Tag Archive | "Apps"

Introducing Progressive Web Apps: What They Might Mean for Your Website and SEO

Posted by petewailes

Progressive Web Apps. Ah yes, those things that Google would have you believe are a combination of Ghandi and Dumbledore, come to save the world from the terror that is the Painfully Slow WebsiteTM.

But what actually makes a PWA? Should you have one? And if you create one, how will you make sure it ranks? Well, read on to find out…

What’s a PWA?

Given as that Google came up with the term, I thought we’d kick off with their definition:

“A Progressive Web App uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience.”
Progressive Web Apps

The really exciting thing about PWAs: they could make app development less necessary. Your mobile website becomes your app. Speaking to some of my colleagues at Builtvisible, this seemed to be a point of interesting discussion: do brands need an app and a website, or a PWA?

Fleshing this out a little, this means we’d expect things like push notifications, background sync, the site/app working offline, having a certain look/design to feel like a native application, and being able to be set on the device home screen.

These are things we traditionally haven’t had available to us on the web. But thanks to new browsers supporting more and more of the HTML5 spec and advances in JavaScript, we can start to create some of this functionality. On the whole, Progressive Web Apps are:

Work for every user, regardless of browser choice because they’re built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
Fit any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or whatever is next.
Connectivity independent
Enhanced with service workers to work offline or on low quality networks.
Feel like an app to the user with app-style interactions and navigation because they’re built on the app shell model.
Always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
Served via HTTPS to prevent snooping and ensure content hasn’t been tampered with.
Are identifiable as “applications” thanks to W3C manifests and service worker registration scope allowing search engines to find them.
Make re-engagement easy through features like push notifications.
Allow users to “keep” apps they find most useful on their home screen without the hassle of an app store.
Easily share via URL and not require complex installation.

Source: Your First Progressive Web App (Google)

It’s worth taking a moment to unpack the “app-like” part of that. Fundamentally, there are two parts to a PWA: service workers (which we’ll come to in a minute), and application shell architecture. Google defines this as:

…the minimal HTML, CSS, and JavaScript powering a user interface. The application shell should:

  • load fast
  • be cached
  • dynamically display content

An application shell is the secret to reliably good performance. Think of your app’s shell like the bundle of code you’d publish to an app store if you were building a native app. It’s the load needed to get off the ground, but might not be the whole story. It keeps your UI local and pulls in content dynamically through an API.
Instant Loading Web Apps with an Application Shell Architecture

This method of loading content allows for incredibly fast perceived speed. We are able to get something that looks like our site in front of a user almost instantly, just without any content. The page will then go and fetch the content and all’s well. Obviously, if we actually did things this way in the real world, we’d run in to SEO issues pretty quickly, but we’ll address that later too.

If then, at their core, a Progressive Web App is just a website served in a clever way with extra features for loading stuff, why would we want one?

The use case

Let me be clear before I get into this: for most people, a PWA is something you don’t need. That’s important enough that it bares repeating, so I’ll repeat it:

You probably don’t need a PWA.

The reason for this is that most websites don’t need to be able to behave like an app. This isn’t to say that there’s no benefit to having the things that PWA functionality can bring, but for many sites, the benefits don’t outweigh the time it takes to implement the functionality at the moment.

When should you look at a PWA then? Well, let’s look at a checklist of things that may indicate that you do need one…

Signs a PWA may be appropriate

You have:

  • Content that regularly updates, such as stock tickers, rapidly changing prices or inventory levels, or other real-time data
  • A chat or comms platform, requiring real-time updates and push notifications for new items coming in
  • An audience likely to pull data and then browse it offline, such as a news app or a blog publishing many articles a day
  • A site with regularly updated content which users may check in to several times a day
  • Users who are mostly using a supported browser

In short, you have something beyond a normal website, with interactive or time-sensitive components, or rapidly released or updated content. A good example is the Google Weather PWA:

If you’re running a normal site, with a blog that maybe updates every day or two, or even less frequently, then whilst it might be nice to have a site that acts as a PWA, there’s probably more useful things you can be doing with your time for your business.

