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Seven ways to improve your app visibility and downloads

Sreekanth Sastry
16th Feb 2015
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The popularity of mobile apps continues to rise as their usage becomes increasingly prevalent across the consumer and business markets. Mobile apps were originally offered for general productivity and information retrieval, including email, calendar, contacts, stock market updates and weather information. Public demand and the availability of developer tools have driven rapid expansion in other categories.


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In India, the usage of mobile apps is expected to grow based on the demand for apps in local languages. With the ability of the devices being able to render Indic fonts improving, the number of publishers offering content in vernacular language is also increasing.

With over a million apps in Apple App Store and Google Play, the challenge that publishers face is that of distribution. How does one reach out to the relevant audience? What are the available options and what are their costs? Here are lessons from seven tactics we used for our apps.

1. App store optimization 

App store optimization is the process of improving visibility of a mobile app in an app store. The importance of this is widely understood and most publishers try to achieve the following:

  • Be found when searched for relevant keywords
  • Rank higher in comparison to other apps
  • Rank higher for specific/relevant keywords.

The first app we created was Muttinantha Maatu – an app for Kannada proverbs and quotes, and that was the name we used when creating the app listing in the app stores. Though we had used Kannada as a keyword and mentioned it within the description of the app, we had missed including it in the app title. Rookie mistake!

Sometimes, as publishers, we take these things for granted or consider it obvious. In the digital world, our content needs to communicate as well with machines as it does with end users. A user who knows the language will easily know Muttinantha Maatu is a Kannada app. It should be easy for a search algorithm too as the possibility of users searching for Kannada proverbs is way higher than those who searching for a fancy title chosen for the app.

2. Press releases

The availability of an app for download on any app store must be accompanied by a press release that can be sent out to a list of contacts from the media. Follow up with the contacts personally and pitch for coverage in sections of their publication where it makes sense. Not doing this is like buying beer and expecting that people will turn up for a party in your house.

Situational Gita, an app we created to present the teachings of the Bhagvad Gita in a manner that it applies to day-to-day situations, was listed amongst the Apple app store’s top 10 paid apps in India in the lifestyle category within the first month of its launch. Approaching journalists with this information earned us media coverage (The Hindu) This in turn resulted in referral traffic to our website, newsletter sign-ups and app downloads.

3. Conversations 

Be prepared and open to have conversations with others who have an interest in the category of the app. These conversations could be over social media or person-to-person. The key here is your ability to have a genuine conversation and not make random statements or announcements about your app.

Conversations at networking events and social media have resulted in us earning followers and downloads. Most of the times, the people you are conversing with may not be the ones who download the app; it may be someone else who they share it with. So make yourself available in places that have relevant audience, listen and contribute.

4. Applying for an award 

Awards result in good press coverage and networking opportunity. Be on the lookout and don’t hesitate to apply for awards that your products can be considered for.

We applied to the mBillionth Award 2014, hosted by the Digital Empowerment Foundation under the culture and heritage category with our app Situational Gita. We were shortlisted and were one of the finalists. This was good news to be shared with all our friends across social media. Being a finalist also gave us an opportunity to attend the event and network and share knowledge with fellow publishers from across South Asia.

5. Sharing content

Apart from games, apps can be broadly classified as those that provide utility (email, task managers, alarms) and those that provide content (news, magazines, recipes, quotes). Apps with various amounts of overlaps between these two categories exist too.

Antarjaal apps are heavily skewed towards content. Apps that bring back age old tenets in a new format with built-in abilities to integrate the content into daily life in a non-intrusive way. The new format of the content opened up avenues for us to partner and share content with other publishers.

We created comic strips based on content that we had curated for our Situational Sarvagna app. The editors at Swarajyamagazine included it in their content mix (check out the comics here).

6. Help someone in a similar space 

Look out for opportunities to help anyone in the areas that you have expertise in. One such opportunity came to us with the Keli Katheya team. This team had embarked on creating audio books in Kannada. We offered to help them with a mobile app to promote the initiative. The idea was well received and executed. This helped us with visibility amongst an audience that we were also trying to reach.

7. Facebook advertising

For app publishers, Facebook advertising with its Install Ad feature is a very powerful mechanism to reach target audience and get downloads. The ability to filter and target audience is efficient.

We used it with our apps and found it extremely easy to create campaigns, target and track. The costs worked in our favor for the Indian audience and hence we use this tactic for some apps periodically and for other apps as a one off activity either for its launch or to support an offline activity.


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It’s a journey – enjoy, observe and don’t forget to take notes!

Let me summarize by saying that tips number one and two are hygiene tactics. As a developer and publisher you owe that to your target audience. The others require personal attention and are dependent on the bandwidth and resource you can dedicate.

All of the above tactics, except the last, require no special skill. Any form of advertising needs to get the messaging and targeting correct; having someone who can provide advice on that is beneficial. But all of them need you to persevere and continuously track and improvise.

Next time around let’s take a look at app bundles and why they makes sense.

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