Back in 2008, when Apple first opened up for the App Store requirements were low, and so were the expectations from users. That meant most apps, even terrible ones, had a good chance of getting downloaded en masse.
Not only that, but with the relatively low number of apps, chances of being discovered were also good. These days, we’re looking at a completely different picture for startup apps.
Both Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store are counting their apps by the millions now, which means that app-hungry users are browsing through a vast maze of similarly styled and designed apps.
“There’s an app for that.” The common phrase we’ve all heard now rings truer than ever. Even if you have an obscure idea for an app, there’s a very real possibility someone else beat you to it.
All of this means we need to start taking the app launch and app marketing phases more seriously than before, and even consider them as vectors parallel with the development phase.
This means we should start thinking about how to market the app at the same time as thinking about which features to include, and what problems the app solves.
To ensure the best possible launch, it’s no longer enough to have a single website review the app and post a few hundred words on your startup’s blog.
Instead, a fully fledged campaign will more likely than not be necessary in order to attract the attention of a user group in an oversaturated market.
Of course, there are a few exceptions to this. Imagine if Facebook did not already have a mobile app, and decided to enter the market for the first time.
Surely they would make good use of their existing millions if not billions of visitors and redirect them to the app download pages and so forth; but for the rest of us mortals out there, what can we do.
Fortunately marketers and aspiring app owners & developers out there won’t have to start from ground zero. There are many similarities between starting a website, business or other venture that we can learn from and adapt to our mobile app needs.
On the other hand, there are several unique challenges and opportunities available only on mobile phones and tablets, and depending on how these are handled, success will either be attained, or forever dreamed of.
There are several household names being thrown around in the more common app marketing strategy type blog posts out there, namely AirBnB and how they made use of Craigslist to “growth hack” their way into fame.
Don’t get fooled by these unicorns in disguise. Old fashioned hard work and honest labor will get you further than any of these so-called growth hacks, unless you come up with something truly genuine and new.
Okay, so you’re convinced that you need to consider how to market your app, and how to align development and features with your overall strategy, so let’s talk just that, strategy.
Mobile marketing strategy
Before we dive into practicalities, let’s briefly touch on what exactly we’re hoping to gain from the strategy in terms of goals, and what the difference between strategy and tactics is.
For the sake of argument, let’s say our goal is to make our app world-famous and generating a revenue. That means our strategy will have to fulfill these goals in order to be successful.
The strategy is a plan on how to achieve our goals, and we use tactics to fulfill the strategy. These tactics are the different techniques we use in order to achieve our overall strategy.
In order to attract as many eyes as possible to our mobile application, whether it’s a game, life enhancing productivity app or something else entirely, we will develop a strategy focusing on pulling traffic.
So which traffic tactics do we have at our disposal?
- Guest posts
- Blog posts
- Social content
- Paid advertising
- Search engines
- Referring websites
- App store optimization
- Help a reporter out
- Network with influencers
These tactics are just some of the more popular ones out there in the digital marketer’s toolbox.
Some of these suggestions are not specifically designed to attract visitors, but if done right, every single item on this list can send more than 1000 visitors a day.
Just like visitors browsing on Amazon use the customer reviews to inform themselves about their potential purchases, so will some people read reviews of the app in question before downloading it.
Others might not even know about your app but read a review of it and become interested, and then there’s the added benefit of SEO boosting if you get a backlink as well.
Either way, spending some time and energy on sending promo codes for a free version of your app to reviewers can help you attract traffic, boost your product status, and can even be used in marketing terms if the right website mentions you.
(Think: “featured by TechCrunch.”)
Based on my own research and experience, there are more than 100 different app review sites out there with a decent amount of traffic (1000+ /month.)
A pro tip is to install the “Similar Web toolbar” for determining a rough estimate of the amount of traffic a particular site gains in order to know which websites are the best potential referrers, and thus where your focus should initially be.
This is a very popular tactic, with everyone from interns to CEOs taking to this concept. And for a number of different aspects, guest posts can be quite rewarding.
For one, it will help mold the profile of the guest poster as an authority on the subject, and by tying in the article theme with the particular app and the problems it solves, relevance is added for extra benefits.
It can also help you in gaining backlinks for SEO purposes, allowing search engines to find your app when people are searching for a solution to their problem.
For our purpose of attracting traffic, guest posts are perhaps not the best option compared to some of the other points on the list, but seeing how traffic is just a part of the rewards of guest posting, it still makes sense in most app marketing strategies.
There’s just something shareable about an image. For whatever reason, infographics are shared more often and with a more consistently than lengthy and wordy articles.
If you are attempting to attract heaps of traffic by going viral, consider an infographic based on your existing content. Having a well produced article backed up by an interesting looking image can be just what you need.
Keep in mind to have the image link back to your app store, landing page, or other relevant site, to attract as much traffic as possible, and also put a link on your infographic next to your company/app logo.
Creating a blog that you or your startup is hosting can be another great way of gaining visitors. Topics relating to your app in one way or another are great, and depending on the type of app and service it provides, topics can even be quite broad.
While starting a brand new blog can be a traffic-challenge in itself, by working on both the blog and app in parallel, with time they will boost each other and grow faster than if you just had a landing page on its own.
For your own blog, try interviewing influencers related to your app niche. Invite other people to guest post on your blog, and write thought provoking essays and opinion pieces that are bound to divide the waters.
This topic covers all content created with the social media platforms in mind. And apart from the aforementioned infographics, include: polls, charts and statistics, slideshows and videos.
