Back in the golden days of the early Google Play store, you could publish even a mediocre app or game and it was guaranteed to get downloads. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Android App Marketing in 2020 will change drastically.
The market has matured to the point where big budgets are used to push apps extremely fast to certain rankings in the Play store and purely relying on organic growth by uploading your app without any marketing at all is usually met with “crickets”, as many new app developers state.
However, that’s not to say that getting downloads isn’t impossible – it just takes a good understanding of how the Play store actually works (as opposed to how people think it works).
You’ll find many articles online with very general advice like “make a good app” and “let people know about your app”.
Both statements are true and should be the foundation for your success.
However, often there is very little actionable advice in posts about android app marketing.
In this guide, I aim to tell you strategies that have been proven to get downloads – for big teams of developers and for indies alike, without all the extra fluff that comes with people trying to sell you something.
By the end of this guide, you should have a formidable android app marketing strategy that will definitely help you get more downloads.
One important thing to note is that different strategies work for different apps, and also depend on the things that you’re already familiar with.
Therefore, it is important that you tailor parts of this guide to your own strategy.
Where To Start With Your Android App Marketing
Do this first.
Step 1: Start With The ‘Who’ – The Mobile App User Persona for your Android App Marketing
Something that’s often missed by new developers and inexperienced ones is that they don’t realize that marketing starts before you even start the app.
Your app should have a clearly defined target user in mind – ideally, when you make the app, it should be solving a problem that you yourself have.
A common pitfall is that would-be-entrepreneurs create solutions for problems that don’t exist and think it’ll be met with fanfare.
Think about who your target EXACTLY is, and then figure out what problem you’re trying to solve.
Udacity and Google made a great video showing exactly how a persona can be defined
Step 2: Mobile Market Research – Why Competition Is A Good Thing
Are there a lot of apps in the Android App Store that do a similar thing to what you plan to do?
There are two ways to look at this:
You’re going to be up against a LOT of competition, making it harder for your app to stand out…
OR you could be more optimistic and say that if there are competitors, there must be people that want the thing you aim to make.
The first step to understanding mobile market research is to understand what’s currently popular.
Google provides you with a free means of doing this already: just look at the top charts of the Play store.
One caveat to this is that you have to be careful when apps are published by big publishers such as Ketchapp and Voodoo.
These big companies already have apps that have a HUGE number of users and data, and so they simply need to send out a push notification to their pre-existing apps saying “would you like to try our new App?” and get enormous amounts of downloads.
Thus, apps that are in the Top Charts daa that are published by big companies sometimes DON’T indicate an app that everybody wants, but simply an app that has a lot
of marketing muscle behind it.
Try looking further down in the Playstore charts and then you’ll start to see more apps that arise for reasons other than lots of marketing dollars being
thrown towards them.
In the picture above (of the Top Charts but lower down in the rankings), the apps highlighted in red are apps that I think have gotten there due to having
a lot of users that want these apps in combination with good app marketing by whoever made the apps.
Apps in blue are ones that I think got there by using celebrity power (e.g. getting a celebrity with 10mil+ followers to tweet/ promote the app).
This is called social media influencer marketing.
The apps in orange are reskinned apps of a particularly popular 1 app called ‘White Tiles’, which means that they are essentially clones of the
original app but published by other developers.
Reskins have been around for a few years now, becoming popularized by the idea that making many cheap apps is less risky than making one good app.
Many developers saw that they could make a lot of money from doing this – just search for “2048” and see how many clones exist.
The main point of this exercise is to make something that people actually want.
Whilst looking at the Top Charts is the quickest way to see what’s working, the way to confirm what people want lies outside of the Play store…
3. Validating your mobile market
To see whether someone out there will buy or download your app, you need to know if they say they will or have downloaded similar apps in the past.
To validate your market data for when you make a game, in addition to looking at the Play store, you should check for whether those types of games are popular on online websites like miniclip.com, kongregate.com, armorgames.com, and y8.com.
You’ll be able to tell simply by the number of plays on each mobile game – any online with >1mil plays is likely to be a hit, so analyzing those games (and what made them popular) might give you the key to making something that drives a ton of downloads.
Better yet, if you have a cross-platform game that works on the web (e.g. a game made with the Unity game engine), you should upload your game to
different online game websites with a button that leads to your game on the Play store.
This is a method I’ve used for one of my apps and you get continuous and free traffic for your games basically forever.
In my case, I found that the most downloads I got came from the game I uploaded to y8.com.
In addition, other websites will also pick up your game and give you even more downloads on top of that.
If you wanted to track which downloads come from where, then when you make the button in the game that leads to the app store download page,
you could use a free shortened link from bit.ly to track exactly how many clicks and from what sources your downloads come from.
