Between the Apple Store and Google Play, it’s estimated that there are currently three million appsavailable for download—and that doesn’t even include apps available on other platforms, such as the Windows Phone Store and BlackBerry World. With so many different apps out there, it’s certainly a competitive market. This remains true regardless of whether you’re looking to develop the next hottest game, fitness app, or anything in between. It is easier then ever to launch your app these days. For example with the help of ready-to-use app source code anybody can launch an app even the same day.
Often times, the most successful apps on the market are those in which the developers took time to plan and execute a thorough marketing and promotion strategy. If you’re looking to increase your app’s chances of success—whether you’ve already launched or are still in the process of developing—the good news is that there are some specific steps you can follow to make it happen.
Step 1 – App Store Optimization (ASO)
More than likely, you’re already familiar with the concept of search engine optimization (SEO), but have you ever heard of app store optimization (ASO)? If not, then begin by understanding that the concepts are rather similar. SEO is meant to boost your web page’s rankings on the search engine for specific terms, whereas ASO is meant to have the same effect on your app’s placement in its corresponding app stores. With a sound ASO strategy in place, your app will be more easily discoverable by your target users, which will in turn lead to more downloads.
Before you begin working on your ASO strategy, understand that different app stores (such as the Apple Store and Google Play) handle keywords and app rankings in different ways. As such, you should approach your strategy for these platforms accordingly.
For the Apple Store, for example, you’re allowed a 255-character title for your app; take advantage of this allowance by not only naming your app something that adequately describes its purpose, but perhaps including a descriptive subtitle as well. Unfortunately, the Google Play store gives you just 30 characters, so you’ll likely be limited to just the name of your app (all the more reason to ensure that your app is named descriptively).
The Apple Store also allows you to tag your app with keywords up to 100 characters, so be sure to utilize this option. Doing so will make your app more easily discoverable. The Google Play store, on the other hand, doesn’t have a dedicated keyword field. However, because app descriptions are searchable, you can always include a list of keywords within your app description (which can be up to 4,000 characters long, by the way). If you’re not sure which keywords you should use, consider trying a free resource, such as a keyword tool, to assist you.
All of this, in addition to simply making sure your app is placed into the correct category, will help to improve your ASO strategy. For many app developers, honing in on that strategy is a matter of trial and error; you can always make changes to your descriptions, keywords, and other app information as needed.
For more information on ASO have we recommend the following guides:
- ASO Guide to Master Kenwording by Buildbox
- Step-by-Step ASO – Get more downloads QUICKLY and CONSISTENTLY by Appempire
- A List of the Top App Store Optimization (ASO) Tools by MobyAffiliates
- A complete guide to ASO by 3Q Digital
Step 2 – Take Full Advantage of Social Media
Social media is an amazing tool when it comes to promoting and spreading the word about your app. There are countless ways you can go about marketing your app using a variety of social media platforms. For starters, make sure that you create a social media account for your app on today’s most popular platforms, including:
Even if your app is still in its development stages, social media can serve as an excellent platform for generating buzz, sharing updates, and getting people excited about your launch date. If you take a minute to research a few of the most popular apps out there, you’ll find that they all have active social media accounts with many followers. These app owners (or their social media teams) get people talking and keep people engaged in their apps by interacting with users on social media. For example, check out Wunderlist’s Twitter account; they’re constantly uploading videos, posting updates, and even asking for input from followers.
Of course, posting updates about your app on social media is only one part of the equation. Once your app launches, you should put the power of social media sharing into your users’ hands to further promote it. Specifically, you’ll want to integrate a “share on social media” feature into your app that allows your users to seamlessly link their social media accounts with your app. From there, they can share the app with friends.
This type of sharing feature can especially come in handy if you’re developing a game app. For example, with each “level” completed or “high score” achieved, users can have the option to share their accomplishments with friends via Facebook or other popular platforms. This essentially functions as free advertising for your app and will increase awareness of it. Plus, when people see that their friends are using the app via social media, they’ll be more likely to download it and use it for themselves.
For more information on social media marketing we recommend the following guides:
- 5 Ways to promote mobile apps and games with social media by Supercool Creative
- 5 Easy Steps to Promote Your App On Twitter by PreApps
Step 3 – Build a Microsite
Your app store title and description can only provide so much information about your app. After all, you do have a character limit to work with. So, what if your prospective users need more information before they decide whether or not your app is right for their needs? This is where having a quality microsite in place can make all the difference and lead to more downloads. Specifically, a microsite (in this sense) refers to a simple website that provides your users and prospective users with all the specs and information they need on your app.
