How to Boost Your App Store Downloads

By Ian Heinig / 20 February 2018

More than 1,000 apps are released each day. Here are 5 strategies for boosting your downloads, cutting through the clutter, and elevating your app marketing strategy.

“If you build it, they will come.” 

Sadly, this famous movie quote doesn’t apply to your app marketing strategy.

More than 1,300 apps are released each day. There are over 5 million apps available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The field is too competitive to expect users to find your app without help.

Graph of number of apps available as of March 2017
Source: Statista

For today’s app developers, success requires a well-tuned app marketing strategy. To generate awareness for your app, you’ll simply have to work a bit harder.

We discuss 5 strategies for increasing your app’s downloads:

  1. Make your app free
  2. Improve app store optimization
  3. Leverage your online presence
  4. Update your app constantly
  5. Run A/B tests on your app store listing

Step 1: Make Your App Free

Free apps receive far more downloads than paid apps. After all, who wants to pay for an untested product of questionable value? 

Nearly 94% of all Google Play store apps are available for free. The only paid app in the top 100 of the App Store or Google Play is Minecraft – at position #54 and #62, respectively.

Screenshot of gaming apps

To kickstart your visibility and rank after your release, you’ll need a quick surge of downloads. A free app can help you achieve that initial swell of traction. This early push is critical to acquiring the first users and the positive reviews needed for steady growth.

Once you’re off to a solid start, you can use a handful of app monetization strategies to drive revenue: 

  • In-app purchases
  • Subscriptions
  • Premium features
  • Advertising

According to reporting firm Statista, the freemium pricing model is the highest earning strategy for both the App Store and Google Play. A freemium model works by offering a base product for free, with premium additional features offered for a price.

By offering your app for free, you’ll entice more users to download the app, and you can then tempt them with paid premium features. 

Here are 5 other ways to make money with your mobile app without ads.

Step 2: Improve App Store Optimization

App store optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the visibility and quality of your product page within the app store. 

Also known as app store SEO, the goal of ASO is to increase your app’s rank in search results by attending to various on- and off-page ranking factors. Optimizing these elements increases the likelihood that people will discover and convert on your app page. 

Here’s a visual:

List of app ranking factors
Source: Harry Fuecks on Medium

The following ASO factors can help you increase app downloads.

Keywords in App’s Name and Description

Search queries connect users to apps, so keywords are crucial for app visibility.

To determine the best keywords for your app’s name and description, solicit user feedback and conduct competitor research. 

Use your ASO strategy to target strategic (and perhaps underused) keywords that will introduce your app to the widest audience.

Ratings and Reviews

A large volume of positive reviews and ratings correlates to a high app store ranking. Collecting feedback from users is a proactive process, whether you’re promoting in-app engagement or asking for feedback off-app. 

The number of comments on your app product page is another key ASO ranking factor. Research by SEO service Moz found that a high volume of comments was predictive of greater downloads. 

Total Number of Downloads

The more downloads you receive, the greater your search ranking – and the more downloads you’ll receive.

Each download is valuable social proof that shows potential users that your app is worth their time. Your total volume of downloads signals the value of your app – and the effectiveness of your app marketing strategy.

Visual Elements

Like a billboard for your app, your visual icon is essential for driving conversions.

The majority of browsers (60%) won’t scroll past your First Impression, according to app service StoreMaven. The First Impression is the initial viewing screen people see after clicking your app’s link.

Designing a unique app icon allows you to:

  • Cut through the clutter
  • Communicate your app’s function immediately
  • Entice downloads

Like app icons, screenshots aren’t a factor in your search ranking, but they do drive downloads. Use these to:

  • Highlight key features
  • Depict everyday use
  • Address primary benefits to users

Social Proof

Your app’s off-page popularity also directly affects your app store ranking. Positive reviews from journalists, app review sites, and social media influencers will elevate your ranking position.

Learn 10 more ways to enhance your app store optimization strategy.

Step 3: Leverage Your Online Presence

A comprehensive online presence helps drive downloads by increasing awareness of your app. It’s also important for ASO.

A business website, paired with paid search advertisements and social media, will generate valuable backlinks, social proof, and reviews.

A website enables you to educate potential customers about your app from a central platform. From here you can: 

  • Share blog posts
  • Feature screenshots and key features
  • Collect emails for email nurturing

For example, the UberEats website allows visitors to explore features, as well as demo and download the app.

Screenshot of UberEats

Promoting your app with paid search and banner ads is another effective way to boost your exposure and app downloads.

Of all online advertising types, Think With Google found that search ads drove 50% of all app downloads.

Social media will be key to reaching your widest audience. 

You can use social to attract potential customers, engage users, and foster positive word of mouth.

Posting regularly is the best way to create conversations that lead to conversions.

To generate interest, pick a few relevant social media channels, and share a fun and informative blend of:

  • Blogs
  • GIFs
  • Screenshots
  • How-to videos

Since social media is visual, a compelling aesthetic will allow you to attract the followers and engagement needed for app growth.

Step 4: Update Your App Constantly

Customers want apps that are always improving. Regular app updates will ensure you fix outstanding errors and deliver the quality experience needed to grow and retain users. 

This also will improve your ASO strategy, as app updates are a key app store ranking factor. Each update offers double benefits, improving both your usability and discoverability.

For example, Snapchat constantly updates users about new features and filters in the “What’s New” section.

Screenshot of Snapchat "What's New" section

Distributing customer surveys and soliciting feedback will return the valuable insights needed to empower your updates.

Whether you’re fixing bugs or retooling features, attending to customer wants will skyrocket your app’s popularity.

Step 5: Run A/B Tests on Your App Store Listing

Marketing your app successfully requires periodic adjustments to your app store listing.

Sometimes, increasing conversions is simply a matter of tweaking the on-page language or visual components. 

A/B testing (also called split testing) involves sending half of your web store traffic to one variant and the rest to the other. This allows you to isolate and assess various elements of your listing, such as:

  • App title
  • App description
  • Screenshots
  • Videos
  • Visual icons

By sending half of your customers to one variation, and the other half to another, you can determine which title, screenshots, or other elements appeal most to people.

For example, the mobile app blog AndroidPub found that switching the app icon resulted in a 30% increase in downloads.

App icon comparison
Source: AndroidPub

Once you’ve seen which variant produces better results, you can adjust your product listing accordingly. 

Google Play has their own split testing tool, Google Experiments.

However, Apple offers no such tool for the App Store.

Instead, you’ll need to test off-page interfaces such as website landing pages or paid ads. You can also use third-party testing services like StoreMaven or SplitMetrics.

Increase Your App Store Downloads

Boosting your app downloads requires both quality and consistency. An initial burst of popularity after release is important, but your user base must continue to grow. 

Paying attention to ASO factors, updates, and A/B tests will create a closed loop that steadily improves both your app marketing tactics and conversion rates.

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