I’ve found this technique works best when the game you’re selling on the Play store is free and is monetized by ads, although some developers like Otto-Ville Ojala use this strategy for their paid apps (with many of his apps standing in the Top Charts for years).
Non-games mobile Apps
Your best bet for non-games involves validating your market by looking at what your target user already likes, or talking with them directly.
In both these cases, the easiest way to get started is by using reddit.com.
To see what users like, you can:
1. do a search to see if there’s a thread or stories with a lot of upvotes for the thing you’re intending to make.
2. look at what those users already like…
For example, let’s say we’re creating a mobile app for people who like fitness.
Go to https://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/top/ and you’ll find this:
It is a useful practice to also check to see whether what you’re making satisfies the need for a growing market.
This applies not just to mobile apps, but to anything you do as an entrepreneur.
You can understand markets to be one of three things: 1. fads, 2. dying, or 3. growing.
You are aiming for the third:
An effective and free way to check this is to look at Google Trends data.
A fad is a data trend that rises to immense popularity for a short-lived time, and then disappears shortly after:
A dying trend is just as the name implies:
A growing mobile market is one with slow but continuous growth:
One very brief general principle of mobile marketing is that if you’re trying to fight in an especially competitive market, you should aim for mobile niches rather than mass market adoption.
A mobile niche is simply a specialized interest with fewer consumers but therefore less competition.
Find that e-fashion simply has too much competition?
Then an example of a potentially lucrative niche (based on the above trend analysis) would be “anime T-shirts”.
You can further niche down to make your life even easier e.g. go for a specific anime and make “One Punch Man T-shirts”.
Some entrepreneurs would say that aiming for big markets has the pro that if you even perform quite mediocrely, you’ll still get downloads/consumers.
However, for apps, I’d say aiming for niches is your best bet at having an app that will continue to be downloaded for a long time as your app is unlikely to be displaced by another competitor’s app.
How To Market Your App
Your battle plan for marketing your app should involve three main categories:
Pre-launch marketing is often overlooked and only launch/post-launch marketing strategies are looked at when someone new comes into the app scene.
Don’t make this mistake.
The most vital thing about how app rankings work is that they tend to work on the velocity of downloads that you get.
This simply means that the more people that download your app within a short period of time, the higher it gets pushed app in the rankings. Not only does it make it more
likely that you hit the Top Charts, but it also makes your app appear first before other apps when users search the App Store using keywords. There
are other factors that come into your app store ranking, including positive reviews (4-5 star) and your app retention (i.e. how long they use the app for/how often). However, it’s intuitive that grabbing a lot of downloads quickly will make your app rise to the top.
Make a website landing page for your app.
Collect email addresses on this splash page.
There are many ways to do this: examples include running ads on Facebook or Instagram Stories, posting articles to Reddit, answering questions on Quora
with a link to your landing page, posting articles to Medium, or simply sending messages family and friends to check it out.
Anything that gets you views onto your page will work.
• For the sake of time and cost, create a landing page at launchrock.com rather than spending a lot on buying your own server/website (unless you happen to have one already).
• If you’re aiming for something fancier, however, you may consider something like leadpages.net or a custom WordPress website. Lead Pages has the advantage that you can see the percentage of people who actually give you their email address.
• These early addresses are important because these are people anticipating the launch.
They will probably be the ones to leave you positive reviews and even 50 emails will make a big difference.
• Reach out to developers in your mobile niche to see if you can launch a mobile advertisement with them in the first week.
Most mobile developers would be happy to show your ad for a short while, for a price.
• A press/product page is vital for your mobile marketing.
The explanation is simple: make it easy for people to write about your app.
You should upload somewhere:
• A folder with screenshots and logos.
Make sure these are high resolution and good quality pictures.
You should upload color variations and vectorized versions of your pictures where possible.
• A concise description of why your app is the bee’s knees.
Keep it brief and focus on why people get from your app rather than what your app does.
Make sure that it is written in third-person so that it becomes much easier for a journalist to copy-paste it into an article.
• Put it in an easy and prominent place for people to find.
• One quick way for developers to quickly upload a well-laid out press page is dopresskit.com, which was created using the feedback of journalists and developers and allows you to make press page in 60 minutes.
• Speaking of Promoter, you can use it for tracking press mentions and distributing promotion codes for your games.
• Localize your app descriptions and screenshots for different languages.
There are 28 regions in the App Store and each country has its own play store.
By uploading your app in different languages, you expose your app to the people who speak those languages.
Some developers like Gonzalo Juarez, co-founder of eTips, say this increased their downloads by about 200%;
another developer said that it increased their downloads by 1000%!
So do not underestimate the power of having your app in the right language.
• Understand and apply App Store Optimisation (ASO): ASO is to the App Store as SEO is to Google.
There are loads of articles/videos online that show you how to do ASO properly.
Most developers tend to use the free service SensorTower, who themselves have written a huge and detailed course about it.
