App Marketing Company

Evaluating an App Marketing Promotion Company

With more than 1.5 million apps on each of the Apple and Google app stores, building a plan for visibility for your app is essential to a return on your investment.

Since the majority of mobile app downloads come from app store search, a mobile app marketing plan should start with optimizing for organic discovery in the app stores.

App marketing strategies that include app listing metadata, optimized creatives, ratings and review acquisition and even in-app retention and engagement are collectively generally referred to app store optimization or ASO.

ASO is often, mistakenly thought of as “finding keywords” for an app’s app store listing. This limited approach is still employed by some app marketing companies, but is not the comprehensive approach needed to compete and thrive in the app stores.

What follows are the building blocks of a mobile app marketing plan that an app marketing promotion company should be required to deliver.

Build Metadata for App Store Listing for both Apple’s App Store and Google Play

The metadata in an app listing includes the app name and description, a keywords field for Apple and a short description for Google Play. These fields impact how your app is indexed by Apple and Google, which determines which search results your app appears.

The goal should be broad coverage of extremely relevant search terms.

There are three primary tool for defining and measuring what is relevant and existing coverage of these terms:

1)  Historical and trending app store data

App store data provides insights to how have users searched the app stores for related apps, similar features and benefits, and what is currently trending.

We have written about this extensively, how users search the app stores is very different from how users search the web.

2)  Focus groups

Focus groups can provide both quantitative and qualitative feedback on your app’s features and benefits, which resonate best with your target audience and how they would search for these features in their words.

3)  App ranking analysis for relevant phrases

How your app ranks for specific search terms and phrases can tell you a lot about how the market is reacting to your app for that term.

Your app could be the very first result for “Free Zombie Game”, but if it is a flashlight app, conversions from users seeing your flashlight app result when searching for zombie games will be extremely low.

This signals Apple and Google that your app is not relevant to the search, and they will drop you in the rankings for that search.

Relevance matters to users, and is easily measured in app stores by conversion rates.

Note that there are several factors that go into not only the indexing but ranking of an app, but conversion and ranking provide clues as to how the market is reacting to how you are positioning your app.

Tested and Optimized Creatives

The icon, screenshots, video and even order of the screenshots can have a surprisingly huge impact on app installs. Testing these creatives with a target audience – ideally a focus group – should be part of any app marketing promotion company offering.

This is a chance to not only test a wide range of directions without affecting actual downloads, but also provides a channel for receiving qualitative feedback.

One design, color scheme, or text on a screenshot may perform much better or worse than others – the data tells you this.

Qualitative data provides access to why, giving the publisher (and designer) a chance to better understand their target audience and adjust designs before publishing.

Even when testing minor variances in icon design, or the text used or order of screenshots on a published app store listing, publishers can see 100%+ improvements in conversions.

Google Play provides multivariate testing to Google Play app publishers (Apple does not), which allows for experimenting with smaller changes on a subset of app store traffic to try and attain statistically significant, incremental improvements to conversions.

Produce Measureable Results

Companies have different goals for their mobile apps. No matter if your goal is a measurable ROI, more emails, better engagement with your brand, customer service or anything else, goals should be defined and measurable.

App promotion companies that deliver measurable results generally assist with defining and testing differentiating features of an app, help acquiring ratings and reviews, advise or build a strong presence outside of the app store and more.

You can read more on our approach to app store marketing here, or request a demo on how Gummicube uses app store data to grow our clients’ mobile portfolios.

Deep Linking and iOS 9 – How Deep Linking Affects Discoverability

Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 9 introduces exciting new features not only for iPhone and iPad users, but for developers and marketers as well.

Siri and Spotlight now index and include mobile apps in search results. Apps are indexed not only by the metadata in the app store listing, but also metadata used for specific in-app content.

A user searching Safari, Siri or Spotlight for a taco recipe could see taco recipes from apps already installed on their device, and tap through to the specific location in the app.  In-app content is now accessible, instead of results being limited to websites or the top level of an app.

ios-9-search-results

We have seen some of this in-app content being indexed and discovered in Apple’s recent presentation of the AppleTV. The user searches for a movie, and results are apps with a direct navigation to the movie in the app.

apple_tv_lg

For “Ghostbusters” on the Netflix app to appear in AppleTV search results, Netflix added metadata to that specific piece of content within their app.

