Have an App? The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing It Free

Apps are huge.

But you already knew that. But did you know just how big apps are?

Did you know that as of June 2015, more than 100 billion mobile apps had been downloaded from the Apple App Store alone?

Google Play? 65 billion.

These are pretty insane numbers. And get this: the world’s app obsession shows no signs of slowing down.

These numbers go up. And up. And up. And up.

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The world uses mobile devices.

And mobile devices use mobile apps.

Which makes mobile apps big business.

The estimated worldwide app revenue is predicted to hit $77 billion by 2017—more than double the $35 billion it reached in 2014.

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What does this mean for you?

If you’ve created your own app, you’ll want to claim your piece of the pie and cash in on it. (And if you haven’t created an app, you may want to give it some thought.)

Apps don’t sell themselves. In fact, app marketing is one of the hottest and most contested marketing battlegrounds of the marketing era.

With millions of apps, how do you stand above the crowd? How do you distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace in which your innovative idea has already been iterated a thousand times? How do you get your app to the front of the crowd, to the top of the search results?

And harder still, what’s the best way to go about promoting it if you’re on a tight budget?

Most app creators I know are startups—a few smart people with a killer idea but not much cash to show for it yet.

Is it possible to market your app free?

Download this step by step guide to do marketing for your app.

Thankfully, yes—it is.

Notice, however,

  • I didn’t say “easy;”
  • I didn’t say “quick.”

But free? Yep, I’ve got you covered.

Here’s a step-by-step formula I’ve found to be incredibly effective and that can get your app the exposure it needs to get major downloads.

If you’ve created an app, good for you. But that’s only the start. Once the app has been fully developed, you have a new full time job. Your job now is to market your app.

What’s my focus here? I want you to earn more money with your app.

Heck, I want you to create the next Instagram or Pokémon GO!

It’s all about the marketing.

Let’s dive in.

Start with app store optimization

App store optimization (ASO) may be somewhat of an overrated buzzword these days, but it’s an essential first step for promoting your app.

Because 63 percent of apps are found through app store searches, you’ll want to make sure that you’re adhering to some basic ASO principles.

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The story becomes even more intriguing when you look at these 2014 stats from MobileDevHQ. They asked survey respondents where they found the last app they downloaded.

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Boom. App store wins.

Obviously, when it comes to viral apps such as Pokémon GO, people usually hear about them online or through social networks. I don’t expect very many people to be searching for “virtual monster game” in the app store.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of app downloads happen because people are finding them through app store searches.

How do you “do” app store optimization?

Fortunately, the process is pretty straightforward and similar to standard SEO.

Some elements include:

  • choosing the right keywords
  • using a keyword in the title of the app (“apps with keywords in the title ranked on average 10.3 percent higher than those without a keyword in the title”)
  • creating an awesome description that’s catchy and fully encapsulates what your app is about
  • including a series of detailed screenshots so that potential users fully understand the features.

Optimizely advises you to address these five points:

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If you need a little direction, I recommend checking out this guide on ASO from Moz.

App store optimization is the process you should follow for both Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

There are, however, some significant differences between the two:

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Whatever you do, start with app store optimization.

It’s free. And it’s effective.

Get reviews

Social proof is the lifeblood of online marketing.

You can use it to enhance the perceived value of your app and to encourage more people to download it.

I know that I personally like to look at the overall rating as well as three or four user reviews before I download a new app.

If I see that it has an overwhelming number of positive reviews, it probably means that it’s worth my time, and I feel much more comfortable clicking “Install.”

If your app has little to no feedback, I suggest you ask for app reviews.

Ratings and reviews are huge factors in the success of your app. Just take a look:

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If your app has a one-star rating, only around 10% of consumers would consider downloading it. If, by contrast, your app has a five-star rating, 100% of consumers would consider downloading it.

The brutal fact of app marketing is this: If you have low rankings, you won’t get ranked, and you wont’ get downloads.

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Be sure to provide notifications to app users, encouraging them to review the app as they use it.

There are numerous websites where you can obtain legitimate reviews, many of which are free. Check out this list for an overview.

Create an app landing page

Once you’ve got the nuts and bolts taken care of, I suggest building a landing page specifically for your app to add to your site.

This might include a few screen shots, some positive reviews, or even a brief video tutorial of how it works. It doesn’t need to be anything over the top. Quite frankly, it’s best to keep it simple.

Below are some examples of app landing pages.

This landing page showcases the functionality of the app while conveying the mood and sense of the app through colors and images:

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Vonage’s app download page allows you to “learn more” but also gives you an easy way to download the app for your specific country.

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Foursquare’s app provides that simple interface with the same SMS download option that Vonage provides.

