Who Says Inbound is Just for the Web? 4 Ways to Bring Inbound Marketing to Your Mobile App

Rise_of_the_Inbound_Jedis_start_wars_posterThe true story of the big, old, outbound marketing empire getting overthrown by the nimbler, humbler, and more helpful army of inbound marketers is the thing great Hollywood movies are made of. Okay fine, great books.

The inbound marketing movement revolutionized how brands behave online. We moved away from yelling at consumers with a megaphone to attracting them to us like a magnet with remarkable content, search engine optimization, and a plethora of other inbound concepts.

And it’s high time we bring these techniques to mobile apps as well.


Yes, “Inboundy” App Marketing is Possible 

Think inbound is just for the web? Think again!

The people that deeply understand and embrace the inbound movement know that it goes above and beyond just digital marketing. Product development, customer service, and even outbound can be “inboundy.” So, why should your mobile app be left out in the cold? 


4 Inbound Marketing Techniques and How They Fit Into Your Mobile App

Inbound marketing principles can help your app get found, nurture and convert users, and grow your social reach. But it’s not a one-to-one translation of techniques because websites are information-oriented while apps are more task-oriented. For example, no blogging happens inside your mobile apps, but there is a content strategy. Intriguing right?

Let’s take what you love about inbound marketing and make it work for mobile. The fun, relationship-building soul is there – the implementation tactics are just a tad bit different.

1. App Store Optimization (ASO) is mobile’s version of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Inbound Principle: Get found organically

How do people find apps? Here’s an interesting graph of the answer via Moz (based on research done by Forrester).  


As you can see, the natural process of search and discovery is alive and kicking on mobile too. But instead of vying for rankings on web engines, you need to gain visibility in app stores so your app is easily noticeable – not buried on page 30-something of Google Play or Apple’s App Store listing chart. 

The SEO wizardry you learned will come in handy because app store optimization borrows more than a few things from search engine optimization. Below, we’ve highlighted key SEO concepts and their ASO equivalents (with tips to get you started). One thing to note: ASO isn’t as sophisticated as SEO (yet), but just like the web, there are “on-page” and “off-page” components. 

On-page elements are things you can completely control (like what goes on your app’s product page) and off-page elements are things you can only somewhat control (like reviews and ratings).  


Page Title vs. App Title

Similar to a website’s title, your app’s name is one of the most important on-page factors that determine how you rank. It should contain both branding and keywords to help app stores figure out what your app does and where to list it. To identify which keywords to use, think about what terms your app users are searching for (but don’t keyword stuff or make your app title abnormally long!). 

Above the Fold Content vs. App Description

Google’s algorithm grades websites based on what content appears at the top of the page (before you have to scroll down). The ASO version of “above the fold” is your app’s description. This is where you outline what your app is all about. Be explicit, clear, and highlight user benefits.  


Meta Description vs. App Icon

While not directly imperative for SEO, meta descriptions play an extremely vital role in getting click-throughs from SERPs (search engine result pages). A meta description is the short paragraph (usually one-two sentences) that you see underneath a link. It helps searchers understand what the webpage is about. Unsurprisingly, a concise and compelling description leads to more clicks and traffic. 

In the land of apps, your icon takes the place of a meta description because it appears in app store search results. Your app’s icon should be striking, well branded, and convey usefulness to entice people to click on it. The number of visits to your app’s product page also affects your rank so make your icon unique, make it stand out, and make sure it visually explains your app’s purpose.   


Promotional Screenshots & Languages

Aside from the three ASO elements highlighted above, other things like promotional screenshots/videos of your app and the number of languages it is available in, further influence how you appear in search results. Take high-quality screen grabs of your app in action and overlay it with text or graphics to tell a story. And if you can offer your app in more than one language, do it!

Ratings & Reviews

The better rated your app, the more visible it will be. The more positively reviewed your app, the more likely it will appear in top charts. Although ratings and reviews are somewhat out of app marketers’ control (that’s why we classify these as off-page components of ASO), brainstorm ways to motivate your happy users to publicly rate your app and obsessively resolve negative complaints.  


