mobile-marketing-software

Mobile Marketing Software

From marketing your mobile app to reaching your target audience on their smartphones in any app, taking advantage of the breadth of opportunities in mobile requires the right software tools.

Finding the best mobile marketing software tools begins with an understanding of where the mobile opportunities are – which could mean in-app SDKs or software used externally like app store intelligence data.

In-App – Essential Services

No matter the type of mobile app or what the KPIs are, all mobile apps should have services for push notifications, analytics, deep linking and user intelligence.

Push Notifications

Notifications are one of the best tools for increased engagement and retention in part because users prefer them over emails or SMS/text messaging.

Done correctly, notifications are short messages for immediate action or awareness – there is no saving for later like email. Users can quickly decide if a notification is relevant and take action or ignore.

With the shuttering of Parse as a service, many apps who used Parse for push notifications must look elsewhere.  Urban Airship, LeanPlum and One Signal are among several push notification services worth a look.

Analytics

As time spent in mobile apps continues to grow at the expense of print, TV and the web, the value of a mobile app user increases.

Acquiring users in the increasingly competitive app stores requires a well-built app even in very niche subjects.

Downloads have been considered a vanity metric for some time, and to get the metrics that matter – your app needs a comprehensive analytics service and setup.

Free tools from Google, Apple, Facebook and Flurry/Yahoo are fine for many app publishers.  These tools support creating events, segments and funnels – but lack more valuable information like attribution.

If attribution is not critical (you are not running paid install campaigns), free services implemented correctly can provide insights into how users are interacting with your app.

App optimization for retention, engagement, social sharing, email signups, purchases or any other KPI is impossible without setting up analytics in your app and using the data to drive feature development or other improvements.

Deep Links

Deep linking and app links create the opportunity to add metadata to in-app content that can be indexed by Apple and Google, tag content that is available both on the web and in an app, and route users to specific locations in your app.

While the ability to route users has been adopted by many app publishers for new user onboarding and for ad-specific landing screens, the indexation of in-app content is brand new.

Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter all have their protocols, which makes working with a mediary like Branch.io and DeepLink.me helpful.

Audience Insights

Google and Facebook both have tools to help app publishers and advertisers explore demographic and interest details about their users, or a segment of their users.

Audience Insights enables a publisher to target an audience similar to the highest LTV segment in their app (for example). Being able to track ad spend through to app monetization helps marketers identify which acquisition channels have the best ROI.

Audience Insights helps marketers identify which audiences regardless of channel are the most valuable. Combining attribution with Audience Insights can be an extremely powerful tool.

External Mobile Marketing Services

App Store Intelligence

This is called different things by different services, the key being that app store publishing decisions require actual app store data.  The main solution an app store intelligence partner should provide is the acquisition of high-LTV users organically by developing and executing an ASO strategy based on app store data.

App store intelligence can also provide insights to underserved feature requests, app competitors, behavioral trends and which countries to localize for and support.

5 Tips to a Better Google Play Ranking

5 Tips to a Better Google Play Ranking

Acquiring relevant users organically in app store search is the primary focus of app store optimization.  Where your app appears in search results has a large impact on how many potential users find your app in a search.

Maximizing the ranking for specific search terms improves where the app ranks in its category as well – leading to even more organic discovery.

How then do app publishers and marketers impact better app store rankings?

Google App Store Rankings

Google has shared ranking factors and tips, specifically calling out the importance of ratings, reviews, downloads and the copy used in the app listing. In the same post, Google provides additional tips about regular updates, engaged users, acquiring ratings and responding to reviews.

As web and mobile app terms start to converge – specifically Google changing “visitors” in their Google Analytics service, to “sessions” – some of the models known to be used when indexing the web surfaces in the Google Play store ranking algorithm.

The rate at which a web site converts a user to a web page view (searcher clicks on a link in search results) is a basic conversion rate that is also used in the app stores.

Similarly, web metrics like bounce rate, time on page and number of pages visited corresponds roughly to app opens, time in app and retention (the app remains on the device).

How Google indexes and ranks mobile apps for Google Play parallels the things marketers see on the web.  The main difference is what we are optimizing for – app store search vs web search.

The simple example to demonstrate the difference in user intent is search “malls” in Google web search, and then in Google Play.

