The average mobile internet user spends approximately three hours and five minutes per day active in a mobile app. For marketers and users alike, this is no surprise. Mobile has recently stirred a lot of buzz within the industry for the rapid growth it's accumulating. While in the past mobile apps and mobile websites were "nice to haves," they quickly have become a necessity for nearly all brands regardless of industry.

The development process of a mobile app can be difficult - there are plenty of elements to consider, including everything from design to functionality. Unfortunately this is only half of the battle when it comes to mobile apps. In order to generate results for your brand, you need to ensure it is highly-visible to your users so that the likelihood of downloads is significant. This means that it's crucial that you take certain steps to optimize your mobile app to appear in ranking charts for the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

Quantity & Consistency

Ultimately, you want your app to rank within the app store. More importantly, you want to maintain that ranking over time. It is wonderful to have a high ranking in app stores right upon the release of your app as it receives a surge of introductory popularity, but you want to grow your audience consistently over time rather than having it immediately flat-line after a brief boom in downloads. In order to initially rank, you need a certain number of downloads to occur within a given period of time. These quantities vary by category, as well as price. The more popular the category or the cheaper the app is to buy for consumers, the more downloads required to rank in a top position. For example, free apps dominate the app store and games remain the most popular category. To reach a rank on the list of the top 25 free games within the United States, you are going to need upwards of 50,000 daily downloads. Free social media and entertainment apps follow the gaming category in terms of popularity, and can require about 20,000 downloads to rank in the same parameters. Some of the less popular free categories such as medical, finance, and travel apps only need a couple of hundred, to a few thousand daily downloads to reach a ranking. These numbers continue to drop in the paid app categories, as the amount of competition is substantially reduced. While ranking on the top 25 overall free apps in the United States would need almost 80,000 daily downloads to make the cut, the paid list requires less than 10,000.

Encourage Reviews

Positive reviews from fans of your mobile app, perhaps declaring it a valuable download or saying it provides a great user-experience, are incredibly important to ranking in each app store. These "testimonials" tell other users that this app is worth downloading, which will help build consistent traffic and installs. Never purchase fake reviews just to increase the amount of buzz your app is receiving or you'll run the risk of having your app suspended entirely. Furthermore, organic reviews are far more valuable to your business than a fabricated one is because you can truly learn from it. If you see recurring commentaries that address one specific function, you have a general idea as to what elements are resonating best with users and which aren't performing up to par. Here are some helpful ways to get your audience to leave authentic reviews: Add a review plug in Chances are you won't get a review if you don't ask for it. Include a prompt that presents users with the opportunity to rate and review at some point within your app. Let the audience know how much you appreciate their input, and that it helps you to create and maintain the best possible experience for them. Proper timing Take the time to strategically plan when you want this prompt to appear in the app. You don't want it to pop up for the users the minute they open it, because it may be distracting and have a negative impact on their user experience. Remember, you want to try and get a GOOD review! Try presenting the review option to the audience after they have completed a task or accomplishment. This way the option is timed in conjunction with the user experience. Incentives, prizes, and contests Everyone loves free stuff. Offering incentives to the users who leave you a review can be a great way to increase the amount of individuals who actually choose to do it. Whether it be a coupon code, tangible prizes, or redeemable points to be used within the app, these little things can be just the added push needed for someone to recommend your app.

Clean Icon Design

The design you choose for your app icon is crucial. For many users, this is the only thing seen before making the decision to keep scrolling past your app or to clicking the download button. Use a design that is a clear representation of app, providing as much of a clue as possible as to what users will find once they install it. That being said, you don't want to make it overly-complex and too flashy that users are left unsure as to what the app does. Like most things, simplicity is best with the design of your app icon. Use vibrant colors and bold styles, but keep it clean looking and relevant to the purpose of your app. If you have a well-known or recognizable brand, use a simplified version of your logo as your icon.

Leverage Other Platforms

Don't forget about social media and its role in increasing app downloads. Keeping users engaged on any social platform that your audience is active on helps to build trust with your brand and develop a relationship with your customers. Use your social channels to tell a story and explain to your users what makes your brand unique. Don't make posts overly promotional or seemingly focused on only driving app downloads. Instead, show the value of your app and what your business has to offer. Utilize Twitter and Facebook to see how your audience is reacting to your app, start a conversation surrounding the product, or use it as a channel to communicate with customers who may have questions about your business. If you're not engaging with your users on a regular basis, you're going to have a hard time encouraging them to cross over and convert by downloading the app. If you already have a significant online presence through your website, leverage that as a way to encourage downloads. Have a certain page on your site explain the app, shows photos or videos of what the app does, and house directions with how to interact with it. Use links to direct users to the download page. Often times, users will consult with the website before downloading a product. Make sure that you're providing as much details as possible that show your app's value.

Regular Updates

updates-exampleAlways be looking for ways to improve your app. This helps ensure that your users are provided with a great experience and faced with as few errors as possible. Updates should be occurring at least once a month to improve the overall usability of your mobile app. Aside from users, this also sends a signal to the app stores that your brand is dedicated to improving the experience you offer, and is investing time and resources into constant, pro-active improvement. To highlight this, consider Snapchat as an example. There is a new, updated version of the app available on a regular basis. They are constantly adding new features, creating improvements, and fixing bugs to provide a better user experience for their customers. They pay attention to what their audience is critiquing about their product, and make adjustments in accordance with their suggestions. Snapchat users had a lot of strong opinions regarding the old "best friends" feature, in which other users could see the top three individuals that you corresponded with the most. Snapchat gathered this input and updated the feature in a new way that used various emojis to represent differing levels of interaction with the people on your list of contacts. To some users, this alteration may have meant nothing. However, it is a great example of how checking the pulse of your audience and updating your app in correspondence with their wants and needs can improve the user experience, and therefore the overall popularity and success of your app.

Screenshots and Descriptions

Descriptive visuals showing an "inside glimpse" of your app should be used for the screenshot section of the app stores. Include images that are clear representations as to what the user will expect if they download the app. Showing as much value as possible instills trust with your brand, and entices users to pursue a download. Don't choose poor-quality screenshots that lack a clear explanation as to what your app does. Focus on providing legitimate examples of what users will find after an install.
When it comes to your description, think about What terms are users searching for when they are looking for the need that your app fulfills? Think about the appropriate keywords that you want to focus on, and develop content that seamlessly incorporates those terms into the description. Take time to do some keyword research and see which words generally garner the most traffic or volume. Don't choose just any keyword just because it has high search volume - make sure it's accurate and incredibly relevant to your app. If you fail to show relevancy, you will lose brand credibility, and your downloads will suffer as a result.

Final Thoughts: Promoting Your App

Driving downloads to your mobile app isn't an easy task. However, by implementing these tips and best practices into a cohesive mobile strategy, you'll see an increase in downloads and app store rankings as well. Whatever marketing initiatives are working best for your brand across other platforms currently, consider integrating them into your mobile app strategy. Think about how your audience prefers to be reached and what tactics work best for targeting them. Quite often, both the iTunes App Store and Google Play change what they consider important for apps to feature. Whether it's keyword relevancy or the description of your app, make sure you're constantly staying up on industry trends in terms of what the app stores are including in their ranking factors, and update those aspects of your app as necessary. Ultimately, it's key to understand that growth from a mobile app can't be achieved with a poorly-designed app that provides no real value, so make sure that you have a high-quality product that fulfills the needs of your target audience.
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