How to rank higher on the Google Apps Marketplace

This has been an entrepreneur’s challenge for centuries, and today, while there are hundreds of new ways to do so with digital marketing, there is also quite a bit of noise so the real challenge is finding ways to stand out among all that noise, and in as many different environments as possible.

At Evercontactone of our most successful customer acquisition techniques has been scaling up traction within a marketplace, which continually drives even greater acquisition as, once you rank higher in the marketplace, you get higher and higher exposure leading to more installations which brings higher exposure etc etc etc. Now featured as atop app in the customer management category in the Google Apps Markeplace, here are the valuable lessons we’ve learned along our journey to the top over the past 3 years.

1) The one thing no one can tell you

There’s not a clear map to scale up on a marketplace, and that’s largely because the ranking algorithms of the Google Apps Marketplace are indeed quite secretive, much like Google Search & Google Play. And yet, almost every company with a successful app and a sharp eye on their metrics will be able to tell you how their ranking has evolved over time.

We have certainly noticed a number of clear factors that have pushed our app higher, and have clearly led to a strong increase in installations which is what counts for your business at the end of the day.

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2) The one thing that everyone knows: keyword optimization

Just like Google search, a major key to being found by your potential customers, is to know what search terms they’re using when looking for a solution like yours. You can use a keyword research tool (like Google AdWords) to see how often certain key words are used, and find that “killer” search query- the terms that people are using most often to find an app like yours. Make sure to add your “killer” search terms to the title of your App, and you’ll also want to repeat them a number of times throughout the description as well.

From there, you also want to make sure that your copy is compelling because, yes, you can increase visits to your listing on the marketplace, but if your copy doesn’t drive users to test out because the offer is irresistible… well then, your funnel’ll be filling up at a much slower speed, and while others get higher installs, they’ll get more visibility as well, higher rankings, and all of this adds us very quickly!

3) The one thing we really rocked out: customer reviews

We’ve always been a product and customer-oriented company, so when it came time to figure out a way to increase referrals, we reached out to our customers and started to develop what we called our “thnx barometer“, a system to reward our clients for every way they could help us, and additionally for each new referral they brought on board (and in return they had upwards of 50% off the product or free months of premium).

The Thnx Barometer had an action to review the app, and thankfully almost all of our customers left 5-star reviews, and over the past 18 months they’ve left over 600 reviews (5th highest of ALL apps on the Google Marketplace)!  I don’t know of many other startups that have growth-hacked with such a strategy, but we need we needed to do something as reaching out to everyone who upgraded to thank them, exchange for a bit of feedback, and kindly requested a quick review wasn’t scalable or very effective.

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Another possible strategy we’ve seen Amazon Fresh (iOS app) put into place was to require their app users to rate their application after a certain amount of usage.  Of course, you’d need to evaluate if that drives churn, but it definitely worth testing out.

4) The one thing you HAVE to do: dot your i’s and cross your technical t’s

At the end of 2013, we had over 25 new corporate installations via the marketplace every week, and then we saw it plummet. Within two months we were at half that installation rate and scrambling to figure out what had changed. We started replaying with keywords, and then realized that it might also be for a very obvious technical reason — Google was starting to push its newer oAuth 2 standard and we hadn’t prioritized pushing that out on the dev side. It was clearly a decision that came with consequences as we have a hunch that with 2014 kicking off, Google started to rank apps not yet on oAuth 2 lower in the marketplace.

Once we pushed oAuth 2 out, we saw the corp installations double almost over night, so do make sure that you stick close to Google’s technical recommendations for the Google Apps Marketplace, and when they push out new standards, be among the first to adopt them. For bonus points, as you’ll be an early adopter of a new standard, you might even find a bug or two. Definitely send these along which’ll help build developer relations for you within Google. We once found a huge bug with a new IMAP standard they pushed out for Gmail and the relationship that ensued is still quite valuable when we have questions, or need a bit of help.

Likewise, stay on top of any bugs within your app and its installation as Google most certainly receives reports for those.  Keeping them to a minimal will should help keep your ranking that much higher.

5) The one thing you should play with: finding the right category

Figuring out the right category within the Google Marketplace (Accounting & Finance, Admin Tools, Calendar & Scheduling, Customer Management, Document Management, Productivity, Project Management, Sales & Marketing, Security & Compliance, Workflow, EDU) might seem easier than you’d think.  Many applications can figure into any number of slots (ours could be customer management, productivity, Sales, Workflow) and we ended up choosing customer management over sales or productivity for the simple reason that it put us in a less broad category where we had a better chance at being organically found, and ranking higher more quickly.

6) The one thing EVERYONE must always do: interact with your customers & evolve

Google tracks more than we can easily guess, especially how consumers react to your product on every platform they have (Bounce rate on web pages, Active installations on the marketplace, Google play) and ranks your app accordingly as well, so you need to make sure you’re interacting with your clients to optimize their experience.

A drip email campaign not only helps with conversion & customer support, but above all, provides feedback which, when intelligently integrated into your continually “stickier” product keeps your customers on board, happy, and also keeps your ranking higher as these analtics certainly impact your exposure.

We enjoy interacting with our clients on an individual basis via social media/email, and also encourage you to have adata-driven feedback approach as well, as a quantitative analysis of their feature requests/complaints/what they love will give you a clear idea of how you need to evolve your product (see our uservoice forum below, and also google survey responses)

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In our case, the past two years of feedback data revealed that we needed to expand Evercontact beyond “just email signature analysis to address books”. So, we developed a chrome extension that allows clients to grab contact info from anywhere on the web. Likewise, we developed a number of connections to CRMs, and released an API to white-label our service for smaller CRM providers, and larger B2B clients. On the horizon will be contact sharing and we’ll continue to listen carefully and make strategic decisions to evolve the product line.

Takeaway:  It takes time, patience, experimentation and analytics.

In Conclusion, ranking higher has been a long process, both in learning how to do so and also in slowly moving up the totem pole.  Having scaled up well in the google marketplace, it’s now time to continue to expand in other marketplaces (which was Evernote’s clear marketing strategy) and our next stop will be the chrome webstore.  We’ve found some great tips from LucidChart on how to scale up there and will be implementing them soon (and probably pushing as many translations as we can first)!