Have you developed a successful and fully-tested free (or freemium) mobile application, that’s now available for download on the app stores? If so, you’ll be looking to see fast growth in the number of product users to catalyse your startup’s success and spearhead business development.

In this article, we’ll look at some ways you can boost the number of app downloads.


App Store Optimisation (ASO)

What exactly is ASO? Well, you may be familiar with the term SEO, or search engine optimisation. The two are similar.

In a similar vein to how your startup may be vying for some lucrative Google search engine positions, your app will benefit from high rankings within the app store, based on the complex algorithms. Granted, ASO is more accurately described as “best practice” rather than a hack, but it’s essential nonetheless.

Here are some important tips for app store optimisation:


Adwords Keyword Planner

Use Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner to get smart keyword ideas for your app title and description.


Choose the right name

According to a study by the folks at Tune, app titles that include keywords rank on average 10.3% higher than their counterparts. Although there are no guarantees, you should absolutely tick this box to give your app the best chance.


Optimise for keywords

Keyword optimisation is paramount for ASO, but don’t overdo it. Studies have shown that the optimal number in Google Play’s description is five repetitions.


Speak to the human

Just like website SEO, unintelligible keyword-stuffed descriptions won’t serve you well in the long-run. Write a compelling description, and focus on hooking the user in the opening two or three sentences.


Consider the visuals

Make sure your icon is unique and eye-catching, and include screenshots and videos in your descriptive content.


Get reviews

Reviews are important to the user, so they’re important to the app stores. We’ll look in more detail at how to acquire and maintain reviews later in this article.



If you application is targeted at users in different areas of the world, consider optimising for different languages and locations. This useful guide shows you how to optimise for Apple’s App Store.

Basic ASO is the first stage for boosting your app’s downloads. Tick all the right boxes, and your app will have the best possible chance of success in a competitive market.


Leverage social media

Other than within the app store itself, as already discussed, you may resort to social media to promote your app. However, it’s important to understand the nuances of each platform, and the different ways in which you can promote the app to acquire more downloads.

Seek out users that are asking questions that your app solves. Reach out to users that are complaining about competitors. Target influencers with big followings that may be interested in what your app offers. Use a tool like Followerwonk to understand your audience better and enable more effective messaging.

Social media advertising is also key to increasing downloads. Here’s an overview of the major ad channels that work for mobile apps.


Facebook Ads

, What are the best hacks to boost free mobile app downloads?Facebook offers two app-specific advertising options. The first is to “get installs of your app” and the second is to “increase engagement in your app”. The former targets mobile devices with adverts that encourage the user to download, whilst the latter targets existing app users with content that directs them to specific places within your app.

For clarity, here’s an explanation from Facebook themselves.Twitter AdsAccording to Twitter themselves, 83% of its users are on mobile. By using an App Card, you can increase downloads, encourage re-engagements, and target the Twitter users that are most likely to benefit from your product.Instagram has a similar setup to Facebook, offering photo, video, and carousel advert options. In 2015, Pinterest (whose traffic is 75% mobile) announced App Pins, which link users directly to the app store. Google Adwords also offers solid app promotion advertising, which you can read in more detail on the Adwords Help blog.

Integrating your app with social media platforms will also increase its reach. Using social login is easy and intuitive, whilst offering an incentive for users to share a promotional tweet or update will also boost your app’s exposure.

This incentive could be extra credits, exclusive content, or anything else, and could be built-in to the app’s code. Ask your developer about social logins.Get shedloads of reviews and ratings

It is likely that people in the search for apps will explore the wealth of reviews and feedback platforms before deciding which to download.

Positive reviews are important for ASO, so first and foremost it’s important to get the product right. That said, it’ll never be perfect. Always welcome feedback and invest in great customer service to alleviate customer concerns and make amendments when errors become evident. Taking a proactive approach will minimise the negative ratings, and maximise the positive ones.


In-app review popup

This is the most direct route to more reviews. However, consider the user in the timing of your popup. If it’s a game and they’re in the middle of an important level, don’t break their flow. Wait until they’ve reached a natural conclusion, and then offer the chance to review. Similarly, don’t ask for a rating when the user has only just opened the app, as they won’t have enough usage time to form an opinion.

For even better results, incentivise the review process with an offer for more credits, exclusive content, or any other selling point relative to your app.


App banners

, What are the best hacks to boost free mobile app downloads?Another excellent way to promote your application is by using smart app banners. Alex Austin has published a useful piece on app banners on the Branch blog.

These are banners you see on websites and shared content. They appear at the top of the device’s screen, and indicate that there’s an app available to download if the user doesn’t have it installed already. For users who’ve installed, it invites them to open the content in-app, rather than remain in-browser.

This is currently available only for iOS, however, there are third party plugins that are available in order to have this implemented for Android apps. Three of these are listed in the article linked to above.


Outreach to the right bloggers

Next up, let’s talk about engaging influential bloggers whose niche is relevant to your app. This is where vertical segmentation comes in, understanding in great depth which audiences will appreciate the features and benefits of your app.

For recipe apps, it’s time to target food bloggers. For a health and fitness app, you should be targeting influencers that have leverage in that arena. Sometimes, apps will straddle more than one audience type. For example, a language learning game will appeal to language learners, teachers, educational institutions, travellers, and users of all ages. There are niche blogs that cover all of these different audiences. Identify them, and target them with guest post ideas, freebies and partnership proposals. Align your app with their motives, and prove that it can be of real benefit to their audience.

Alternatively, request a quote for advertising space or agree a commission-based affiliate marketing deal.



Cross-promotion is a brilliant way to leverage existing audiences and get more app downloads. This can be done in collaboration with other developers, or within your own app portfolio.

For example, for your app that is a picture editor, you could co-operate with a developer of a frame app. You could have your app promoted on his/her application, and vice versa. Alternatively, if you already other apps in the market, you can do this across existing products in your portfolio.

You may also consider the available networks that are dedicated to this type of promotion between apps, such as TapJoy. You can find a full comparison of the different app promotion networks in this article, by Christopher Reynolds of Mobyaffiliates. Get a feature spotThis is a brilliant hack from Steve Young, featured on Entrepreneur. Although far from guaranteed, you can give your app the best chance of being featured by Apple with a few simple actions. First, pitch your app to [email protected], but remember that you’ll be competing with many other app developers who have done the same. Steve suggests searching for “app store manager” on LinkedIn, and using a tool like Email Hunter Chrome Extension to strip out the contact details, to which you can pitch directly.

First and foremost, it’s paramount to create a great product, and tick all the boxes for basic ASO. Once you’ve got a solid foundation, it’s time to approach influencers and app store insiders with your unique selling points.