Developing an effective promotion strategy for your health app – Part 1

The mobile health app environment has seen explosive growth as consumers flock to the Apple and Google Play App Stores. Usage of health and fitness apps on Apple’s iPhone and iPad is booming, according to mobile analytics firm Flurry. Flurry tracks more than 6,800 apps in the health and fitness category, and claims that usage – measured by the number of times people open and use the apps – has grown by 62% in 2014 compared to 33% for apps in general.

Flurry says that this compares to 49% usage growth for health and fitness apps in 2013, versus 115% for apps overall that year. So there’s plenty of money flying around the app economy and the health app marketplace is clearly becoming highly competitive, even Apple launched their dedicated health app called HealthKit to track people’s health data, and it can also integrate with apps from other health app developers.

However many companies and app publishers invest in health apps only to see them end up in the “app graveyard” — not easy to discover, and giving themselves very little chance of generating a positive return on investment.
From a searcher’s perspective, app markets are clumsy and awkward to navigate. App search is still relatively unsophisticated and in its infancy – it’s a bit like the early day web search engines, remember AltaVista! The reality is that the app stores are still evolving their search technologies so that they become better at connecting app seekers with relevant apps.

So what’s the best way to promote your app?

There is no “best” way. You must employ multiple tactics to crack the success code. Simply relying on word of mouth is not enough – you need to ensure that you are using multiple channels to reach your different audiences and typically this will involve using a combination of some of the mobile & digital marketing tactics below.

Native App Store Marketing

Since its inception, the native app storefronts have been the most powerful merchandising and promotional vehicle for app discovery. With the app stores being so influential, it is incredibly important to understand how to use them to your advantage. Success starts with setting up a proper product page that uses effective keywords and is categorised appropriately. Pay attention to the comments you get from reviews and ratings. This feedback, whether good or bad, can give you an idea of what is working and what you’ll need to change.

Your product page is a marketing opportunity
Be sure to put some thought into the elements that make up your product page in the app store. Don’t treat this as a just a mandatory step in the submission process, but rather an important marketing opportunity. Remember, all parts of this page need to be geared towards one goal – download. Your name, icon, description and screenshots are tools you have to convince the user to download your application. Make sure you use all options available to their full potential.

Some quick tips:

  • If you are not an already established brand, then choose an app name that is relevant to your app’s purpose.
  • Your app icon is your logo so make sure it is creative, high quality and represents what your app is all about.
  • Upload as many screenshots as possible, prioritising those that showcase your features and content.
  • Don’t waste screenshots on loading screens or standard device processes like calling, texting or shutting down – focus on your app.
  • Include an app explainer video as many app stores now allow you to include them, a well done demo of your application goes a long way to converting the audience to a user.

Don’t forget your keywords

The app stores search algorithms and their use of metadata is still somewhat a mystery. What we do know is that optimising your description and utilising keywords does make a difference. Some app stores like to provide fields to input keywords of up to 100 characters. If this is available, use it!

When selecting your keywords:

  • Start first with keywords you may already have from your search engine optimisation efforts.
  • You don’t need to include your app name.
  • Many developers believe that you only need commas to separate, not spaces, which should free up some characters.
  • Select keywords that will maximise results – avoid general terms and use words relevant to your app’s niche and purpose.
  • Additionally, write your app description including all of your keywords. List your features, your content and even go as far as include the types of users or scenarios you feel your audience may use to search for an app.

Choose your category strategically

When it comes to choosing a category for your app within the store, do your homework. Perform searches to see where your competitors show up. Look in the categories you feel you would most fit to see what apps are featured.
You will want to choose a category that is a logical choice for your audience to find you. But be on the lookout for opportunities that will allow you to stand out. Categories with fewer total apps or that have little to no other apps with your offering may be better suited to provide you the visibility you need.

Reviews & ratings can be the key to climbing the charts

When a user enters the app store they make most of their download decisions in the list view. Here they are given only a couple of things to help them make their decision: app name, icon, price and the rating and number of reviews. Ratings and reviews aren’t just great vehicles to collect feedback on yours, they also help your app standout in the list. Apps with more activity (ratings and reviews) are more likely to be tapped on than those that have no star ratings or comments.

Additionally, app stores have started to factor in activity (ratings and reviews) as part of the criteria used to build the merchandising areas – like the top chart. Actively encourage feedback from users. Include a call to action in your app, your webpage and social networks to request reviews and ratings.

Create an area in your “About” or “Info” area of your app that has a link to review and rate your app. Consider a timed pop-up to appear in the app while the user is interacting with it to remind them to give feedback. Make getting feedback from your users a core part of your on-going marketing efforts for your app.

There are also specific healthcare and medical app review sites like iMedicalApps and Medical App Journal that you should submit your app to for a review.

Web Search Engines

Search engines are highly effective channels to reach out to both patients and HCPs and make them aware of your app and website. 80% of Internet users look online for health related information. Health related searches on Google are up 47% from last year. And searches aren’t just using their desktops either. A survey carried out Manhattan Research (Taking the Pulse Europe 2011) showed that 75% of European HCPs use a smartphone. Of that group 74% use their smartphones to search the web and 52% use them to download apps. So making sure that your website is ‘mobile friendly’ is also important.

Developing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is key to making sure that your target audience can find your app. Think about the types of keywords they will type into search engines like Google that relate to what your app does. You can use pay per click (PPC) and search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to help give you a presence on the front page of search results.

A number of app search engines have also arisen to confront the so-called “app discovery problem.” Among them are Quixey and AppCurl.com; and one can also search Google Play for apps of course.

Search engine optimisation for mobile

As app owners, the best place for users to find your product is on their smartphone. This will increase the chance to download, which is your main goal. As your product is mobile, it is definitely important to make sure that you optimise for mobile search.

The biggest step in mobile SEO is to make sure that you have a mobile optimised marketing page. A fully optimised mobile page will rank higher in the mobile search results than that of a desktop page, so it is in your best interest to have this created when you are developing your online marketing presence. In addition, this page will be of better use to the users who click on it, as they won’t have to work (pinch, zoom, etc.) to use it.

Google recently made some major changes to its algorithm and it has started to favour websites that have been optimised for mobile devices. By some estimates, more than 60% of all Google searches are now performed on mobile devices, so it makes sense that Google wants to capitalise on this traffic and ensure the best possible experience for its users. Responsive designs are the most popular way forward, but you can also have a separate hosted mobile version of your site. Google doesn’t have a preference, as long as mobile users’ experience isn’t interrupted.

In Part 2, I’ll be looking at the role social media can play in helping you to raise awareness of your health app.