Getting Downloads: Marketing Your App Effectively

Author: James MarketingOctober 3, 2018

Let me start by saying marketing your app is the most important part of the process. Without getting downloads, it doesn’t matter what the app looks like or how functional it is. To be successful, you must have a marketing strategy defined.

At Devwiz, we have helped launch many apps, covering everything from the design and development to marketing strategy so we have seen many businesses struggle through these early stages.

Marketing Your App To the Right Users

Getting downloads is one thing but when marketing your app, you must look at the quality of your users. You need sticky users that frequent your app, share their experiences on social media and hopefully refer it to their friends. For this its really important that you build a community.

I will have to make a quick disclaimer: marketing your app effectively and getting downloads is only possible if you have validated your idea. You need to know that are building something the masses actually want to use. Also when you go through this process you will highlight your key user personas. Find out who will be your “innovators” as these will be your first adopters, who will in turn become leaders, driving the movement that is your app.

If you have checked these boxes, its time to look at the marketing channels that are on offer to you:

App Store Optimisation (ASO)

ASO is critical to marketing your app because it essentially where your prospective users land. Also the greater your ASO the higher your app will be in the rankings and thus the more organic downloads you will receive. This is a whole topic on its own but the main factors that affect this are:

1. Number of download

2. Quantity and quality of reviews

3. App name

4. Keywords

5. Content – text, screenshots and videos

6. Keeping the app updated

63% of apps tend to get discovered through app store searches. That search tends to make up the majority of quality installs made by said apps. This means if there is a bit of competition out there and you don’t optimise your app page, you’re going to be missing a big chunk of the pie.

Plus this is where the conversion happens. That means you can market your app effectively from an array of different channels but you can lose your prospects if this doesn’t look good. Videos are key!

App Reviews

Getting good app reviews is critical to getting downloads. Obviously the most effective place to get reviews is on the app store as well. Therefore I would highly recommend having a “feedback” function on your app to prompt your users to add a review on the app store. You can actually make this smart so that you log who uses the app frequently and ask them to review. Usually the more someone uses an app the more they like it. Also you could look at somehow incentivising the users to give you a review.

It should also be noted that when marketing your app, you should submit it to as many relevant review sites as possible. Here’s a massive list of potential sites for inspiration.

App Store Advertising

Apple semi-recently launched their own search advertising for the app store, which usually comes with $100 credit to “play” and find what works. Essentially it works a lot like SEM in that you pick search terms and get sponsored spots above the organic searches. I like add to add competitor search terms so when potential users search for your competitors, you get a spot above them.

Google have moved towards something that includes their whole network: Universal App Campaigns. Suffice to say this is a must for getting real users onboard. This is also great for the rankings. Google Ads uses AI so it can takes longer to get good flowing installs. Also the Cost per Install (CPI) is higher so you need to ensure that you have done the maths and the value per customer is higher than the cost of acquisition.

Social Media

Getting downloads and marketing your app effectively through social media

Getting Downloads Through Social Media

Social media campaigns work well for some apps and not others. Its a matter of understanding your potential user base and working out whether they spend their time online. For B2B for instance, LinkedIn should always be your first point of call. However it doesn’t do so well with B2C, which is ruled by Facebook. Anything with an emphasis on fitness or cooking should definitely have an Instagram Account and it doesn’t hurt to be on Twitter.


So you are on your preferred platforms, posting content and slowly getting followers. However you are not getting downloads. At this stage its time to leverage Social Media Advertising. This is where the real money is spent. You should setup A B testing with different messages and different imagery until you find what works. I would stick to facebook for B2C and LinkedIn for B2B.

Leveraging “Stories”

There has been a significant consumer shift toward the Stories format on Instagram and Facebook, as social users gravitate towards the more personal sharing format. Stories consumption is rising fast while news feeds decline. Instagram in particular have taken a huge share of Snapchats market, who originally made the Stories format so popular, especially in the 18-34 age group. This has been a major driver of Instagrams recent growth.

One thing to note is that, so far, businesses have been slow to make the move to Stories advertising, which presents a great opportunity for you to cut through the noise and competition on social media and get real cut-through for your app video. Getting in front of potential new users where they are increasingly spending their time is key and this format is full screen, high impact and plays with the sound on. The only limitation is that your video must be a maximum of 15 seconds… so keep it punchy, concise and focus on the features or benefits of your app that is most likely to get people talking.

