Android App Rank Boost Tip #3

In my last post I mentioned our app launch process.  And, while I won’t be giving away all the details (I’ve got to keep some competitive advantage, right?), I’m going to share some of the launch rank boost tips we’ve discovered.

It’s important to understand that your launch rank is a very important metric.

Done right, it can really set the stage for a phenomenal product rollout and significantly improved long-term app ranking.

Done wrong, you might be tricked into thinking the first 30 days of your app’s general availability aren’t all that different from the rest.

And that would be a mistake.

Here’s why…

You want (need?) all the help you can get with your app rank and distribution.  And there just aren’t all that many times when Google will come out and volunteer to help your cause.  But your app launch is one of those times.  And, frankly, you’d be a fool not to let them.

Google has a lot of “Top” lists in Google Play.  Top Free, Top Paid, Best Selling Games, etc.  If you’ve ever been on one of these lists, you know the ridiculous turbo-boost it can give your app.  Ridiculous.

And the value of getting on one of those lists is actually compounded by several factors.  For example, all those lists are syndicated on other sites all over the web.  You get massive link mojo coming back to your app’s listing.

And the higher you climb one of those lists, the higher you’ll climb all of the lists (I might come back and explain this more in a future post).  So getting on your first list is disproportionately powerful.

And you’ll know as soon as you show up on a top list.  Because your install chart will hockey-stick.  And it’s awesome.

So how do you get some of that goodness for your little app?  Well, the unfortunate answer is that mostly you don’t.  Most of those top lists are simply untouchable by the average developer.  It’s lightning in a bottle.  And it’s simple math.

This morning, according to AppBrain, there are 807,648 apps in the Google Play market.  Let’s say there are roughly 40 different top lists you can show up on in the market.  And let’s say the reasonable search depth of each list is 50 apps.  And, for the sake of simplicity, let’s say that every app listed is unique (which isn’t even close to true… which is a secret I’ll leave you to figure out for yourself).

The back of the napkin says there are, at most, 2,000 promoted app spots available in Play at any given time.  And, realistically, it ends up being nowhere near that high.  Which gives you less than 1/4 of 1 percent (0.25%) – at best – chance of being on a top list.

Depressing, right?

Here’s the good news…

There are 2 of those lists that are amazingly easy to get on.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that I could get an app on either of these two lists virtually at will.

One of the “easy” lists is the trending apps.  The bad news is, it’s also very fickle.  Easy to get on, easy to get off.  Knowing that could help shape your marketing efforts in the future (hint).  But it’s not what I’m going to talk about today.

Today I’m going to talk about the other easy list… Top New.  Specifically, Top New Free… since that’s where my apps typically go.

Here’s what you need to know, in a nutshell, about the Top New lists…

  • You get 30 days.  Period.  That means it’s critical to plan your launch and time it right.  Wasting days is a no, no.  Use your time wisely and efficiently.
  • You’ll almost certainly need to “seed” your traffic for 2 or 3 days in the beginning.  This can be paid traffic (not incentivized… here’s why) or “house” traffic coming from other apps.
  • If you do it right, once you’re on the list you’ll typically stay on the list – and move up the list – for the duration of your “new” status.  That’s why you can’t afford to waste time getting on the list.  If you can get on the list in 2 days, you’ll spend the next 28 moving up the list and driving more installs and visibility.
  • List leaders *always* graduate!  This is probably the most exciting part of this category.  You’re not going to knock Minecraft, or Plants vs. Zombies, or Where’s My Water off the top of the games lists.  But with the right app and the right strategy, you can dominate the Top New categories.
  • It doesn’t take a lot of installs to hit the list.  The fact is, most new apps get zero traction.  And few publishers know how to properly launch an app.  So a really low bar is set to get there.  Knowing just a little can gain you a lot.