By creating content aimed at your app’s target audience, you will undoubtedly reach potential visitors in the process. You can even go broad and target anyone who thinks cats are cute by tying your app together with some cute images or videos for cheap and easy points.
Whether or not your content is successful is another matter, but with time you should see consistent results and everytime you post a new piece of content, your traffic should show a little spike.
Over time you should hopefully learn about what type of content works for your chosen niche, and focus more energy on those areas.
When you get good at this, you can even roughly estimate how much traffic you will get from social media simply by the content’s headline and your level of reach.
Of all the tactics out there, paid advertising offers some of the most reliable and quick forms of traffic. The obvious disadvantage is of course that it costs money, and for some niches, it can cost a lot of money.
But fear not, spending some time researching keywords and phrases can yield good results, and aiming at keywords with low CPC (cost per click) can be a good tactic to engage in.
For any paid advertising, it’s important to track conversions (the amount of visitors it takes to get one app download or subscriber.)
By having this metric in place, you can calculate how much each app download costs you, and if you are monetizing your app, you can then easily calculate whether it’s profitable to run paid ads or not.
For long term traffic, there are few options available better than search engine optimization. Getting found in Google, Bing and Yahoo searches can yield thousands of qualified visitors daily.
Of course, achieving page 1 rankings rarely happens overnight, or within the first month of launching a website or landing page, but with consistent effort and a good plan this tactic can attract a large number of visitors.
But since this is a long-term thing, it’s actually important to start as early as possible with this, as it can take months to see results, and if the competition is fierce, even years for certain projects.
Getting your app mentioned on large websites with lots of traffic can already provide a significant boost in your own traffic.
Unlike reviewer sites, referral sites are usually curated lists with a focus on a specific topic.
This means that the app will have to pass certain requirements in order to be featured on one of these sites, unlike reviewing sites where the requirement is that the app is just that, an app.
Most of the worthwhile sites offering referral traffic are paid for, but can be cheaper and more cost-effective than paid advertising such as Google AdWords.
App store optimization
Similar to search engine optimization, optimizing for the app stores can be quite giving in terms of traffic.
This entails a keyword-rich and well-written description page, using proper images optimized for all devices, and sometimes even changing the name of the app to something descriptive.
It can also mean building backlinks to the app store item, so searches from Google also point there.
Roughly half of the people downloading an app find it through the official Google Play or Apple App Stores, so being visible on these marketplaces is very important.
For some specific applications, especially those providing services for businesses, it can be beneficial to either host one’s own podcasts, or hitch a ride on an already popular podcast.
There are plenty of these around, catering to almost any niche, and if your app product is of high enough quality, or perhaps just unique enough, chances are you can be featured in some way.
Most business-produced videos tend to be the informative type, often with a spokesperson describing key points in a minute or less.
While these videos are cheap and easy to make, they are not exactly golden in terms of content quality. If you’re not overly ambitious, I’d advise you to make one of these videos and call it a day.
The same goes for the whiteboard-type videos, where a hand is seen hovering over a white background, seemingly drawing words, icons and images.
These appear stockphoto-ish and cheap, and have become overused to the extent where such videos can be off putting.
If, on the other hand, you’re ambitious and want to at least attempt to make a viral video, consider gathering 10 interesting facts about the topic you use, and instead of having the spokesperson deliver your business elevator pitch, have them list the facts.
The cost will be the same, but the overall feel will be less salesy, and more shareable.
Help a reporter out
For getting cited by some of the larger newspapers and magazines out there, as well as the more obscure and every other type of site out there, HARO offers experts a chance to answer questions that journalists are asking.
A journalist writing a piece on Mobile Games might seek various game owners for a comment on how they managed to break the 1000 download barrier for instance.
If your pitch is good enough, the journalists might list your response on their website, along with a link to your app, attracting both visitors and gaining SEO value.
Comparing the time and effort required to the potential results, anyone interested in building their brand, attracting more visitors and visibility should consider HARO.
Network with influencers
Actively searching for people who engage with your topics and who have a large number of followers can be a rewarding tactic.
I propose setting aside 15-20 minutes daily to scanning Twitter and Facebook feeds for journalists, bloggers and other influencers.
If they have more than a few thousand followers who cover similar genres as those your app covers, then add those to your closed list with the intention of befriending them.
Just one of these social giants can make any website or app see thousands of visitors in a matter of hours, so get working!
Building a mailing list has long been one of the preferred ways of getting sales, traffic and downloads for digital marketers. And there’s plenty of good reasons for this.
With the amount of spam we’re receiving each day, if someone signs up for more mail in 2016, chances are very good that they actually find your content highly interesting and worthwhile, meaning you’ve just captured an extremely valuable lead.
Sending out mails to these users every time a new feature or service is added to your app can be a great way of boosting traffic, and you can even offer them incentives for sharing your app with others.
There are plenty methods to dig into when you want to boost traffic. Keep in mind this list is by no means exhaustive, although I don’t think I’ve left out any major traffic channels for the world of online visitors.
My personal favorite is attracting traffic from search engines, since this type of traffic keeps coming month after month, and is often the most qualified due to searchers finding my websites through relevant keywords and phrases.
Building an app in 2009 meant you were listed among maybe 50,000 others, but today you’re competing against several millions.
To rise to the top, you have to give it your best, and have an effective strategy, but the number one thing is to stay consistent with your plan, and sticking to said plan.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.