Link Building for Websites vs. Link Building for Apps

Link building for apps is actually not that different from getting inbound links for your site. On the web, online marketers publish blogs with calls-to-action to a landing page, which collects leads. 

On smartphones, there is no room to maintain a blog within an app. Instead, mobile marketers should build a microsite for their app and showcase what it can do. This microsite should also contain a micro-blog to drive links and traffic to your app’s product page in app stores (which collects users).

Key Takeaways & Additional Reading:


2. Social sharing buttons can amplify in-app actions (vs. just content)

Inbound Principle: Use social media marketing and grow your reach  


Did you know that Facebook has more than one billion active monthly users? Of that number, more than 94% of people access Facebook from their mobile device. Similarly, Twitter has 271 million active monthly users and 78% of them are mobile.

Safe to say, social media networks are here to stay. Are you effectively using them in your app marketing strategy?

Online, we use social media to grow our brand’s presence (“click here to like our Facebook page”) and get people to amplify our content (“click here to tweet this article”). In apps, social media marketing is able to elicit a deeper level of engagement because you have the power to share actions and accomplishments too.

A lot of our content consumption happens while we are on the go and therefore, don’t forget to make conventional “follow us” or “share this” social buttons a prominent feature (especially in news or magazine apps). 

Beyond that, mobile marketers can embed social calls-to-action that encourage users to invite their friends to an app or brag about how close they are to achieving a goal. And you can also build-in a social feed of peer activities so users feel inspired and motivated to keep interacting with your app. 

Key Takeaways & Additional Reading:


3. Push and in-app messaging are the new email marketing

Inbound Principle: Earn subscribers, engage leads, and nurture users  


Bestselling author and online marketing pioneer, Bryan Eisenberg, notably said, “Never forget social media is for reach, but email is for revenue.” In other words, social amplification can increase the number of eyeballs on your product, but a structured email-nurturing strategy is what ultimately drives sales.

Push and in-app messaging for apps are like email marketing. 

First, earn a healthy number of subscribers by persuading users to opt-in to push notifications. Be creative and specify exactly what users will gain from turning push notifications on. You want to highlight the types of push notifications your app will send, how they will benefit the user, and what scenarios will trigger the alerts. 

Second, employ a systematic nurturing strategy and deliver well-written push alerts and well-designed in-app messages with compelling calls-to-action. Carefully time these to re-engage users. Push notifications will help you stay top-of-mind while in-app messages will move people through key funnels once they’re back in your app.   

Key Takeaways & Additional Reading:


4.  Remarkable content changes into remarkable context, which powers irresistible offers

Inbound Principle: Provide personalized value to customers  


Unlike your website, your app is not supposed to be an information hub. There’s no blog inside your app, no eBooks, no whitepapers, no webinars – nada. But there is a content strategy and it’s more digestible in size. 

Content marketing translates into context marketing when applied to apps. It means sending push and in-app messages that are highly targeted, relevant, and personalized. Think about how you write an article for a certain audience and channel this skill into creating irresistible offers for different segments of your app users.

Mobile apps are uniquely positioned to deliver exceptionally customized app content because of Profiles (which allows you combine information from outside and inside your app). This is how inbound app marketing is becoming smarter and more robust than its online counterpart.  

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Attracting, Engaging, and Delighting People Online In Apps

Aren’t you happy that the number of cold calls you get during dinner has dropped significantly? Us too. Interruptive marketing is no longer as effective as it used to be. Consumers want less noise, more value.

The inbound revolution has ushered in a new, brighter era for brands. And it’s coming to mobile too. 

To attract, engage, and delight people using your app you need to be interesting, entertaining, and helpful. You need to pay attention to your ASO, incorporate social media tactics, nurture users with push and in-app messaging, and adopt an individualized approach to app marketing.

That’s how you excite people and make them flock to your metaphoric mobile doorstep.