How to Get Featured on the App Store: 21 Proven Tips
Competition in the App Store is fierce. More than 20,000 apps and 2,000 games are submitted to Apple every month, joining the 1.96 million apps already available for users to download.
In other words, standing out from the crowd is essential.
There are many different ways to promote your app. But perhaps the most effective tactic is to convince Apple’s editors to place your app on the front page. The question is, how exactly do you get featured on the App Store?
In this guide, we’re going to look at the many routes to App Store stardom.
How to Promote Your Product on the App Store
The App Store is a marketplace like no other. It provides you with direct access to one billion iPhone and iPad users, along with over 100 million Apple Watch owners. Last year, these people spent $72.3 billion on buying apps and in-app purchases.
It is an incredible place to do business, without doubt.
However, Apple’s “walled garden” approach also presents some unique challenges for developers trying to promote their apps. In general, app marketing outside the App Store has a relatively minor impact on downloads.
For this reason, our list of recommended promotion techniques is actually quite short:
- ASO (App Store optimization) — Think SEO, but for the App Store. Except, good ASO should make your app product page more appealing to users. That means everything from localizing the description to upgrading your screenshots.
- PR and influencer marketing — One way to reach a lot of people is by sending your app to bloggers and YouTubers to try. In some cases, inviting influencers to download and try your app free can have a similar impact.
- Getting featured on the App Store — By far the most powerful form of promotion for any iOS app. This can mean being awarded App of the Day, being featured in an Editorial, or earning a coveted Apple Editor’s Choice listing.
So, about that feature…
21 Tips for Getting Featured on the App Store
Given the very personal nature of App Store selections, there are no “secret hacks” that will guarantee your app will be featured. That said, you can increase your chances by applying the following principles and techniques.
1. Understand How the App Store Works
As a starting point for being chosen for a feature, it’s helpful to know how the App Store actually works.
The Featured section is not controlled by some complicated algorithm. Every selection is hand-picked by Apple editors.
Michael Ehrenberg, a former App Store marketing manager, actually shared how the process works at the Mobile Gaming USA conference.
The App Store is available in 175 regions and 40 languages. For each part of the world, Apple has a local editorial team. Ehrenberg explained that, each week, local App Store editors determine the best and most relevant apps for their specific users.
By having humans choose the apps, Apple ensures that the featured apps will be the ones most likely to appeal to local users.
As you start crafting a strategy to get your app featured, keep this process in mind. It doesn’t matter how cool your app is; if the editorial team doesn’t think it will speak to local users, it’s not going to be chosen.
2. Build a High-Quality App
This point might seem a little obvious, but we’re going to say it anyway: make sure your app is actually good.
Look at it from Apple’s perspective. This tech giant has essentially created a virtual mall, and being featured is like having your product in a store window. Apple simply isn’t going to give that kind of (free!) exposure to a low-quality product.
So before you even start thinking about a promotion campaign, focus on improving your iOS app. If you have some popular product features, figure out how you can make them even better. Stamp out the bugs, add new functionality, and ensure that your app exactly fulfills the App Store description.
3. Design Your App According to Apple’s Guidelines
Over the years, Apple has built a reputation for outstanding design choices. Just think about the beautiful curves of the Apple Watch, down to the minimal icons in iOS menus.
Apple wants to advertise apps that fit that aesthetic. So, they’re going to favor apps which prioritize smart, clean design.
If you want your app to be featured on the App Store, make sure it follows the iOS Human Interface Guidelines. Editors are much more likely to pick out your product if you take notice of these principles.
4. Build for iOS First
Aside from helping developers, featuring apps in the App Store is a form of promotion for Apple. They want to show users all the reasons why they should choose or stick with iOS.
If you build your mobile app solely for iOS devices, you are giving the App Store editors exactly what they want. Even if you build an Android app at the same time, releasing your app on iOS first is a smart move.
5. Make Your App Universal
Another way to win the favor of App Store editors is by making your app universal. In other words, optimize your product for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
Universal apps align more closely with Apple’s business model, and so act as another signal that you’re trying to build a good relationship.
Not sure how to make your app universal? Check out Apple’s
Universal App Quick Start Program for loads of useful resources.
6. Use Apple’s Latest Features
Compatible with Apple’s aesthetics? Check. Compatible with all of Apple’s products? Check. Compatible with Apple’s marketing strategy? That’s another area in which you can stand out.
Adding functionality to your app that utilizes Apple’s latest technology will seriously improve your chances of being featured.
For example, Apple announced SharePlay at WDDC 2021. This framework makes it easier for developers to sync the playback of content between two different devices. It’s mainly made for watch parties, and viewing presentations while working at home.