How they work

So, you have something that would benefit from this sort of functionality, but need to know how these things work. Welcome to the wonder that is the service worker.

Service workers can be thought of as a proxy that sits between your website and the browser. It calls for intercept of things you ask the browser to do, and hijacking of the responses given back. That means we can do things like, for example, hold a copy of data requested, so when it’s asked for again, we can serve it straight back (this is called caching). This means we can fetch data once, then replay it a thousand times without having to fetch it again. Think of it like a musician recording an album — it means they don’t have to play a concert every time you want to listen to their music. Same thing, but with network data.

If you want a more thorough explanation of service workers, check out this moderately technical talk given by Jake Archibald from Google.

What service workers can do

Service workers fundamentally exist to deliver extra features, which have not been available to browsers until now. These includes things like:

  • Push notifications, for telling a user that something has happened, such as receiving a new message, or that the page they’re viewing has been updated
  • Background sync, for updating data while a user isn’t using the page/site
  • Offline caching, to allow a for an experience where a user still may be able to access some functionality of a site while offline
  • Handling geolocation or other device hardware-querying data (such as device gyrpscope data)
  • Pre-fetching data a user will soon require, such as images further down a page

It’s planned that in the future, they’ll be able to do even more than they currently can. For now though, these are the sorts of features you’ll be able to make use of. Obviously these mostly load data via AJAX, once the app is already loaded.

What are the SEO implications?

So you’re sold on Progressive Web Apps. But if you create one, how will you make sure it ranks? As with any new front-end technology, there are always implications for your SEO visibility. But don’t panic; the potential issues you’ll encounter with a PWA have been solved before by SEOs who have worked on JavaScript-heavy websites. For a primer on that, take a look at this article on JS SEO.

There are a few issues you may encounter if you’re going to have a site that makes use of application shell architecture. Firstly, it’s pretty much required that you’re going to be using some form of JS framework or view library, like Angular or React. If this is the case, you’re going to want to take a look at some Angular.JS or React SEO advice. If you’re using something else, the short version is you’ll need to be pre-rendering pages on the server, then picking up with your application when it’s loaded. This enables you to have all the good things these tools give you, whilst also serving something Google et al can understand. Despite their recent advice that they’re getting good at rendering this sort of application, we still see plenty of examples in the wild of them flailing horribly when they crawl heavy JS stuff.

Assuming you’re in the world of clever JS front-end technologies, to make sure you do things the PWA way, you’ll also need to be delivering the CSS and JS required to make the page work along with the HTML. Not just including script tags with the <code>src attribute, but the whole file, inline.

Obviously, this means you’re going to increase the size of the page you’re sending down the wire, but it has the upside of meaning that the page will load instantly. More than that, though, with all the JS (required for pick-up) and CSS (required to make sense of the design) delivered immediately, the browser will be able to render your content and deliver something that looks correct and works straightaway.

Again, as we’re going to be using service workers to cache content once it’s arrived, this shouldn’t have too much of an impact. We can also cache all the CSS and JS external files required separately, and load them from the cache store rather than fetching them every time. This does make it very slightly more likely that the PWA will fail on the first time that a user tries to request your site, but you can still handle this case gracefully with an error message or default content, and re-try on the next page view.

There are other potential issues people can run in to, as well. The Washington Post, for example, built a PWA version of their site, but it only works on a mobile device. Obviously, that means the site can be crawled nicely by Google’s mobile bots, but not the desktop ones. It’s important to respect the P part of the acronym — the website should enable features that a user can make use of, but still work in a normal manner for those who are using browsers that don’t support them. It’s about enhancing functionality progressively, not demanding that people upgrade their browser.

The only slightly tricky thing with all of this is that it requires that, for best experience, you design your application for offline-first experiences. How that’s done is referenced in Jake’s talk above. The only issue with going down that route: you’re only serving content once someone’s arrived at your site and waited long enough to load everything. Obviously, in the case of Google, that’s not going to work well. So here’s what I’d suggest…

Rather than just sending your application shell, and then using AJAX to request content on load, and then picking up, use this workflow instead:

  • User arrives at site
  • Site sends back the application shell (the minimum HTML, JS, and CSS to make everything work immediately), along with…
  • …the content AJAX response, pre-loaded as state for the application
  • The application loads that immediately, and then picks up the front end.