All too often, app developers spend so much time on the app itself that they ignore the importance of the microsite itself. They may not even decide to create one under the assumption that the app will “sell itself.” Unfortunately, this isn’t how things work in today’s super competitive app market. You need a microsite. A great microsite. Hands down.
So, what are the components of a compelling and successful microsite? Generally, it should include:
- screenshots of your app in action
- links to your app’s social media pages
- links to download the app on various platforms
- a brief explanation of your app
- a more detailed page with benefits and specific features
- contact information (if you wish to make this available)
Your microsite may only be one page or it could be several pages; it really depends on how much information you have to share. Keep in mind that if you have other apps available, a microsite can provide you with the added opportunity to promote those as well.
Bottom line: even if the majority of your downloads are coming from links on social media or even direct app store searches, having a microsite is useful for boosting your reputability and sharing important information.
Step 4 – Encourage Users to Leave Reviews
If you’ve ever downloaded an app, chances are, you’ve gotten a pop-up at some point when using a new app that asked you to leave a review on the Apple Store, Google Play store, or whatever other platform from which you downloaded it. Believe it or not, this works; today’s app users are more than happy to leave feedback regarding their experience with an app. Consider, then, coding your app to provide a similar pop-up, or even including a short call-to-action for users to leave a review at the app’s start-up menu.
This kind of ties back to the importance of ASO when marketing and promoting your app in the sense that the more reviews your app has, the more likely it is to show up in the search results for relevant keywords. This is especially true if your app’s ratings are positive.
There are a number of creative ways to go about encouraging your app users to leave reviews, even if you’re not so keen on hitting them with a pop-up. For example, you could provide your users with some kind of incentive to leave a review. If you’re developing a game app, for instance, leaving a review could yield them some extra points or a similar reward. Be careful if you decide to go this route, however, as the Apple Store has been iffy about this strategy, with the concern that providing an “incentive” to users may lead them to automatically review the app at 5-stars, regardless of their user experience.
Should you decide to ask users to rate your app using a pop-up, be sure to time it appropriately. For example, do not time the pop-up for the moment the user opens the app. Not only does this leave a bad first impression to first-time users, but for return users, it interrupts the experience. Instead, time pop-ups for later on, when users have had the chance to explore and use the app for its intended purposes.
And speaking of reviews, understand that they’re not all going to be 5 stars. If you’re going to ask users to rate your app, you’re also going to need to know how to respond to negative reviews. As a general rule, you should try to comment on every negative review on the Apple Store or Google Play.
Start by apologizing for the issue the users described (even if you think it’s user error) and offer them a link to your support page or a contact e-mail address to resolve the problem. In many cases, users will be happy to change their review to a more positive one if you’re able to assist them in resolving their issue. Meanwhile, other users reading your app’s reviews before downloading will see you as a more reputable developer, since you’re taking the time to respond to concerns. And last but not least, honest user feedback could alert you to potential problems within your app that, once resolved, will greatly improve user experience.
Step 5 – Get in Touch With Bloggers in Your Target Audience
Depending on the specific category or industry to which your app pertains, you might also consider reaching out to some reputable and well-known bloggers within that industry to see if they’d be willing to try your app out. This can provide you with an excellent opportunity to get the word spread about your app and possibly encourage more downloads in the process—especially if your blogger has a great deal of influence with your target audience. Think about it: authors do this all the time with their books; they provide bloggers with a “sneak-peek” before the book is officially released so that by the time the actual release date rolls around, there’s already been lots of hype generated and people are lined up out the doors to buy the book. The same concept can apply with an app.
If your app is still in development phase, consider reaching out to a few well-known bloggers in the industry now and ask them if they’d be willing to be the first to try and review the app on their respective blogs. Or, if your app has already launched, you may be able to get bloggers to review it by offering them a free download or some other incentive. You might be surprised to find just how many notable bloggers are willing to review your app with very little in exchange.
Once the reviews are published, be sure to share links to them on your social media pages, microsite, and anywhere else you see appropriate. All it takes is one reputable blogger to say good things about your app to generate substantial buzz and encourage thousands of downloads (or more).