From a user perspective – locating relevant apps and navigating to the specific content in the apps is drastically improved user experience.

From a publisher perspective – indexation of apps and in-app content is not limited to the app listing metadata – which has primarily been weighted to app name and the 100-character keyword field.

The long-tail of search is finally here for mobile apps.

Optimizing your app and content for iOS 9 search can impact discovery, engagement and retention – which represent some of the biggest challenges for app publishers and marketers.

From Apple:

Search in iOS 9 gives people great ways to access information inside of your app, even when it isn’t installed. When you make your content searchable, users can access activities and content deep within your app through Spotlight and Safari search results, Handoff, Siri Suggestions, and Reminders. Making your content searchable helps you enhance the user experience of your app and improve its discoverability.

Introducing the Apple’s iOS Search API

A mobile app is indexed by Apple for the App Store using the app name and keywords field.

Description, ratings and reviews, category and related keywords also impact indexation (the search results an app is included in), but the largest weight for how an app is indexed is the app name and keywords.

For many apps, there was no way to capture all the content in the app that may be relevant to a search in just the app name and keywords field.

A search in Safari, Spotlight or Siri for “When does the new Star Wars movie play near me?” would take a user to a website, even if they had Fandango, IMDB or any other movie tickets app on their phone.

Same for any app with lots of content like cooking, recipes, travel, real estate, news – the list goes on.

How do Fandango and others enable Apple to index their in-app content? The Apple iOS Search API.

Apple has created two indexes:

  • A private index of on-device activities and user created content
  • A public index of publicly available data

For now, this is an important distinction to understand when contrasting with how Google (Android) approaches indexing in-app content.

This topic can get technical quickly, so let’s focus on the most important opportunities for marketers:

  • Core Spotlight – for indexing in-app content, and
  • Web Markup/Universal links – for syncing and indexing content that is also available on your website

Core Spotlight

Core Spotlight helps you make items searchable in the private on-device index; you don’t use Core Spotlight APIs to make items publicly searchable.

Apple uses the example for a news app:

  • Index the most recent, trending, and relevant articles and add attributes such as location or topic
  • Index articles the user marks as favorite or for reading later
  • Remove articles from the index after a period of time to keep the index fresh

Web Markup/Universal Links

Web markup allows the Applebot web crawler to index your content in the public index, which makes it available in Spotlight and Safari search results.

Adding universal links routes users to your app from search if they have it installed, and to your website if they don’t.

Apple has created a website for validating iOS 9 Search readiness called the App Search API Validation Tool.

ios-9-search-api-validation

You can then convert mobile website visitors to app users with an app banner prompting visitors to install your app.

Here is an example of an app banner using Branch.io’s technology:

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How Apple Ranks Content

If the rise of the app stores has taught us anything, it is that “Googling” or web search is not the only or even preferred way to search.

Apple, Facebook and Google all are invested in creating search channels that provide relevant results regardless of where the content comes from.

Here is Apple’s specific statement regarding how they rank content from various sources in search results:

iOS 9 users expect app search to give them the most relevant results, regardless of where the content comes from.

To deliver the best user experience, iOS determines the quality and ranking of a searchable item by measuring:

  • The frequency with which users view your content in the app

  • The amount of engagement users have with your content (determined by the engagement ratio, which is based on the number of times users tap an item related to your app and the number of app-related items that are displayed in search results)

  • The popularity of a URL in your website and the amount of structured data available

Indexing in-app content, syncing in-app and web content, deep linking, universal links, ranking specific in-app content by engagement all provide significant opportunities for those who invest in optimizing their mobile apps for this new mobile search paradigm.

App Marketing Tips

Holiday App Marketing Tips

The holidays are upon us, with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” pointing to a very mobile holiday season.

Data from IBM and Adobe showed web traffic, sales and even in-store purchases significantly impacted by mobile and mobile apps.

The end of the year and January are always very big for app publishers as new smartphones are received as presents, and down time with family is time spent on “the second screen”.

So how to make sure your app is well positioned for the holidays and the January spike?

Don’t Neglect Push Notifications

One of the huge advantages of acquiring users for your mobile app is the ability to reach them with notifications.

Notifications can be automated via some in-app trigger (local) or sent manually remotely (push) and are the tool for engaging with your app audience.