Adding in the data required means that, on load, we don’t have to make an AJAX call to get the initial data required. Instead, we can bundle that in too, so we get something that can render content instantly as well.

As an example of this, let’s think of a weather app. Now, the basic model would be that we send the user all the content to show a basic version of our app, but not the data to say what the weather is. In this modified version, we also send along what today’s weather is, but for any subsequent data request, we then go to the server with an AJAX call.

This means we still deliver content that Google et al can index, without possible issues from our AJAX calls failing. From Google and the user’s perspective, we’re just delivering a very high-performance initial load, then registering service workers to give faster experiences for every subsequent page and possibly extra functionality. In the case of a weather app, that might mean pre-fetching tomorrow’s weather each day at midnight, or notifying the user if it’s going to rain, for example.

Going further

If you’re interested in learning more about PWAs, I highly recommend reading this guide to PWAs by Addy Osmani (a Google Chrome engineer), and then putting together a very basic working example, like the train one Jake mentions in his YouTube talk referenced earlier. If you’re interested in that, I recommend Jake’s Udacity course on creating a PWA available here.

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Google AMP has reached 125 million documents & is expanding to apps & recipe pages

AMP is growing and expanding, here are some of the latest information from Richard Gingras of Google out of Google I/O.

The post Google AMP has reached 125 million documents & is expanding to apps & recipe pages appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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SearchCap: Bing Apps Update, Google Travel Search & JSON-LD Rich Snippets

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Bing Apps Update, Google Travel Search & JSON-LD Rich Snippets appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Get Ready for the Evolution of Long Tail Keywords, Coming Soon to Mobile Apps

Posted by Royh

Last month Google made a big announcement, potentially signaling a game changer for search. Google is quietly rolling out app-only content indexing, even if that content isn’t actually hosted on the indexed app.

So, what does that actually mean?

The game-changing implication is that when you search Google from your phone or tablet, app-only content will “stream” directly to your mobile device — even if you don’t have the app installed.

Thus, if I search for the key phrase “hotel tonight in Chicago,” I’ll see results from mobile apps that aren’t installed on my device, sending me directly to app-only content “streamed” from a virtual app hosted on the Google cloud.

Hotel Tonight

(Image credit: TechCrunch)

How is app content indexed differently?

Before this announcement, direct deep links to app content were displayed only if the matching app was already installed on your mobile device, as in the example below:

(Image credit: Google)

With this change, web content no longer needs to match app content.

According to Google’s Rajan Patel leading the new initiative:

“We want users to be able to have access to this content, regardless of whether it’s available on the web or in an app.”

How will this announcement change the way applications are discovered?

Well, Google is effectively lowering the bar for app indexing, and app owners can score a quick win if they act in a timely manner — a few tips on this below.

The new long tail landing page for mobile

The new app content streams are essentially equivalent to landing pages for a desktop website. Both share the same principal: promoting select content from the website or app.

That means focusing on long tail keywords. Simply changing the title and description of the home page of the app is no longer enough — targeting those long tail keywords is going to be essential.

To find the keywords that send traffic to competitors, I’ll use the SimilarWeb app analysis feature as an example. In this case, you can see how the search engine keywords that sent traffic to Snapchat’s competitors — keywords searched in the Google app — drove traffic to Snapchat after the search, and were basically all keywords from app indexing.

What’s the key here?

Say hello to the app indexing API!

In order to make this whole process possible, app developers need to implement the app indexing API. It’s not new, but now that you don’t need to match app content to web content, it can be your secret weapon to torrents of mobile traffic.

The indexing API doubles as a ranking signal to Google, so all the mobile apps that implement and complete the app indexing API will gain a ranking edge.

