How to Market and Advertise iphone Apps

| Blog | November 16, 2011

App StoreHaving a decent app in the app store doesn’t necessarily mean it will be successful. There are a flood of apps in the various app stores making it difficult even for some of the really good apps to standoutfromthecrowd.

I’ve seen some really good apps that remain undiscovered, and I’ve also seen some really bad apps make some decent revenue using some of the very techniques I’ll be discussion below.

Here are some basic app marketing strategies:

Competitive Analysis

Before beginning any app development you will want to look at what the current competition looks like. You’ll want to ask yourself:

– How many similar apps are out there?
– How does your idea differentiate from existing solutions?
– What is the current demand?
– Are there any partnering opportunities?
– How much will it cost to develop vs. projected revenue?

Appstore Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

One of the areas developers fail to capitalize on when submitting apps to the appstore is “Appstore SEO”. We’ve all heard of website search engine optimization, but many don’t realize that many of those same concepts apply to appstore app submission.

Choosing an app name

Optimizing your app name to match what you think users would be searching for to find apps like yours is the first critical piece of information you will want to think about before releasing your app. For example, if you have a compass based app you will want the word “Compass” as close to the first word of your app name as possible.

Writing your App Description

Many app developers don’t take the time to write a targeted app description that is full of keywords that match search terms users may be search on when looking for apps like yours. Make sure you have a detailed app description filled with key words. You will want to find the help of SEO specialists to help with this task since this description is ultimately published allowing search engines to index. Don’t skimp on spending the time to write a well targetted app description.

Invisible Keywords

Another area that is often overlooked is the meta data associated with each app. When developing an app each platform has areas for storing metadata associated with that app. Things like plist files and similar files used on various platform may be indexed by appstores. Just assume any variables you define be consistent with keywords you’ve defined for your app.

Brand presence. Logos, graphics, websites, screenshots, icons, and more

Building a brand helps build a loyal following. Just like traditional brand building used in business, app developers need to be conscious of the same principles and apply them to their business. Make sure your logos, graphics, and icons all have a consistent look and feel. Keep your message consistent when advertising your apps. Have a tag line and other material well thought out before beginning any ad campaigns.

Another area I see a lot of developers skimp on is their web presence dedicated to the app. Many app sores require a minimum web presence for each app to direct users for support and questions. Developers need to use this web presence as an opportunity to further market their apps. Website should be well optimized and indexed by search engines to help drive traffic and build reputation. Follow standard website SEO techniques to help accomplish these goals.

One cool idea is to post your app on a dedicated Internet billboard to gain exposure.  This concept has worked well for some of the larger companies and might be an option for some smaller indie developers.

Choosing a release date

Choosing the correct release date can also have an impact on initial uptake of your app. Choose wisely depending on which markets you’re targeting. Each market has seasonal highs and lows.

For example, if you’re building an education app you’ll want to target back to school periods. If you’re building a Christmas app you’ll want to obviously target that season. For games I’ve noticed summer periods seem to do best… really depends on the type of game.

Know your customer and their cycles to target release dates.

Promo Codes

Many appstores allow developers a certain number of promo codes to allow users to download your app for free. Use these wisely! You may want to offer promo codes to sites that can review your app. Offer promo codes as incentives for users to download your app. Try to build as much buzz around your app release as possible. Really that is the name of the game.

App reviews

App reviews help create buzz around your app. They are often used by users to help gauge the popularity of an app. The hard part is getting users to write reviews about your app. Looking at statistics only 1% of all users who download an app actually take the time to review the app. This means for every thousand download you can expect only 10 reviews (if you’re lucky!).

You need to help push your odds by offering users incentives to write an review. Maybe a promo code, more points on a game, etc… be creative.

One thing we’ve started to notice more and more is that developers are hiring cheap labor from around the world to right fake reviews. This is frowned upon in the community and Apple and other app stores are quickly catching up with these techniques and will begin to punish apps that attempt to use these “blackhat” techniques to gain invalid reviews. Stick to whitehat techniques and you’ll be better off in the long run.


