Market Maneuvering: Cataloging Successes and Failures


The Market Maneuvering post series will cover various tactical things you, my fellow Android developers, need to do to gauge and improve your success in marketing your Android applications.

In a previous post, I drew the connection between Android Market and a catalog. Based on posts to the Android Google Groups, I suspect some people still don’t quite get it, so let me dive into this concept a bit further, and offer some ideas for dealing with the particular catalog that is the Android Market.

Just because you are in the Android Market does not guarantee you sales. The only time sales are pretty much guaranteed is when the catalog is small and the demand for content is high (e.g., when iPhone App Store debuted).

Once the catalog is bigger, you have a lot of competition for “shelf space”. Just because the catalog has effectively infinite space does not mean the minds of Android (or iPhone) users can sift through that many choices, particularly if they are just randomly browsing. The human mind can only deal with so much. It is up to you to optimize your presence in the catalog (e.g., Android Market) to deal with the ways that users will use the catalog.

Let’s consider how ordinary Android device users are going to use the Android Market. By and large, when looking for an app, they will do one of three things:

  1. They will search based on an app’s name, because they read a review about it, or heard about it through word of mouth, or whatever.

  2. They will search based on some keyword that they think represents what they want.

  3. They will browse a category (e.g., Card Games)

These are more or less in descending order of value to you. Obviously, if they search for you by name, you’re in great shape. You also have some degree of control over how you appear in search results, courtesy of 325 characters’ worth of description. If they browse the category, unless they browse by popularity and you are popular, they may never find you as the catalog grows and grows.

Whether people search for you by name is mostly driven by your marketing outside of the Android Market — more on this in future posts. Let’s instead focus a bit on the second option: keyword searching.

Your description has to serve two roles. It needs to have enough keywords that people will search upon such that you show up in the search results. And, it needs to convince them either to buy on the spot or at least make note of your app and do further research on it, so that later they might find you in the Market again based upon searching for you by name.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for how to maximize the value of your Market listing:

  • Use as much of the description as you can. If it only allows you to enter 325 characters, you better be using at least 316 of them – if not, think of another word that somebody might search on that might be something that your app can handle. Example: Jane wants an application that can store credit card details, so she can make online purchases from her office without carrying all her cards with her. This could easily be handled by a password manager. However, if Jane searches on “credit”, she finds apps, but none designed to securely hold credit card information. Somebody writing a password manager app should list examples of “passwords” that could be stored — listing “credit cards” would mean that app would show up on Jane’s search, and you’d make a sale. If you cannot think of intelligent prose to use that work in your desired search keywords, just slap a “Keywords:” list at the bottom or something to get the words in there.

  • It is possible that there is merit in having both a free version and a priced version of an app in the Market, since people can filter for only free apps. However, there is a cost to this — your download count and ratings get split over multiple entries in the Market. This may mean neither version becomes “popular”, as defined by the “By popularity” tab when browsing a Market category. If your goal is to get high on the popularity ranking within your category, consider whether you should try to consolidate your presence on the Market, rather than split the Market’s attention between multiple disparate editions.

  • On the flip side, if you do not feel you have a realistic shot of ranking high in popularity, you might consider putting up several priced versions of your app, under different names…and with different descriptions. Why? The description field is, in essence, the scope of your “shelf space” in the Market. If you want more shelf space, you need more descriptions, which means more app listings. For example, the same app might be distributed as a password manager and a credit card details manager and a secure notebook and several other things. This weakens your per-app popularity but improves the odds that your app will be found in a search, because you have that many more ways to describe your app.

  • If you embed a URL to provide more details about your app, the URL has to be short, because the description is plain text and URLs, inexplicably, are not clickable. Expecting somebody to type in is preposterous. Pretend that every extra character halves the number of people who will type in the URL. So, drop the www., get a reasonably short domain name for the app itself, and drive people to the app’s own home page (e.g., Not only does this increase the odds that somebody will actually bother to read what you wrote on that site, but it frees up space for another keyword or two.

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