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Top the iOS App Store Rankings by Getting All Your Ducks in a Row

  |  February 10, 2011   |  Comments

Use SEO, advertising, promotion, PR, cross-promotion, and trade shows to catapult you to the top of the App Store rankings.

The top ranking apps in the Apple iOS App Store get most of the traffic. It now takes more than 50,000 U.S. daily installs to get into the Top 25 Free Apps ranking in the App Store. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a valuable endeavor - and now there is App Store Optimization (ASO), which will prove to be just as valuable. Here are tactics to get your app to the top of the charts:

Advertising - Burst Campaigns

Plan burst advertising campaigns so that your traffic peaks in a short timeframe, which will jumpstart your App Store rankings and result in maximizing organic traffic to your app. Promotional campaigns of four consecutive days are more likely to have the biggest payoff. Weekends have higher traffic than weekdays in the App Store, so start your campaigns on Thursday so you get your top ranking at the start of the weekend for a natural 20 percent lift. One insider secret is that nearly every top ranking app in the App Store is using cost-per-install ad networks. Cost-per-install ad networks are the most cost-effective way to drive burst promotions for your app.


Do your research. What do the top 100 ranking apps in your category have in common? Try to identify what users are searching for and use those keywords when promoting your app, starting with the title and description - possibly even the developer name. Be careful not to use any special characters in your title as this will have a negative effect on how your name appears in the URL. Be sure to include "Free "or "Lite" if appropriate. Create quality images and label them with your keywords. Launch a website for your app and promote the app on social sites. Start networking with app review sites and other online communities like LinkedIn Groups (see comments below). The more places a consumer can find and read about your app, the better. Leverage your social network by integrating Facebook Connect into your app and request user ratings. Create a video featuring the "value" you are offering the user, post it on YouTube, and use the links in press releases and requests to app reviewers.

Carefully plan your iTunes Web preview. Again, use keywords, as these pages are indexed in the search engines and can provide valuable organic traffic as your app gains popularity. Many times the iTunes Web preview is listed higher than your app's home page, as they are very search engine-friendly. The URL, page title, meta description, meta keywords, and the H1 tag should all be loaded with the app name/keywords. As app popularity grows, so will links to your preview page. Currently the iTunes preview page use a "no follow" attribute for links to the app's home page, so there is no benefit to the developer. Another tip: mention a popular app that is related to the app for more SEO mojo.

Study direct marketers to improve your copywriting, as they are experts in creating calls to action that capture the user's interest.

Promotion: Dropping the Price/Discounting

Take advice from the driver behind the successful Dr. Seuss apps, Michel Kripalani of Oceanhouse Media. He recommends discounting, but make sure it's newsworthy enough to get media attention. He used a discounted $0.99 price point when the app was priced normally at $3.99 or 50 percent off for a discounted price of $1.99. Both were successful in driving installs and getting the media's attention. The price needs to be "ridiculous enough" that people tell their friends. Listen to my interview with Michel for more details.

There are also app price trackers like AppShopper that identify when the price of an app drops. Users monitor and download apps from these price trackers, and they can give you a lift, especially in international markets.


In line with what Michel mentioned above, you need to have a newsworthy story. Start by building a relationship with reporters and app review sites so that when your story is ready, they are a receptive audience. Start with developing a hit list of the sites/writers that are covering similar stories and then point out to the writer why your news adds value. Do the work for them providing copy, images, and video. The company I cofounded received 2.5 million impressions from media and social on the launch of our cost-per-install ad network using this strategy.


Successful apps use cross-promotion to launch new apps. As you introduce new apps, launch by leveraging your existing apps popularity with an in-app promotion. Julian Farrior of Backflip Studios used his popular Paper Toss app to launch several apps including Ragdoll Blaster.

Luck and Trade Shows

There is a snowball effect once you have several apps in the App Store and become a recognized developer. Paul O'Connor of Appy Entertainment advises that Trucks and Skulls "roared out of the gate" due to Apple featuring the game in the very first week in iTunes. Paul advises to launch your app at key mobile events - like GDC Austin, timing the launch so that the app is available when the press hits. By getting media attention at the conference, your app could get the luck it needs to be featured in the App Store like Trucks and Skulls.

Planning and executing the launch of an app can catapult you to the top of the App Store rankings. Use SEO, advertising, promotion, PR, cross-promotion, and trade shows to your advantage, and with a whole lot of luck you can make it to the top. If you have any other tips to get to the top of the App Store, please add a comment.

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Rob Weber

Rob Weber co-founded W3i in 2000, growing W3i to be a leader in app user acquisition and monetization. For 42 consecutive quarters the company continues to be profitable and has grown to over 120 employees. For more than a decade, Rob worked to create solutions to increase distribution, drive revenue, and heighten engagement for app developers, such as DeNA, Gree, Kabam, PocketGems, and many other indie and public developers. Under Rob's leadership, W3i recently launched a mobile offer exchange that includes partnerships with leading offer providers.

Rob's business philosophy is to provide a collaborative environment developing solutions that provide value to app developers, advertisers, agencies, and ad networks.

In addition, Rob shares his passion for apps, digital media, and entrepreneurship by serving on the board of several tech companies. Rob recently presented at MobileBeat, GamesBeat, GDC, GDC Online, APPNATION, iPhone/iPad App DevCon, and also judged Start-Up Weekends.

Rob is an angel investor in a number of game, social media, music, video, and mobile app start-ups.

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