Step 6 – Seek Out Opportunities for Press Coverage
Speaking of exposure, blogs aren’t the only way you can generate buzz about your app and spread the word about it. There are plenty of other opportunities for press coverage that you’ll want to consider exploring. Consider reaching out to local journalists to see if they’ll do a piece hyping up your app’s upcoming launch. If you have the means, this is where having a dedicated Public Relations professional on staff can make all the difference. However, even if you can’t get significant press coverage for your app, you can at least publish a press release of your own.
Step 7 – Consider a Promotional Price Upon Launching
If you’re still working on developing your app, there will likely come a point when you need to decide just how much your app is going to cost per download. Even if you plan on providing free downloads of your app and making money off ad revenue, you might consider adding the option of an “ad-free” paid version. Either way, one step you may want to take when planning for your launch is to offer promotional pricing during the first few days or even weeks after the initial release to market. During this time, you could offer free or heavily discounted downloads of your app to users.
This may seem like it would defeat the purpose of making money off your newly launched app, but this doesn’t need to be the case. Think of it as offering a free sample; how many times have you bought a product after first trying a free or cheap sample? If you’re like most consumers, this has happened on multiple occasions in your life. By offering free or cheap downloads of your app in the first few days or weeks after launch, you’ll stimulate more downloads—especially from users who may have otherwise overlooked your app. From there, they’ll try the app, tell their friends about it, share about it on social media, etc. The end result: you gain more long-term users and generate more downloads, even after your promotional period ends. It’s all about getting people to try your app in the first place, as that’s often the biggest challenge with a newly released app.
Step 8 – Redirect Your Mobile Site to Your App Download
Got a mobile site for your app? If so, take advantage of that by automatically redirecting your mobile visitors to a download link for your app. Often times, users continue to visit mobile sites because they’re not aware that they have the option of downloading the app. Perhaps this has even happened to you in the past. For example, you went to log into your mobile banking website to check your account balance. Upon loading the site, you received a pop-up message that gave you the option to download your bank’s mobile app. How convenient!
Of course, if you decide to go this route, you should always give your users the option to decline the download and continue to the regular mobile site. Otherwise, you could lose a lot of users who may simply not want to download another app or who may not have the storage space on their phones to do so. Either way, providing users with the option to download rather than having to enter the URL in their mobile browser may yield you a surprising number of downloads.
Step 9 – Create a Fun Video That Demonstrates Your App
These days, people love to see software and apps demonstrated in front of their eyes before they decide to download it for themselves. Fortunately for you, there are all kinds of free and inexpensive resources that you can use to create a quick, simple demo video for your app. You don’t need to be a media guru to figure it out, either. Ideally, a demo video should be a short clip that you can share on social media, on your microsite, and perhaps even upload to your app store’s description page.
So, what exactly are the components of a successful demo app? For starters, your app should begin with a mention of the app’s name and presentation of your app’s unique logo or icon; this will help to increase branding and awareness. Furthermore, your demo video needs to present a common problem your target audience faces and go on to demonstrate, step-by-step, how your app can resolve that problem.
For example, let’s say you’ve created an app that can identify and name a specific plant species using only a photo uploaded by the user. Surely, this would come in handy for landscapers, gardeners, or even those who want to learn how to garden (but weren’t born with a green thumb). Your video could present the challenge of trying to determine a plant species and figure out what kind of care it needs; your target audience will identify with this issue, thus capturing their attention. Then, once your video walks them through how your app works to resolve that problem, they’ll be encouraged to download your app when all is said and done.
Even if viewers see your video and don’t particularly find the app useful for their needs, they may choose to share the video on social media for their gardening friends to see. In turn, these people will see the video, possibly download the app, and share it again; it’s a perpetual cycle and one that can prove very beneficial to your app. All that from just a short one- or two-minute video.
Upon completion of your demo video, be sure to share it on social media, post it to your microsite, and include it in your app description (if possible).
With the huge competition on the App Store and ease of creating apps these days with for example ready-to-use app source code, it is more important then even to have a great marketing plan for your app.
As you can see, there are countless ways to market your app—many of which are extremely inexpensive or downright free—without having to buy any ad space in the process. By starting with strong development, building an informative microsite, and implementing effective ASO strategies, you’ll be in a good place by the time of your launch date. From there, you can further spread the word about your app and generate interest by utilizing the power of social media, encouraging users to leave reviews in the app store, inviting bloggers to post about your app, and even offering promotional pricing. All of these seemingly simple yet hugely effective steps will improve your app’s chance of standing out among the competition, thus setting the stage for your long-term success as a developer.