving an exclusive to a big site almost guarantees that you will get press. It’s a strategy I’ve used time and time again to get coverage on iMore, AppAdvice, TechCrunch, BGR and many more sites.

Big sites want to cover things that are exclusive to them, because that means other sites will link to them. It’s a great way to get exposure and it almost guarantees that you will get coverage on this big site.

My favorite sites for this campaign are BGR and AppAdvice. If you go to any of these paid to free blog posts, you will find that the same reporter writes about this campaign. So just give the exclusive to that reporter and tell them about your app.

The one thing that you have to keep in mind is that they may want to see a good number of App Store reviews, so make sure you get a few 5-star reviews for your app before approaching these big sites.

#3: Schedule the Free Dates

After you secure the exclusive for the particular dates that you’re going to go free, what you want to do is then go into iTunes or Google Play and schedule the dates that you’re actually going to be free.

Now, iTunes makes it really easy and I’m going to show you exactly how to do it. All you have to do, though, is log into iTunes, go into Pricing and then just select the dates that you want the free dates to run for. I generally select about three days for the free campaign. The first day is usually when the big site will cover it and then two days afterwards, to get any incremental traffic.


What I’ve seen from past campaigns is that the first two days are going to be the big wins for you. So you can leave it free for a couple of days and then you will get that trickle-down effect but the first two days are going to be the biggest days for the free campaign.

#4: Spread the Word

Once the post goes live on the big site, make sure you start spreading the word. One of my past clients, Sortly, got covered on BGR for a free in-app purchase.

By spreading the word about the campaign, we also got featured on Slickdeals and that drove an enormous number of downloads.

The first wave came with BGR and the second wave came from Slickdeals.

So what you want to do is spread the word as much as you can, because you’re going to create more and more ways to drive more and more downloads.


The net result of this campaign was that Sortly became the number one trending keyword in the App Store for the day, which was amazing traction, we saw tens of thousands of downloads, and we gained thousands upon thousands of email subscribers and new users because of this campaign.

#5: Collect Email Addresses

Don’t just go free for the sake of free, but have a goal in mind.

Collecting email addresses during this campaign is key, because email marketing is one of the best ways to drive user engagement and get more people to download future apps. It’s also a great way to get user feedback for new features.

So, have a goal in mind. I think you should always collect email addresses but definitely have some sort of goal in mind for the paid to free campaign because the downloads are going to come. It’s just what you do with these downloads that will to determine your future success.

#6: Rinse and Repeat

You can use this strategy again and again and again. It’s a great way to drive downloads and we’ve done this in the past where we will give the exclusive to one big site. A month or two later, we will give another exclusive to another big site and it keeps driving more and more downloads.

oSnap Free on AppAdvice

oSnap Free on AppAdvice


oSnap Free on BGR

oSnap Free on BGR

Bonus: Paid Acquisition

This is more for those who have a little bit of budget. If you really want to hit the top charts, you use this strategy in conjunction with a paid user acquisition campaign.

What you’re going to do is for day one and two, you’re going to let the paid to free campaign take its course and then for day three and four, you’re going to let the paid user acquisition further amplify the downloads. This drives huge numbers of downloads and what I would do is combine the efforts to really hit the top charts.

Once you hit the top charts, especially the free charts in iTunes or Google Play, you’re more likely to stay there after a while.

Apps Gone Free for Subscription Apps

Apps Gone Free vs Apple Feature


Running a paid to free campaign can get your app huge numbers of downloads in a few days. For those who have a free app, you can make one of your in-app purchases free and still get the same results.

Using the strategy outlined above, you’ll be able to maximize your downloads during the days that your app goes free.

Will you run an apps gone free campaign? Let me know in the comments below.


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