Different results for different expected user intentions.

Armed with this general framework for the Google Play ranking factors, let’s review 5 tips for a better Google Play ranking.

Improve Conversion Rates

The rate at which an app converts an appearance in a specific search result into an install.

If users find your app a relevant result and attractive option at a greater rate than other apps relative to its position in the results – Google will increase your ranking for that specific search all else being equal.

Improving your app’s conversion rates improves installs and the app store ranking, and also provides a greater opportunity for acquiring ratings and reviews (our next tip).

Google historically has been very good about measuring websites and apps on specific criteria and then providing tools to help publishers and developers improve the measured criteria.

Conversion optimization is no different, with Google providing an “experiments” module in the developer console for creating multivariate tests on an app’s creative elements, title, description and even the order of screenshots.

Get Proactive with Acquiring and Responding to Ratings and Reviews

The volume and quality of ratings and reviews has always played a big part of an app’s Google Play ranking.

Among the differences between Apple and Google, better ratings are more closely associated with the top apps in Google Play than for Apple’s top apps.

Additionally, Google allows (and expects) developers to respond to reviews in Google Play.

If you don’t have a mechanism for acquiring app store reviews, or managing customer service issues outside of the store ratings system – take a look at Apptentive and our post on app reviews.

The Google +1 button is incorporated along with other social signals in ranking criteria. We’ll cover social signals in Tip 4, but the +1 kinda falls into both areas – so worth mentioning here.

Consider adding a +1 button somewhere in your app similar to how you would request ratings and reviews.

Optimize for Engagement and Retention

The best Google Play Store ranking advice – Make a Great App.

Not super helpful or actionable.  What’s a great app and how would one measure that?

The market votes, and they vote with their time and money. How long sessions last (relative to similar apps), the frequency of sessions and how long an app remains installed on a device are all votes by the market.

Google incorporates similar metrics in their web rankings, so it should come as no surprise that these factors are also weighted in the Play Store algorithm.

Building a great app is outside the scope of this article, but it starts with mastering your in-app analytics.

Backlinks

This is the catch-all term that describes social signals like a blogger mentioning the app and people sharing on Facebook or G+, to mentions by the press.  Anything that generates a link back to the Google Play store listing.

Acquiring +1s is good practice, as is acquiring links from reputable and relevant web properties. Full service app marketing agencies should incorporate the acquisition of backlinks in their app marketing strategy.

Focus on Your Best Features

App store data consistently shows the majority of app store searches are features-based phrases.  Focus on your app’s most important and distinguishing features, using the phrases your target market uses to describe these features, in your app title and short description.  Complete your “full description” by again listing most important and supplementary features and benefits using all the space allotted.

The app title and short description provide much of the guidance to Google for the specific features of your app, while the category and full description add context and support.


Most of these tips are related to each other and have a synergistic effect when optimized.  A better system for prompting and managing ratings and reviews makes efforts around conversion rate optimization more rewarding.  A better app both drives more positive reviews and better engagement and retention.

Google Mobile Analytics

Google Mobile Analytics

In the early days of mobile apps, marketers used Flurry Analytics in their iOS apps and Google Analytics in their Android apps.  Apple released an analytics module in iTunes Connect (where marketers and devs manage their apps) that only worked for iOS apps. Then Facebook started offered event-driven analytics as part of both Parse and the Facebook SDK.

The mobile analytics space has been fragmented by platform, and challenged with incorporating app data back to a multi-channel marketing campaign or a web property.

There were signs that Google was going to start to view their (primarily web) analytics service differently when KPIs like “visits” – which describes a web site visit – were changed to “sessions” – which was the way most referred to opening/starting a mobile app.

Google’s aim is to have access to data – which they monetize by organizing and aggregating for discovery.  Google did this with the web and became one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Social media and their walled gardens, and mobile apps and the information essentially hidden from Google in the app silos presented real challenges to Google being able to collect and aggregate data.

To make things worse for Google, the market was flocking to mobile apps, not just for games but for reading and watching videos and even search.

One of the places Google is uniquely positioned, Google Analytics is the most popular website analytics service by far.  GA offers all the basics one would expect from an analytics package – like number of sessions, when and from where, how long a session lasted, where they came from etc..  But GA also provides (free) tools for attribution, funnels, segmentation and more, all tied back to AdWords and AdSense.