One reason people prefer notifications to email, SMS/text or other marketing is because the information is short,  time-sensitive and actionable.

A user can look at a short notification, and immediately decide if it is relevant and if they want to take action – or to ignore it.

No saving for later like email, or even having to open an email app to view – notifications go directly to the user’s home or lock screen, and may even buzz or sound an alert depending on the user settings.

Unless your app is Facebook, your app is not top of mind to your users no matter how much they love your app or brand.

Give them a reason to re-engage with your app, and share that reason with a notification.

Expect Mobile Sales

Even from customers are in your store.

That’s right, data from Thanksgiving weekend in the US showed 23% of purchases from consumers in a retail store were via mobile. The shopper was in the store and was either price-checking the item, or finding ratings or reviews or more information, and purchased from the retailer’s website via their mobile device.

IBM reported that mobile accounted for 57% of online traffic and 36% of online sales – up 30% from 2014.

Holiday Icons & Screenshots

Updating your app regularly is generally a good idea for several reasons, and having an icon that is aligned to the season (or at least the holiday season) signals to prospective users that your app is up to date.

A holiday-themed icon is also eye-catching for existing users who notice your updated icon in their device.

app-marketing-holidays-episodesholiday-app-marketing-tips-me

 

 

 

 

 

Likely your app is either a brand or an extension of your brand, so don’t stray too far from your existing icon, but adding some seasonal treatment can show users your app and brand are engaged with the season just like they are.

holiday-app-marketing-kim

Convert Mobile Web Visitors

The latest operating system for iPhones and iPad, iOS 9 introduces new features for users and publishers that makes searching the web, the app store, content within apps and their device much easier with Siri and Spotlight.

To capture mobile web traffic and convert these visitors to mobile app installs and users – add an app banner.

smartbanner-branch

This alerts your mobile web visitors that you have a mobile app and links users directly to the app store for installation.

Even if you miss Apple’s app store shut down (Dec 22 – Jan 4th), get your app updates submitted as  January is generally a big month for mobile and mobile apps!

Best wishes and happy holidays!

App Market

Get to Know Your App Market

Like many things in mobile and digital marketing, the mobile app market moves fast. While the very top of the app stores are consistently dominated by mobile-first games and apps – and those with large web user bases migrating to mobile – the top 100 overall and top charts in each category are dynamic. Regularly reviewing the mobile app stores – specifically Apple’s App Store and Google Play – can provide insights and ideas for improved user interfaces (UI), user experience (UX), monetization and more. Below is a starting point. You may develop your own process for reviewing the app market as makes sense for your app or portfolio. To help illustrate a topic we’ll take the perspective of a publisher of a photo-sharing app.

Top Free Apps

Even if the top 10-20 spots on the free app charts stay remarkably consistent, there is always that 1-2 apps that either shot up out of nowhere, are new or have found their audience and jump into the top 10 or 20. For example, the makers of Candy Crush have their newest app in the top 10 on google play – Blossom Blast. top-free-android-apps Knowing the latest Candy Crush title is in the top of the free charts in unlikely to lead to some obvious action for your app. What is actionable is watching which social networks are rising, or looking for new tools from existing networks (like Facebook Messenger). A new social network may affect how users can share their photos in your (hypothetical) app. The top free app charts is a quick and easy way to get a snapshot of the mobile app market.

Top Grossing Apps (overall and by category)

This is where it gets fun. The “Top Free” charts are interesting, but which apps are making money? It is important to remember here, that top grossing refers to in-app purchases (or paid apps), and does not take into account advertising revenues, web-based subscriptions, or purchases made outside of the app store (the Amazon app for example). Review the top grossing charts for overall and by categories related to your app as a monetization method in an unrelated app may spark ideas for your app. With a photo app, understanding the basics of game monetization/gamification is probably all that is needed, and our research of the top grossing can skip most games. The top 100 grossing is mostly games, so if nothing relevant jumps out, move right into the top grossing for your app’s category. Note that top grossing by category is only available in the Apple App Store. apple-app-store-top-grossing-photo No matter how your app monetizes, it is important to understand how other apps that share a category (and likely a user base) monetize their apps.