Measure mobile engagement stats

Once you implement the indexing API, you’ll show Google how much time users spend inside your app, and what they do there.

If you need a benchmark to go by, you can measure how your competitors’ apps are doing in terms of time on the app and session per user. Here’s an example from SimilarWeb’s app engagement function:

Again, the first thing you need to do in order to get started is implement the app indexing API, as I said earlier — since Google factors it as one of the ranking signals, it will favor the app owners that complete the process.

If you want some more instruction and technical walkthroughs for getting your app indexed, you can check out this piece by Bridget Randolph on the subject. Just keep in mind that this is still in beta.

Google is testing the process on a few apps that agreed to participate in this experiment. It’s still unclear when the update will be released out of beta, but I’m sure several clear winners (and losers) will emerge when this fully rolls out.

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Mobile Web vs Mobile Apps: Where Should You Invest Your Marketing? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Mobile’s been a hot topic for a while now. We know it’s not something to be ignored, but when it comes to different mobile mediums, it can be tricky to determine where to focus your efforts. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand goes over the differences between marketing via mobile apps and mobile web, examines some criteria that can help guide your decision, and speculates about the future of the mobile world in general.

Mobile Web vs Mobile Apps Whiteboard

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about the mobile world and specifically whether we should be investing our mobile marketing efforts into the mobile web — meaning a website that is responsive and adaptive or just specifically designed for mobile browsers — or whether we should be worried about building a mobile app to help draw in traffic and gain customers and users. I think these two worlds are actually quite different.

So I spent a bunch of time recently here internally at Moz going through a huge number of statistics, trying to gather as much data as I could to understand these two worlds, and I thought I’d share that with you. I’ll give a bunch of links in this presentation, probably a good dozen of them that I’ll make sure are in there.


Mobile web qualities

Just to give you a broad overview, basically the mobile web kind of looks like this.

There’s a lot less time spent in the mobile web, meaning on mobile websites on a mobile device, than there is in the world of apps — far, far less time spent. But weirdly, and this is very strange but confirmed by several different sources, there’s more traffic overall, meaning more unique people making more different visits, which makes a little bit of sense when you think about how those things are done. Remember that a visit to a web page is a much less intense activity than loading up a mobile app and then spending time in it. So sure that can make some sense.

It’s also growing faster. So the mobile web is about two times bigger in terms of raw traffic, and it is growing faster than the mobile app world, which will also make sense in a sec when we talk about apps.

This is Morgan Stanley data. I think they’re using comScore as one of their sources, and there’s another one that backs this up as well.

Mobile traffic is also highly distributed, and you can see that in everyone’s numbers, everyone from SimilarWeb to comScore to Nielsen. They’re all reporting this. It’s a lot like desktop, which again makes sense.

It’s not that we spend all our time on just a few websites. In fact, because so much of the time that we spend on the web in desktop is on Facebook’s website and on YouTube’s website, and that is mostly app traffic in the mobile web, the long tail looks really long when it comes to the mobile web. There’s essentially tons of people visiting tons and tons of different websites all across there, I think on average visiting a few hundred to a few thousand unique websites in a month across mobile browsing.

For the mobile web, search, social, and word of mouth or type in or bookmarking, those are the big sources of mobile referrals, which isn’t surprising. Those are pretty big on desktop as well.

So pretty distributed broad system here. A lot of similarities to the desktop web. We’re pretty familiar with this world.

Mobile app world

Mobile app world qualities, kind of different though. Apps dominate. I mean dominate like they crush the times that we spend on mobile devices. So you might have seen Mary Meeker’s State the Internet Report for this year showing that mobile traffic in 2014 eclipsed desktop traffic.

Desktop traffic is weird. It basically kept growing, growing, growing from 1990 to 2010, and then it’s basically today almost exactly where it is in 2010. Weirdly, I think a good trivia question would be, “Do people spend more or less time on desktops today than they did five years ago?” Of course, we would all say, “Well, they spend less.” But actually we spend a teensy, tinsy bit more than we did then.