Switching your App to Free vs. Paid

Here is a question that all app developers will struggle with; should my app be made free or paid. It’s amazing to me how many people refuse to by $1.99 for an app because it’s “too expensive”. If users understood the amount of effort it takes to build and deploy a good app they would soon realize that paying $1.99 is a bargain! But we’re dealing with human nature and when you see the amount of free apps that exist out there it is hard to compete with free.

So one of the most widely used strategies is to make a “Lite” version of your app that is basically the same as the paid version, but lacks some key features. If users like your free version enough they will hopefully be willing to pay a small fee to buy the extra features offered in the full version.

Other strategies involve putting your app “on sale”. This has definitely been shown to help drive new app purchases. This approach only works for a limited time. It works best with a coherent marketing plan. The goal is to get users who would have otherwise not have downloaded your app to download and create reviews or spread the word to other potential users.

Getting Featured by App Stores or sites like

How does Apple choose which apps are featured? I’ve seen absolute junk get featured in the app store while some real good apps get overlooked completely. Luck definitely seems to be the biggest factor in the formula for getting your apps featured. But there must be a formula we can use to help increase our chances?

To get featured means your app can go from making pennies a day to thousands of dollars a week. Some conservative estimates show featured apps make on average 2K a week while they are in a featured spot! So what can we do to get placed there?

Here are some quick guidelines that we’ve come up with that we can use to help build our formula for success:

  1. Presentation – This goes back to brand presence. Having some eye catching graphic can help you stand out from the thousands of apps that get submitted on a weekly basis. This is one key area developers have full control over.
  2. Time of release – This goes back to our discussion on when to release an app. Obviously if you pick a time when fewer apps are being released during that day your chances of being chosen go up. The theory goes that Monday’s Apple has many more apps to release than mid week. So try targeting low volume days (holidays, mid week, etc.).
  3. Make The App Paid – According to the author Apple typically only features free apps by big publishers.
  4. Create Buzz by getting mentions for Big name Sites like

Social Media Marketing

The goal for any social media campaign is to create buzz around your app. Be clear with your strategy and target your market influencers. These could be popular blogs, forums, or other sites that target your main user audience. If you can get backing from these influencers it will help build up your reputation and build a loyal base. The reverse is true as well… if you fail to impress key influential folks in your market it will have a detrimental effect on the success of your app.


Buying ads

Buying ads have been shown to be successful only when used in combination with many of the approaches above. Simply buying ads though would be a poor use of resources. Buy targeted ads that can reach as many of the “influencers” we mentioned in our social media strategy above. Again the goal is to create buzz through as many different campaigns as possible.

Getting Press

One of the easiest things you can do to publicize the release of an app is to issue a press release. There are many free (and paid) press release services. The free ones are OK, but if you can afford it I’d recommend using one of the paid services since they seem to reach more targeted audiences. Here is a sample of some popular free and paid press release services: (free) (free) (paid)

Build Metrics to gauge success of various efforts

OK. So you have gone through the effort of setting up various marketing strategies. Now you need to find ways to help measure the success for each effort so you can find out what’s working and what isn’t so you can focus your resources better.

You will need to define what those metrics are… examples include:

1) Number of downloads
2) Number of reviews received
3) Number of comments
4) Create google alerts to search for key phrases related to your efforts. For example, setup an alert to email whenever your app name is mentioned in a google result. This will help you find out who is talking about your app.
5) Monitor traffic to your site. Where are referral coming from? How did they get there.
6) Monitor reports from the app store. Many app stores create daily reports on how many apps were sold that day, from where, and keep trend information. Try to correlate these results with your various efforts.

Further Reading

Feel free to post comments below to direct users to other tips on how to best market mobile apps.


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3 Responses to “How to Market and Advertise iphone Apps”

  1. truly useful information! thanks a lot !

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  3. very useful information and these are the most important tips while developing and uploading app……..

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