Promoting Your App With Paid Exposure and Advertising

With a well managed campaign and precise targeting, even small budget startups are able to get return on investment from their paid exposure. Adverts are also an essential part of monetising your app which we will explore in a future chapter.

Whether on Youtube, social media or even on TV, paid advertising is becoming increasingly important to app promotion because of the huge audience it puts at your fingertips. Paid exposure can get your app an instant audience and word of mouth support.

Advertising options

As with any advertising, it’s all about targeting the right markets to get the maximum return on investment. Ads can appear on websites, other apps and lots more. Paid adverts formats include:

  • banner ads within apps or on websites
  • interstitial (in-app popup) and reactive/interactive ads within apps (including prompting for purchase of a full version when a goal has been achieved)
  • social media and search adverts

But don’t rule out TV and magazines! There are hundreds of channels in the UK alone – and for the smaller ones, the cost will be nowhere near that of advertising on the main commercial channels. Yet your app could reach tens, even hundreds of thousands of viewers – and that’s just in the UK.

General advice

It’s best to use paid advertising in short, intense bursts. This can get your app listed in “top selling” charts and then use the exposure for momentum.

Plan your press release and paid advertising dates carefully. People tend to look for new apps after they’ve got a new phone, e.g. after Christmas, on payday, at the beginning of a college semester or on Black Friday.

However, pick your battles carefully. Some of your competitors are willing to lose a lot of money to secure a market share.

Many ad networks allow you to install their own conversion tracking SDK but you’ll need to know more than  your cost per install. App analytics is still essential for tracking return on investment, i.e. understanding what percentage of users become paid users (free version) or how much they spend (in-app purchases).

Your response rates will vary drastically based on your ad copy, medium, images used, timing and audience demographics.

Create a variety of ad groups for each audience type (age, gender, device). This will allow you to hyper-target your copy – although you’ll need to continually test and refine your message.

Always include a clear and direct call to action (e.g. “Download the new FREE Android/iPhone (as appropriate) time tracking app that will simplify your life”).

The most effective campaigns are (anecdotally) based around interest-based and “other installed apps” targeting. However feed survey and inferred demographic data from your in-app analytics back to narrow things down even further.

Factor in the time of day – people won’t download fun apps during work or school hours.

Don’t forget to use advertising on sites where your intended users might go to find out about apps, i.e. for games users may go to review sites such as to find out about new games so will be more receptive to adverts.

Be prepared to ignore everything you’ve read. It’s all about finding what works best for your app.

Google and Apple

Unsurprisingly, Google and Apple have their own paid app promotion and monetisation plaforms.

Google’s in-app banner platform is called AdMob but can be accessed via their AdWords platform.

Google’s Display Network allows ads to appear in other apps and on websites. Users can be targeted based on age, gender, interests, types of apps installed, how new the device is and even whether or not they’ve visited your website. For example, our timetracking app adverts could be targeted at users who have calendar apps installed.

Google introduced the apps extension for AdWords in 2013. In the linked screenshot, the two listings at the top of the search for “taxi app” are adverts. Clicking the listing takes you to the appropriate app store for your device. Paid search adverts (pay per click) is a big subject, although has an excellent beginner’s guide.

YouTube adverts for apps now link directly to the Play or iTunes store.

Paid Social Media

Facebook and Twitter are sites people go to on their mobile devices when they’re looking for entertainment… so it’s unsurprising that there’s anecdotal evidence that they’re effective for promoting games and certain types of apps. Each platform allows adverts to be targeted  just to mobile devices and has a variable charging model for “app engagement” (clicks of your adverts) vs “app installs” (actual installation).

Twitter app adverts allow a mobile app install button and screenshot. Ads can be targeted at followers of certain accounts, lookalike audiences or custom lists. One tactic we’ve heard used is to target ads at hastags used by similar apps or the people reviewers are likely to follow – industry gurus, news sites and important sites related to your app.

Facebook app ads targeting options include location, gender, age, device and interests for adverts that show up in the Facebook app users’ newsfeeds. They also offer in-app adverts with their own display network.

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