App business can be lucrative. If you manage to build a loyal and rather large customer base, chances are you will be quite profitable. But how does mobile user acquisition work exactly?
In this article, we will go over everything you need to know to build a successful mobile app user acquisition strategy. After reading this guide, you will be able to start growing your mobile app business.
First thing first, what is mobile user acquisition? Mobile user acquisition is the process of acquiring new users for your app. It can be done through paid or organic means, and requires a combination of know-how, monitoring and optimization.
The first and obvious reason is revenue. No matter if your app provides in-app purchases, subscriptions or is directly a paid app, more users mean more revenue. It should be noted that not every user carries the same value for app marketers. By reaching the right people at the right time, you can find user’s with higher lifetime value. Basically, these users will generate more revenue compared to others.
Especially since the competition is increasing in the industry, creating and executing a solid user acquisition strategy for mobile apps is becoming more important each day. Thus user acquisition marketing is not only allowing app marketers to gain users but also differentiate themselves from competing apps.
Let’s start with some basic terminology. We can approach user acquisition in two ways. Strategies where you pay to have your ads or content distributed through different channels such as mobile ad networks or social media is considered to be paid user acquisition.
The most prominent advantage of paid user acquisition is the incredible reach it can allow for. Using mobile ad networks you can reach users from almost anywhere in the world. Paid user acquisition also let’s you establish brand awareness in the industry.
However, setting up a paid user acquisition strategy can be more complex than it appears. First of all, there is the need for a certain budget to be able to spread your ads. Additionally, producing effective creative content is yet another challenge. Especially for indie developers who do not have the workforce available to dedicate to their paid strategy, this approach may appear overwhelming at first.
But when combined with a solid organic strategy, paid user acquisition can yield results that would otherwise be impossible to attain.
Now that we covered what paid user acquisition is, let’s talk about organic growth. Without a doubt, any user acquisition strategy for apps should begin with App Store Optimization. It’s called organic because you technically do not need to pay anything to build your ASO strategy. However, as you will notice in the following section, using ASO tools such as MobileAction can make this process much easier and effective.
Social Media is also an effective way to grow your business. Having a strong brand presence across different platforms can increase your popularity significantly. Especially for brands who have a strong name before launching their app, promoting the app on social media can yield serious results. Being active on channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin can be productive.
Additionally, you can set up a website with a blog that produces regular content to increase brand awareness and drive organic traffic. Regularly sharing relevant and quality content will drive visitors to your blog hence your brand.
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What is App Store Optimization? In a nutshell, it is the practice of increasing your visibility in the App Stores and boosting your organic downloads.
For a second, imagine that you are searching for a keyword in the app stores. Remember how the apps are listed top to bottom for many pages? As you conduct ASO, your app will appear higher and higher on those search results.
You should note that 65% of downloads on the app store occur after a search. If you can present your app to these users when they conduct their search, there is a good chance that your app will get downloaded.
So why should you conduct App Store Optimization? First of all, ASO will allow you to find the right users. Remember that ASO will help you increase your visibility in the search results. If a user finds your app after searching for a term and downloads it, chances are that this user will have a high life-time value. In other words, they are likely to spend more money and time in your app compared to a user acquired through paid channels.
Another advantage of ASO is the cost. Paid mobile user acquisition generally requires deep pockets and the ability to maintain your spending to keep getting downloads. On the other hand, ASO can be done much much cheaper. Usually all you need is an ASO tool to ease the process and make it more streamlined.
Additionally, by conducting localization, you can adapt your strategy to different regions, building a brand presence all over the world. This will also allow you to increase your local rankings in different regions.
We will go through the phases of App Store Optimization through two steps. First, we will conduct keywords research to increase our visibility (the ranking of our app in the search results). After you get some users to view your product page, you will have to convince them to download your app. To achieve this, we will optimize your product page to increase your conversion rates (that is the ratio of people who download your app after visiting your product page).
