Building a mobile app for your business to provide utility, extend your brand or generate leads is a great step towards addressing your customer’s move to mobile and apps. Like large retailers and media properties have discovered, you have likely found that mobile users are your best customers and an extremely valuable asset.
The opportunity then is in acquiring new users and keeping them engaged with your app and business.
Mobile app marketing and promotion is different than marketing on the web and social media, but there are simple steps you can take to build a long-term competitive advantage in the mobile space while providing an immediate impact on app user acquisition and retention.
Acquiring Mobile Users
Americans now spend more time on their mobile device (and apps specifically) than on the web or watching TV. The growth in the amount time watching video, listening to audio and reading digitally is almost entirely driven by mobile apps.
The most common way users discover and install new mobile apps is by searching the app stores – most commonly Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
With over 1.5 million apps listed in each of these app stores, visibility presents a huge challenge for app publishers.
The foundation of any mobile app marketing plan should be app store optimization, the process of optimizing an app listing for visibility in app store search and increasing the conversion of app store views to installs and active users.
How the App Stores Index an App
In order to understand where to start optimizing an app, it’s important to know how the app stores work. For the app stores to provide relevant results for those searching their stores, Apple and Google need to both index an app and determine its ranking for a specific search.
The app listing plays a large role in how an app is indexed and ranked in the app stores. How well an app converts app listing views into users, its ratings and reviews and how many times users are opening and using the app all have a significant impact on where the app ranks in the app store search results.
While a publisher cannot artificially influence ratings and reviews, app opens and other performance metrics, the publisher has direct control of what goes in an app listing.
Focus on Features
Apple and Google have different fields for their app store listings and have different restrictions and requirements, all of which affects app indexation. For example, Apple indexes an app based on what’s in an app’s name and keyword bank. Google Play indexes an app based on an app’s title, short description and full description.
Whether it is the app name and keywords field for Apple, or the app title and descriptions fields for Google Play, use valuable app listing space for communicating the app’s most differentiating or important features. Across both app stores, 80% of user search is features-based phrases.
An app’s listing space is limited, so it is important to use the words and phrases your target market is using to search in either app store.
Since app store search is so different than web search, working with an app store intelligence partner that uses app store data and ideally focus groups will help you determine the specific words and phrases being used by your target audience.
Aim For Relevant Coverage
What words and phrases your app is indexed for significantly impacts conversion. Using the limited space in the app store listing fields for overly broad phrases will likely result in low conversions as users find a more suitable app in the search results.
Instead, aim for comprehensive coverage of extremely relevant search words and phrases. Relevance leads to better conversions which signals to Apple and Google that your app is a good result for the search term, pushing you up the rankings for that search.
Optimize Creative Elements for Conversion
Once the app is optimized for relevant search traffic, the biggest contributor to conversion is the app creative elements: App icon, screenshots and app preview or promo video.
Google provides a multivariate tool for their store, helping publishers test which icon, screenshots or order of screenshots converts live traffic best. Apple does not offer an equivalent tool.
To test a wider range of design ideas without impacting live app results, focus groups can provide insights to help improve conversion as well. Focus group feedback includes not only quantitative data but also qualitative – what was confusing, what was good or other specific impressions from test subjects.
Without proper testing of your app’s creative, your app’s live app store listing could leave you without the downloads you want. Rigorously test your apps’ creative and carry over important keywords in your apps’ keywords or description to ensure that your app is appealing to your target audience.
Add Metadata To In-App Content
In late 2015, both Apple and Google announced support for indexing in-app content for their contextual search tools (Spotlight and Google Now), as well as for web search where there is web and app parity (same content on the web and in the app).
Adding metadata in an app’s content, or deep-linking, can be viewed as a re-engagement tool. When a user performs a web or Spotlight search, indexed content from installed apps are returned at the top of search results.
This simplest example is a scenario where a user has a recipe app installed, then searches the web or Spotlight for a taco recipe. If the recipe app has tagged their in-app content, the taco recipe from “inside” the app will appear at the top of the search results.
Success in the App Store and Google Play store stems from understanding your target audience, validating that your product and its feature set are what those users are looking for, and then ensuring that you have visibility to that audience. Building a consistent “story” through your app metadata and creative that clearly makes your target audience understand that you have the solution to their problem is what separates winners from losers.
There is a huge amount of competition in the App Store and Google Play and end users need to instantly see whatever they searched for when your listing appears. This is achieved by leveraging accurate data and observing the behavior of users browsing your app listing to iterate your positioning in a positive way at every available opportunity.
Dave Bell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gummicube. In this role, Dave is responsible for overseeing the business strategy for the company, driving growth and market development. Dave is a pioneer of the mobile entertainment industry with more than 15 years of experience publishing, marketing, and distributing mobile applications and games across carrier, direct to consumer and app store channels.