It’s just that mobile has gone crazy. Mobile has eaten up all of the rest of the time in our lives. We don’t see our friends or family any more. We don’t eat meals. We just browse our mobile devices.

So mobile is about 85% to 90% depending on the source of time spent on mobile. It’s your YouTubes and your Facebooks and all those kinds of things.

It sends and receives far fewer referrals. So basically, most of the ways that people are getting to apps is not from another app or from a website. It’s directly from the launcher. They’re going to their home screen. They’re clicking on that app. That makes pretty good sense.

But they’re also not sending out as much traffic. So if you’re browsing Facebook on a mobile device, it seems like, on average, you’re less likely to click on to a mobile web link and then load up a web page versus maybe if you’re browsing Facebook on the desktop web, which also makes sense. You want to stay in the app that you’re in. Mobile speeds are slow or especially outside of countries where 4G and LTE are common.

The top 25 to 50 apps in mobile — and it depends on who you ask — some sources are showing that just the top 5 apps are responsible for 80% to 90% of all app usage. This is data from Forrester and data from comScore. Marketing Land did some work on this.

So what we’re essentially saying here is if you’re not in the top 25 to 50 apps on a platform, you’re probably getting very little mobile app activity, because it turns out that the long tail is nowhere near like it is on the mobile web. People don’t visit hundreds and thousands of apps. They visit just a few.

In fact, the average mobile owner uses about 24 apps per month, 24 unique apps per month and visits between 10 and 30 times as many unique websites in a given month.

Seven percent of heavy app users (so the people who download the most apps, who use the most apps), they’re responsible actually for 50%, a full half of all download activities.

So it’s sort of a small subset of app users who just go crazy. They download every app that they can. They treat apps like websites. They have this huge long tail. But for the 93% of the rest of us, a little bit different.

Most new discovery for mobile apps comes from three sources — mobile web, word of mouth, or app store top lists. That tends to be how we get to the app world.

So these two are very, very different. They’re different in usage. They’re different in how they operate. They’re different in how you would need to do marketing around them.

Things every business needs to optimize for mobile web

It’s my general opinion, based on what I’ve seen about the mobile web, that every business needs to optimize for the mobile web, and you have to optimize in a few ways. That means you must have responsive or adaptive design. It’s not just an option any more.

You’ve got to have a mobile search-friendly experience, so being able to get the mobile search-friendly tag, which means you can rank better.

But it also means that you’re delivering a better user experience from search because search is so big to the mobile web world.

You should be SEO-aware and optimize your site for search engines. That’s critical. If you’re watching Whiteboard Friday, you’re probably doing a fine job with that.

You need to load fast, even on slow connections.

I think one of the challenges is that a lot of us assume that everybody is on 4G or everybody is on LTE. That is not the case, especially in a lot of the developing world. But even in the United States and in Europe and in other countries like Japan, there are plenty of connection speeds that are slow or limited due to where people are, particularly when they travel or are inside buildings or are having connectivity issues. I’m sure you’ve all experienced that.

Finally, you’ve got to provide that great user experience and a great content experience that delivers answers quickly.

So I don’t mean just loads fast. I mean gives people the answers they’re looking for quickly, because as we know, Google is using click-through rate and pogo-sticking and all those kinds of things. If you have a bad experience where you’re not delivering, even if your page loads fast, you’re not delivering the answers someone was seeking when they performed a mobile search, they land on your mobile web page, they’re going to click the “Back” button and choose somebody else. They’re less likely to choose you in the future, and Google is less likely to rank you in the future. Very frustrating.

My take on mobile app development

But mobile app development — again, this is my opinion — I think that there are plenty of folks out there who have reasonable disagreements about the way that I think about this. But based on what I’ve seen, I would generally recommend that mobile app development is only right for your organization if you fit a few criteria.

(A) You need to have a great strategy around what your mobile app will do and that there need to be features and value that your app provides that you could not provide well or could not provide at all in a mobile web experience. Apps can do things like push notifications, even when the app is dormant. That’s very, very tough for a website to do, although Google has talked about potentially making that available in Chrome someday. So maybe.