The way to step up the ladder of the search results is through keyword optimization. By targeting the right keyword in the right places, you want to show the algorithm that your app is the one that should be displayed when a specific search is conducted.
Let’s start with the fields that are indexed for keywords. In terms of ASO, only those keywords that you target in these fields will be considered by the algorithm. In the App Store, your App Title, Subtitle and App Store Connect Keywords are the locations of interest. The keywords you use in these fields will directly affect your rankings.
In the Google Play Store, your short and long descriptions will also be searched for keywords. Especially in the long description, Keyword Density optimization is of critical importance for reaching success.
Now that you have the basic understanding of where to use your keywords, let’s move on to the actual research part. The first step is to identify competitors. Assume that you are trying to increase user acquisition for your puzzle app. People who use the search bar will do one of two things: Either they will search for a specific app (brand) or use generic keywords (keywords that are used to search for a broader range of apps).
Thus it is definite that your competitors will be ranking for the keyword ‘puzzle’. Simply taking a look at the apps that are organically ranking for this keyword will allow you to discover multiple competitors.
Through MobileAction’s Keyword Explorer page, let’s demonstrate our point.
Above are the first 4 apps that appear when a user searches for the keyword ‘puzzle’ in the United States. After you locate some competitors, you can proceed to do the same thing for their brand names. Targeting your competitors' brand name is a common strategy for ASO, making it likely for you to find further competition by using the names of other apps.
Let’s check out the app Jigsaw Puzzle in more detail.
Using a tool such as the Keyword Spy, you can easily check the keywords that your competitors are using. You should add all of the related keywords to your pool. Once you are done scouting for new keywords, then you can proceed to narrowing down your list and pick the keywords to include in your metadata. Repeat this process for multiple competitors.
Obviously, merely using the keywords that are used by your competitors is not enough to create a comprehensive keyword pool. An important part of ASO is identifying user intent. If you can find some long-tail keywords with rather low competition, you can really make an impact on your organic downloads.
For example, instead of ‘puzzle’, ‘puzzle games for kids’ can be an option as it will allow you to reach an even more specific audience. When it comes to finding such keywords, using ASO tools such as our Keyword Research product will produce much more accurate results compared to guessing.
As you can see there are many different versions of our seed keyword to test and try.
There is one more important thing to consider when conducting keyword optimization, which is localization. As with anything in life, different audiences will have different habits and a culture. This will be reflected in the app stores as well. As you keep growing your app, you will have to conduct ASO differently for different regions according to the context in each region.
After you create a keyword pool and make changes in your metadata, you can start seeing results within a couple weeks. When you start getting results, you should monitor, evaluate and readjust according to your performance.
Now that your app is getting more visitors, it is time to make sure that your product page is capable of closing the deal. In your product page, you will have both explanatory texts and visuals. Both of these items will serve to convert visitors into users.
In the App Store, we mentioned that your descriptions are not indexed for keywords. However this does not mean that you do not have to pay attention. Your description will be one of the first points of contact with your potential customers. In both stores, you should make sure that you emphasize your value propositions and why your app is different from others.
Your creative assets should also support your argument. Your app icon should capture attention, it should not be cluttered with text, and people who see your icon should be able to instantly recognize your brand.
Your screenshots have to display the interface of your app and clearly state some selling points. It also helps to create a flow between your screenshots as used by many apps. But keep in mind that most people will not go beyond the first couple of screenshots.
Mobile app user acquisition is all about testing and optimizing. You will be lucky to find the perfect combination on your first try. As Apple announced in WWDC 2021, the App Store will also allow for native A/B testing.
In addition to your keyword optimization, you will be able to test different app icons, subtitles, screenshots and previews. Make sure that you experiment and decide on your actions based on the data you have collected.
Before we move on to paid user acquisition, it should be mentioned that not all factors that affect ASO are in your direct control. For example, your ratings and reviews are important both for your organic rankings and conversions.
