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How to Get Your App Featured on the App Store

Apple’s App Store gets around 2,000 new app submissions per day. Most of these new apps start their lives in obscurity, like a needle in a haystack. Unlike a lone needle in a haystack, however, these apps are competing to be seen within a haystack full of needles. In this environment, it can be hard to make your app stand out from the competition.

One of the most powerful ways to gain visibility and downloads is to have your app featured on the App Store. However, this requires some hard work on your part.

In this article, we will present some handy tricks and tips on how to get featured on the App Store.

Apple’s requirements

According to Michael Ehrenberg, a former Apple App Store manager, the list of featured apps is 100% hand-curated. Each week, regional App Store representatives curate a list of featured apps for their region’s store.

How does Apple decide which apps should be featured? The exact formula is unknown, but we can deduce a set of requirements for any high-quality app. Some of these quality requirements are pretty obvious and general, so we won’t go deep into platitudes such as "build great apps" or “your app must stand out.” We will pay attention instead to Apple design standards and trends, media coverage, and the number of downloads – and how to get them.

How to get featured on the App Store

Image credit: Digital Trends

Apple look and feel

From the marketing point of view, featured apps offer a great promotional opportunity for both app owners and Apple. And naturally, Apple will advertise your app in their store only if your app shows off the power of Apple devices in a way that they appreciate. This relates both to how your product keeps Apple users engaged, and how it complies with Apple’s design principles.  

The more your app follows the Apple design guidelines and stays up to date with the latest iOS versions, the greater chance you will have to get featured. Also, finding innovate applications for the latest iOS features and Apple products (3D-Touch, Apple Pencil, Apple Watch) is a huge advantage. After all, Apple wants to show off the true power of their latest hardware!

Coverage

Having your app covered in media around the web should increase your odds of being featured. We suggest you put effort into constantly creating hype around your app. Compose a PR pitch, contact tech journalists, bloggers, and websites, and tell your own story. Use ranking websites like Alltop to determine the most relevant media sources to talk about your app.

Downloads

This is the most substantial requirement. Getting featured will boost your downloads, but to get featured in the first place your app must already have a considerable number of downloads. This is a chicken and egg situation, but you must manage to get past an unwritten download threshold if you want your app to be a true success.

There are a number of tools you can use to increase downloads of your app. Here are the most effective ones.

Tools and methods for getting downloads

There are essentially two types of downloads you can get: organic and paid. Organic downloads can be achieved with thoughtful marketing campaigns and repetitive app store optimization (ASO) activities, while paid downloads can be generated by third-party firms.

Organic downloads

App store optimization

App store optimization activities carried out timely and regularly will not only increase your app installs, but also will serve you well in the long term, creating organic acquisition channels that will drive active users into your app, thus building its user base.

Follow Apple’s App Store guidelines and get tips in our comprehensive pieces on how to write app store page descriptions and how to make screenshots for the app’s page to realize the full potential of app store optimization.

Localization

There are 155 regional App Stores around the world, and each of them has its own curation team. That means that if you localize your app for different markets, different curation teams will lay their eyes on it and your chances of having the app featured will increase proportionally: the more localizations, the more regional markets, the better your chances.

A/B testing

Try different variations of screenshot combinations, descriptions, keywords, icons and other elements of your App Store page and see which works best. You can do this yourself or turn to paid services like Storemaven and SplitMetrics.

Oh, and don’t forget to run different A/B tests on different markets, since users’ tastes and wants may differ from region to region.

Analytics

Use app store analytics tools (Apple’s App Analytics or services like AppAnnie, AppLause and many others) to track the dynamics of your app downloads and make improvements where necessary.

currently featured apps on the app store

[Currently Best New Apps on the App Store]

Paid downloads

Paid install campaigns

Paid install campaigns are offered by a variety of services. The most popular include Taptica, Appthis, Tapjoy, Mobco, and Vipresponse. The average budget for user acquisition strategies is about $1000 or more per month. You can select a traffic type that works best for you. The types include incentive and non-incentive, organic, and referral traffic. You can also choose one of two payment models:

  • Cost-Per-Install (CPI). With this model, you get a high volume of installs in about 2-3 days. Cost-Per-Install can propel up your app rankings, but these installs are usually lower quality. CPI may work best for social apps that don’t offer any in-app purchases.

  • Cost-Per-Action (CPA). For a lower daily volume of installs, you get more meaningful and higher quality leads.

We would suggest that you buy 60-70 percent of organic and referral non-incentive traffic, and 30-40 percent of incentive traffic (which is cheaper) using the Cost-Per-Install model. This will help you boost your app’s ranking and increase general awareness. You can see a directory of paid install campaign agencies here. You can filter them by country and pricing models and check out their ratings.

Although there has been a research claiming that paid installs increase organic downloads, the direct connection is not evident. Paid app install campaigns won’t get you an instant ROI, but downloads will help you achieve what you need: to get your app featured and gain visibility. The rest depends on the quality of your app.

Final advice: reach out to Apple to promote your app

Yes, that can work.

One such story is SignEasy’s. The developers of this quick document signing app, after a number of failed attempts to get featured, found a LinkedIn profile of one of Apple’s managers, presented their app to him, improved it, and eventually appeared as a featured app.

In fact, it’s not necessary to hunt down Apple managers in social networks. The App Store’s marketing team is always seeking the best content. Just write to them at appstorepromotion@apple.com and appstoremarketing@apple.com.

Remember: to get featured on the App Store is not the ultimate goal

Even if you know how to get your app featured on the App Store, have reached the top of the App Store rankings, and have gained visibility along with a significant volume of downloads, remember that your ultimate business goal is not simply getting your app downloaded countless times.

Your ultimate goal, one way or another, is return on investment. In the mobile app world, you can achieve that only by keeping your users engaged and active, and finally by converting them. Being featured on App Store, therefore, is only one effective method of putting a well-promoted, quality app in front of more potential users and increase the chances for your app's ultimate success.

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