Integration with contacts or integration with other apps. Integration with the phone features itself, the calling and the device system or the root functions of the phone. Those types of things, if you can provide value off of that that you could not do through a mobile website, okay.

By the way, the mobile web provides a lot more features and functionality than many folks often think it does. I’ll link you to another great piece (What the Web Can Do Today) that was on Hacker News the other day that has just a great chart of all the things that you might want to be able to do and whether they’re supported on mobile web or app or both.

(B) You’ve got to be able to convince not only yourself but convince your team, convince your audience that you can be among the top few — let’s say hundred — apps in the world, or you only need a small handful, maybe a few hundred to a few thousand people that install your app in order for it to be successful.

If you can’t make one of those claims — either we’re going to be one of the top few hundred apps in the world, or we only need a few hundred to a few thousand people on our app — well, the way apps work is the rich, the dominant apps get all the traffic, all the activity.

I think it can be very frustrating to say, “Hey, we’re going to build a great app that sits somewhere in the middle of the pack just like our website sits somewhere in the middle of the pack.” That’s not how it works. All the attention goes to the most popular apps.

(C) Your app can beat the retention curve odds.

So again, in my research what I found time and time again is that mobile app retention, it’s just awful, terrible. Basically, the overwhelming majority of apps, I think more than 9 out of 10 apps will never be opened again after 90 days. So you’ve got to find a way to make your app retain users and keep their interest, keep them coming back to you again and again, and that is no small feat.

(D) You’ve got an amazing team of app developers or an incredible one or two people who can do great app development and make a world-class product.

Because if you’re not going to be best in class, app world just doesn’t feel like it’s worth it.

This could all change if…

All right. Now let me add a quick caveat at the end of this. So what I want to say is that this world of apps versus mobile web could change.

In fact, I think there’s a lot of people in the SEO world who believe that it’s on the verge of changing because of what Google is doing with mobile app integration into mobile web search.

So if I do a search today for “best pasta Portland” on my mobile device, I am going to get pretty much exclusively mobile web content. That’s true until and unless I perform a search that really is very app-focused or app-centric. So if I were to perform a search like “find best local restaurants near me,” it might come up with Yelp or a travel destination app. Google will pull up in my results probably TripAdvisor and stuff like that. That is happening a little bit today, and we do see it. I think there’s folks who are going, “Hey, this is an opportunity.” It is an opportunity.

But Google has also made another change where they are now indexing content inside of apps, including in Facebook, which was a big announcement a few weeks ago, and potentially will be placing those inside of the mobile search results, potentially even if you don’t have that app installed. That’s the game changer. If it turns out that mobile search, which is now more than 50% of all search, becomes a place where Google does sort of what they did with Google+, remember where they were giving highly biased, preferential treatment to posts that had been Google Plussed, even from people who were barely in your network or connected to another person and they made Google+ like this center of the local ecosystem and all those kinds of things.

If they do the same thing in the app world and they give this biased, preferential treatment across the board to apps rather than to mobile web content, we could see this equation start to change. Then it might make sense to say, “Hey, even if I can’t attract and keep people and build the best app in the world, maybe I should build an app anyway just to be able to expose my content and get the benefit to Google.”

I think it would be a little bit of an odd move from Google, but it’s not impossible, and I think in 6 to 12 months we’re going to know a lot more. There’ll be plenty of studies and data about the clickstream patterns on mobile search and how often the results appear and how often they’re clicked and how often that leads to a mobile app download. All those kinds of metrics should be available in the next 6 to 12 months. Then we’ll be able to report back to you with a lot more about whether this equation has changed.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your comments and we will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Could Deep Links To Apps Represent The Future Of Link Building?

Columnist Jayson DeMers discusses how app indexing may change SEO — and link building — forever.

The post Could Deep Links To Apps Represent The Future Of Link Building? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google Launches Custom Voice Actions For Third Party Apps

Voice Actions will allow users to not only launch but explore content in apps.

The post Google Launches Custom Voice Actions For Third Party Apps appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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SearchCap: Google Upgrades Its Mobile Apps, US Search Award Winners & Pigeon Rolled Back?

