With millions of apps available in the App Store or the Play Store, it is really difficult for indie app developers to compete with companies with big marketing budget. However, when done right, it is possible for indie developers to get millions of downloads for their apps and make a living as an app developer.
The #1 mistake that most app developers make is to launch their app on the App Store or Play Store and wait for the traffic to come. That is fine if you are a big company where there millions of people who already know or use your products. Then you can sit back and wait for your app to be discovered by Google or Apple and get installs. Unfortunately, as an indie developer, the sit and wait strategy will never or rarely work. Remember, there are hundreds if not thousands of apps that are similar to yours, your app won’t get priority in terms of ranking and discovery in the App Store or Play Store.
To get massive installs for your app, you need to have a marketing plan and execute your plan on a daily basis. Keep in mind app marketing takes time and effort, you need to be patient. Most indie app developers never promote their apps because either they don’t know the importance of marketing, or they think they are not good marketers, or they don’t have time. Most of them give up or move on to their next app when their apps is not getting the kind of installs that they were expecting to get. So for you to simply decide to promote your app, you already differentiate yourself from the 90% of indie app developers. If an app takes you 6 months to develop, you should expect to spend at least the same amount of time promoting it. The key now is to learn how to promote your app and boost your app ranking in the App Store or the Play Store.
Assuming you already have an awesome app that you are ready to promote. The app should be useful enough for you to use it yourself on a daily basis. Remember, if you don’t find your app useful, others will not likely find it useful either. Improve your app until you are fully satisfy with your own app and then launch.
There are only two things that matters the most in terms of ranking your app in the App Store and Play Store, the number of downloads and the ratings. The more downloads and the good ratings and reviews your app gets, the higher it will rank in the app stores.
App Store Optimization
The first step in getting installs for your app is App Store Optimization or ASO. ASO is the process to improve your app visibility in the App Store or the Play Store. ASO is similar to SEO in the case of driving traffic to a website with subtle differences. There are a few factors that are the most important in ASO.
Do some keyword research and see what kind of keywords people are searching for when they search for your app. The best tool to use for keyword research is the Google Planner and it is free. You should have 1 primary keyword and 4-5 secondary keywords.
For example, if your app is a “Root Checker”. Your primary keyword is “Root Checker”, and your secondary keywords could be “supersu”, “root apps”, “root tool”, “check root”, “superuser root”.
In your app store listing, do the following
- Title – You should have your primary keyword within the title because that’s what the users will see and how the App Store and the Play Store choose to rank your app.
- Keywords – This field is available only in the App Store, not the Play Store. Use your primary keyword and the secondary keywords for your app.
- Short Description – Again, put your primary keyword in this short description. This field is only available in Play Store.
- Description – Put your #1 keyword within the first or second sentence. Put your secondary keywords near the top of the description, within the top 5-10 sentences. Be as descriptive as possible while adding necessary keywords to help App Store and Play Store understand your app and rank it better. List all the benefits of your App. What kind of problem does your app solve and how can your app make people’s lives better. Then write down all the features of your app. What makes your app different than the other apps in the app stores.
Please remember, you should make your description nature. Don’t just dump your keywords into the description field because that may get your app penalized.
Stunning App Icon
App Icon is the single most important reason why people download your app. Most people don’t even read app descriptions these days. They will install an app if they like the app icon. An app icon can make or kill your app, its that simple. Unfortunately, most indie app developers, have very limited design and graphics skills. Either their app icon look bad, naive, or doesn’t standout. If you are not a graphic designer, consider spend $5 at Fiverr and hire someone who can create a professional app icon for you.
Feature graphics is also important because this is the first thing that people see after clicking on your app icon in Play Store. In App Store, people see both the app icon and feature graphics at the same time on their iPhone. You want to make the feature graphics as professional as possible. Again, if you are not an expert in graphic design, try Fiverr Graphics. You can also include a Youtube video for your app which is optional. You can split test it against a feature graphics and see which performs better if you have the resource to create a Youtube video introducing the benefits and features of your app.