People will be much more likely to download your app if you have higher ratings. Also, reviews are a great way to collect feedback and improve your app, which is critical for app growth. By using a review analysis tool such as the one we provide in MobileAction, you can make this whole process more efficient.
The amount of downloads you receive and the performance of your app (bugs etc.) are also important for your ASO strategy. If you do not receive sufficient downloads for the keywords that you rank, it might result in losing your rankings as your app might be considered irrelevant to those keywords.
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Now that we have covered ASO, we can discuss some paid user acquisition channels. After you build a solid ASO strategy, starting to distribute ad content through various channels can boost your growth.
Every one of these channels have advantages and disadvantages. A comprehensive strategy that utilizes different channels can be extremely effective for growing your app.
Mobile ad networks make paid mobile user acquisition a lot easier to conduct. These platforms work by connecting ad publishers and advertisers. From the perspective of advertisers, through these channels you can easily present your creative content to a wide range of users. Some popular mobile ad networks are Unity, AdMob, Mopub, IronSource and Facebook.
Mobile ad networks are beneficial for both parties. Ad publishers are able to monetize their app by selling their app space while advertising apps are able to reach potential users through the purchase of this ad space
Apple Search Ads is one of the most popular user acquisition channels even though it is a relatively new one.
The basic problem in paid user acquisition is reaching the correct people at the right time. The ads you see while using apps are less effective than App Store Optimization for example. A person in the App Store searching for an app is more likely to download a new app compared to a user playing a game. That is why reaching an effective CTR and lowering acquisition costs is generally harder in paid channels.
Apple Search Ads combines the best qualities of paid and organic search. The ads that you pay to receive taps for appear in front of users who are using the search tab. This way advertisers are able to reach users when they are most likely to download an app.
Yet another reason for the rising popularity of Apple Search Ads is the deprecation of the IDFA. Now that it is harder to serve personalized ads to iOS users through other channels, Apple Search Ads will likely become one of the most effective user acquisition channels for app marketers.
Because advertisers can reach high-value and relevant audiences through Apple Search Ads, the conversion rates of this mobile ad network is impressive. While Apple Search Ads claims an average conversion rate of 50%, the benchmarks report from SearchAds.com indicates conversion rates might be even higher.
Apple Search Ads also allows for the serving of personalized ads and methods to increase conversion rates. App marketers are able to target demographics by location, gender, and sex. The Creative Sets feature enables the presentation of customized app screenshots to different search queries.
Imagine a scenario where you are working on the mobile user acquisition strategies for a travel app. This app includes flight booking, hotel reservation and travel guide features. If a user searches ‘book hotels’, through creative sets you can display screenshots where this feature is displayed. On the other hand, if your ad gets matched to a search query such as ‘flight tickets’, relevant screenshots will be presented. By serving the audience what they want, Creative Sets creates an effective method for increasing conversion rates.
Apple Search Ads also provides another way to enhance your mobile user acquisition tactics. Discovery Campaigns allow app marketers to discover new keywords to include in their Apple Search Ads campaigns as well as their metadata.
Discovery campaigns include two ad groups. One ad group has Broad Match turned on. In simple turns, this means that your ad can get matched to close variants of the keywords you target. For example, if you add the keyword ‘workout’ to your ad group, with Broad Match you can get featured in searches such as ‘workout for men’ or ‘easy workout’. By examining these search terms that you got matched to, you can discover new long-tail keywords with high user-intent.
The other ad group in your Discovery Campaign will have the Search Match feature turned on. Note that search match is not a keyword match type such as exact or broad but a separate feature. You do not need to add any keywords to your Search Match ad group. The Apple Search Ads algorithm will automatically match your ad to queries that it deems relevant. Just as your broad match ad group, Search Match will also allow you to discover new and effective (lower costs, higher conversions) keywords for your app.
But the beauty of the Search Match feature is that it allows you to find out what your app looks like in the eye of the search algorithm. This brings us to our next point.
