Developing a mobile app is the easy part. Getting that app noticed is difficult. And getting the app to go viral is like winning the lottery. Yet many developers get millions of downloads time after time. How?
It’s all about app store SEO, and some developers have mastered it. Here are a few tips and tricks of the trade to help get your app to the top of heap.
Time Is of the Essence
The first two weeks of an app’s life are critical and will likely determine its future visibility in the app store. Top applications develop popularity within two weeks of release, and most applications have a tendency to drop in chart position over time. Remember, whatever you do — marketing campaigns cross distribution and so on — the quicker you do it, the bigger the impact.
Pricing: Free, Paid or In-App Purchasing?
With the various pricing models available across app stores, picking the sweet spot for your app’s price becomes even more critical. In the early days of the app store, developers had to create two versions of a single app: One paid and one free. Today, in-app purchasing allows developers to manage one audience across a single free app and receive incremental revenue from loyal customers by having them purchase additional content from within the app.
The majority of top paid apps have cut prices at least once during their life cycle, including those that have dramatically changed their chart position. Usually the first price cut (or shift from paid to free) has the most significant effect on chart position.
The majority of top paid apps have cut prices at least once during their life cycle and 10 percent of top apps that have had the most dramatic chart position change have cut prices. The first price cut (or paid to free) has the most significant effect on chart position. Advanced Software Development launched their app FlipANickel at a $1.99 price point, and after seven days, they dropped the price to $0.99. This significantly increased its category rank, which jumped from 2,200 to 229.
The ideal scenario for gaining downloads is working with Apple or other app stores to get featured placement. This, however, is reserved for the elite. Many developers do not have the luxury of cross-promoting a new app to users via their existing apps, which is the easiest way to get new downloads. Also gone are Apple’s incentivized downloads, meaning developers can no longer guarantee placement in the top of the app store. Less than six months ago, developers could gain 100,000+ incentivized downloads within 24 hours, giving them instant, Top 25 status. But ad networks can still help your app’s performance.
Mobile ad networks typically allow you to buy traffic on a CPC or CPM, basis but many will still allow you to buy on a non-incentivized CPI (cost per install or performance) basis. Tracking conversions and downloads is a pretty complicated process that requires you to work closely with your ad network partner. But there are still some gross inadequacies.
Tracking downloads or app opens consists of cross-checking the device IDs of users that clicked on an ad against the device IDs of apps that were downloaded. This is still extremely clunky, and often results in double counting the same downloads. It is also difficult to accurately track this information across mobile apps.
Don’t even look at other mediums such as Facebook, Twitter or online advertising until you have a successful track record for buying across mobile.
More Quick Tips
Still burning with questions? Here are some quick tips and best practices for success:
- Android app rankings differ from app store to app store and are based on a multitude of factors surrounding downloads, including location, devices and engagement levels.
- Size matters! If your iOS app file size is over 10MB, which we usually see in the Adventure & Role Playing Game, Health, and Travel categories, it will require a Wi-Fi connection to download. This immediately cuts you off from a large portion of potential users.
- Speak to your audience. Take a look at where your highest concentration of users exists. If the users are from South Korea, for example, it might be beneficial to create a localized version of your app.
- Listen to your audience. Real-time optimization, creating dynamic content, getting in-app feedback, leveraging analytics and adapting your architecture will all help increase virality. Build the app that your users want to use.
- Distribution platforms such as Mobage from ngmoco/DeNA, openfeint from Gree, and Game Center from Apple are all ways to tap into existing users and the social features of mobile apps. Third-party app stores are also a good way to boost downloads.
App store ranking algorithms are an ever-changing art that platforms and app stores will constantly improve as developers strive for visibility at the top. These tips will help make your app more discoverable on a consistent basis.