Elijah Masek-Kelly

User acquisition (UA) is a constant challenge for app developers. Even incredibly innovative app ideas can become a huge flop if they fail to drive new users to the app. For this reason, user acquisition and marketing are typically a fairly large portion of most app developers' budgets.

Ultimately, user acquisition is not cheap.

To provide an example, some of the typical app user acquisition costs include:

  • App Installs cost between $1.22 - $3.60 per user
  • In-App Purchases cost between $77.45 - $86.72 per user
  • Registered Users cost between $2.17 - $7.55 per user

These days, most marketers rely on paid ads to drive the majority of their user acquisition. Strategies such as PPC, social media ads, and Google Adwords are typically deployed because they present a simple and calculatable cost to ROI of user acquisition, which is ideal for keeping marketing budgets in check.

That said, it's also an ongoing cost. If you stop running your paid ads then new users will stop signing up. This problem has many app developers hungry (or at least curious!) to develop more channels for organic user acquisition. However, securing organic growth for apps is an increasingly difficult challenge to overcome recently, but for those who are determined to establish channels of organic growth, this article will share three strategies to help increase organic user acquisition.

1. App Store Optimization

This one is a no-brainer. According to Apple, approximately 65% of app downloads are a direct result of search in the App Store. That's a big slice of the business that has many competitive apps vying for a top position among various search terms related to their app.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is a critical tool for organic user acquisition. If no one can find your app then no one will ever install it. There are many strategies when it comes to ASO, but the core understanding boils down to the fact that the content on your app listing page needs to appeal to the search algorithm in order for your app to be suggested as a result of relevant search queries.

2. User Referral Programs

Ask any business owner and they will tell you that the best kind of advertising is word-of-mouth. When it comes to organic user acquisition for apps — this remains true. In fact, according to a recent survey, 52% of respondents said they find out about apps from friends, family, and colleagues.

However, it's very difficult to build a growth strategy on the hope that users will tell their networks about your app. That said, there are plenty of strong strategies that can be used to turn an active user base into an avid organic user acquisition channel through referral programs.

3. Content Marketing

This is one of the hardest methods for driving organic UA, but it can be one of the most lucrative once it is fully established. However, 72% of marketers say that content marketing increases the number of leads that they receive.

The challenge with content marketing is that you need to hone in on your messaging, distribute strategically, and coordinate multiple touchpoints that lead attention to a point of conversion. Ultimately, it's about providing insanely useful content for your target audience to acquire attention from them and then leading them to a compelling conclusion about why your app is the solution to their problem.

Organic UA is never an overnight success

Well, perhaps that's not entirely true. With the exception of a viral explosion for some particular reason, organic user acquisition typically takes some time to gain momentum. The good news is that most organic channels have a compounding effect, which increases the velocity of user acquisition over time. For example, as your referral program brings in more users who actively participate in the same referral program that lead them to your app — the rate of UA increases exponentially.

Paid UA is still a critical strategy for launching an app, but pairing it with organic channels is how you build sustainable success over time.