Here are my ultra-simple tips for getting on – and climbing – the Top New Free category…

  1. Ditch the revenue.  Remember, you only have 30 days to climb this list and get all the side-benefits of being on it.  That’s rank, organic visibility, syndicated links to your listing, etc.  So, when you launch your app, don’t be greedyGet rid of all advertising and monetization.  Consider it an investment in your future app rank.  Your goal at launch is to drive your 30-day ranking.  That’s it.  Don’t be distracted by future goals (which would be revenue).  A solid launch will pay you back many times over.
  2. Eliminate the friction.  As I mentioned in my app rank boost tip #2, sticky installs are critically important at launch.  If you don’t need a EULA presentation (since you eliminated ads), remove it.  If you can avoid it (at least at launch), don’t require the user to create accounts, jump through hoops, or do anything not related to them engaging with your product.  These early users are disproportionately influential to your app’s rank and future.  Give them the red carpet treatment.
  3. Spread the word.  Make it stupid-easy for your users to share your app and brag about it.  For a quick fix, use the built-in Android sharing mechanisms.  Don’t interrupt any processes in your app, but be aggressive in promoting your sharing feature.  If you can, reward your users for sharing.  Praise them for sharing.  And, importantly, *ASK* them to share.  Try and do it at opportune times that are not disruptive, but are likely to elicit the response you want… i.e. after a game level completion, or after a successful task completion.
  4. Boost your rating.  Much like sharing, it’s critical that you boost your rating now.  It serves at least 2 purposes.  First, better ratings means better rankings.  And more ratings means better rankings.  So you already have 2 big wins.  However, this also sets you up nicely for the future.  At some point you’re going to turn all those ads back on.  Or introduce direct monetization.  And people are going to complain about it.  Your app launch is when you want to create an avalanche of 4- and 5-star ratings for your app.  This is another reason why you roll out the red carpet for launch users.  You want to bank as much positive feedback as possible.  I have apps that I launched like this that would be virtually impossible to knock below a 4.7 rating.  The crush of early 5-star ratings is that powerful.  Like sharing, you *must ASK for ratings*.  I’ll share my process in another post.  But it’s easy to figure out.  Also – just a tip – don’t ever ask for a review on the first run.  Users will rate you poorly even if they like the app.
  5. Respond.  Google Play lets you respond to reviews.  Do it.  For one, I’m convinced that it scores bonus points with Google (although I have no empirical evidence to back that up).  Two, it *significantly* boosts trust with current and future users.  And three, in keeping with the red carpet theme, it shows your users the love they crave (and deserve).  And they’ll respond.  I’ve turned around dozens of 1- and 2-star rating just by acknowledging a user’s frustration (I didn’t even fix it).  They want to be heard.  Hear them.  And whatever you do, don’t ever imply the user is stupid, or wrong, or unreasonable… even though users are often stupid, and wrong, and unreasonable.  Be accountable.  Be honest.  Be real.  You users will appreciate and respond positively.

That’s about it.  Of course, I’m assuming you have an app that provides some value and is of reasonable quality.  But follow those steps, seed your initial app distribution (usually you don’t need more than 3 days), and welcome to the Top New Free.

Oh… and one last note.  When you remove all your ads and monetization, and any other friction from your launch app, *DO NOT* remove the required permissions.  Adding permissions is death to your app’s momentum.  Avoid it at all costs.  Fortunately, Google has made this a little better with recent Play updates… but plan ahead for any future monetization points when you launch.

5 Comments Android App Rank Boost Tip #3

  1. mil

    Hi, great article. However, I would like to ask you one important thing – you are writing, that “It doesn’t take a lot of installs to hit the list. (top new free)”. Can you provide some numbers? I know it is and always be just an estimate, but it is crucial to know at least rough numbers. Like 1000 installs per day, 10 000 installs per day, 50 000 installs per day? I know that numbers in different categories are different, I just want a rough estimation…Many thanks!

    1. Matt

      Good question! As you already mention, the numbers vary category-to-category, and day-to-day. Remember, you’re competing against other new apps at the time. So there are some times of year when it’s more competitive than others. And, obviously, different categories will have radically different profiles. So there’s a lot to take into account.