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Some of the best mobile apps usually display a picture of a phone with a screenshot of the app in use. This kind of imagery sends a message. It says “this is an app” and “this is what the app looks like.”

If you create a landing page for your app, I suggest you follow that example—a phone with a screenshot of the app in use.

Here’s the landing page for Everest:

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I like the simplicity and functionality of this weather app:

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If you’re already generating a considerable amount of traffic, you can turn casual visitors into app users without going to a whole lot of trouble.

Place download links on your website

You can capitalize on your site’s traffic by simply creating download links to your app and placing them on your site.

A logical location would be right next to your social media links. Above the fold is ideal.

With hardly any effort, you can bring some considerable attention to your app by leveraging the existing traffic you’re generating.

Make sure you use the standard download images. Most users have been conditioned to recognize these icons. When they glance at your website, they’ll instantly notice these buttons and click and convert.

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Reach out to tech publications

In my opinion, positive press is one of the best ways to jumpstart a company or, in this case, an app.

Imagine if your app could get a positive mention on a place such as Mashable!

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If you want to take your app from relative obscurity to a global audience, tech publications are just the ticket.

But to be totally honest, this is by no means a cakewalk, especially if you are targeting big name publications. But it’s definitely feasible with a little persistence.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Research tech publications and any other media outlets relevant to your niche. This post has some examples.
  2. Develop a pitch for an article that will feature your app while providing value for a publication’s target audience.
  3. Contact editors.

I will say that most editors are incredibly busy, so it may take some time to get a response (a week or more isn’t uncommon).

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get an instant response. Just keep at it until you break through.

Keep sending emails, and keep following up.

If you can get your app featured on a site such as TechCrunch or Mashable, the effort you put in can pay handsome dividends.

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For starters, I suggest you use this list from Spacechimp as a source of places to get reviews and mentions.

This method is totally free. But it does take some serious time.

Reach out to influencers

While guest blogging may not have quite the same impact as a write-up in a tech publication, this route tends to be easier and can still get significant results.

The key here is to perform some research and find a handful of blogs that are related to the niche your app is in and that have an audience that would be interested in it.

For instance, a productivity app might reach out to Lifehacker to see whether they can get featured in the annual Lifehacker Pack.

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You’ll want to follow the same basic formula that you would for reaching out to a tech publication and develop a quality pitch that a blogger can’t say no to.

Just make sure you fully familiarize yourself with their style and tone first.

Promote on social media

If you’ve already got a sizable audience that’s dialed in, you should be able to gain some decent exposure.

In this case, simply promote your app directly, or post links to articles featuring your app.

If your audience isn’t large enough to help you promote the app, I recommend contacting relevant influencers to see if they’d be willing to share your app with their followers.

Sometimes, this is all it takes to crank up your exposure exponentially.

However, I’ve found that this is usually a numbers game, so you’ll want to reach out to at least five influencers.

Conclusion

With “smartphone users spending 89 percent of their mobile media time using mobile apps,” there’s plenty of opportunity.

Even if you’re on an extremely limited marketing budget, you can still promote your app and bring it to the mainstream.

By following these steps, you can successfully reach your demographic and maximize your number of downloads.

Can you think of any other effective ways to promote an app on a shoestring budget?

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Comments

  1. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the wonderful article. How about promoting an app of your own blog? I run an education niche blog and getting my mobile app done in next few days. I would like to list it on Google Play store. Do I need any special marketing strategy as I don’t think many people will be searching for an distance education app on play store.

    Regards
    Tauseef Alam

  2. Saurabh Kulkarni :

    Thanks for the practical tips, Neil.

  3. Guntaka Subba Reddy :

    Hai Neil Awesome Article as you did always and your strategies are new and I will implement all these strategies for the app which we are going to release next summer . Wish me Good Luck and keep going with wonderful articles like this .

    • Good luck and let me know how it goes!

      • App marketing is hard. Really hard.

        Finding people to download your apps is a tedious job especially when you are selling your app for premium price.

        Unless you position yourself or grab some quick traction for your app online, it’s almost impossible to grow your downloads. Fortunately Google Playstore allows you change your meta description of the app any time you want.

        That gives you some quick ideas on what to use by testing a wide range of copies in your meta description of the app.

        That’s so much useful Neil!

  4. Hi Neil Sir,

    You are always great this time again you rocked with this awesome guide. yeah! sure i will try once and will apply all your strategies which you used thee and i am sure as always your tips will work for me.

    Thanks 🙂

  5. WoW! This is amazing step by step guide related to marketing . Neil Sir specially i am your big fan because your queries related to marketing always be helpful for me and happy to see this time great deep researched guide specially by you.