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: U.S. Search Award Winners Announced The second-annual U.S. Search Awards were handed out last night during Pubcon Las Vegas. The awards were presented to agencies…

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Gamification: 3 tips for gamification apps as part of your content marketing

With more than 200 people playing reward-based online games, it is worthwhile to incorporate gaming into your content marketing. Read on for three tips to get your gamification program started.
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Top Three Inbound Marketing Strategies for Mobile Apps

Posted by robiganguly

Disclaimer: This post is an extension of the recent Mozinar "Standing Out in the Sea Of Apps: Building an Audience of Fans for Your Mobile App's Success" and covers questions from audience Q&A. You can watch the recorded Mozinar here!

Mobile. The very word makes some of us cringe these days. Everywhere you look in the marketing world, you see signs of it – mobile this, mobile that… Is it just me, or is it a bit overkill?

Sometimes, I feel like we're pushing the idea of mobile to the limit. But then I look at the numbers:

  • There are currently 750,000 apps in the App Store alone.
  • These apps have over 40 billion downloads.
  • There are one billion smartphones existing in the world, and that number is growing.

2 Huge Markets - The growth in iOS and Android apps over the past 4 years


There are over one billion consumers looking for information on their mobile devices, and you know what works when consumers are looking for information? Inbound marketing. 

In this post, I share the top three most effective inbound marketing tips app marketers can use to begin making waves in the world of mobile. 

Inbound marketing wins in mobile

The opportunity to connect deeply with consumers through inbound marketing has never been larger than it is today, and mobile is fueling a huge amount of the growth. When it comes to apps, all you need to know is this: apps have already surpassed the web when it comes to consumer time-spent, and are second only to time spent watching television.

Time Spent in Mobile Apps Now Rivals Time Spent with Television - a multi-year comparison chart

The secret is this: very few companies are taking advantage of this space. It’s 2013, but in the world of mobile apps, it's like it’s 2001 all over again.

App developers and their audiences need help acquiring customers profitably and not focusing simply on vanity metrics, such as number of downloads. That's where inbound marketing comes in.

Inbound marketing on the web has matured and grown a lot over the past several years. We can learn a lot from our past and apply it to our future (i.e. we can take what we know and apply it to mobile marketing). Below are three simple inbound marketing strategies for mobile apps that are delivering absolutely incredible results.

1. Be social

By this point, we should all understand how important social is to any good marketing strategy. However, when it comes to mobile, social is just what we do as humans. We text and email like crazy. We ride the bus and check Facebook. We Instagram our lunches and Tweet our random observations while standing in line at Starbucks.

These days, to be mobile is to be social. This means that social is a perfect venue for conversations about your mobile app's offerings. Let’s take a look at two of social’s leaders and how they can be used for mobile purposes.


A while back, Nike ran a Twitter-focused experiment to introduce a new mobile app they’d created. They proactively shared their content and the app with likely consumers who were sharing their athletic activities on Twitter. The results astounded them. Their two week experiment yielded:

  • Over three clicks per outbound Tweet
  • A doubling of the positive ratings and reviews in the app store for their app
  • As many downloads from the Twitter campaign as their largest paid channel

Although Nike is a large company, the results of their campaign fascinating at any level. The last part is the most interesting: they received as many downloads from their social “experiment” as they did through their largest paid channel. The ROI was extraordinary.


It’s impossible to talk about the social landscape without bringing up Facebook. For mobile, Facebook can be incredibly important. For certain categories of apps (movies, tv, games, news, and others), connecting with Facebook drives a massive increase in revenue and engagement from users. Take a look at the data from some of the most popular apps who have integrated a Facebook login.

Engagement & Monetization Data from Popular Apps with Facebook Login

Facebook isn’t necessarily the best option for every app developer, but when it’s done well, it’s clear that integrating Facebook into your app can really improve your results.