Rather than talk about it here superficially, you should go read their stuff as you’ll learn a lot more about it.
Note that some marketers mistakenly attribute all their success to ASO, when the reality is that ASO still cannot “make a pile of crap smell like perfume”.
In other words, your mobile app will need to be decently good before ASO will have any considerable effect on your rankings.
• As part of ASO, make sure your screenshots and icons pop and shine.
To know what works, simply look at the icons and screenshots of apps in the Top Charts and mimic their screenshot styles and ad copy.
Chances are they’ve spent a large number of marketing dollars on getting this right and A/B testing them, so you can borrow their styles for good results.
It is important post-launch to analyze what gets more conversions and what doesn’t.
• When you’re building your app, you can post on Fridays with the hashtag #feedbackfriday to this Facebook group and get people’s opinions on 3 which icon/screenshot they think is best, to find out what people like before you put it on the store.
The App Entrepreneurs and Marketers Group is, in my opinion, probably the biggest and best 3 Facebook group out there for people starting out in their App journey and those who even have a lot of experience with it.
The mobile App community is kinda small, so you’ll see a lot of big names pop up here in this group. See the messages you get from social media as benchmarks for your further social media experiments.
Here’s an example of an A/B test where I got ~20 comments:
• Preliminary A/B testing: whilst comments are good, statistical proof carries much more weight in gold.
Run a Google AdWords campaign with a few different headlines and descriptions to see which ones garner the most clicks and convert the best.
You will probably only need about $10-20 to see which copy performs well.
A Facebook ads campaign is an alternative option, although Google AdWords mimics more closely the way users search for apps on the store – by keywords.
Be sure to send the Google Adwords ads to your landing page so that you can start to collect a few email addresses and hit two birds with one stone, too.
• Incentivised viral competitions: used in conjunction with a social media campaign (e.g. via Facebook or Instagram), you can generate a “viral” ad campaign by simply making it a competition – for example, “get 2 friends to sign up to [x] and be in the running to win this piece of jewelry”.
Choose something inexpensive but desirable as you will need to spend a little bit of money to pay for the actual mobile advertisement itself, too.
The fullfilment of the desires of your audiences is an effective way of making your marketing money go far.
• There are a huge number of other ways to get downloads and I’ve just listed a few.
The best book I can recommend on this topic is Traction, an outstanding book on how to grow startups and how to get users/ downloads for your product.
• Collect the emails journalists and influencers in your app’s industry.
This is in preparation for a PR campaign when you launch your app.
You should start to reply to their tweets on Twitter and comment on their posts, so that when you randomly cold email them later, they recognize your name and are a little warmer to you than a complete stranger.
If you have time, being genuine friends with a journalist/influencer is best; if you don’t, at least having your name registered in their minds is a plus.
Real friendships take a long time to build, a lot of effort, and – most of all – good intentions.
If you’re just getting a journalist to write about your app for you when you need them to, they can smell your intent from a mile away.
Don’t be sleazy.
Just be a good person, help people out generously, and good things will follow.
• Start getting followers on social media early.
Any social media is good social media.
Again, running incentivized viral competitions on your channels is probably the easiest way to achieve likes/follows/etc., but each individual social media channel has its own nuances.
• Test a beta product with your target audience.
By listening to the feedback from your very first users, you can iron out bugs and also implement features that your audience really loves.
In addition, provide these early adopters with a means to share the word about your app.
• Do some review mining.
By looking at what people review on your competitor’s apps, you’ll be able to target their exact needs in your screenshots/title/app itself.
As one developer puts it, “review mining…is a goldmine for keyword research”.
• Integrate analytics into your app early.
This can be either Google Analytics, Flurry, Facebook Insights, or a myriad of other app analytics platforms – it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you know what your users are doing, whether they’re even going into the parts of the app you want them to go to, and how long they spend in the app. Both retention and positive reviews do have an impact on app ranking.
• Integrate push notifications into the app.
A free service like PushWoosh or Parse will do the trick.
This not only allows you to engage current users but also gives you a platform from which to cross-promote future apps.
• Upload your app to preapps.com.
It allows you to get people beta testing your app and giving you advice before you officially launch.
Won’t elaborate on this too much but it is a must.
• Be very aware of what your competitors are doing.
Make a list of which apps you want to beat for certain keywords.
You can then use AppAnnie.com to see what keywords they rank for and see if you can topple them.
Here an example of what this looks like for one photography app:
• Mail the journalists/influencers you collected in your pre-launch mobile marketing.
• Journalists and influencers are cold-emailed all the time, so make sure you have something that
1. is customized to that particular journalist/
2. has a hook,
3. has social proof,
4. makes it super easy for them to click on it,
5. it’s short and sweet.
