The Holy Grail of iOS app development is getting featured on Apple’s App Store. The problem is, nobody in Cupertino will tell you what the magic formula is to make that happen.
Imagine that you’ve created a great app, the reviews you’ve gotten are all four- or five-star reviews, but you can’t seem to catch Apple’s eye for that elusive spotlight. What should you do? We talked to six experts who have had tremendous success in getting their apps featured. Here are seven tips on what you can do to improve your chances of being featured by Apple:
1. Obviously, make sure your app is really great.
A common thread is to make sure your app is really “all that.”
Dan Counsell, founder of Realmac Software, has had many apps featured by Apple. From Analog for Mac and iOS to Typed for Mac, and several apps in between, Counsell is an old hat when it comes to getting featured.
“If you want to get featured, you need to make sure you build a great app," he says. "This should always be your top priority and main goal.”
Jared Pack, from MiniGamr, saw his new title, Are You In Over Your Head, featured on launch. Pack gives the same advice as Counsell, saying that “Apple chooses quality apps, so make sure your app is up to par.”
2. Leverage your soft-launch metrics.
Petr Fodor, from Flow Studio Games, points out the importance of letting Apple know how your game or app is unique, as well as “what you’ve reached during soft launch (retention, feedback from users, average revenue per user, rating).”
3. Use the latest iOS technologies.
It’s also important to keep up with the latest advances in the operating system, such as the improvements in iOS 9 and integration with Apple Watch.
Fátima Lerdo de Tejada, marketing manager at Genera Games, points out that “if you are integrated with gamepad, Apple Watch or new iOS 9 improvements, let [Apple] know.” Genera Games has had many games featured by Apple include Run Forest Run and Frozen Freefall.
Apple wants games and apps to stand out and use the latest technology, so it’s important to let Cupertino know that you’re following the company's advances and using the tools provided. As Counsell puts it, the app “needs to take advantage of the latest frameworks and hardware.”
4. Create seasonal updates.
Apple has featured app categories that change with the seasons, and it’s important to take advantage of that.
Lerdo de Tejada stresses the importance of seasonal updates for your apps. In fact, she believes that “one of the best tricks to achieve a feature is to create seasonal updates of your games -- Halloween and Carnivale, for example.”
Denys Zhadanov, head of marketing at Readdle, agrees. Readdle, makers of Scanner Pro and Spark, among others, have seen all of its eight apps get featured by Apple.
“Adjust strategically with Apple’s editorial calendar,” Zhadanov says. “Say everyone knows that the back-to-school campaign starts in August, so if you have an app for students, make a new release or a price drop to coincide with that.”
5. Get featured on top industry websites.
Another important step to getting featured lies in your press coverage.
Andreas Kambanis, founder of Nibble Apps and advisor to CallerSmart, says he thinks the key is going big with the launch of your app. Kambanis, who helped lead the push for Fit Men Cook to be a featured app, says that Nibble Apps has “always aimed to go big with our app launches, so that we can get a strong position in the charts. We always feel this helps us get noticed.”
Kambanis points out that an important aspect of the company's launch plan for every app is “to get featured on sites that Apple employees are likely following. Aside from popular Apple blogs, we got a large number of upvotes on Product Hunt, too.”
Zhadanov makes the same suggestion, adding that you can “run highly targeted Facebook ads in Cupertino and San Francisco, so Apple folks might see you.” Great press coverage is almost essential to getting a feature, since Apple wants to highlight the apps that are generating a fair amount of buzz in the industry.
Through my app-promotion agency we've seen our clients get featured by Apple a few weeks after we've secured press coverage.
6. Talk to your regional developer-relations manager.
One important step to take is talking to someone at Apple. If you’re already producing great stuff but aren’t catching Apple’s attention, talk to more experienced and successful developers in your region and ask them to introduce you to Apple’s developer-relations manager for your area.
Fodor suggests that this can lead to a reply with even more tips. “If you have good stuff,” Fodor stresses, “they will respond to you or even recommend your product to the editorial team.”
7. Create a good pitch to Apple.
Last, but not least, is your pitch to Apple. All of the experts agree that your pitch to Cupertino has to really highlight what you’ve already accomplished with your app.
Lerdo de Tejada suggests “sharing the game [key performance indicators] is a clue for [Apple] to understand that a feature of your game can be a success on the App Store. They want stand-out games that people like to play, so if your game has, for example, an outstanding retention, that is something you need to share.”
Don’t count on Apple just looking up the numbers -- do the legwork for them.
If you follow these seven tips, you will greatly increase your chances of winning that elusive feature by Apple.