Getting featured on the App Store isn’t just good for bragging rights but also for downloads. We’ve been keeping track of all apps and games that were featured on the App Store for the last 10 years and have noticed a few patterns.
Although getting featured isn’t something that you can guarantee, following the tips in this guide will increase your chances of getting featured on the App Store.
Understanding How Apple Thinks
Before we can get into the tips we should think about why Apple features apps and games. Apple states they feature apps to help consumers “find new favorites”, but that’s not the only reason. Apple features apps that help it show off their platform, make Apple look good, and acquire more users.
Designing for Apple
Knowing how featured apps help Apple, and Apple in general, gives us a good idea of what kind of apps and games will catch their attention. Here are important things you should keep in mind as you develop your app to increase its chances of getting featured.
Pay Attention to detail. Apple puts a lot of effort into making the “little things” great. Whether it’s the smoothness of their animations, and even the content that appears in demo screens, are all well thought out. Attention to detail isn’t effortless but is rewarded by Apple. Examine every interaction your app offers and think about each step of it independently to see where you can improve it.
Be Unique. Apple likes to highlight apps that offer something new. From features to user experience, different = better and Apple pays attention to apps that are unique. To be different you have to know your competition and the market. It’s not always easy to look at competitors, but it’s important that you look explore their apps and app store pages regularly.
Reviews offer a treasure trove of information, and that’s not just limited to your own reviews. Another thing you can do to be unique is read the reviews of your competitors and look for feature suggestions their users are giving them and implement them.
Use Apple’s Latest APIs & Features. Remember we mentioned Apple features apps that show off the platform? What’s better than using Apple’s newest APIs and OS features? Things like dark mode, AR, Sign in with Apple, were recently announced and apps that use them are definitely going to be on Apple’s radar.
If a new API or feature makes sense for your app implementing it is a surefire way to get on Apple’s radar. So keep an eye out for new things Apple is releasing and promoting and make them your priority.
Design for Simplicity. Apple’s DNA revolves around simplicity, and the apps they feature follow that. If your app is already designed with that in mind great! If it isn’t, taking the time to simplify the design can go a very long way.
Apple has a great in-depth guide for how to build great UIs. Check out the Human Interface Guidelines.
Create an Intuitive User Experience. Great iOS apps are known for being easy to use, and that’s not an accident. Apple advocates for experiences that are not just flawless but also easy for all to use. Keep that in mind as you develop your app and always aim to keep things simple. Explain what’s going on when necessary and think for the user when possible.
Build for All Devices. Apps that work across a wide(r) range of devices give Apple a good opportunity to promote more devices, and hence are more attractive to them. If you can, build your app to run across as many devices as you can. the iPad is a natural choice, but don’t forget about Apple Watch and Apple TV!
Showing Apple You Care About Your Users
A good app isn’t a one-and-done thing but rather a business. Apple knows that businesses that put their customer first create better products, and that’s why they prefer to feature apps that show they care.
Here’s what you should do to show Apple (and your users) that you care:
Reply to Reviews. Reviews have evolved over the years to become a support channel for apps. From bug reports to feature suggestions, users are going to the App Store to communicate with developers. By replying such reviews you’re helping your users and also showing potential users that you’ve got their back.
Release Updates Often. No single piece of code is ever complete or bug free. Leverage small and frequent releases to ensure the app works well for every user, and also to improve the experience and delight your users. Updates don’t need to pack massive new features every time. Implementing small feature requests will go a long way. It’ll also show Apple you’re dedicated and can handle the new users that’ll come with being featured.
Maintain a High Rating. Good apps have a high rating. That’s the democratic nature of the App Store. Apple features apps that offer great experiences, and those tend to have a high rating. Your experience is most likely great already, so make sure you ask your users to leave a rating using Apple’s native ratings prompt. It’s a breeze to set up and will help you increase your ratings overnight.
Localize Your App. If you have (or want to have) users in different countries, you should localize your app to speak their language. Although English is spoken in many countries around the world, for many it’s not intuitive. Apple rewards apps that speak multiple languages because that offers a much better overall customer experience.
