Inbound Marketing for Apps

No one can deny the benefits of inbound marketing for SEO, with almost 90% of web traffic driven by search engines, content creation and social media.  And it’s all organic!  Inbound marketing is essential to building a lasting web business.  Your results can be clearly seen in real-time and you can see the difference search engines make in your own visitor logs.

But app publishers do not have it so easy.  Many app developers believe that that the only way to get organic traffic to their app is through the App Store itself.  So these developers worry App Store Optimization (ASO) and often pay little to web traffic.  App publishers do not see the need for inbound marketing because they see ASO as the only surefire way to increase sales of their apps.

If you check out the websites for ‘average’ apps (if they even have one) they are often quite basic with little content.  This is probably due to many app publishers’ build-it-and-they-will-come mentality.  When apps do have a web presence they often just have landing pages that direct the visitor to their App Store page and often look like the cover of a movie DVD with a banner title, a large image, a short caption and a link to the App Store page to purchase the app.  But how often do people purchase a DVD with no prior knowledge of it without at least turning to the back to get more information?  Funnily enough nowadays people will usually pull out their smart phone and get even more information before making their decision.

These basic websites that many apps use do not seem to realize that their websites provide the opportunity to pre-sell the benefits of their apps. They could be developing interest in their app before the prospective user goes to the actual app page rather than solely relying that their app will stand out from the rest at the App Store.

SEO…and also ASO!

App publishers should turn their focus to the web and think like web publishers to realize that people will not come to you if they do not know about your product and the most efficient way to get customers’ attention is through marketing  –  especially inbound marketing!  Relying solely on the App Store for discovery is not a sound strategy as there are over 700,000 apps fighting for visibility, and the number of apps is going to continue to skyrocket.

This is not to say to not pay attention to optimizing your mobile app on the App Store.  App Store Optimization (ASO) is most certainly essential because your app is going up against so many others.  But ASO has far less potential than what the web can offer with SEO.

This is what the App Store offers with a build-it-and-they-will-come strategy:

  • Title
  • Icon
  • Some keywords
  • Description
  • A few screen shots
  • User reviews


And this is what inbound marketing can offer you:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Email
  • Research/White Papers
  • Infographics
  • Social Networks
  • Webinars
  • Document Sharing
  • Word of Mouth
  • Podcasting
  • Q&A Sites
  • Type-In Traffic
  • Direct/Referring Links
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Forums
  • Online Video
  • Comment Marketing
  • Blogs & Blogging
  • News/Media/PR
  • Marketing & web analytics


It is clearly evident that internet marketing can offer much more to attract more downloads of apps. App developers should be creating websites that are worth visiting.  Build a site with a blog to engage with your users, create interesting content, get out on Twitter, Facebook, etc. to get exposure for your app out to the masses and show your potential users that your app is worth checking out.

I should state there are some great quality websites for apps out there, but while I have not checked out the 700,000+ apps to see their sites, I will safely assume that there are a great many more than are not so great and many apps that do not even have a website outside of the App Store.

Problems with inbound marketing for apps

The biggest problem with using inbound marketing for generating more app downloads is that it is much harder to determine what channels are driving higher conversions.  You can be blogging, writing killer content, engaging prospects through social media and email, etc. but basic web analytics tools such as Google Analytics will not show you how effective your various channels are in converting users to download the app.  The App Store will only provide the total number of app downloads, but you will not be able to tell what led to the user downloading your app.

There is a product called Tapstream that does provide information on the original inbound channels that drove conversions.  It allows app publishers to correlate referring URLs, keywords and even landing pages to give insight as to how each channel is generating conversations so that any necessary adjustments to improve channels can be made for ones that are not performing well.  The data will allow app developers to easily calculate the cost of customer acquisition (CoCA) and the customer lifetime value (LTV) for each inbound channel.  It will show how much it costs to acquire a new app user through blogging, content creation, social media, etc. vs. paid channels such as Google AdWords, and show which channels bring in the most valuable customers.

Measuring effectiveness and profitability of app marketing

The cost of customer acquisition (CoCA) is a great way to measure of the effectiveness of your internet marketing. CoCA is calculated by taking the cost of sales and marketing for a given period and dividing it by the number of customers you acquire during that period.  The lower the cost of acquiring a customer the better, but you also want to be bringing in the right customers, which is best measured by looking at the customer lifetime value (LTV). To have positive returns you will want to keep the CoCA below the LTV.  Once you have users downloading the app, you need to ensure you keep them engaged so they continue to use the app and you can maximize their worth to you.  Looking at the CoCA for different marketing channels will show which channels are the most effective for bringing in new customers.

Get more downloads with inbound marketing

Relying solely on a simple App Store listing will result in poor sales of your app because the marketplace is too overcrowded.  The likelihood of your app being discovered organically in the app store without any inbound marketing is going to be slim.  App publishers need to be implementing inbound marketing strategies to bring attention to their products.  You should review how effectively your various internet marketing channels are performing.  Spend more time/resources on channels that are driving more conversions and watch as downloads of your app increase over time.

SEO For Mobile Apps
Date Published: 12/21/2012

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