Download Sites: Important or Not?

Folks ask this once in a while on the Business of Software boards: exactly how important are download sites to a uISV’s promotion strategy? 

Confirmed Installs By Download Location in March 2008:

 Download Sites Are Useless

Any questions?

(OK, it isn’t quite that cut and dried.  I’d still recommend doing submission via Robosoft for the SEO benefits of the backlinks it will get, particularly for a new uISV.  However, in terms of driving downloads, download sites are all but worthless.  It is easy to figure out why if you watch users looking for software: rather than going to and searching for it, they just Google it to start out with.)

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14 Comments on “Download Sites: Important or Not?”

  1. Hi Patrick, this is just a quick unscientific response from the Mac side. In a typical week, fully half of the users that download my product (MercuryMover) come from download sites (, VersionTracker and MacUpdate). This is obviously not an Apple to Apple comparison, but worth noting for all of my Mac micro isv brethren.

  2. No offense, but this is very unscientific and I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from your “analysis”.

  3. Patrick Says:

    The “scientific” part is pretty boring, but it went something like this: create N versions of installer, each of which contains an executable with a code uniquely identifying where it is distributed to. Every time a customer confirms the install was successful, via either opting in to checking for updates or using the in-app link to navigate to the purchase page, my server takes note of the code and credits the appropriate source.

    Anyhow, about 97.3% of the installations which phoned home descended from the free trial hosted on my website. (And, interestingly enough, fully half of those that didn’t were the Mac versions on VersionTracker, Keith.)

  4. If you get that many from VersionTracker, i would definitely recommend listing on You can submit BCC via this link: .

  5. So it would seem that I should only put 5% of my marketing effort on download sites? 🙂

  6. Greg Driver Says:

    I think this pretty much demonstrates Patriks ability of SEO in his field.

  7. jpj Says:

    All but a few of mine come from download sites. But then, I’m too busy with other things to do any other marketing.

  8. Magnus Johansson Says:

    I am not so sure that I can agree with your conclusion.
    You are selling a product which are used, and only used, by computer/software illiterate school teachers. I’ll bet that the vast majority of thoose have no clue what a download site is.
    Your stats reflects more than anything that your target audience knows about Google, but knows nothing about download sites.
    The uISV business is a lot broader than selling bingo cards to school teachers.

  9. Patrick Says:

    It is true that I sell to a technically challenged subset of the wide world of possible customers, but I think knowledge of and use of Google as navigation goes UP with technical literacy, not down.

  10. Yoav Says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Not being scientific and all… I am getting the same results from download sites.


  11. Which slice of the pie does the following conversion fall into for this test?:
    1) User searches Google and finds your software listing on a download site.
    2) User clicks on the link on the download site which takes them to your site.
    3) User then downloads the software directly from your site.

  12. Patrick Says:

    If I were to graph that scenario on my chart it would be too small to see with the naked eye.

    I got about thirty *visits* coming from download sites in March. (Yay for referer logs.)

    Not downloads (typically ~20% of visits), not confirmed installs (typically 20% of downloads), *visits*. The math works out to me expecting to add perhaps one extra download to the download sites, but the denominator for that chart is four digits.

  13. Duncan Says:

    I agree totally with Patrick in this. Very, very, very few of my downloads come from download sites.

    Comparatively few people know what a download site is, but everyone knows about google. Try asking non-technical friends how they find software.

    BTW I don’t even bother creating pad files for my new products nowadays. It is not worth the effort and my unscientific analysis showed that downloads from download sites virtually never convert.

  14. Scott Kane Says:

    Interesting to see this as I have a post coming up soon on my blog on this issue. Frankly the download sites seem to serve more as impedements for many mISV’s judging by the number of products one Googles for and the results at the top of page often pointing to download sites and not the developers site. Admittedly some developers are lousy with SEO but I’d personally like to see download sites disapear by and large and am pretty sure we will see that happening in the next few years.

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