Running Campaigns

No matter the platform, start with a budget of $500pm and scale up after your testing have highlighted the most effective route. If its not working keep the budget low and continue to test.

Also its very often a “team effort” from all your different marketing channels and platforms. For instance when you setup a campaign, do it with a concept in mind, targeting a user subset or a particular benefit. Then out of that campaign, create adverts on multiple platforms, share your content across all your social media and point it to one specific landing page. This is essential the makings of your sales funnel and you should be tracking all routes to the landing page to see what works and what doesn’t.

If I’m honest though I’d just outsource to a trusted provider. My go to for a boutique agency here in Oz is Walk Digital. A small skilled workforce is sometimes much better than a big cumbersome agency.


If you have something truly unique, make sure you get some case studies and get your product out there to the thought leaders and key journalists. I’m not gonna tell you how to do it, there are services for that (like I Do My Own PR) but its effective both pre and post launch.

If you go with someone that is going to do it all for you, I would say you would be spending upwards of $5k for the copy, the mailing lists and contact with the journalists over a month or two.

Other Channels

The list of potential ways to get downloads is a huge one so I cant go into detail for each individual service. Like most business, marketing your app is effective on some but not others. Its therefore really important that you do your research and have a well thought out marketing strategy in mind.

Below are other channels to consider:

  • Influencer Campaigns
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • SEO linking to a good website
  • Other forms of advertising
  • Youtube
  • Podcasts
  • Guest Posts

If doing the research and defining the strategy for marketing your app is something that you need help with, please feel free to get in contact and one of our specialists will be able to help.

Buying Downloads and Reviews

This is a contentious subject that I would like to explore. From my point of view, when you are desperate, there is a tendency to turn to methods such as these and you can get yourself into some trouble when doing so. Understanding what these services are and how they work gives you the knowledge of whether you should or shouldn’t use them.

How does it work?

There are services out there, which will go out and get you users that both download, install and review your app. Provided you don’t upset the algorithms, these numbers will show within your app store stats. This however is not anything like the above methods. Its not a matter of advertising a benefit and getting an interested party. Its more like an install “farm”. “Users” vary from bots and people with fake an array of fake accounts to incentivising real users to install thousands of apps a month on their phone. However you look at it the data is being skewed.

The reason people do it is because as above, getting downloads is integral to your App Store Optimisation (ASO); the process of pushing your app higher in the app store rankings.

However the problems you have are:

  1. Is the service real or a scam?
  2. Could this negatively effect my app store rankings?

Whats the risk?

What I will say is that using these companies is a risk. In the end its impossible to know exactly how they will impact your rankings because you cannot know how they go about getting their users.

You should defiantly not rely on these “buy download” models for obtaining quality users. It may be tempting to jump on and pay circa $0.05 to $2 per download but 9 times out of 10 the quality of user is poor if they are even real human beings. The one thing they can be good at is boosting your download numbers, which can if only temporarily move you up in the App Store rankings.

CAUTION: many of these services will be “bots” and the downloads are usually registered as desktop downloads, which have far less impact on the app store ranking compared to a real user. PLUS if the algorithms pick up that you are using a nefarious means to get downloads, it could end up negatively impacting your rankings or worse could get you removed from the app store completely.

Taking the risk….

If you can guarantee that you are buying real users on mobile, there should be a greater effect on the rankings AND if you move up in the rankings you will get more organic downloads.

Also if you can couple getting downloads with a slow stream of user reviews, you can really maximise the effect on your rankings.

Much like buying downloads, the question is will you be getting REAL user reviews. Apple in particular will penalise you for using bots. If you do choose to take a chance, don’t buy too many too frequently. You need to spread them out.

Also these last two points are critical: 1) Make sure you research the service because its your app on the line; and 2) Don’t dive in head first. Take baby steps to see how it works and analyse your results.

Tags: Marketing, Admin, App Reviews, App Store Optimization, Apple Ads, ASO, Buy Downloads, Buy Reviews, PR, Social Media, Universal Ads Campaign