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App Store Marketing – Indie Dev Marketing 101

“Indie Dev” can mean a lot of things. It could mean a team building the next mobile game platform, three guys building Crossy Road, or a single app developer trying to juggle building, designing and marketing a mobile app on their own.

What seems to define an “Indie Dev” is the lack of outside funding. You haven’t raised money, or are not employed by a company that raised money. You don’t have $100k to get rocking with some Facebook ads and CPI campaigns and you probably don’t have a huge web presence that you can direct to help promote your app.

Even if you did have a good chunk of cash to acquire users, you would be sending users into an app that hasn’t been optimized for engagement, retention, or monetization.

The question remains: How can we optimize our apps without users, while unable to acquire users without budget or some immediate expected return?


How about organic installs from app store traffic?

Building an amazing app isn’t enough. There are over 1.5 million apps in both the Apple and Google Play app stores waiting to be downloaded.

Marketing is expensive, time consuming and often the last thing indie developers want to be dealing with. If you are an indie developer wanting to get their app out in the world, app store optimization should be your plan for maximizing visibility, creating and optimizing an app store listing for traffic and organic user acquisition.

For so many reasons, positioning an app in the app stores with an optimized listing should be an indie developer’s very first marketing investment.

App store search has been estimated to drive 50-65% of app installs.



When Ankit Jain was head of Search and Discovery for Google Play, he shared, “For the average app, search actually makes up the vast majority of installs.”

He went on to say that 12 percent of daily active users (DAU) search for apps daily, 50 percent of DAU search for apps weekly and Google sees six million unique phrases searched monthly.

Similar to optimizing a website for organic traffic, optimizing your app listing for visibility (and conversion) in the app stores can be your very best user acquisition channel.


The Value of an Optimized App Listing

How valuable is an optimized app listing that connects your app to your target audience?

Fisku recently reported that user acquisition costs in excess of $2 per user, and over $3 per loyal user (someone who opens an app more than three times).

As more advertising budgets shift to mobile apps, expect the costs of acquiring users from mobile ads to trend higher. Other channels for acquiring users are similar to just about any other product, and you can find some great ideas and approaches in the book Traction.

What you will quickly find (or likely already know), is acquiring users either takes time or money, often both.

The goal is not to acquire users for free because time is not a “free” resource. The ultimate goal is to find a channel that provides the best ROI – however we define the “I”.

Optimizing an app for maximum visibility and routinely adjusting your app listing and app based on feedback from the market can create a long-term defendable position in each store.

Think of the perfect advertisement, with the perfect call to action, targeting ultra-relevant audience for your app. Conversion rates are through the roof, and because you have your ad optimized for your audience, you can expect a predictable return on your ad budget.

Now consider your app listing is the ad. It is a “no cost” ad. You have the perfect app listing, perfect call to action, targeting your ideal audience and conversion rates are through the roof, but your costs are fixed to your investment in optimization software or services, as opposed to variable on a cost per install basis.

That’s the power of an optimized listing and an investment in ASO, and why every app publisher, marketer, developer should start there.

ASO can be broken into 3 key activities:

  • Identifying target keywords and phrases
  • Creating an app listing that tells Apple and Google how to index your app in app store search results
  • Creating an app listing that is optimized for converting app store traffic to installs and users

Studies have shown the vast majority of app store search is for multi-word, feature-based phrases.

What are your app’s most essential, differentiating or unique features. How are people searching the app stores for these features?

The goal is to connect your app with potential users searching the app stores for the specific features your app delivers.

An optimized app listing tells Apple, Google and potential users what the most important features of your app are and what it should index for.

With the costs of acquiring users is up over $3 per individual, organic app store traffic and users are incredibly valuable as well.

App store optimization is a better way to connect to your target audience in the app stores than buying traffic. To provide a solid foundation for your app’s growth, start by building and continuing to optimize your app store listing.

When marketing budgets are tight, non-existent or time-intensive, ASO provides a channel for acquiring relevant users for a fraction of the cost of most ad campaigns, and delivers a better ROI. ASO provides a perfect starting point for indie developer to start their mobile app marketing.

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