As a mobile app development agency, we love hearing from app startups and learning how they deal with their challenges. This post is a contribution from Jack Saville, an SEO/ASO Specialist at Bynder, a digital asset management vendor. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Jack!

So you have just launched your new company app and you are determined to get it out there and ranking well on the App Store and Google Play.

The app is available for existing customers only and they are all really excited to try it out.

The question is: how to do promote the app on the App Store/Google Play?

The first thing to decide is what keywords you want the app to rank for on the App Store and Google Play. As with ‘conventional SEO’ your keywords can be categorized as branded and non-branded keywords.

Branded keywords will be searched by people who already know your brand, and non-branded keywords may offer a way of targeting new customers who are searching for a product or service that you provide. However, the question is: if your app is only available for existing customers, do you really want to target new customers?

If you rank it for non-branded terms, then you can get the word out about your product when people search for your product or service.

However, there are also a number of things you need to consider if you are going to go down this route:

  • If you rank it for non-branded terms, then non-customers may download it and not be able to use it. This frustration may lead to them leaving bad reviews, and your customers will see these bad reviews when they come to download the app and think the app is of poor quality (bad reviews also affect ranking, but more on that later). Therefore it is important to make it clear that your app is for paying customers only, and that without a paid subscription to your service, it will not be possible to use the app. For example, you could have an app title like this ‘[Your company] (existing customers only)’
  • As a result, the messaging around the app will be very negative, as from the word go you are telling certain people that they cannot use it (unless you are a customer). This may even put off some actual customers who may not be sure whether they have the correct subscription to use it.
  • By including the warning that your app is only available for use by existing customers (probably in the title and the description) people are unlikely to click through to your app listing from the search results anyway. If they know they cannot use it then why would they? So even if you do rank well for non-branded keywords, your product/brand will get very little exposure as very few non-customers will click through to your result.
  • A huge app ranking factor is the keywords that you include in your description and your app title. If you wanted to rank for non-branded terms then you would need this word space to target the non-branded terms you want to go for. However, on the other hand, you also need this space to warn potential downloaders that the app is only available for existing customers. Therefore combining keyword optimization with this warning text may make the ranking for non-branded terms more difficult.
  • There is also evidence that click-through rates from the search results play a role in your App Store ranking. As explained above, if you plaster your App title and description with warning signs that the App can only be used by existing paying customers, your click-through rate from search results will be low. If your App is associated with a low click-through rate from your non-branded search results then it may be more difficult to rank for these terms.

All these factors make it difficult to justify optimizing your app for non-branded searches. There are always exceptions to this rule. For example, if it is possible to easily become a customer within the app shortly after downloading, then non-customers can quickly start using the app and won’t get disgruntled that they cannot use it.

However, in the majority of cases, it may make more sense to optimize your app for branded searches, therefore targeting existing customers to give them the best app experience possible.

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What can you do to help directly market the app to your customers?

In terms of the App Store and Google Play listing:

  • Use your App description/keywords and app title to target branded searches only.
  • You should still mention what your app does in the description (as this will help confirm to customers that this is the correct app to download) but you don’t need to try and target the non-branded keyword. This means for titles you should use something like ‘[Your company] app’ or simply ‘[Your company]’.
  • For the Google Play description try and use your brand name 5 times (this is the optimum number of times to mention a target keyword before it might be considered spammy).
  • Use the brand name in the first and last line of the Google Play description. This will help to demonstrate the importance of that keyword.
  • For App Store keywords, try and include a range of branded keywords, such as:
  1. [Your company] app
  2. [Your company]
  3. [Your company] customer app
  4. [Your company] app for customers
  5. Etc

Reviews and downloads

  • Reviews are an important part of App store and Google Play ranking, and so it is worth getting your customers and people who work at your company to review the app (with a 5-star rating) and also leave a comment.
  • Downloads are even more important than reviews in terms of ranking. So try to encourage your customers and employees to download the app. This could be done by sending around an email or even offering a small reward to customers for downloading the app within the first 50 days.

Localization of App listing on Google Play

Translate your app description and title into all the different languages that your customers operate in (even if the app itself is not available in those languages). People are far more likely to click on and download an app that is listed in their native language.

Other promotion

It is also worth building a page on your website to help showcase the app. This is helpful for two reasons:

  • If you web search optimize your app showcase page for the term [Your company] app, then you can target Google searches from your customers who are searching for your app on the web.
  • Secondly, both Google Play and the App Store are believed to take into account the number of external links to your app listing when determining app search position. Make sure that any links that you build towards your Google Play listing have anchor text similar to  ‘[Your company] app’ so that Google knows exactly which kind of searches your app needs to rank for, and not vague non-branded terms that increase the chances of non-customers downloading your app.

Case Study: What did Bynder do?

At Bynder we released our customer only app in Spring 2017. We took into account the pointers above and made sure that we optimized our app for branded searches, and not for non-branded searches.

For example, notice that we kept our app name completely brand centered and did not use any of our non-branded target keywords (such as ‘digital asset management’).

Check out our app listings on the App Store and Google Play for further examples of how we have optimized our Apps for branded searches.

In summary

If your app is only available for existing customers, it might be safer to try and target branded searches only. Going after new customers with an app built only for existing customers may annoy people and result in bad reviews. So by targeting branded keywords only, you ensure that your existing customers can easily find and download the app – therefore helping them make the most of an app built for them.

Online tools every app entrepreneur should bookmark
App Store Optimization: How to improve your app performance


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