Localizing your app correctly takes time and effort, and in could slow down updates, so it’s not to be taken lightly. A good way to start with localizing is to do it for your top 3 – 5, and to localize both the app and App Store page including graphics). Localizing your App Store page will also increase your downloads in those markets and localizing your app will improve your retention rate.
Check out Apple’s guide for localizing your app.
Ask Apple To Feature Your App
This is probably the best-kept-secret tip we can share with you — There’s a way to ask Apple to feature your app, and it’s pretty straight forward. Apple provides a simple form you can submit to ask they review your app for a feature.
If you’ve followed the previous tips, have product-market fit, and think the app will excite Apple you should ask them to take a look. Remember, everyone reading this guide is probably going to ask Apple to review their app too… So make sure that you ask them when you really think the app is ready, not a minute before.
You can find the form here: https://developer.apple.com/contact/app-store/promote/
The form is pretty simple for the most part but there are some parts you should give more thought to:
- Version Highlights – Use this as a chance to highlight what makes the app unique and different. Don’t write too much here and use simple casual language so it’s easy for the person reviewing your application to understand your app is unique quickly and without having to understand your niche too much.
- Links – If you’re linking to an external source such as your developer website or the app’s landing page make sure it follows the same tips above. A beautiful app with a less-than-stellar website is less likely to score you a feature. If that’s the case either take the time to improve your website or don’t share the link. We recommend you do the former.
- Marketing Plans – If you’re planning any sort of campaign, in the App Store via Search Ads or outside via PR or paid ads, share that with Apple. This will help them gauge that you’re very serious about this app and that you’ll also be bringing more traffic to the App Store.
- Your Story – This is our favorite and most important opportunity that Apple offers. Apps are made by people, and Apple likes to feature apps made by people with a real story. Give this one real thought because it’s an important one. Why did you build this app? Is it targeting a specific group that wasn’t being served well? How did you get into app development to begin with?
If the answer to any of these questions isn’t a standard generic one you should include it! Again, remember to be concise and use simple and casual language. The less you write the more the reviewer will get from your application.
Optimize While You Wait
While you wait for Apple to review your app and decide if it’s worthy of the coveted featured spot you should take the time to get ready for the increase in traffic. The best way to prepare is by grooming your App Store Optimization. That will ensure the exposure a feature will give you turns into downloads.
Research & Optimize Your Keywords. Apple uses the keywords it sees in your app’s name and subtitle along with the ones you provide through App Store Connect to decide which search results to show your app in. Optimizing for the correct keywords will ensure that when people search the App Store for the kind of functionality your app offers Apple will be able to offer them a good solution (your app), so take the time to identify the right keywords and optimize for them.
Use Screenshots to Sell the App’s Benefits. When new users land on your App Store page they almost always immediately scroll to the screenshots section. Why? because they want to see if your app offers a solution to their problem. Use captions and high-contrast colors to highlight the benefits of your app. Apple will appreciate it and your impressions to downloads ratio will increase as well.
Show the App in Action with an App Preview Video. App Preview videos provide a great opportunity to show just how useful and unique your app is to Apple and to users. Whether it’s a simple screen-capture of the app’s experience or an elaborate marketing video, having an App Preview will bring you closer to a feature than not.
Got Featured? Now What?
Sit back, feast your eyes on your daily email report, and enjoy the ride! But… get ready for an increase in support requests, be it through your developer email or as reviews on the store. This is also a good time to promote your app outside of the store. Use the feature to your advantage when pitching your app to influencers and journalists to increase its authority.
When It’s Over
The days and weeks after a feature is over will feel much slower, but hopefully you’ve gained good exposure and momentum that will continue fueling growth. Apple has featured apps multiple times in different areas of the App Store, so as your app and your story evolve you can ask Apple to take a look at it again. Now you know exactly how.
One consistent theme you can see in these tips is that they’re not just good for Apple but also for your business. Paying attention to detail, showing your users you care, and optimizing your App Store presence will all help get you more exposure and more downloads. Following the tips in this guide will have a positive impact on your bottom line whether you get featured or not.
By the way, if it works we’ll automatically let you know when and where your app is featured. We keep an eye on all categories across all countries so if you’re featured you’ll know. We also monitor downloads, App Store impressions, keyword ranks, and a bunch of other useful information.