Search Marketing Tips for Indie Developers
by Jovan A. Johnson, Esq. 

Dear Indie Developers:

If your site isn’t optimized for search, you are missing out on money! Let me explain…

The marketing plan for your app should include a variety of approaches aimed at getting eyes on your final product. Presuming you are not working with a publisher, you will probably launch a web site or two, create a social networking profile or ten, pay to advertise and beg for coverage. That’s all fine, but you are making a costly mistake if your site is not optimized for search traffic.  

What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves coding, writing, and marketing so that search engines recognize your site as relevant for desired search terms. Many firms provide SEO services and a small portion of those firms actually know how to execute an effective campaign. Because a good firm can cost five figures monthly, I will review basics that will get you off to a good start. All that’s required of you is: 1) determination, 2) a bit of patience for the trial and error method, and 3) an annual marketing budget of at least $400.

Beginning Your Campaign
Give yourself time. If you are new to search (and have a limited budget) it could take six months to see decent results. Purchase your domain and start building your site immediately. Do not worry about putting the cart before the horse with your site being finished before your product is released. So long as you are in business you site will NEVER be finished.

We will consider an imaginary company called Racquet App Developments (RAD) that makes a series of racquetball apps. RAD’s upcoming release is a game called Blazing Racquets.

Keywords
Time spent brainstorming and researching words and phrases that your potential customers use can pay off in spades. Google’s Keyword Tool is free and should be your best friend. It provides suggested words and phrases, approximate monthly search volume, and competitive difficulty. It’s intended to reflect the Google Adwords market but is a great gauge for the overall search market. I also suggest spending time reading app reviews by journalists and customers. You will probably come across valuable phrases you haven’t considered.

You must be consistent when working on your site. You want titles, descriptions and page content to reference the term you want to rank well.

Purchasing a Domain
I’m a fan of purchasing a domain name with the business name in it. I would suggest RAD purchases RacquetAppDevelopments.com along with a shorter domain that customers can remember. RacquetAD.com is easy and can forward to the actual domain. Don’t forget to purchase variations, including misspellings and plurals / singulars, of your domain so that squatters don’t have the opportunity to ruin your good name.

I used generic dot com names in college when I operated a number of sites marketing products and services of other businesses. For example, in 2001 I owned and operated www.dvd-players-and-dvd-movies.com (or something like that). While having juicy words in the title was nice, that didn’t exactly scream legitimate business—it was far from my most successful site.

Own Your Name
Spending more than five minutes optimizing for the name of your company is a waste of time. A number one spot for a search for your company’s name should be destined so long as the home page mentions the name anywhere. You will find a number of restaurants that do NOT rank number one for their name. That is sacrilege and should not happen.

Page URLs
Use (accurate) keywords for your sub-pages. RAD’s page displaying its iOS offerings could be
…/apple-ios-racquetball-games. Search robots read those words and give you credit for using them.

Titles
Do not forget to use both your title tag (that appears at the top of the browser) and your on-page title. Titles should be descriptive, inviting, keyword rich and accurate. A good title tag for RAD would read, “Racquetball Game App for iPhone, iPad and Android.” The page title should be coded H3 and read “Blazing Racquets: An Addictive Sports App.” 

Description Tags
The description tag provides the information app customers see under titles when scanning search results. This is your opportunity to write a few sentences to further entice them to visit your site. You would be wise to include your desired keywords in this tag. For example, “Racquetball App Blazing Racquets provides a fun and addictive gaming experience. Available for Apple and Android, this sports app will entertain for hours.” 

Content
The content on your page should read well for visitors because your ultimate goal is selling your app. Understand that it helps if search robots find your chosen search phrase, along with variations of that phrase, on your page. That said, don’t overdo it and be sure to use natural language. You will not win points with anyone if a portion of your page says “Racquetball app for racketball fans who cannot get enough racket-ball games.”

Off-Page
Links from other sites provide traffic and strength to your site. Each link counts as a vote for your page. There are a number of link metrics to consider, including: content relevance, site and page authority, anchor text (link wording) and link placement. An ideal link for RAD would be titled “racket ball app” and found on the index page of a competitor’s well-established site. Since the competitor would never provide that link, RAD’s link search should begin with app, racquetball sites, tech sites, along with notable directories. Download the SEO Toolbar provided by Seomoz to help determine the power of potential links.

If your optimization efforts do not provide traffic after four-five months, make alterations. I’m always surprised by the searches visitors use to find my site. The bad news is this is just the beginning of search optimization. The good news is adhering to these tips will put you far ahead of the competition and help improve your bottom line.

Your friend,

Jovan A. Johnson, Esq.


Note: 
Jovan Johnson is a California licensed attorney practicing app and video game law. The information contained in this article is not legal advice. Reading this article does not create an attorney-client privilege. You should consult with an attorney if you need legal advice.

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