With millions of apps available, ensuring yours is found and downloaded can be a real challenge. For example, on Android alone there are over 1.6 million apps listed on Google Play. Previously developers had to rely on organic discovery to be seen within Google’s app marketplace, but this has recently changed, with Google launching a new method of app promotion. 

Called Search Ads on Google Play, it works in a similar way to paid search on Google.com, enabling companies to enhance the visibility of their apps. Importantly, the new service integrates seamlessly with other app download advertising across Google, such as AdWords, enabling companies to plan and execute integrated campaigns that maximise effectiveness and ROI. 

The growing app ecosystem

Before we go into the details of the service, it is worth reminding ourselves of the importance of the Android app ecosystem. In 2014, according to Strategy Analytics, over one billion Android smartphones were sold – a near 30% increase from 2013. Over one billion people in 190 countries have access to Google Play, according to Google.

In our increasingly mobile-centric world, apps are a key way for developers to make money and for brands to engage with consumers. However, given the sheer number of apps out there, being noticed and downloaded can be difficult. Still, there are a few basic ways to be found, including:

•    AdWords campaigns on Google.com – Be warned that while search ads on Google can drive traffic, competition is high as developers can find themselves competing against general advertisers on popular search terms. 
•    Facebook advertising – According to Kenshoo research, app developers spent 293% more on Facebook ads in Q2 2015, compared to a year ago. This shows the importance of the channel for driving those all-important installs.
•    Organic search within Google Play – As on the desktop, many users find apps by simply searching within Google Play. This requires developers to use organic app store optimisation to improve their app’s discoverability, relying on the Google search engine algorithm to be found.

Introducing: Search Ads on Google Play

Google has been investing heavily in helping developers and marketers increase the visibility of their apps and consequently ensure higher discovery and download rates. What Search Ads for Google Play does is allow apps to be found within Google Play itself, when consumers are often searching with stated purpose. For example, people might search for restaurant apps before heading out to find somewhere to eat, or for a travel app when they visit a new city. Google itself states that search is one of the major drivers for app downloads in Google Play.

Search Ads for Google Play works like Google paid search on the desktop – indeed, it is also accessed through the same interface. When users search for your keywords in Google Play, they are automatically sent to your Google Play Store Listing to install your app. It is therefore advertising at the point of search, where intent is strongest.

As with the Google search engine, combining paid and organic campaigns can help reinforce your message and therefore potentially drive greater downloads and engagement. Seeing an ad appearing alongside organic results within Google Play, can increase the likelihood of users then clicking and downloading your app. Additionally, as Google Play integrates with Google Search paid results, apps are now discoverable in both Google Search paid results and the Google Play app store. This gives an app even more exposure to the right audience.

Taking an integrated approach

Given the importance of apps – and the increasing competition in the market – companies need to adopt a holistic, integrated approach to ensure that their apps are found and downloaded by consumers. 

It is therefore vital to look at all the channels you can use to reach audiences, from in-app ads, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo Gemini, and mobile display advertising. Create a strategy to test formats and publishers to see what works for your brand. Put in place key metrics, monitor success and assign budgets where you’re seeing strong results. In short, treat app advertising in the same way as any other digital marketing campaign.

Competition amongst apps, on both iOS and Android, is fierce – and with more and more of them being launched, it is only going to get tougher to be found and to stand out from the crowd. Consequently digital marketers need to take a close look at options like the new Search Ads for Google Play and incorporate it into their strategies if they want to lead the way in the app economy.