App Ratings and Reviews
It is important that you ask for ratings and reviews from your happy and loyal users. You can have a popup asking the user for review. However, you don’t want to do it too soon. A lot of people will install your app, use it once and then uninstall it. These people are not likely to give good reviews, so you want to filter out these users. You want to let the users use your app for a few days or open the app for a number of times before asking for review. The popup should have an option for the user to opt out in case they don’t want to rate your app. Whatever they do, make sure your app remember their actions so it doesn’t ask again the next time they use your app. It is annoying to see a popup every time they open your app.
No matter what you do, you will still get bad reviews from people because they can go to the app store or play store directly and leave a review. Response to bad reviews quickly and try to fix the problem for them. Often, you can turn a negative review into a positive one once you address their issues. Play Store allows you to reply to reviews, always be polite and courtesy, and never start a fight if an user give you a bad or nasty review.
How to Promote Your App
Now we are done with App Store Optimization or ASO, it is time to promote your app to the world. The first thing to do is to ask your friends and families to download your app and give you honest opinion. This way, you can make improvement on your app. After you’ve done that, move on to the next step.
1. Create a website or blog
Build a dedicated website, microsite or blog for your app. Show the benefits and features of your app on your website and have a link to your app listing in the App Store or the Play Store. Take some screen shot of your app so people know what to expect when download your app. Create blog posts that are valuable to your targeted users, and “How To” articles that teach them how to do something, and how it can be done easily with your app. In the case of “Root Checker”, you can write articles like
- How to Root Your Phone
- How to Unroot your phone
- What are the benefits of rooting your phone
At the end of each article, you will link to your app. You will want to write articles that utilize your primary and secondary keywords. When you do that, you will get organic traffic from search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Do some SEO of your website so that it rank better in search engines. Please remember, this is a long term process, so don’t expect to get instant traffic to your website. When you create valuable contents, other people may share your content and other bloggers might link to your website giving you more free traffic. This will in term get more installs for your app. If you are not a web developer and don’t know how to build a website, you can install a wordpress blog which is free. Follow online tutorials on how to install wordpress or read WordPress To Go.
There are many reputable and cheap share hosting you can use to host your website or blog, we recommend bluehost.
2. Build an Email List
You should build an email list that you can market your app. You can build your email list through your website. The best time to start building your email list is when your app hasn’t even launch. You want to get users to your website and signup to your email list if they are interested in your app, and get notify when you finally launch your app. If you build an email list of a few hundred or a few thousand users, and send them an email right after your app is launch. You will get instant downloads from these users, and your app will get a boost in ranking from the App Store or the Play Store depending on how competitive your niche is and how big is your email list.
If you don’t have an email list after you launch your app, don’t worry. It is never too late to start building one. You can use an email marketing software like Aweber to manage your list and emails. Do not use your share host to send out emails using a script because you will get blacklisted and may get ban from your hosting company.
Social Media Marketing
While you are working on your website and your email list, you can do social media marketing at the same time. Social media is the perfect way to starting promoting your app. Start with Youtube and Facebook because they are the easiest and you can get tons of installs from these two platforms.
3. Contact Youtube Publishers
There are many app reviewers on Youtube that publish videos on Android and iPhone apps. Contact these Youtube publishers to review your app. However, these publishers probably already getting tons of requests for reviews. Make the subject of your email standout, so your email has a higher chance of being read or even getting a reply. Make your message or email simple and to the point. Nobody has any interest to read a long email from a stranger these days, so if you are email is long, it will probably end up in their trash can.
Don’t just ask for reviews, think of something that you can do for the Youtube Publisher. This will increases your odds of getting review. Remember, these people are probably getting a lot of review requests and they might be too busy to even try your app. You have only one shot to get their attention as you don’t want to keep spamming them once they ignore your message. Start with the popular Youtube publishers, and then move on to the less popular ones.
