30 Aug Launching An App? Make App Store Optimization Your Foundation For Growth
Most apps developed and released in Google’s Play store are abandoned by their developers. Over half of these apps get fewer than 5000 downloads, and most apps are considered unprofitable. This article is not going to make you the next Instagram, but it will hopefully help you get a nice base level of users that you can grow from.
To give you some better understanding of numbers, the example app in this article received 100,000 downloads in eight weeks. This is with a marketing budget of zero and very little work since launch. We’ll cover the basic app store optimizations that will help bring people to your Google Play page. Getting them to download and stay is up to you and up to the value your app provides.
To launch an Android app, you need a plan. Without a plan, you are destined to fail. Your hopes, dreams and code will lie untouched, hidden at the bottom of Google Play for the rest of time or until Google decides to do a clean up and wipes your failure from existence. Of course, to get traction, you need to pick a topic in which enough people are interested, and then the quality of your build is what is going to help keep these users.
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Our Example App Link
The app I am going to use as my example is Learn How to Draw, which I launched in December 2016 in cooperation with artist Will Sliney. We will talk about our launch goals and techniques. We will also share our results in the form of installations, usage and many more statistics, which we have directly pulled from the Google Developer Console. Hopefully, they will give you some context for what to expect.
Launch Goal Link
Everyone has an idea for an app. Some possess the right skills (or have enough money) to turn that idea into reality, but very few launch successfully. The primary problem with most launches is that the developer goes for the vanity metric: “How many downloads can I get in as short a period as possible?” They want the big bang. They want to show the world they are a big success on day one. The problem with this approach is that what goes up fast and doesn’t have a good product-market fit will come down even faster. Spiking on launch followed by a loss of all your newly acquired users the same week might be worse than not spiking at all.
The goal of our launch was to find a nice steady stream of new users. From these users, you can learn what is working and, more importantly, what is not working with your product. Yes, getting articles written about you also helps with app store optimization, but putting time into this should only happen once your foundation is in place. “Thank you for stating the obvious — just tell us how you did it,” I hear you say. No problem. Here it is.
Launch Strategy Link
When looking into launch strategies, I categorize our user acquisition work into three categories.
- Big bang
The big bang is when you get a big number of users up front, and then it dries up. An example here would be getting an article in a high-profile newspaper or getting a retweet from Mark Cuban. Yes, you will get some users long after the day of the tweet, but the majority will have come up front. There are a lot of reasons why a big-bang launch can actually have negative effects on your app. First, if you attract the wrong users, they are very likely to uninstall your app. Having a high rate of uninstallations will have a negative effect on your app store optimization. These users will also now be part of any analytics you have set, making it really difficult to know what your actual customers of interest are doing and where they are having problems. It becomes really difficult to know whether your product has a problem retaining the right users or whether you have simply attracted the wrong users, users whom your product was never going to retain.
- Long tail
The next is the long tail. The long tail is where you get consistent installations. The sum of future downloads far outweighs the initial impact. Examples of methods here include being featured consistently or getting repeat recommendations.
- Chain reaction
The final category, chain reaction, is where getting one installation leads to getting one more. Most social techniques fall into this bracket.
The category we will focus on in this article is the long tail. We are looking for a consistent source of relevant users. The method we used is Google Play store visibility, and our technique is app store optimization (ASO).
App Store Optimization Link
Our long-tail method focuses on Google Play visibility. Apple and Google are the gatekeepers. Your app’s survival hinges on how well your app places in their stores. Just like in the supermarket, if your product is not on shelves, it is not going to sell.
There are three methods in Google Play by which your app can be found by potential users. We targeted the third: direct search.
- direct search
Charts have huge power in influencing users to download. Unfortunately, to target charts is to put the cart before the horse. Get everything else right and you will end up at the top of a chart. Not much we can do here to help with your launch.
The second is to get featured. This is the equivalent of a shop placing your product beside its tills. Expect a lot more impulsive buys, but also expect a higher level of churn. These users are not very targeted and probably only downloaded your product to nose around. Again, targeting this method from launch is difficult. Hopefully, if you have stayed close to the Android guidelines and your build quality is high, Google might give you a nice surprise and feature you prominently in the store.
The third method is direct search. This is where we found our gold. Users who search for something using a term that is relevant to what you are offering are the ones you are after. Who better to find your product than people who are actually looking for it. Imagine if you built an app that taught users how to draw, and when any user searches for “learn how to draw,” your app is the first they see. That is a good place to be. The challenge here is all of those other pesky apps that want to get in front of those users. So, let’s see what happens when you search for “learn how to draw” in the Play store.
Boom! There it is.