We all know that in today’s crowded app ecosystem, one of the most critical components to success is app store visibility. While app store optimization (ASO) is one key way to ensure your app has the best chances for a strong presence in the app store, another way is to try and get ranked.

Achieving a position in a given category’s top ranks can go a long way in helping an app get visibility, and with visibility come downloads. Potential users don’t often have the time - or inclination - to search long and hard for their next app. More often than not, they will rely on what the app store - and the choices of users before them - tells them. In this sense, ranking well almost guarantees you a high influx (even if temporary) of downloads.  

But how to get there? One of the most effective ways to appear on the charts is to run an aggressive UA campaign. Gaining a lot of users in a short period of time will get you noticed by the iTunes and Google Play Store algorithms. The best part about managing to get into store rankings is that the increased visibility leads to an increase in organic downloads too. This feedback loop often results in a rise of the quality of downloads and a lowered eCPI.  

But in order for this kind of UA campaign to work, it has to be planned strategically. Below are a few critical things to consider before running a ranking-oriented UA campaign.

1. Choose your platform wisely

There are essential differences between the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store that are important to take note of. A Sensor Tower post recently revealed that there is a significant delay in Google Play between an app’s increase in downloads and the subsequent increase in the app’s rank. Consequently, this culminates in a time delay between the launch date of a  campaign and the outcome. What this means for you in concrete terms is that any change in ranking deriving from number of downloads will take more time to show in the Play Store.

In the App Store,  if your app drove higher downloads in a single day, it would jump in the ranks accordingly that same day. On Google Play, however, the results of a UA campaign won’t appear until days after the downloads peak. This time delay makes it difficult to measure against other top ranking apps or to outrank an app that tops the charts on any specific day.

sensortowerIt’s also important to note that the Play Store’s algorithm takes the uninstall rate into consideration as well. A common weakness with aggressive UA campaigns is that they prioritize scale over quality. Lower-quality installs will mean a number of non-relevant users will uninstall your app and drive down your overall numbers.

2. Consider the category you’re trying to rank in

Choosing the right category to rank in can have a huge impact on whether or not your campaign is effective. The critical question to ask is which category will be both cost-effective and worth the money spent on UA. Unsurprisingly, many categories in the app store simply refuse to shift - with the top 10 apps in popular categories loaded with the industry’s unbeatable apps (Facebook, WhatsApp, Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, etc.) It’s best not to compete with these categories. Instead narrow your campaign to focus on smaller, less popular subcategories where you’re more likely to crack the top 10, or even top the list at number 1.

Hypertargeting is essential here, especially if you’re looking to ensure successful organic uplift. Focusing on a specific category - and even geo - that is relevant for you (such as the top 10 Casino category strictly in the UK, which is a category specific enough to see fluctuation in its rankings) is a helpful way to achieve success through aggressive campaigns and a smaller budget.

3. Be strategic with your timetable

Running a ranking-oriented campaign takes planning and precision, particularly when it comes to the dates. Since their effects are temporary, the impact and effectiveness of campaigns like these lies in choosing your timing wisely.

Use as much data as you can when selecting the days of the week where you’re hoping to drive more downloads or rank highly. Are you looking for extra visibility over the weekend, or on a Monday morning? When do users typically look for apps like yours? Also take into account the fact that, since the Google Play Store takes longer to reassess its rankings lists, if your app sees a boost in downloads on a Thursday, it might not equate to a higher ranking until the following week.

4. Weigh the risk against your goals

With aggressive UA campaigns, it’s essential to decide beforehand on the level of risk you are willing to take by determining your goals and resources at the start. These campaigns more often than not require a significant investment of money, so it’s important to weigh that against predetermined KPIs.

For some, ranking highly is more important from a PR and investor perception than it is about a specific number of organic downloads. For others, the end-goal is a huge lift in organic installs around the critical holiday period. Everyone should bear in mind that going for scale over quality has it’s own downsides, leading to users who uninstall or have low LTV. Make sure you are clear about your goals, how much money you’re willing to spend and critically - how you’re going to measure success.   

These kinds of campaigns are high-stakes - they offer a potentially high payout but also carry risk. The key is to optimize the campaign by identifying your goal and sustaining the results after the initial campaign is over.

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