Whether you're an indie dev or dedicated marketing manager, marketing an Android app on Google Play is always challenging. There are just too many Android apps (more than 2.5 million!) and it's hard to stand out above the noise.
This guide surveys the fundamental three principles supporting any marketing effort for your app:
- App store optimization: Make sure your app looks as attractive as possible in the app store or Google Play
- Social/viral marketing: Your users are your app's most valuable asset for marketing it further
- Paid marketing: Sometimes money is needed to boost the size of your audience.
We will discuss these three marketing types in more detail below:
The road to an app install begins with what your users see in the store. Make sure that your app details page shines and stands out above the rest. Chances are you've got the most basic elements covered already: a catchy title, interesting screenshots, and an excellent promotional video. However, have you also thought about localizing your texts to non-English languages (even if you're not targeting international markets, remember that the US play store has a very high percentage of Spanish-speaking users!)? Google Play also allows you to do A/B tests for your resources. We've seen in the past that changing an app's icon can have a substantial effect on downloads.
After looking at the presentation of your app, make sure that users can find your app. Here it's important to figure out what your users may be searching for. The potential search terms your users will use on Google Play need to be present in your description. Once you optimize your description, there are various tools that you can use to track that your app ranks high in the search results of Google Play.
An important app discovery mechanism besides search is the popularity lists of Google Play. AppBrain provides daily updated lists of Google Play market ranks for free on our site and we provide a free service to track your app's rankings over time. We also provide a service called Apptimizer, which analyzes your app's technical aspects and description and suggests areas for potential improvement.
Other useful resources on app store optimization are:
- Wikipedia page about app store optimization
- List of app store optimization tools on BusinessofApps
- App store optimization checklist from Moz
Note, this type of marketing is not buying ads on social media like Facebook and Twitter (see "Paid marketing" below for that). Social/viral marketing here means that your existing users can cause more users to download your app, and this will be free.
If your app lends itself for it, making sure it has a viral component can be crucial to your growth strategy. Are users able to generate shareable content in your app? Make sure that you provide an easy way to share it to the most popular social channels. If possible, have your app attach a link to its store page so that any viewers of the shared content can easily find the way to an install of your app. If the content is central to your app, you can make the content viewable only on your website, so that you have a chance to convince passive viewers to become active users of your product.
Some important things to think about are:
- Does your app generate square content, or is it okay if it gets cropped square? (as Instagram shares always become square)
- Can the user who shares content see and get positive feedback from viewers of their shared content (e.g., likes or comments)? This will stimulate them to share more over time
- Will the shared content have deep links into your app, so that new viewers get right to the content they're looking for?
Some useful resources are:
- Mobile Growth post on "What makes an app go viral"
- Presentation on how to build your product for viral growth
- Appster's post "How to create an addictive app that goes viral"
Paid marketing means nothing more than that you spend money for starting a campaign that will lead to more installs of your Android app. Most marketing channels require you to pay an amount of money for every install generated (cost-per-install pricing, or CPI). When you see for instance a $2 price per install for a channel, this may seem expensive at first. However, note that the investment in time and effort of ASO and viral marketing can also be converted to a dollar amount, and when you divide that by the total number of installs that it generates, you also have calculated the effective CPI cost of those installs.
When your app's audience is still small, the payoff of viral marketing may be low (in the 100s of installs) whereas the engineering effort required may cost thousands of dollars, which would translate to a CPI of more than $10. Compared to that, most paid marketing channels are much cheaper!
When a channel requires you to specify what you want to pay for an install, it's important to know what an install is worth to you.
The most simple measure that can guide your paid marketing strategy is your users lifetime value (LTV). Lifetime value means the total revenue you get from every user between signup and churn (including everything: in-app purchases, subscriptions, paid ad impressions and clicks, the value of cross-promotions, and potential other revenue sources). For instance, if your LTV is $0.50, then it may make sense to buy app installs for $0.40. If this is a competitive bid in your target market, you may quickly scale up profits.
However, it may also make sense to bid quite a bit more than your actual LTV. The Google Play store discovery algorithms don't promote apps that have few downloads. Running a cost-per-install campaign for a couple of weeks at for instance $2 per install and a budget of a couple of thousand USD may trigger further organic growth on the Play Store because Google's algorithms pick up your app because of the paid installs.
Some of the most common channels to promote your app are: