App Marketing For Google Play: An In-Depth Look

Guest Post by Richard Buettner

There has always been a slight difference between acquiring Android users and iOS users. Many marketers have recommended targeting iPhone users to monetize apps and achieve a better ROI on marketing spending. However, the app marketing landscape is changing rapidly, and what was effective once might not be effective anymore. It’s time to take a closer look at how to promote your apps on Google Play. What is involved, and is the effort worth it?


Differences between Apple’s App Store and Google Play for App Monetization

Along with the Android 4.3 came the interesting announcement that the Google Store has hit the 1 million apps mark. (In comparison, Apple’s App store currently contains 900,000 apps.) The revenue per user on Google Play has gone up 2.5 times over the last year, which is certainly good news for app developers wanting to monetize their Android apps. And there’s more to come: one in every two tablets sold is Android, a statistic that forecasts additional revenue growth.

However, Google Play and the Apple App Stores do not earn equal revenues. According to Distimo (2013), the Apple flagship market USA generates a daily revenue of $1.1M by all applications in the top 200 grossing in Google Play. The daily revenue of the top 200 apps in the Apple App Store (both iPhone and iPad) is 4.6 times higher at $5.1M. The same report pointed out that, on the other hand, there are individual applications that made more revenues in Google Play than in the Apple App Store.

All in all there are big and growing opportunities for monetizing Android apps.

Google Play Store Tracking

As opposed to iOS, Android’s Native Application Tracking Code allows developers to collect user engagement data, which is very important for any kind of app promotion these days. With just a snippet of code, it’s possible to analyze the number of active users, from where in the world the application is being used, the adoption and usage of specific features, and crashes and exceptions as well as in-app purchases and transactions.

For marketing an app it is crucial to use any kind of tracking, so recommended is using the native Google one or one of the various tracking solution available for free or only little cost.

App Store Optimization for Google Play

App Store Optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a mobile app in the app stores. This strategy is crucial since 60% of all downloaded apps are triggered by app store searches. Searches are the primary means of organic, high-quality users. Organic users seek apps with a specific intention and download them without any advertising or incentives. These users are not only “free,” but are also much more likely to become loyal users than those who install apps after viewing ads.

In the Google Play Store there are more approaches and tools to gain organic users than in Apple’s App Store. The algorithms in both stores differ when it comes to searching and discovering apps, and Google’s history of complex search algorithms comes into play. Remarkably, 75% of organic downloads on Google Play originate from user searches. In iOS, on the other hand, the app rank determines the success of attracting organic downloads. A higher app rank translates to more organic downloads.

How can developers influence their app’s rank in search results? One method is by identifying the most searched for keywords and including them multiple times in meta tags like the app’s title and description. In Android, where rank upgrades are rather straightforward, it’s advisable to test different keywords and see which combinations lead to better results. Google Play uses the engagement rate (how frequently an app is opened and used) as well as the loyalty rate (how often users come back to the app) to rank apps in search result pages, so attracting loyal users and keeping the app de-installation rate low is another way to boost visibility.

Once users find an app, the next step is to convert the find into an install. The best practices are:

  • to provide fantastic screenshots (as with iOS)
  • to include a good explanatory and promotional video to be featured prominently in the Google Play store (an opportunity not available on iTunes)

Another observed trend is that inbound links to the app store from external sites increase an app’s search rank. Like all app store optimization trends, this pattern will become more verifiable as time goes on.

Social Media & Facebook App Install Ads

A couple of years ago when there were fewer apps in the stores, creating buzz for new apps through social media networks and communities was still possible. Nowadays, with 800-1000 new apps daily, this strategy has become somewhat laborious. To get the most out of your time and money, it’s more effective to rely on Facebook’s app install ads. They provide high-quality users due to Facebook’s excellent targeting opportunities, available almost nowhere else. To run a good Facebook campaign, the following approach is recommended:

  • Run test-campaigns of your ads: Set up a Facebook page for your app to test the click-through rate of your audience. That way you can make sure to have the best images and text (remember, Facebook app install ads show huge images in users’ mobile news feeds).
  • Text is as important as images: Facebook allows only 20% of its install ads [rb1] [sg2] to be filled with text, so this has to be used smartly and should include a good call-to-action statement.
  • Demographic targeting for higher CPIs: Age groups differ in CTR and CR for the ads, so you should split the campaign by age group to maximize conversion.
  • Tracking of effective CPI and CPA: Facebook offers a good tracking solution for their app installs ads, but there are lots of other tools available. Many apps are monetized by a freemium model, so the conversion (registration, in-app purchases, etc.) needs to be set up in the tracking tool.

Cost-Effective Advertising in Mobile Networks

There are many networks running proper advertising campaigns for acquiring new users (for instance, Sponsorpay!). Because there is a larger ad inventory available for Android than for iOS, the costs of running ad campaigns on Android are up to 50% lower than on iOS, making download acquisition more cost-effective.

As pointed out above, gaining organic users for Android also depends on the search rank of the app, which is influenced by downloads, engagement and loyalty. Achieving downloads is good, but getting loyal and high-quality users is better. In order to  gain these types of users, mobile ad networks do not only offer CPI (cost per install) campaigns, but also CPA (cost per action), CPE (cost per engagement), and CPV (cost per video watched) campaigns. These are all viable strategies to boost app discoverability by attracting the best possible user base that will lift your app rank in Google Play.


Richard Buettner has worked in app marketing since 2009. He manages App Marketing Agentur, based in London and Munich, and he frequently blogs about mobile app monetization and user acquisition.


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