Where Apple provides a basic analytics service for just iOS apps, Google’s mobile offering works across Android and iOS (connecting data from the same app across platforms), and the web.

A content publisher who both sells ad space and promotes content can now see how an article (for example) performed on their website, and in their app (both iOS and Android).

This is all free from Google.

If app downloads are the ultimate vanity metric, then user lifetime value (LTV) is the ultimate KPI. It is just that measuring LTV is not so easy, especially across marketing and consumption channels.

Google’s Mobile SDK gets marketers closer to a holistic view of their digital business and marketing efforts.

How Google Mobile Analytics Can Help Your Mobile App Marketing Campaigns

More than just merely providing data the volume of users of a given app, Google Mobile Analytics help marketers segment their audiences and maximize their mobile app marketing efforts.

Quick Quiz:  who knows you better?  Google, Facebook or your spouse?

They each know you in different ways, but the three (2 companies and your partner in life) are  probably closer than you think.

What that means here is Google can provide insights to who your audience is by broad demographics, but also with very specific personas.

LTV takes on a whole new meaning when you can not only track user LTV by source or funnel, but by persona.  Persona X converts with the highest LTV from Facebook ads, Persona Y via web ads, Persona Z shows the highest LTV when acquired organically in app store search.

  • Which channels created the highest number of downloads and which drove the most in-app purchases?
  • Which channel and persona showed high downloads but low retention?
  • Which channel can you scale, or what other channels can you use to reach a valuable target persona?

Google Mobile Analytics enables marketers and app developers to wade through data and make informed decision for better apps and better marketing.

Google Mobile Analytics Features and their Benefits

Marketers using Google Mobile Analytics stand to benefit from the data gathered from seven major features. This data when gathered provides the marketer with important information regarding the success or lack thereof of a given marketing campaign. Google Mobile Analytics features include the following:

Install Attribution

Mobile app install attribution tracks user interactions with an app that has resulted from specific marketing campaigns or activities.

The user interactions that can be measured include anything event driven:

  • App installation
  • In-app purchase
  • Repeat launch app
  • Level completion

Mobile SDKs

Native Android and iOS SDKs help marketers measure the level of user interaction with an app and its content.

For app publishers that have content parity on the web (a website), this feature helps connect in-app events and locations with the corresponding location on the web.  An example question – Did users read the recent article on Tesla longer in your app or on the web?

Cross-Device Data

Cross-device data employs a Measurement Protocol that uses a user ID feature to monitor data across devices and sessions when they are logged in. Measurement Protocol measure usage across digital platforms beyond apps and web log ins. This allows marketers to measure a user’s online activity and offline conversations.

Event Tracking

Events in the world of mobile apps measure in app activities by users. These events can include passing levels, adding items to cart (in the case of ecommerce) or up-voting. All of these and more are measured by Google Mobile Analytics’ event tracking feature.

Demographics and Remarketing

Demographics and remarketing is a two-fold feature of Mobile Analytics that provides marketers with data regarding:

  • The gender, age and interests of a user
  • Tools to build audience lists for retargeting

Facebook’s SDK is amazing at building audiences, but any app that spends to acquire users should use both Facebook and Google SDKs for analytics if for nothing more than the insights to users (in aggregate) these services provide.

Lifetime Value and Retention Analysis

As the name suggests, Lifetime Value and Retention Analysis is a report feature that allows developers and marketers to get insight regarding just how much revenue a given cohort have brought to the app since making their first visit.

The report shows retention rates for different groups and uses and allows developers and marketers to develop a long-term picture of how users value the app and the features therein over time. This feature supports making positive long-term marketing decisions.

Your can learn more about Google Mobile Analytics here, and check out our other posts on mobile analytics here.

Choosing App Store Keywords

Choosing App Store Keywords

Choosing app store keywords for an app’s store listings has at times been viewed as the holy grail of app store optimization.

The thinking was that finding the magical combination of low competition, high traffic words would drive heaps of organic traffic to even the worst of mobile apps.

While keywords are a big part of ASO, Gummicube considers the initial selection of keywords as much less important than the building of a complete acquisition funnel, and the ongoing optimization of target keywords and phrases as they support the funnel.

