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How to grow your app audience by boosting app discovery

Luca Filigheddu


App Store: 2 million apps. Google Play: 2.2 million apps.

Let those numbers sink in. Now ask yourself: What can a single publisher to do stand out from the crowd?

App discovery – the process of finding an app – is vital to the long-term success of an app. After all, unless people find your app and you grow your app audience, you can’t generate meaningful revenue.  That said, increasing app visibility and user acquisition can be hard, even for the seasoned app marketer.

In this post, we are going to look at the current challenges facing app discovery and suggest a way publishers can build an app audience by understanding what motivates people to find (and download!) their app.

Why is app discovery so challenging?

When we look at mobile audience growth, the mobile web is growing at a much quicker pace than mobile apps.


Comscore’s 2016 US Mobile App Report found that mobile web audiences are almost 3x the size and growing 2x as fast as app audiences. And this despite the fact that smartphone apps alone account for nearly half of all digital media time and 3 out of every 4 minutes on mobile in total.

What gives?

Despite the fact that app audiences are growing, it is inherently easier to grow an audience through the mobile web thanks to the current digital infrastructure. Linking to content in apps is more difficult due to their “walled garden” environment, making it hard to grow an audience with social referral and search.

To make matters even more challenging, mobile users are downloading fewer apps. While the average user will download 2 apps a month, nearly 50% of smartphone users won’t install a single one.


Considering the difficulty in driving organic and referral traffic combined with the tendency to download fewer apps, publishers need to communicate their app’s value proposition. But in which channels?

How do people discover apps?

For a long time the only way to find an app was to search for it in the app stores. This gave rise to app store optimizing (ASO) strategies that looked to increase your app ranking through keyword and conversion optimization.

App store search is fundamental to growing your app audience. In a recent report TUNE suggests that app store search accounts for as much as 67% of actual app discovery. However, the role that search plays in discovery often depends on the motivation a person has to download an app in the first place.


The data suggests that users who are already using a service are much more likely to use search to find an app than a direct method. For example, print magazine subscribers who are looking for your digital edition are more likely to search for it in the stores than click through a direct promotional link on your website. Therefore, optimizing your app store page for branded search should be a priority.

While the TUNE data shows the importance of search, Comscore has reason to believe that app store search may have peaked. Not surprisingly, the volume of apps in the store and challenges in effecting app ranking organically have increased the importance of marketing and advertising activities.


In order to succeed in competitive categories, publishers need to use social media, websites, digital ads and traditional media ads to grow their audience. Interestingly enough, by investing in paid acquisition and generating more downloads, publishers can trigger a rise in app ranking which can lead to greater visibility on the stores and increase search traffic.

What are the stores doing to help app discovery?

Understanding that search alone won’t grow you app audience, the app stores have recently introduced ways to help publishers increase app visibility.

On the ASO-front, Apple introduced new measures to raise the bar on the quality of apps found in the store by weeding out “problematic and abandoned” apps. They’ve also decided to shorten lengthy app names in an attempt to level the playing the field and reduce the usage of keyword stuffing.

While Apple has focused on weeding out the bad to reward publishers, Google has looked at ways to improve app discovery head on through the use of Collections. Google Play automatically creates contextual collections of new or complimentary apps to increase app visibility.

Moving to paid acquisition, both stores now offer ways to promote apps directly within the store search. Store search ads can help publishers that have low brand awareness and rely on generic search terms to be found.


google-play-ad Google Play App Ads (Source: Google)



apple-app-ads Apple App Store App Ads (Source: Apple)


Both the App Store and Google Play are making improvements to help publishers with app discovery but publishers can’t simply rely on the stores to do the job.

Strategies for driving app discovery

Publishers need to adopt a marketing strategy to increase app discovery and that means creating a user acquisition strategy. Adopting a user acquisition strategy is essential getting more people to visit your app store page – through both search and direct traffic – and download your app.

User acquisition can be divided into the following three categories:

1) App Store Optimization (ASO): As previously discusses, ASO is all about improving your ranking organically through keyword and conversion optimization so that you appear in search results and people are motivated to install your app. This includes optimizing your app name, description, icon, screenshots, ratings and reviews.

2) Paid: As the name suggests, paid user acquisition involves increasing downloads through digital app install advertising, like on Facebook, Instagram or through the Google Ad network.

3) Viral: Another form of direct marketing, viral strategies include word-of-mouth, in-app referral, social posts, website promotion, etc. Viral acquisition can also include bundling apps as part of other services (i.e. offering digital edition access as a part of a print subscription)

We won’t get into the all the tactics here, but luckily we wrote a free guide on how to create a user acquisition plan that will walk you though each of the categories above.

In the end, to overcome the challenges of app discovery it’s important that publishers reflect of what motivates their audience to download their app in order to craft a user acquisition strategy that is able to drive app store search and direct traffic to their app store page.

Are you ready to increase app discovery? Get your copy of the App Promotion & User Acquisition Guide today!

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