If your app is about video, adding SharePlay as a feature will significantly increase your chances of being featured on the App Store. The same applies to many other Apple technologies.
7. Localize Your App
As we mentioned earlier, there are 175 versions of the App Store around the world. While getting featured in the U.S. App Store is pretty huge, other regions also attract massive audiences.
Since each App Store editorial team is looking for the best apps specifically for their local users, they’re more likely to choose ones that have been optimized for the local language and culture.
If your app is fully localized, it’s going to give you a huge advantage.
In fact, a lot of non-English app stores even have a special section dedicated to awesome apps available in their own language.
There are plenty of case studies that point to success. Blue Tea Games is a prime example. This development studio decided to localize their card strategy game, Mavenfall.
Immediately after global release, the game was featured in the Best New Games collection across 120 countries. It was also highlighted in an editorial feature in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Steven Zhao, CEO and founder of the company, commented on the success: “Localization is an important step for any game looking to grow beyond its national borders, and reach a global audience. It certainly explains why Apple featured us.”
Want to know more about how to get started on app localization? Check out our free 53-page ebook, The Essential Guide to App Localization. It’s packed with useful advice!
8. Update Your App Frequently
In an interview with Business Insider, Henry Kang — the founder and CEO of fashion app, StyleIt — revealed what it’s like to get an app featured by Apple.
While he acknowledged that luck is part of the selection process, he also noted that “constantly updating your product to add new features probably helps.”
Obviously, adding new features means your app becomes ever more powerful. Apple’s editors may even pick up on major new versions.
Pushing out frequent updates also allows you to respond to user feedback and squash bugs. As a consequence, your user rating will probably improve. In turn, this usually helps your search rankings while signalling to Apple editors that your app meets their high standards.
9. Utilize Festive Updates
On gift-giving holidays, people get new devices. And when people set up new devices, they want new apps. So, it’s no surprise that holiday seasons are a bonanza for app downloads.
In fact, Flurry shows that Christmas Day chalks up the highest number of app downloads for any 24-hour period.
App Stores get into the festive spirit too: many create new, holiday-specific feature categories. If you produce seasonal content or dress your game up with a holiday theme, there is every chance you can make it onto one of these lists.
10. Target Holidays Around the World
While Christmas and Thanksgiving are the biggest holidays in the U.S. market, there are many other gift-giving holidays around the world.
A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, Chinese users will be celebrating Singles Day, with romance and lots of shopping in early November. Towards the end of the month, the Jewish community will be celebrating Hanukkah. And Indian users begin November with Diwali festivities.
By localizing your app and pushing out themed updates for such holidays, you have the chance to impress App Store editors around the world.
Need to brush up your world celebrations? Here’s a quick guide to popular holidays worldwide.
11. ASO: Optimize Your App Store Listing
One key point to remember is that having your app featured is really a means to an end. What you, and Apple, really want is for more people to buy your app.
So, let’s say you get featured (nice!). People rush to your app listing, and they find a horrible, disorganized page. They’re not going to click the “get” button, and Apple knows this.
In order to earn Apple’s attention, you’re going to need to brush up your listing page. Optimize your description, attach some nice screenshots, and use your promo wisely (see our next tip). Make your app listing one that Apple would be happy to promote.
12. Show an Apple Device in Your Promo
While the App Store makes Apple a lot of money, the Cupertino-based tech giant also sells devices.
If you choose to feature those devices somewhere on your App Store page, you are more likely to find favor with the editors.
This tactic can be especially effective if your app supports Apple’s latest technology, and you can showcase it.
13. Invest in PR
What you do within the App Store obviously affects your chances of being featured. But what you do outside the App Store has some bearing, too.
For instance, strong media coverage could lead to a feature. Try to get your app mentioned in some of the tech blogs that Apple editors follow, such as TechCrunch, Mashable, and local tech sites for each region. You can start by sending out press releases, and following up via email.
If the App Store editors like what they read, they’re more likely to look for your app in the crowd of submissions.
To learn more about scoring media coverage, read this very helpful guide by Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer.
14. Highlight Where Your App Is Made (for Non-U.S. Developers)
Local people usually like to use local apps. We don’t just mean the ones in their native language — people love to hear that a certain app was developed or at least conceptualized by someone in their area.
Apple editors are aware of this tendency, and they often build features around it. For example, the Hong Kong App Store previously curated a “Made in Hong Kong” section that included dozens of popular, locally-founded apps, such as GoGoVan, OpenRice, and 9GAG.
So, if you are a non-American developer, don’t hide your origins. In fact, you should highlight them. Reach out to local tech media (see previous tip) and tell them about your story.