4. Youtube Marketing
You can create videos of your own. Youtube has billions of active users watching videos every month and if you are video is interesting, you can get a lot of traffic. You will have a link to your app inside your video and description. You can create one or more videos showcasing your app while utilizing your primary and secondary keywords.
Youtube is actually the #2 search engine in the world behind Google itself. So you can create “How to” videos showing people how to solve their problem using your app. For the previous example, if your app were a “Root Checker”, you can create videos showing people how to root their phone quickly with your app or check if their app is already rooted.
5. Facebook Marketing
Share your app in your Facebook moment and ask your Facebook friends to download the app and share it with their friends. Ask them for feedback, and thank them. Think about the demographics of your users and figure where these people hangout. Join related Facebook groups and promote your app. For example, if your app is “Root Checker”, you will want to join groups where they have an Android phone, and thinking to root their phone.
Create a Facebook Page
Create a Facebook page for your app. Invite all your friends to like your page and promote this Facebook page. You can update the Facebook page with useful and relevant content. Link to your Youtube Videos and show them how to root their phone using your app. Try to engage the users on your Facebook page, post interesting contents that may or may not related to your app. The more people like your app, the better. These people will at some point download your app or share the page with their friends if they find it useful. You want to be consistent, and grow your followers or subscribers on Youtube and Facebook.
6. Promote on Other Social Media Platforms
There are many other social media websites that you use to drive traffic such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, Stumbleupon, and Reddit. All of these social media platforms have massive traffic that you can take advantage of.
However, in the beginning you should try to focus on Youtube and Facebook because it is much better to have a big followers on one social platform than a few followers on each and every social media platform. People are more likely to follow and subscribe to you when they see you have a big follower list.
There are many automation tools that allows you to post only once and it will publish on every social media sites. However, keep in mind to always offer value for your followers, and not posting for the purpose of posting.
7. Contact App Review Bloggers & Niche Bloggers
Similar to Youtube publishers, there are many bloggers who do app reviews on their blogs. You can contact these bloggers and ask for app review. You will use the same email strategy that you use when contacting the Youtube publishers.
Also, contact bloggers that are in the same niche as your app. Let them know how your app will benefit their readers and offer to write a guest post. Many bloggers will accept your guest post if your article is of high quality and valuable for their readers. You can create a guest post with a “How to” topic such as “How to root your phone” and at the end have a link to your app. Make sure you keep the promotion at the bare minimum in your article, otherwise it may not be accepted.
Instead of just asking for app reviews, offer them something in return. This will increase your success rate. For example, if you happen to know how to do web development and a blogger’s website is not mobile friendly, you can offer to make their website mobile friendly. Of course, you can’t do that for every blogger, you only want to do that if their website have high traffic. You can use alexa to check what kind of traffic they are getting.
8. Cross Promotion
Contact other app developers in the same niche and offer to do cross promotion. Cross promotion is to have you promote their app within your app, and they promote your app within their app. However, if your install rate is low, it might be hard to find app developers who are willing to do cross promotion with you. However, once you start to getting downloads, it will get easier.
9. Niche Forums
Participate in niche forums and offer valuable content for forum users. Never spam on forums, and do not post a link to your app listing on your first post as you will get ban quickly. Instead, establish yourself as an authority in the field and build trust. People will appreciate you helping them and they will notice you more. Eventually you will post your app listing and people will be more than willing to test your app and might even write app reviews for you if your app is useful or solve a problem that they have.
10. Blog Commenting
Leave useful comments on relevant niche blogs. In the case of “Root Checker”, you can search in Google for blogs that teaches users how to root their phones. You can leave your comment in those blogs showing them how easy it is to root your phone using your app. You can also fill out the website field to link to your website.
After you implement some or all of these methods, you will start to see a lot of installs and downloads for your app. Be consistent and put in the effort to promote your app on a daily basis. If you found marketing to be too hard, or boring, try find someone who can do the marketing for you. No one will do this for you for free, so you will either need to pay them or split your app profit once it starts to generate revenue.
To learn more about app marketing or marketing in general, check out the top app marketing books.