Competitive and Related Apps

You probably have a specific awareness of your top competition in the app stores, and a general knowledge of those apps that compete with your app for specific search terms. In fact, a regular review of competitors and related apps is likely (or should be!) part  of your app store optimization process. A competitor’s move up the app store may be related to specific features released in its latest version.  That is to say – category rankings and keyword rankings are trailing indicators of an app’s performance. Create a routine for reviewing your top competitors’ mobile app offerings, new features and recent reviews. photo-apps-google-play Gummicube clients can access category and keyword competitors, their trends up or down the charts and ratings and reviews from their app’s dashboard.

Trending Keywords

Apple started displaying “trending searches” in the search tab of the mobile app store – which is interesting by often not very relevant. IMG_0380 Gummicube has our own index of app store data, across Google Play and Apple’s App Store. This data provides mobile app publishers and marketers access to trending searches overall, trending searches by category and trending searches related to a specific search term. Trending keywords analysis should be part of every app store optimization process. Monitoring keywords and trending keywords provides early visibility to new competitors.

Mobile app market research in practice

Once you have a routine for these basics, adding review mining, competitor ad campaigns, competitor SDKs used in their app etc.. can provide further insights. Monitoring the app stores, and zeroing in the changes that are important to you and your app is made much easier with software. Take a look at how Gummicube uses app store data for research, app store optimization and user acquisition by requesting a demo here.

App Icons – 4 Questions to Guide Your App Icon Design

App icons.  They are the first thing potential users see when they open the app store.

Curated app selections from “Best New Apps” and “Shopping Essentials” on Apple’s App Store to Google Play’s “New and Updated” are 80% icons.

App icons are how users find your app on their device once they have it installed.

Notifications include app icons which provide an immediate visual cue for identifying the sender.

A mobile app icon helps convert app listing views to installs and users, and helps to retain these users.

How do we make sure we have an app icon that drives results?

Here are 4 questions to ask about your app icon:

Does it help tell the story and sell the unique features of your app?

Part of developing an app store optimization strategy is identifying your app’s most essential and differentiating features.  Does the app icon help to illustrate or support what’s special about your app?

Here are some good examples for calculator apps (I’m using the desktop view of the App Store as it is easier to see all of the icons):

app-icons-calculators

I didn’t realize this was “a thing” until creating this post, but apparently there are hidden picture/file apps that appear to be calculators, but open to the hidden files when the correct password is entered.

Sneaky!  And also represented well by the icons.

Users can instantly determine which calculator apps are these vaults, or are for tipping or converting units of measurement.

If your screenshots are feature-focused (they should be), an icon that aligns reduces confusion and reinforces the main features of your app.

Note:  If you have a brand that is readily identifiable by your target market – you should absolutely incorporate it.

Hotels.com, Kayak, Facebook and Tweetbot (for example) don’t need to be feature forward in their app icon because those who are familiar with their brands already understand the features and benefits (at least as well as what could be communicated in an app icon).

Under Armour does both – for their brand specific apps, they use their logo. In apps that serve a specific purpose – the add the logo to the feature-forward icon.

app-icons-under-armour

Does it align with your target audience?

Features and benefits don’t exist in a bubble, features provide benefits to someone and that someone is your target market.

Age, gender, location, language, and the subject of the app all should have an impact on the app icon design.

A good starting point is reviewing competitive and complimentary apps used by your target audience.

Once a few design directions are established, testing icon designs with a focus group made up of your target market is ideal.

Who better to test an icon’s impact on specific actions, and receive qualitative feedback from than who you are trying to reach?

Focus groups provide a tool for testing bigger variations in app icon designs without negatively affecting actual results in the app store.

Once an app and app icon are published and live, Google provides a tool for A/B testing called experiments – where small adjustments can make a big difference.

Does it stand out against its search competition?

Using the keywords and phrases you are targeting in your ASO efforts, compare your app icon with other in those results.

Does it look the same as the others?  Does it stand out in any way?

Are you following Google and Apple design guidelines?

Both Apple and Google provide style guides for icons or for the desired user experience in general.

Stray too far from their recommended approach and you risk being passed over for featured spots or other manually curated lists.

Google’s style guide is here. Apple’s is in the developer portal.

Other tips:

  • remove the standard gloss that Apple adds
  • keep it simple – icons are small
  • keep it consistent with your app screenshots

Want some mobile app icon inspiration?

App Store Optimization (ASO) Blog | Mobile App Marketing