App Store Optimization and Apple Search Ads can not be handled separately. If your organic rankings are low for the keywords that you are bidding on, not only your acquisition costs are likely to be higher than what they should be, but you might not be able to spend your budget at all.
As Apple Search Ads wants to maintain a level of user experience, simply paying more is not always enough to win auctions. Thus to gain impressions from certain keywords, make sure that your organic presence is also strong for them. This way you will be able to improve your Apple Search Ads ROI by utilizing App Store Optimization.
On the other hand, by discovering the keywords the algorithm thinks that your app is relevant to, you can utilize these keywords in your App Store Optimization strategy to improve your results and leverage the search mechanism of the store.
There are some paths you can follow to create efficient and effective ad content. As in every step of user acquisition marketing, data will be your best friend for this step as well. MobileAction’s Ad Intelligence . tool will provide you with everything you need to get ahead of your competitors.
There are different types of ads that you can distribute through mobile app ad networks. Certain kinds of these ads can be more effective depending on the app that you are advertising. That is why it is possible to observe some trends of ad type usage in specific genres.
Interstitial ads cover the entire screen. Users are generally able to skip the ad after a certain time period. The advantage of these ads is their ability to capture the users’ attention as they cover the whole screen.
In interstitial ads, you can display images, videos and interactive content.
Rewarded ads are probably the favorite ad type for users. As users are given in-app rewards, they are more likely to stay through the whole ad and pay attention compared to a video creative.
Playable ads are frequently used by gaming (especially casual) apps. In this ad format, users are able to interact with the ad, just as if they were actually using the app.
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Casual games usually have simple interfaces and mechanics. Thus, in a brief playable ad, these games are able to display most of their apps to potential users. If the users enjoy the UX, it is likely for them to install that app.
Banner ads are less intrusive compared to other ad types. Although it might be harder to get clicks out of them as they do not capture the attention as effectively as video or rewarded ads. However they might still be useful for branding purposes.
After you get started with your strategy, you will be soon thinking about additional ways on how to increase user acquisition even more. In addition to optimizing your current efforts, there are a few more things you can do.
In addition to impacting your ASO health, reviews are important for your brand image as well. Having a satisfied user base will only boost your app marketing efforts.
By responding to feedback on the App Stores, you can show that the app is being actively maintained. This also shows that the developers care about the user experience. As a bonus, some of these negative reviews may change following your feedback. It is generally advised to keep your ratings above 4 out of 5.
Reviews are also beneficial for the developers themselves. When you are too involved in certain processes, it is easy to become blind to flaws. Reviews will serve as additional sets of eyes, allowing you to improve your app.
The app industry is extremely dynamic. You constantly need to keep track of developments, announcements, trends, and more. This is true for both organic and paid growth efforts. Having a comprehensive app marketing tool such as MobileAction will make this process easier. Through 5 different products, you can find everything you need under one intuitive dashboard.
MobileAction will provide you with the necessary tools to build, improve and monitor your strategy. When it comes to paid growth and creative strategy, the Ad Intelligence tool will allow you to find competitors, analyze their creatives and build your own plan. Zoomob was able to uplift their CTR by %200 by using the Mobile Ad Intelligence of MobileAction.
If you are not ready yet for advertising campaigns, MobileAction’s ASO tool will be your best friend for increasing organic downloads. Through competitor and market intelligence, you will always be one step ahead of your competitors. AppGeneration significantly increased its authority in over 30 countries by using our keyword tools.
When it comes to Apple Search Ads, SearchAds.com is also at your service for scaling your campaigns. Through automation and research, you can lower costs while increasing downloads for your app. D2C R lowered its acquisition costs by more than 40% using SearchAds.com.
For every app marketing need you may have, we have the solutions. If you would like to join the MobileAction family and start growing your business at a pace that you did not think was possible, schedule a demo with our experts today!