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8 Free App Discovery and App Marketing Tricks That Actually Work

With over 2 billion smartphone devices globally, one would assume there are more than enough mobile app users for everyone to share. The problem is, your app is not alone, and mobile app discovery is becoming harder and harder to crack. According to Statista, there are currently over 1.5 million apps in the App Store, each one competing for users just like you. Some may be in different categories, yet many are searching for the same user who fits your app.

In order to market your app in the App Stores – be it iOS or Google Play – ASO is usually the first term to be thrown around as a tool for discoverability, with many highly-discussed ASO marketing techniques which promise to quickly drive downloads. In fact, when approaching a game plan to promote one’s app, ASO is often used synonymously with “marketing.”

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App Store Optimization: 3 Ways to Boost Your App Rank
How to Top the Ranks and Rule the Play Store (9 ASO Tips)
The Perfect Soft Launch for Your Next App

But how about outside the App Store? What lies beyond the big bad world of mastering app-store descriptions and top keyword rankings? Yes, ASO is essential to your app’s success, but there is an art behind leading potential users to your (optimized) app’s store page. It’s called discoverability, and it goes far beyond ASO.

Below are 8 marketing hacks to apply to your app outside the world of ASO. Once integrated into your marketing campaign, these free tools have proven essential to optimizing your app’s marketability – from getting your app discovered and downloaded, to acquiring the right users and increasing your ROI.

1. Work the forums

Submit your app to directories and forums in order to attract the right audience – i.e. for gaming apps, this means attracting devoted gamers who are looking for new games to play. For games, forums such as Indie DB are a good place to start, whereas for general apps Product Hunt can be a great springboard for getting exposure. Depending on the forum, you could have the added benefit of gaining access to tech experts or early adopters, who are often willing to give you feedback on the app before it’s official launch.

2. Approach alternative app store markets

Distribute your app in alternative app store markets and directories such as, SlideME, 1mobile, and AppBrain. It’s essential to choose the right mix of traffic channels, since correctly leveraging all the different marketplaces available holds the key to improving app discoverability.

3. Pitch to publications

Pitch your app to reporters to score articles from relevant publications such as Social Times, Gamasutra, Appadvice, Appolicious, Gamezebo, and Pocket Gamer. In order to find the right tech reporters and blogs that will generate buzz, try Publicize or Bolo as helpful PR tools that will guide you in identifying the right publications that fit your app.

4. Learn from your competition

Despite the proliferation of apps in the marketplace, the number of apps used remains around the same. With people spending more and more time in their top few apps, it’s essential to get yours in the hands of loyal users in order to increase your ROI.

Fastest Growing AppsIn most cases, your app is not the first of its kind. In order to understand your market, you should first identify your competitors, and then learn from them. Which apps are trending in the market; who is seeing the most growth; what tactics are they utilizing to become popular? Tracking platforms such as ironSource’s Fastest Growing Apps can offer insights into the chart-topping apps and fastest growing app categories, helping you to quickly determine market trends in the industry and shape how you choose to market your app.  

5. Build your community

Build an adoring fanbase by becoming active in community outreach – like on forums and social media – and you can increase discoverability exponentially. If you’re searching for content to share, consider blogging and creating videos about the development process for your app, like Nathaniel Weiss, the creator of the Wizard Fu game engine, who has documented his work on YouTube. From participating in events around the community to converting visitors into fans with interactive content, you should make an effort to create irresistible promotional materials that encourage your community to engage.

6. Cross-promote

Cross-promotion is a wonderful, free way to promote your app to similar audiences. You can cross promote within your own apps, if you have them, so that users who are already using one app will see an ad for your new one. Since they are already enjoying one app of yours, they are likely to download and install another from the same developer.

While cross-promotion works best when you have developed a string of apps and can tap into existing customers who already love and play your games, you can also work with external publishers and 3rd-party ad networks such as ironSource, via paid advertising channels.

7. Create a press kit

You’ve been able to gain press traction for your app through various pitching efforts, and manage to get some bloggers and journalists to stop by your site. Don’t have them hunt for information and screenshots for their article – make it easy for them.

Create a press kit page for your app that makes any marketable information easily available. This can be accomplished with helpful tools such as presskit or prMac, a free distribution tool that enhances press releases.

8. Soft launch

Before your official launch, consider a soft launch in low-cost countries in order to test your app and monetization mechanics. With a soft launch, you can test your game in smaller countries which demonstrate similar app trends and interests to your projected market, allowing you to make any necessary adjustments before releasing to your main market. For example, try testing your game with a soft launch in Canada before releasing your app in the US. Unsure what to test in your game? Consider your IAP funnel, which will help you hone in on the right users and ensure optimal ARPU.


If you want to increase the chances of getting discovered and downloaded in today’s saturated market, you’ll have to be resourceful and use every available tactic to get your app exposure. While it’s true that boosting your app’s store ranking will have a big impact on your installs, your ASO efforts should also be supported by drawing attention to your app outside the app stores as well.

From traditional advertising and social media techniques to efforts in forums, external publications and cross-promotion, it’s essential to supplement your marketing efforts in areas which are far less competitively crowded than the iOS and Google Play app stores. These free marketing hacks will help jumpstart your app’s success by utilizing as many traffic sources as possible to provide your app with a more thorough and well-balanced marketing campaign.

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