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Best Practices and Top Mobile Trends for Your Casual Games

by Sven Lubek on 07/15/19 11:11:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Mobile gaming is booming, with mobile games making up 33 percent of all app downloads in 2018 and set to reach 60% market share of all gaming consumer spend in 2019. According to a recent App Annie report, worldwide consumer spending on mobile games during the last four years reached nearly $300 billion, which is more than PC, handheld consoles, and home consoles combined. Hyper-casual games will be driving download growth in 2019.

So, while there are many opportunities to be gained for mobile game developers and publishers, beating the competition in this saturated industry requires knowledge, skills and organization. To help you on your player acquisition journey, here are the top 5 tips and best practices you should keep in mind when growing your gaming app’s user base.

1. Aim for a healthy organic uplift

For a long-term sustainable growth of your hyper-casual game, you’ll need to have a healthy organic uplift - which is calculated as the number of organic users acquired per each non-organic user. You’ll want to keep a good balance. Essentially, it tells you if the market you are targeting actually likes the game and whether you will have success with the game in the mid/long-term.

As a benchmark, for 2 paid installs you will get 1 organic install, as this is the general state of the market. Keep in mind this relation when planning your strategy. If you don’t track your organic installs, once you decrease your UA investment, the keywords you rank for will decrease as well. For hyper-casual games, this KPI is really important because it will likely affect your app store ranking for relevancy.

The higher the organic uplift, the more organic installs and therefore, the lower effective CPI. Your app store ranking will then decrease as a result, organic downloads will decrease and your CPI will be higher. Note that if you are ranked for the main keywords your market is interested in, Google and iOS algorithms will give you a lower CPI, resulting in better conditions to keep acquiring users.

2. Bid on branded keywords when running Apple Search Ads (ASA)

Some marketers consider running search ads for branded keywords, a form of brand cannibalization, since they would be buying the traffic that they would otherwise get for free - for example, by bidding on a recognizable brand such as Uber that already ranks number 1 for taxis. Others think it’s a form of brand protection. 

Where do you stand? Let us consider some key facts:

  • Branded queries bring in the biggest increase in traffic, with branded keywords being the most converting ones. AppsFlyer found that 66% of all searches on the App Store consists of the name of an app or a competitor and 34% of the queries are general. So by not bidding and participating, you lose out.
  • Put yourself in your users’ shoes. Would you scroll down to find an app down to the 10th spot in any listing? Even if your app has the highest organic ranking, the likelihood is that users would still click on an ad for an app that resembles the app they are looking for on top of the listing - especially if it is visible and visually appealing.
  • Not bidding? A competitor will - and once they do, their app will be shown above your organic listing. Once you get involved, there is a chance that someone will bid higher than you.
  • Based on research by Split Metrics, Apple seems to show text ad for brand keywords if the app is listed as number one for these keywords. What this means is, you needn’t worry about cannibalization - even if your App Store ads banner appears, it will be shown above your app’s organic listing with images, so users would be more inclined to click on that.
  • Stopping the ad campaigns can have a negative impact on the organic results. When you run Search Ads with your brand keywords, you’re not buying your own traffic - you’re still boosting your organic searches, leading to more installs and target actions.

Ultimately, based on research and experience, it would be advisable to approach this part of your Apple Search Ads strategy as a form of brand protection. By not bidding, you have already lost the game.

3. Consider that paid users should eventually lead to organic users

Segueing from the above point: keep in mind that by investing in paid campaigns on Apple Search Ads, you can get organic results. When you use ASA, you are bidding for keywords - therefore, you will be more relevant for those keywords, as you are getting more (paid) installs. As you become more relevant for a certain keyword, you will rank better for that keyword and then you will start getting more organic installs.

So in essence, always keep in mind the relation between paid and organic users. Ensure you have some budget set aside for these campaigns. It varies by industry, but for hyper-casual games, we estimate you’ll need 20% to 25% of your monthly budget.

4. Optimize and track your “K Factor”

The “K-factor” is the viral coefficient that a game has across its user base, driven by factors ranging from offline recommendations to successful (paid) social implementations. The K-factor comes from social campaigns (including influencer marketing), when users share the game with their friends, word of mouth, etc. Look for ways to optimize your K-Factor via virality, SEO and shareability - for example, by incentivizing users to send invitations for the app -  as it has been historically proven that most apps which fail at the K-factor aren’t going to be successful long-term.

Usually, measurement tools lump together ASO and K-factor. While it’s difficult to track conversions through the app stores (although there are specific software tools), there are a few ways to get around this: for example, by measuring the number of paid installs and divide the number of organic or non-paid installs into them; or another tactic would be to turn off all paid campaigns for a set time and work out what is the effect of paid to organic downloads. If the organic downloads number is smaller than the difference, it would be caused by the lack of users that would otherwise come thanks to the paid users.

5. Don’t underestimate the importance of ratings and reviews in mobile gaming

Take advantage of Apple’s native prompt - if complimented with a testing strategy, it can deliver huge results.

Better ratings can positively impact your app, leading to:

  • Better App Store visibility
  • Higher influence on conversion
  • Direct impact on ASA/UAC (Universal App Campaigns) CPI
  • Insurance against negative feedback
  • Easy to acquire

Ultimately, getting a high rating on the App Store is one of the most effective ways to increase your downloads and conversion rate. So, ensure the prompt is strategically placed and ask yourself - where in your app can you show this prompt that will allow users to engage with it in a positive way?

Overall, Apple values ratings over reviews - and so should you.


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