      After all that, however, the good news is that most app authors absolutely suck at launching their app (although, as a whole, they’re getting better). By the time they get any traction, they’re either already outside the “new” window, or close to it. So getting on a categorical TNF list is generally pretty easy. But the requirements vary wildly.

      For example, we have 2 apps currently on categorical TNF lists. One is a word game. It gets about 60-70 installs / day (it was a dev experiment… and there was no promotion for it). That’s good enough for a top 25 TNF spot in its category. However, we also have an internally promoted app (only house ads running to it) that gets 700 installs / day. But it’s in the much more competitive personalization category. It’s on the TNF list… but only in the top 140.

      To make the general TNF list, you’ll typically need at least low x,xxx installs. Our personalization app isn’t on the general list with its 700 daily installs.

      1. mil

        Hi Matt, thanks for infos. My app is in Productivity category, so it will probably need at least (tens of) thousands downloads to get into TNF 🙂

        Btw, do you think that buying like 10 000 installs and spent them during like 2 or 3 days is better than having for example 10 000 installs in 1 single day? I am not thinking about longer interval than 3 days, as you are saying in article than 2 or 3 days are usually enough.

        PS: I have few quite successful apps (most successful app already reached almost 1 million downloads) so if you want to exchange some info, let me please contact on you (mail, skype, anything), I am right now experimenting with some very interesting methods of promotion and I think it would be great for both to share some tips.

        1. Matt

          Email sent.

          It’s hard to answer your question, for sure, since I don’t know your particular circumstance. So the best I can do is offer what my likely strategy would be for one of my apps.

          For a short burst of traffic, I would typically be aiming for at least 2 measurable results (in addition to the actual installs). The first would be to get on a categorical (or general) TNF list. The second would be to get on the trending list. With that in mind, I would opt for a 3-day rollout with increasing ad spends each day. The pattern I want Google to see is not only do I have a high install rate, but it is trending upward. I think sustained growth is the more attractive performance indicator to Google than a spike. Does that make sense?

          I guess the real way to approach it for your situation is to put some thought into what pattern and shape you want Google to see in your installs. If you already know you’re going to pay for 10,000 installs, is there a distribution pattern that is more favorable to your ranking?

          Also, depending on your category (I’ve never done anything in productivity, so I can’t speak to it), try to think about thresholds. In other words, if 2,000 installs / day gets you on the top 25 in the category (again, I have no idea what the actual number is), but it would take 10,000 to get in the top 10, that sets both a minimum daily threshold for you *and* and declining value threshold for you. In other words, even if you could, going from 2,000 to 4,000 installs may not be as valuable as an additional day at 2,000. It can get a little complex, but I hope that makes sense. And don’t overthink it… just be aware that there is a certain depth of thinking you can apply.

          One trick we often use for competing app launches is to track their install count grouping during their launch. Since the install counts are grouped in much smaller increments the fewer installs an app has, you can often get a pretty good idea of how many installs it will take to get on any of the new lists. It’s harder once you’re looking at apps with 500,000+ installs, for example. But when you can watch trending apps run through the initial install groupings, you can get a reasonable bead on what it takes to be in their position.

          Also, remember that ratings and rating velocity, plus install stickiness matter to Google. It’s not just raw install numbers over time.

          And, speaking of that, ratings count is often another way to ballpark how many installs an app is getting (especially when they’re in one of the larger install groups). It’s not even close to scientific or accurate… but it gives you a ballpark if you know how to measure it and how aggressive your competitor is in soliciting ratings and reviews.

  2. Sebastian

    Hi Matt,

    thanks for the awesome ranking tips! You are telling in the article that incentivized installs are not good when it comes to app launch? Can you explain more detailed why you think so? And what traffic providers for app promoting you can recommend?

    Thanks in advance! And thank you for the awesome tips

Comments are closed.