    Cheers!

  6. Thanks for the great article. Do you have any advice on how to select a good app developer? There is a massive range out there and its difficult to figure out the difference?

    • It’s tough Ray, you just have to learn through the experience of working with them. Obviously make sure they have a portfolio of projects you like

  7. Steven Shelton :

    The time for this article couldn’t have been better.
    Neil Patel consistently has current and relevant advice in the industry.
    United Games is set to release the worlds premier interactive sports app.
    You heard it here first.

  8. Dame Neil,

    You deserve an olympic medal for this post. I have not seen App Development so well unpacked.

    I think of an APP as a product and so everything you would do to promote a product you should actually do for your APP.

    Thanks again hombre

  9. Really nice article Neil!

    I don’t have an app to promote, but some potential clients do, so this has been a very interesting read for me, and I’ve picked up some useful tips for sure.

    I’d love a follow up post at some point about how to promote an app for a low budget, instead of no budget, as I bet you’ve got some great ideas for this too.

    Anyway, as always, I’m loving your work.

    • Thanks for the suggestion Alex, I’ll keep that in mind

    • Steven Shelton :

      United Games is launching an app through affiliate marketing.
      First time it’s ever been done.
      You can get involved if you want.
      Or preregister for free and be the first to check it out.
      Gaming Apps generate the most revenue, between 500k and 1.5 mill per day.
      An interactive sports app will shatter those numbers 🙂

  10. Wojtek Szywalski :

    Greetings Neil,

    Dude, you cover all the most important things in your article. ASO is a very important aspect of the wider app marketing tactics. Sometimes very good app marketing attempts are being wasted because the App Store’s page is not well managed. Simply speaking app developers can not afford not to optimize their App Store presence.

    I’d like to share with you real numbers that comes from one of our publisher’s app (I work for PressPad and we do apps mostly for magazine publishers).

    Sometime ago I was quite sceptical about ASO but the time has come to outsource it to external company or do it in-house. We did that ourselves and I decided to share what we’d learnt in this report http://blog.presspadapp.com/app-store-optimization-aso-report/ – Usually ASO companies don’t share real numbers but PressPad is not an ASO company 🙂

    Anyway I believe that everyone interested in promoting their app will be able to leverage their own App Store presence implementing our ASO process. Hope that you don’t mind for leaving this link over here. If you’ll find our process interesting please feel free to link us from your original article 🙂

    Last but not least. We’re on the verge of unveiling new product. A mobile app for WordPress bloggers. The main purpose of this app (currently in beta) is to promote new articles among non-subscribers and increase reach of the App Store users. Would you like to try it? I’ll be glad to give it away for you.

    What do you think Neil about trying our app for your blog?

    • Looks like you guys build an interesting process. You can send me some more info about it neil@ neilpatel.com. I’ll take a look at let you know.

  11. Hi Neil, please try to publish a simple guide on how to convert a WP blog into a mobile app.

  12. Great Post Neil. It Is really Valuable post.

  13. You are always great this time again you rocked with this awesome guide.

  14. Devender Kumar :

    Is there any way or tool to create an app for our blogs without any developer. we are running a news based website on entertainment niche, so we update it regularly everyday 3,4 times. we have good reader base. we want to try an app for that blog.

    • Why not use a developer? You can hire one on upwork in your price range

    • Yes there is. We create native iOS apps from WordPress blogs and news sites. Contact me Devender if you’re interested to hear more wojtek@ presspadapp.com

  15. Hi Neil,

    These are superb tips and I would like to point out the value of reaching top publication sites. It’s one of the best ways to boost your app exposure, especially after your app’s launch. Google and Apple always give a ranking boost to new apps and reaching out authors and editors can really help your app stick on the chart. Of course, proper app store optimization is a must.

    Would you mind if I shamefully suggest to you one of my articles? No butthurt feelings whether you like it or not. I always want some criticism on my articles since I’m not a native English writer (I haz worst writing English skills).

    What I want to suggest is “12 Tips To Pitch For App Review And Email Pitch Samples.” It’s not perfect (especially the grammar), but it has some good images like infographic and also a real example email (template) from various blogs. Here is the link: https://www.appmarketingboost.com/app-review-pitch-tips-samples/

    I also want to point out that I also have some list of sites to reach out, it’s hideous, but I always update it when Mozscape updates. The complete list has 250+ sites, but only 99 sites are made public and required email subscription for the rest. I don’t have an ebook or free stuff to share to build an email list, LOL sorry about that.

    Thanks Neil and stay awesome,
    Carl,

    P.S I really want to email you about this, but I think you always lurk around comment section.