2. Tell your own story

Consumers generally surf and search for apps from within the app store. As such, making sure that you’ve optimized your app store presence is absolutely crucial.  Getting discovered by a large audience of interested customers can be as simple as:

  • Selecting the right name
  • Investing in a compelling and memorable icon
  • Experimenting with categories and keywords, and
  • Testing and optimizing your app’s description (social proof in the description itself works wonders – take a look at the description that document signing app SignNow has crafted)

You must own your presence in the app store and also make it another channel for telling your app's story. Most app developers gloss over many of the important details that can affect downloads for an app. It's important to not let the app store tell your app's story for you. If you do, you'll be missing out on a large marketing opportunity.

The app store is only one place to tell your story. Using your website and other channels to share why people use your app and what problems you’re solving is an increasingly powerful method of enabling app discovery, and it also makes your app seem more "human."

Because apps are so exceptional at providing task-oriented solutions in small consumable packages, journalists and bloggers are actively searching for apps they can share with their audiences. The largest tech blogs and app review sites routinely drive as many installations as a feature in the app store. Take the time to produce content and information that will appeal to journalists and share your story in enough detail that they’ll discover your app and want to learn more. For a great example, take a look at how the small team behind Chewsy has shared their unique take on restaurant and dish reviews with publications like Forbes. By sharing your story with these outlets, it's likely that your downloads will increase. 

3. Court your audience of fans from day one

It should be clear that you want to own your story and tell it in the app store and elsewhere. However, there is another, more powerful route – having your customers tell great stories about you. Not only is this personally gratifying (nothing’s better than hearing from a customer that you’ve developed something that delights them), but word of mouth is incredibly effective. Consumer studies continue to show that recommendations from the people we know are trusted the most for the average consumer.

Data on the Most Trusted Advertising Sources for Consumer Decision-Making

Now, how do you get your fans to go tell their friends and say good things in public?

For many web businesses, this is an incredible challenge because there’s no centralized source for customers to share their thoughts. For mobile apps, that’s not the case – the app stores give you a great venue for this in the form of the ratings and reviews sections.

But how do consumers get to the app store to review your app? Despite the existence of easy opinion-sharing venues most customers don’t speak upIn factit appears that less than 0.1% of downloads result in a rating or review in the app store. Most consumers need a nudge – a reminder that they can share their thoughts and opinions.

This is why you should be proactively connecting with your customers from day one. If your app has a returning audience it means that there are people who are a fan of what you’ve built. Those customers are highly likely to share their fandom with the world, if you make it easy for them to do so.

The wonderful thing about developing apps is that you can use them as a direct channel to talk with your customers. Reaching out to your biggest fans inside your app, and connecting more deeply with them is a powerful strategy for increasing customer loyalty and motivating a group of evangelists.

Connecting with your audience of fans certainly increases the number of customers leaving great reviews for your apps, but it’s about more than just reviews. It’s about the recognition that we walk around with our smartphones all day long.

When we take a look at our phone in a meeting or open it at dinner, we’re around others, introducing them to apps we love. By communicating closely with your customer base, you can massively change your awareness and download trajectory. We’ve talked with a number of developers who can map their adoption geographically. Word of mouth, in the real world, is a major inbound channel for mobile which every app developer can influence in a meaningful way.

As this Microsoft ad from a few years ago uncomfortably reminded us – we’re addicted to our phones.

So, mobile

…is a term we’re all going to be hearing a LOT over the next several years. As big and as fast as this opportunity is growing, the mobile apps industry is in its infancy and could benefit from the expertise that any great inbound marketer can bring to the table.

A simple and consistent focus on:

  • Being social
  • Telling your story effectively, and
  • Empowering your customers to share their stories about you

…will be certain to pay off in the long run.

When it comes to mobile apps, inbound marketing looks a lot like the industry we’ve all grown to love. Provide a tremendous amount of value for your target customers and reap the rewards of building customer acquisition channels that increase in efficiency over time. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on the emerging mobile app opportunity. Now, I'd love to hear from you. Have you been utilizing your inbound marketing prowess for mobile apps? Which strategies are working for you? Did I miss any strategies which are incredibly effective? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or find the entire Apptentive team on Twitter!

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