App Marketing Conversations: Are Burst Campaigns Detrimental to App Rank?

by GameHouse

Since the release of the app store, app marketers have used a variety of tactics to increase the exposure of their apps in the App Store & Google Play. A widely used tactic is a burst campaign, where a marketer spends a large amount of money to buy app installs to increase their rank and obtain organic installs from their new chart position. As the app ecosystem and platform owners (Apple & Google, most notably) evolve these campaigns may actually be detrimental to the app marketer

App Promotion


In this weeks segment of App Marketing Conversations Ryan Morel of GameHouse, Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ and Robi Ganguly of Apptentive discuss why burst campaigns are not what they once were and how app marketers can adapt to the new market environment.

Watch the video here and check the transcript below. Make sure to check out the other segments in this weeks App Marketing Conversations!


Ryan Morel: Hi, and welcome to another installment of App Marketing Conversations. I am Ryan Morel with Gamehouse. As always, I am here with Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ, Robi Ganguly of Apptentive.

Today we’re going to talk a little about general app marketing, and somewhat of a topic that we’ve heard for the last couple years, which is; how should app marketers go about increasing ranking in a meaningful fashion? First, and secondly; how do they maintain that ranking? For a long period of time we had this idea of burst campaigns or boost campaigns where developers would go spend big over a one to three day period, drive themselves up the rank, and hope for the best. But now, as it turns out, we’re finding that burst campaigns may not be the best use of marketing dollars. Not only not the greatest way to go about increasing your ranking, but may actually be detrimental to your ranking.

Robi, I know you brought this to our attention as a group, I think; so maybe you give an overall what that means?

Robi Ganguly: Yeah. I think the conventional wisdom now, which is sort of catching up to state-of-the-art from two years ago, ironically. Conventional wisdom now is if you get into the top three on any of these lists, you’re much more likely to stay in the top ten, because you’ll get exposure, and then it creates this sort of flywheel effect. We’re seeing is, the marketplaces are becoming more sophisticated about looking at how apps are received; not just in their first install and download behavior, but how they’re actually used. That usage pattern, after the initial download is then filtering into rankings and search results. And that that’s driving a lot of the the long-term behaviors.

What that means, as a marketer, if you have a niche product, and you spend using a burst campaign, because everybody’s told you need to be doing this to show up in the top three; if your app historically, the people who used it were using at a rate of 60 to 70 percent adoption, and it’s now 10 percent, you’re actually very likely to get dinged. That’s the general theory around what’s happening; that the stores are getting more sophisticated about attention, and you’re going to actually really hurt your attention if you’re more niche-orientated and go in front of a broad audience.

Ian Sefferman: And I think on top of that, the next thing that you see, if you are a marketer who has a huge budget, but has an app that is not really relevant to most people, you’re going to get dinged on your reviews, you’re going to dinged on rating, because people are going to see this app, and they’re going to be like, “Hey, I’m going to install this, it’s in the top ten, and I install everything in the top ten.”

And then they’re going to install it, and they’re going be like, “This is dumb. This does nothing for me,” because they’re not your target audience, and then they’re going to like, “All right, one star.” And then all of the sudden, you’re going to see your ratings drop, you’re going to see that that’s going to have an impact on your search performance, that’s going to have an impact on your conversions; getting people to actually download the app. So it goes further that that. It’s a really interesting thing to see how sophisticated marketers are now managing their first spends.

Ryan: What I’m hearing both of you say is; If you’re going to spend a lot of money, especially on a burst campaign; make sure you know your right customer is, and make sure that they’re actually going to use and continue to use your app. And so, I think one the the questions here is; How do you identify how big your niche is? Maybe your niche is everybody, but maybe it’s not. How would go about thinking about that as an app marketer?

Ian: To me it’s all about testing, right? I think we’ve all spent time looking at the lean start up cycle. I absolutely believe that there’s a lean marketing cycle in apps. Whether that’s start in small country, understand based on this country’s size; I want to know what does engagement look like at different levels; if I want to play the charts game. That’s a fair game to play. It exists to marketers today as a really big way to drive adoption.

Play the game if it makes sense to play, but do the testing to see if it does actually make sense. So, spend some money to see where you end up in the charts in a smaller market, find out what that engagement looks like, find out what your ratings look like, try a little bit bigger of a market. Continue to spend up until it works, and start in your category before moving on to the whole app store, right? Do top three arcade, then do top three games, then do top three everything, all right? So, to me, it’s a build-measure-learn cycle. In this case, it’s really a spend-measure-learn cycle.

Robi: I think I would agree that you have to be planful around how you’re getting information back, not just how you’re pushing things out. As a marketer, I think the thing that’s intriguing is that these cycles are compressive. All of the historical cycles around how far you could get just by spending have been compressed over time.

For a long a time in mass marketing, you used television advertising to mass market your product. Effectively, as digital sort of took over, and the internet has really become predominant in many of lives, that cycle has compressed. Now with apps, it looks like it’s even more compressed. We’re five years into the app ecosystem, where we’re talking about how having a lot of dollars in burst campaigns is starting to actually review negatively. That feels to me like, as a marketer, you have to be constantly focused on getting smarter, and smarter, and smarter, and more targeted.

Ryan: I think the interesting thing is that we’re now seeing, and we’re kind of always seeing this with Apple, or at least from a philosophical level, and now we’re clearly seeing it with Google too is, they’ve become really mindful of the quality of the content. I remember when Android first came out, it was like – Well, you’re an Android user, there was a bunch of crap on there. There probably still is a bunch of crap, but it’s not rewarded the same way as it used to be, right? It’s becoming really clear that that ecosystem, that platform, needs to have really high quality content, and the platform owners need to ensure that quality is high, or they risk burning their users. I think that’s an interesting shift that we’ve seen, and should reiterate to everybody that quality needs to be your number one focus. If you take care of that, you can worry about the other stuff later.

Ian: Yup.

Robi: Yeah, I think that’s right. One thing I would to that is, it looks like the the Android marketplace is iterating much faster…

Ian: I would agree.

Robi: …than the iTunes app store.

Ryan: Is that because they have to?

Robi: I think some of it’s because they have to, but I also think that they have the underlying technology that allows them do it; best search engine construction in the world, probably the best personalization infrastructure in the world. Putting those things together and applying them to the marketplace would really be powerful.

Ian: I think, in general, they have the best data analysis structure in the world. They can run a metric shit ton of analyses on different pieces of data to find out what actually works quickly, whereas Apple has the best music sales structure in the world. They figured out a way to sell a lot of songs, but they never built a core infrastructure around data analysis back in the day.

Robi: So you’re saying Genius doesn’t work for you?

Ian: No. Genius does not do much for me.

Ryan: Okay, I think we’re good here. So, I think the net message is: Be careful about spending your marketing dollars on burst campaigns, and as Ian said; spend, measure, learn, then spend some more. Yeah. I think that’s it. Thanks very much for participating. Make sure to watch the other segments from Ian and Robi. Like this video, subscribe to our channel, and check back next week.

[the following is a preview of the next episode]

Ian: What do you make of the disparity where one is going up, one is going down?

Robi: Well, I think we’ve tested on it before. Price strat is a lot of decision making, right? So, I think it stands to reason that the US is perhaps the highest…

By Ryan Morel


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