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You MUST market your new Android app

January 23, 2012

Brian

Alright, that’s an exaggeration.  If your app matches highly-searched keywords that don’t already have a bunch of competition, you already have obscenely popular apps (from which the Market can link to your new app), and you have such broad brand recognition that people are already searching for your app, you might be okay just by covering all of the bases in the Android Market upload form (screenshots, icons, video) and letting people find you.  For the rest of us, marketing a new app is not optional.

Things used to be different.  In February 2009, I put out a slot machine game called Beat The Joker Slots.  It’s a fun game to pass a few minutes, but it’s no Cut The Rope.  With no marketing effort to speak of, it managed around 500 (free) downloads per day, and based largely on early momentum, it has over 425,000 downloads today.

What changed?  Back then, there were a total of 34 games in the Cards and Casino category, and Android users had iPhone app envy.  There was a large audience keeping an eye on the “Just In” section, willing to try out just about anything that came out.  Fast forward a few years, and the “Just In” section is in disarray.  App spammers flooded the page with 100s of near-identical apps through the week just to stay on top of the list.  Google finally gave up on the concept in August 2011, emphasizing a new “Top New” section while neglecting to mention anything about the “Just In” section it replaced.  The good news is that excellent new apps have less app spam clutter to fight through.  The bad news is you have to get some traction in the first place to make your way there.

It’s now frighteningly easy to for your new app to fall in the forest with no one there to hear it. You need to be proactive about getting the word out if you want any chance to get exposure in the Market.  There are a lot of free ways to manage this, like*:

  • Announce on your website
  • Send out an email to your email list (which is opt-in only, right?)
  • Get in touch with bloggers whose audience would be interested in your app and ask them to review it
  • Promote with your company social media presence
  • Promote with house ads in any other app you have published
  • Sprinkle search keywords throughout your Market listing, but be reasonable about it so you don’t get banned

That still might not be enough, unless you’ve been especially diligent in laying the groundwork to build those communications channels into something powerful.  I have been reeling from just such a launch dud the last few days.  I put of Hoofit on Friday, and while it has been well-received so far, it has been well-received by its 19 total users.  Ouch.  I did everything from above that I could, using my websites, social media presence, house ads, and relevent keywords.  I may have a blog post or two in the works, but I’m not counting on it.  It looks like if I really want this app to get noticed, I’ll need to pay an ad network to help me get there.  To that end, expect my next post to report on some test runs with different ad networks.

Do you have any additional suggestions on how to market a new app?  Leave me a comment.

*You’ll notice I left out general-purpose app review sites.  I haven’t heard of any good success stories from these.  The most popular ones tend not to want to consider your app review request, the least popular ones won’t drive any traffic, and the ones in the middle might charge you for an “expedited review.”

UPDATE I’ve heard from other developers that Just In, which is still shown on older versions of the Market, is still making a difference for their download numbers.  Of course, this should become less and less the case as more users go to phones with the updated Market.

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