15. Build a Relationship with Apple
As we established near the beginning of this post, it is humans who make the decisions about which apps that get featured.
So make friends with them.
Or at least, connect with someone at Apple. Every company has an internal system for sharing knowledge, and contacts at Apple — even if they’re not the ones directly choosing features — can help you out. If they’re familiar with your company, they might think of your product at the right moment, and give you a shout-out: “Oh, this one is made by someone I know. Cool stuff.”
To build this kind of relationship, you usually have to meet people. That can be a little tricky (particularly in the current climate), but here are a couple of ways you can build a relationship:
- Send a developer to WDDC — At any Apple-organized event, you will find plenty of people who work in Cupertino. Send your developer and tell them to make connections.
- Connect via social media — A much cheaper alternative is visiting LinkedIn and searching for “app store editor.” Once you have filtered by location, you’ll be able to see the people who are responsible for your target App Stores. Connect with them, or try to get their email addresses through Rapportive or FullContact.
Feeling shy? Read this blog post from CIO to learn how to get the conversation started.
16. Pitch to Apple
Of course, there is a much more direct way to boost your chances of being featured. You could simply pitch your app to Apple.
All you have to do is visit AppStore.com/promote, log in with your Apple ID, and submit your message.
Here are some tips for your pitch:
- Apple receives a lot of these pitches — keep yours concise.
- To stand out from the crowd, tell the story behind your app
- Attach a video of your app in action
- Be sure to highlight any Apple-specific features
- Don’t be afraid to show some personality
- Ask for any feedback they might have about your app, so you can get a sense of their benchmarks for the future.
17. Release Your App on a Tuesday or Wednesday
Now we’re really getting into the insider secrets.
For any new release, we recommend choosing a Tuesday or Wednesday. Not because it’s hump day; it’s because App Stores post new curated lists every Thursday.
If you release your app right before then, it won’t have time to get buried in the pile. A Friday release means you have to wait almost a week, and you risk disappearing among the thousands that will come in before they choose again. So, mark midweek in your calendar.
18. Keep Your Ratings and Downloads up
Apple considers a lot of performance metrics when choosing apps for features. Unsurprisingly, user rating is one of them.
In App Store analysis, Appbot found that over half of featured apps have high user ratings (4.5 stars or higher). So, keeping your user ratings in good shape should be a top priority.
The main point behind chasing a feature is to earn more app downloads. Unfortunately, another metric that Apple uses for deciding which apps to feature is…downloads.
In other words, you may need to work on improving your monthly downloads by other means before you can expect to be featured.
19. Follow Apple to Get Inspired
Apple is very open about their selection process. So, follow Apple on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest curation strategies.
20. Appeal to a Niche Audience
Apple often curates for specific topics, like school and movies. If you can nail a niche topic beautifully, you will be at the top of the list for inclusion when that topic comes around.
Finding your niche might seem like a daunting challenge, but it’s actually easier than you think. For inspiration, check out this post by iOS developer Trevor McKendrick, who found success with a Spanish-language Bible app.
21. Avoid Trying to Get Featured Too Early
There is a good reason why Apple takes notice of downloads when selecting apps to feature.
Aside from popularity, this metric shows which apps are well established and which are still finding their feet. Going back to the topic of quality, Apple does not want to be featuring apps that still have teething problems.
As such, it’s a good idea to wait a while after initial launch before chasing that App Store feature. Even if your product is bug free (which is unlikely for a fresh-faced app), it might not actually be mature enough to keep users interested.
Rather than trying to attract a large audience from the beginning, it’s a lot better to start with a small group of users — preferably, personal contacts or loyal users. That way, you can get a manageable amount of highly specific feedback, which you can use to make your app better and better.
In contrast, being featured right at the start of your journey will open the floodgates. There is a good chance you will be overwhelmed by user feedback.
You’re also going to lose users who aren’t patient enough to stick with your app throughout this growing period. Once users are gone, they’re not going to come back.
So, don’t start lobbying for a feature right at the beginning. Instead, iterate your product with a small batch of users, and aim for the Featured tab once you’ve honed your app.
Using Localization to Improve Your Downloads
So, there we have it — a complete list of tactics for getting featured. Apply multiple points from the list, and your chances of receiving exposure are going to increase ten-fold.
One of the most important items mentioned above is localization. This process will improve the quality of your app, attracting more downloads and better reviews. These are all key points that App Store editors look at.
You can order machine or professional translation directly through the platform, with over 1,000 experienced translators on hand. In the same workflow, you can add content review and on-device testing — all for a very affordable price.