An example of a good cold email would be:
[CUSTOMISED] I loved your article about your sleep hacks, tried it for myself,
and I now feel very refreshed! I’m contacting you because of my app
SleepTight [NEED SOME KIND OF HOOK] uses a scientifically proven
method to make you feel refreshed after only 15 minutes of sleep. [SOCIAL
PROOF AS WELL] Tim Ferriss says that he uses it every day without fail, too.
[PUNCHLINE THAT ALLOWS THE REPORTER TO SAY YES/NO EASILY]
Would you like to try our beta?
Here is a video preview of our app for you to look at.
[insert YouTube video here of your app preview]
Let me know what you think,
• Never write too much in your first email.
Journalists and influencers are busy people.
• If you must list in the individual features of your app, do so in bullet points that are spaced out properly.
• Fire off your mobile cross promotion now and start getting some engagement.
Again, with all the developers you hopefully contacted in the pre-launch stages, make sure that the ads in their apps (that advertise your app) are running.
In addition, if you have any other apps in the store that use advertisements, cross-promote them towards your app.
Free services like ChartBoost allow you to do this tremendously easily.
• There’s a free cross-promotion service, TappX, that allows you to cross-promote with other indie developers with there free SDKs and APIs.
The team behind it is really smart so it’s definitely worth checking out.
• Work out your pricing strategy.
If you release a game as initially paid and then make it free later, you get an instant bump in traffic and engagement.
This has happened to almost every one of my apps.
If you have a free app, then make it paid, and then make it free again a while later, often people experience that their app tends to get consistently more downloads.
• Some say that this garners as much as 100K downloads, but in my experience, it just tends to be proportional to how many downloads you receive in the paid version.
For example, 5 paid downloads per week might be equivalent to 2000 free downloads per week.
• In some cases, if you create something that has a perfect product-market fit (i.e. consumers really love your product and need it), you might make your app go viral.
The developer of 7 Minutes Workout is the perfect example of this – whilst initially getting some paid downloads, his downloads skyrocketed to 216,718 downloads in 3 days after he made his app free.
His article, “How I got 2.3 million app downloads (without spending a cent on marketing)” is an extremely good one and a must-read for anyone.
• If your app is big enough, you should be able to amplify the effect of a discount by reaching out to journalists at different sites that review apps.
• You may choose to complement your campaign with a ‘FreeAppOfTheDay’ promotion to further increase your user engagement. See it as a kind of demo time for your product.
These are promotions on other apps such as AppoDay that usually garner thousands of downloads and often get you into the top charts quite easily, if only temporarily. They tend to cost a few thousand dollars, however.
In addition, whilst you get a lot of downloads, user quality can be poor on different services (e.g. the user doesn’t even use your app or they don’t buy anything from within it).
• Create threads on forums about your app.
TouchArcade, MacRumors, TUAW…the more you post to forums, the more views you get.
Try not to be too spammy when you do it; you could even leave a link to your app in your forum signature and post on really popular forums for a small boost in
• Give out promo codes as part of competitions on Reddit.
Redditors hate marketers but love free stuff.
Reddit promotion guarantees you at least a few hundred, if not thousand, views for your app (depending on the popularity of the subreddit you post to), so it’s perfect to post a demo of your app there.
• Send out a press release.
You should send out a press release on the morning of the launch.
Use PRMac’s extended service, as this gets a lot of visibility in front of the press and is inexpensive ($20).
• Get as many reviews as possible.
Ask family and friends.
The initial “social proof” of having positive reviews from your demo does help your app a lot with user engagement in the long run.
Try not to buy reviews as Google isn’t dumb and can detect when there’s an abnormally high number of reviews for an app; this can get both your app and developer account banned.
I should mention that apps – if left alone and are not viral in nature – tend to have a big initial rise in downloads and afterward a long-tail that varies in height.
If you actively try to use burst campaigns for your app (i.e. generate lots of downloads in short periods of time), you may be able to keep it in the Top Charts consistently.
This does, however, require at least a few hundred dollars worth of money to achieve and some skill/experience – the best way to learn is to try it out for yourself, here.
If you work consistently on ASO (especially long-tail keywords), research competitors appropriately, create something with a good product-market fit, listen to your customers and what they want, you will do well in the long run and get a good engagement from your users.
Check out these Pages if you want to learn more:
- Successful App Launch Marketing Campaigns
- How to advertise a mobile app
- List of the best mobile app promotion websites
- Android App Marketing Tips for 2020
- Buy App Install Prices
- What is App Store Optimization?
- How to Acquire New Users by buying app downloads
If you execute all of these strategies well, you will market your app successfully.
Like in any industry, the app industry is always changing.
The best thing you can do to improve your marketing is 1. to work at it, 2. to further your knowledge.
Following this document is one way to market your apps well and guarantee an increase in downloads.
However, you should also listen to the advice of other successful experts and see what works for you.