  16. Thanks a lot Neil,

    Is it possible to share some advice about how to market a software?

    • How are you promoting your software now?

      • That was my question for you 🙂 How to promote the software?
        I followed your $100k challenge, and I was thinking about doing similar thing. Content marketing. Get traffic, then sell the software. I also thought about affiliates.

        The problem is the competition. There are many compagnies who sell similar software. How can I attract and convert buying customers through digital marketing?

        • Are you blogging?

          • I’m going to be blogging when I launch the product.

            • I’m planning to write good content about my industry. Create a facebook fan page with a lot of fans.
              I’m also thinking about affiliate programs.
              But for a B2B product in a small niche, as you know, it’s hard to get a lot of traffic.

              How can I grow my business quickly, knowing that there are a lot of competitors.

              Many thanks in advance, Neil.

  17. Thank you for the tips Neil. I have long plans of creating a mobile app for blog updates. Do you have a recommended service provider or program ?

  18. akash rathore :

    Thanks a lot Neil for the article. It will help me a lot and your infographic is really awesome.

  19. thanks Neil i working on an app, this month and this post came just in time thanks

  20. A very nice article Neil. Very practical insights which dont require much money. It will be very helpful when I launch my apps.

  21. Thanks for the practical tips, Neil.

  22. Dude, you cover all the most important things in your article.

  23. Thank you for sharing knowledge , i really like to learn more about marketing and how to market the apps .. receive my greeting

  24. Uthman saheed :

    Honestly, this is a serious task than I could ever expected. But I think capitalizing on your blog traffic as app marketing strategy will work better.

    Your readers are already familiar with your content, so they won’t want to miss. Thanks for this post.

  25. Quite an often reader here… Nice article Neil 🙂

    We have created an appointment scheduling app, we have a marketing plan, already app store text is ready, etc. We want it to go worldwide…

    But I still have 2 big questions:

    1.) SEO would be a great channel, but since we want it to go worldwide we think that it will require a lot of resources to create that much content in multiple languages.

    2.) Should we focus one country at a time?

    Landing page for our app is: http://www.bindie.com , would like to know your thoughts on it 🙂

    • 1. No, just start off with a blog and write in english. Best way to get started
      2. Yes, start in 1 country first

  26. Great Post Neil. It Is really Valuable post.

  27. Awesome, thanks for sharing this article

  28. Hi Neil! Great post as always. I was wondering, if you can recommend a free app builder for wordpress-websites. There are so many different solutions, that I don’t know, where to start!

  29. Hi Neil, me and my friend have created a dating app, specialising in local close proximity within 1 mile range dating. Can you give us any helpful marketing advice where to start ? As we have very basic knowledge on marketing. Many thanks
    Saj

  30. Great post Neil. i’m your daily reader and love to read your blogs. I am a digital marketing executive by profession. i did SEO for many website but till now i’m not getting hands of experience on APP SEO. this post is goping to help me lot. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Hi Neil how are you ? Thanks a lot for sharing such a important article regarding app , its very informative and useful , and the best part is that you covered all the important points . Thanks a lot for sharing .

  32. Wojtek Szywalski :

    Hey Neil,
    People left great comments to your great article. Congratulations! By the way, you asked me to email you. And I did. Can you please reply to my email?

    Thanks

    Wojtek

  33. This article has really helped in doing the App store optimization for the apps that we create for our clients and your other article helped us to get the number of downloads ”http://neilpatel.com/2016/09/04/how-to-drive-app-installs-using-google-adwords/” . Thanks Neil once again

  34. Great article. Thanks for sharing it. In my views, there are many ways to promote an app. You can do it by using various mobile app advertising portals or by using App Install Platforms like ladoooinstalls. They offers great way to promote an app & to increase app downloads. These mediums are very convenient to get connected to your intended audience in an effective way every time. It help to advertise your apps to the entire world.

  35. Du lich Tet nguyen Dan :

    Thank you for sharing knowledge , i really like to learn more about marketing and how to market the apps .. receive my greeting

  36. Cong ty Team Building :

    A very nice article Neil. Very practical insights which dont require much money. It will be very helpful when I launch my apps.

  37. Thue Xe Nha Trang :

    Thanks for the practical tips, Neil.

  38. This article could help websites having some issues with traffic

  39. Laurence @ Ingic :

    Great step Neil Patel it is helpful for me.i am learning process develop apps.I am big fan one day i will meet you.

  40. Hi Neil! Great post as always. I was wondering, if you can recommend a free app builder for wordpress-websites.

  41. Thanks Neil for this app marketing guide, I will use this guide for my app. My profession is mobile app company and it’s very beneficial for me. http://saigalmedia.ca

  42. thanks patel

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