We’re over half-way through 2018 and revenues are on the rise for the app economy. Between the two app stores, though, which one is seeing higher profits? More importantly, why?
Google has revealed a new tool for app creatives, allowing for adaptive launcher icons. With this, developers can set up their apps’ icons to display as square or circular images, better matching the device it’s being viewed on.
With the release and adoption of the latest versions of the two biggest mobile operating systems – iOS 9 and Android 6.0 Marshmallow – deep linking has moved mainstream.
Both iOS 9 and Android 6.0 include a private app index that can access specifica in-app content, and recall user-generated in-app content and actions. Spotlight search on Apple and Google Now on Android also now index in-app content in search results, funneling users directly to the relevant location once the app is installed.
Mobile deep linking
From an app marketer’s perspective, app visibility is not limited to only the app listing metadata. Mobile apps can now be indexed with depth and specificity. Performing a search using Spotlight or Google Now will surface in-app content of a user’s installed apps first – which impacts user engagement, retention and ultimately value.
Sounds awesome and simple right?
Here is why we need services and tools – there are several approaches to indexing in-app content, and several competing formats:
Facebook is driving App Links
Google is pushing App Indexing
Twitter has App Cards
Apple has Universal Links
Deep linking helps with not only app discovery, but new user on-boarding, retention, and navigating from Facebook or Twitter to content best viewed in an app.
With this range of goals and use cases comes a bit of a fragmented experience in actually implementing and supporting in your mobile apps.
Deep linking iOS
In iOS, there is a public index and a private index that uses multiple iOS APIs.
The best way to get started for indexing in-app content that has web parity (also appears on a website) is to use Apple iOS 9 Search Validation tool:
This App Search validation tool will provide suggestions on how to tag content on the web with the in-app location.
Using Apple’s universal links, users can easily locate content in your app – even from a web or Spotlight search.
BUT – Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter do not support these universal links.
We’ll introduce a few tools in a bit that solves this problem.
Deep linking Android
Google’s approach to app indexing and deep linking is a bit different as their goal is to be able to index in-app content and display in relevant Google searches. Google has dominated web search, app search – not so much.
Mobile has surpassed PCs, and apps have surpassed the web. Mobile apps are discovered predominantly through app store search, and search is moving to contextual (Siri/Spotlight, Google Now on Tap, Facebook M) and away from broad web search – with the result often a mobile app.
If Apple approach is to index in-app content for a better user iOS device user experience, Google’s is to pull in-app content into web search results (app deep linking SEO), even going so far as to preview in-app content without a user having to install an app.
Time will tell which approach the market will prefer, but mobile app publishers have another decision to make as to which standards to adopt in their apps.
Deep linking tools
As mentioned, Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter each have different approaches to app indexing, tagging web content and tracking links.
Branch.io aims to solve this problem by creating a platform that supports all of the major platforms and lists content on search portals. Branch also provides analytics and attribution, smart banners, tools for customizable/personalized on-boarding and more.
If your app is available for iOS and Android, and is content-rich – Branch.io is well worth checking out.
URX.com provides a platform for monetizing a content-rich app with deep links into other, contextually relevant apps.
MobileDeepLinking.org provides a guide on mobile deep linking with contributions from many of the top mobile ad networks.
Whether used for on-boarding, acquiring app installs, syncing app and web content, retention or discovery – the benefits of implementing app deep links far outweigh the initial complexity.
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. 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. 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. Gummicube clients can access category and keyword competitors, their trends up or down the charts and ratings and reviews from their app’s dashboard.
Apple started displaying “trending searches” in the search tab of the mobile app store – which is interesting by often not very relevant. 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.
Congrats – you have a mobile app ready for submitting to Google Play!
If you don’t have a Google Play Publisher account, which provides access to the developer console, you are going to want to sign up for that here.
Google Play Publisher Account
As of this writing, there is a one-time registration fee of $25. For sake of comparison, consider Apple charges $99 annually for their iOS developer program.
If your app is a paid app, or offers in-app purchases, you will need to set up your Google payments merchant account. This step requires information about your company, and bank account info for sending payments.
Add New App
In addition to the app store listing, app publishers need to set country distribution and set up any in-app items with prices.
Alpha, Beta, Production
Submitting an app on Google Play once you have developer console access, payments set up and the app listing created is essentially a two-step process:
- submit for testing
- submit to store (publish)
From a developer’s perspective however, configuring the app for submission is more complicated than just uploading the latest APK. Google recommends the following process for uploading an app build prior to releasing to testing:
The Google Play developer console provides access to features not yet supported in iTunes Connect, so those familiar with publishing iOS apps may not be aware they exist.
Additional Google Dev Console Features
First, Google Play has a simple user interface for creating builds for Alpha and Beta testing. Distributing access to these builds does not require an approval process like Apple does with Testflight.
Second, Google provides both crash testing and device testing in their new Cloud Test Lab. This service is performed automatically when a new APK (app build) is submitted to either the alpha or beta testing track.
Google will test the UI and functionality across devices and supporting operating systems and return a details report of finding and suggested fixes.
Third, Google offer app optimization suggestions, from supporting tablets to localization recommendations.
Once you have worked your way through the alpha and bester tester feedback, crash reports and Cloud Test reports, you can move your build to production by selecting “Ready to Publish” in the app listing’s top right corner:
Google offers a comprehensive app submission checklist, some of which was covered above, and much should be addressed well prior to app submission.