The goal of app store optimization is not (only) greater visibility, but the organic acquisition of new users.  

Aim for Relevant Coverage

By changing the key performance indicator of successful ASO from “rankings” to “high LTV users acquired”,  the role keyword selection plays in the ASO process becomes clearer (and is often missed by app marketers).

We don’t want traffic, we want traffic that is likely to convert to downloads and users.

App marketers should aim for relevant coverage of keywords and phrases.

The app store algorithms are getting smarter.  Low conversions relative to position in a search result signals to Apple and Google that users are not finding your app relevant for that specific search.

The fields that have the biggest impact on search rankings are limited – with character limits on the app name/title, the keywords field (Apple) and the short description (Google Play).

Why use that valuable space targeting keywords and phrases that are not ultra-relevant to your app and prospective user?

Use App Store Data

There is and has been a lack of transparency in the app store search algorithms.  Reverse engineering the algorithms  is made harder due to a complete lack of details on app store search data.

Neither Apple or Google share search traffic or download data by category, phrase or even daily volume.

To fill the void for marketers, several companies built ASO tools using Google web search data as a proxy for app store search data.

The thinking was “something is better than nothing”.

Many optimization efforts based on web data didn’t produce results.

Meanwhile, investments in collecting proprietary app store data and working with large clients and their global app portfolios started to show the differences between how users search the app stores vs how they search the web.

Don’t take my word for it – search for “malls” on the web and then again in Google Play.  Both are using Google search, but one returns the local malls in a map, maybe a definition or items in the news, and the other returns mall-based games and shopping companions.

User intent is just different when searching the app stores.  Using web search data to optimize an app store listing doesn’t make sense.

Investing in app store optimization is the foundation of mobile app marketing, and provides a measurable long-term ROI.

Partner with an app store intelligence service like Gummicube to identify how your target market is searching the app stores, and create a plan for an optimized listing.

Build Phrases

In tracking the app stores for over 5 years, we have found 80% of app store searches are for  multi-word, features-based phrases.

That’s “cheap flights” or “zombie rpg game” or “free photo editing”.

The phrases you identify as being used by your target market when searching the app stores are likely made up of several, recurring words.

Breaking these phrases into individual words, and removing duplicates – you are left with a sort of “keywords bucket”.

If there were no constraints on the app store listing fields that impact how an app is indexed, we would be done. Just dump all of those keywords into the name and keywords field or short description.

But there are constraints (which is a good thing!).

Character limits help Apple and Google determine what is most important or relevant to the app from the publisher’s perspective.

Working with roughly 100-180 characters to build the optimal mix of words of various lengths targeting phrases of varying relevance and value is complicated.

Software that incorporates app store data can help you pick the optimal mix of words based on target phrases, category and app store competition.

Competing Apps

Speaking of which, what if the phrases we are targeting has 100’s of competitors also vying for ranking in search?

There are so many variables that determine the strength of the competition that the number (quantity) of competitors is almost meaningless.

Simply, not all competition is equal.

Relevance matters. Ratings, reviews, time since last update, downloads and conversion rates all impact how strong each competitor is for a specific search term.

The best approach given how hard it can be to evaluate competition in the app store is start with a keyword bucket that builds phrases extremely relevant to your app and its best or primary features. Adjust and optimize for those words and phrases that your app ranks well for and continue to build on your strengths.

App store optimization, and especially selecting app store keywords and phrases, requires an on-going investment in making small adjustments and improvements that grow to big results.

A word of caution:

Targeting keywords that are trademarked (Disney, MLB, Superman) will get your app rejected, removed from the store or at best have the keywords removed.

Similarly, including words in an app name/title, keywords field or description that is unrelated will also put your app at risk of rejection, removal or flagged for keyword spamming.

Learn more about selecting keywords and app store optimization.

Steps for Better App Store Rankings

4 Steps for Better App Store Rankings

A modern strategy of content marketing is investing in one great piece of content per week or month rather than posting daily articles targeting keywords. There is so much content being pushed on blogs and social media properties that to be discovered, read, shared, used – the content needs to be the best post for a given topic.

For example, Gummicube saw that most app store optimization guides were either lacking, incomplete or inconsistent with what we were seeing in the app stores with our clients. We thought we could build the best ASO guide and did.

