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There’s a sea of potential users looking for the next big app. In fact, 12% of all daily active users (DAUs) look for apps every day. Half of those DAUs search for apps at least once each week. The majority of new users download their apps simply because they found it when browsing the store.

Unfortunately, most developers don’t have the funds to reach everyone with big marketing campaigns. That’s why App Store Optimization–hacking your rank in the app store–is the best way to get noticed without a Superbowl ad. When you’re on an indie budget, you need lean strategies that give maximum results with minimal capital.

This article will show you:

  • How to affordably optimize keywords and app title
  • First steps to get app downloads and prevent churn
  • Getting great initial ratings and reviews
  • The equation for great search rankings
searchranking

Let’s briefly start with what you have direct control over before diving into hacking downloads and ratings.

How To Decide Keywords And Title (For Cheap)

Keywords: Finding the right keywords affordably is a lot like solving an IT problem – most answers are found by looking up someone who already did it. Research the keywords that your competitors use. You only have 100 characters for keywords, so make each one matters. The difference between writing “undead game” and “zombie game” could be thousands of downloads. Don’t repeat the name of your app as a keyword. The best keywords are plain concepts that first come to mind: zombie, puzzle, song, sports, chat, etc.

Title: There’s a reason that successful apps are often named things like “WeChat”, “GoToMeeting”, and “Yo.” Over the course of a month, Google Play processes six million unique search phrases. If you don’t have the money for a press release, it helps a lot to use a title with common phrases built inside that people search for. Think from the user’s shoes. If you wanted to download your app but didn’t know the name, what would you type to discover it? You’ll come up with a good title within the hour.

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Hacking Downloads and Preventing Uninstalls

Ultimately it’s the user’s choice whether to use an app, but doesn’t mean you can’t nudge them in the right direction.

Ask friends: Do you know how Acompli got to a $200M acquisition? By the team asking family to download and rate their beta app. Your first dozen downloads will be the first twelve people you ask. The next dozen will be when each person tells a friend of their own. Word of Mouth is the second most popular way that apps are found. Give it a try before spending cash on acquisition services.

Create user referral: You don’t have to do all the asking yourself. Incentivize people to share the app by making an easy button and offering small rewards. Program small reminders to spread the word during holidays or special events. If every user feels compelled to bring two more, your growth will skyrocket.

Build a knowledge base: Many apps bleed users because people can’t get the timely answers they need, become frustrated, and leave the app. Providing an accessible knowledge base will allow users to self-serve without the wait. It costs very little to set up and is worth the users you’ll keep (and time you save) in the long run.

Grow community: It’s best to start building your community now by creating social media or forums for your app. Avoid using it at a support center, but instead post product updates, create polls, or show users what you’re working on next. The comraderie helps prevent churn and creates a preexisting userbase for you next app idea. Many developers say that Facebook is the best site to start.

Getting Great Ratings & Reviews

apprankPeople who claim that making a great app is all it takes for great reviews have no idea about typical human behavior.

Resolve issues in-app: The problem with app stores is that it’s impossible to receive criticism without it affecting your ASO and profitability. Users rarely edit reviews–tons of apps still have bad ratings based on glitches that have already been solved. Connect with people directly through your app to stop your store page from becoming a QA session.

Ask for reviews gently: Avoid asking users to share your app the second it loads or before a user has actually done something. Who gives a referral for an app they haven’t even tried? The practice of preemptive push notifications is annoying to pretty much everyone and might actually lower what they would have rated. The best time to ask for an app review is after the user has accomplished something: beaten a level, completed a task, or successfully resolved a service issue. Leverage their positivity in that moment when asking users to share their experience. There’s no shame in asking for reviews if done right.

Use data to optimize: Most developers make apps with a user market already in mind, but that’s not the same as understanding how that market behaves. Using an analytics tool will help you notice patterns that you can use to improve your software and find new leads.

Remember:

Knowledge Base
Community
Analytics
In-App Help +
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Successful Mobile App

Need more advice directly from a developer? Our third Webinar hosts Aaron Wojnowski – creator of Musi app – who successfully hacked his way to consistent 5 star ratings. Learn how he did it by registering now.

Published February 12, 2015
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