This ASO Guide serves as a primary piece of “cornerstone content” for Gummicube and helps both introduce and educate clients and prospects.

(For those wondering, this approach is called the SkyScraper technique among other names.)

What does this have to do with apps?

Well – the same is true in the app stores. There are millions of apps available for download, how does your app find its way to the top of an app store category or relevant search results (without buying installs)?

Step 1 – Build the Best App for the Specific, Targeted Features

Your app needs to be the best option for the features, benefits, and solutions your app provides.

A narrow focus delivered beautifully is often better than mediocre at everything. The best “photo-editing app, using stickers and posting to Instagram” is better than the 50th best photo-editing app.

You likely already know the specific, differentiating features of your mobile app(s). You probably already know how they stack up vs the competition in the app stores. Before deciding to add new features – take a hard look at how your app converts app store views to installs and users.

If app store rankings are poor, it may be your app isn’t the best option for potential users. This ultimately results in low conversions and signals the app store algorithms that your app is not a good result for that search.

Step 2 – Invest in On-going App Listing Optimization

Feeling good about the benefits your app provides, and is the best option for a specific feature set?

Time to make sure every relevant search has a chance to see the magic you are providing in app form.

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There are essentially two parts to the app store ranking algorithm:

    1. how an app is indexed
    2. where it ranks

Apple and Google don’t share the specifics of how their respective algorithms work. In fact, they often make changes without providing guidance.

This is very different than how Google manages web indexing and ranking of websites, often sharing details of expected changes to their algorithm months in advance and even naming the change or addition (Penguin, Panda etc..).

What an app is indexed for is driven a great deal by the app store listing. The words and phrases used in the app title, descriptions and Apple-only “Keywords” field gives Apple and Google an idea of what your app is about and its features.

Because app listing fields have character limitations, building an optimized app listing requires finding the most relevant words to describe the app’s key features.

Rarely are the best combination of keywords and phrases discovered in the first attempt, but rather continually and incrementally improved upon over time, with small adjustments made to changing market sentiments after a proven app listing foundation has been established.

Invest in the process, as organic traffic received as the result of an optimized app listing not only provides the foundation for the rest of your app marketing efforts, but is also much less expensive than paying for installs in the short and long-term.

Step 3 – Improve Retention and Engagement

For websites – terms like “bounce rates” and “time on page” (or “session length”) hold special meaning to web marketers/SEOs.

High bounce rates or low session lengths signal to Google that a user clicked a link in the search results, didn’t find what they wanted or didn’t continue to engage with the content.

How a site performs relative to other sites in the search results impacts where Google ranks the website in future searches.

While how users search the app stores is dramatically different than how they search the web (and what they expect in results), these concepts apply to mobile apps as well. Specifically, the signals conversion rates, retention (deleting the app after x days) and engagement (number and length of sessions) send to the app stores.

Improving retention and engagement will not only improve user LTV but your app store rankings as well.

There are several strategies outside the scope of this post, including notifications, gamification, social sharing and a great UI.

Step 4 – Use Your Data

Compared to web analytics, implementing and working with mobile analytics is a bit more challenging. For websites, add a code to your home page and the Google spider will index all of your pages and provide all sorts of data.

With mobile apps, every screen (or state) and button must contain an event in order to be tracked.

Once set up, the combination of app store provided data (Google Play and Apple Analytics), app store intelligence data (macro and micro app store data used for ASO and research), and app analytics (what’s happening in your app) can provide a plethora of actionable insights.

The data will tell the story, but you need to know what to look for, and what levers to pull to affect change.

Low conversions from app store views? A/B test your creative elements or test with a focus group. Reevaluate targeted keywords and phrases.

Great conversions but low visibility? Consider modifying targeted keywords and phrases for more focused coverage of those that are driving discover.

Encouraging app ratings and reviews, creating incentives to share your app and developing channels for user acquisition and engagement outside of the app can have an impact as well, but starting with the above 4 steps will provide the foundation to make incremental improvements that have a lasting effect.

Small, seemingly insignificant monthly improvements of only 5-7% each month result in a doubling after 12 months. That is – 5% better conversion, 5% better visibility, 5% better retention.

A focus on the above steps is more likely to result in monthly improvements of 20% or more, providing significant ROI and creating a long-term competitive position for your app.