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9 ways to help your iPad or Android app stand out on the app stores

by Doug Drinkwater

October 17 2012

Getting your app noticed can be a challenge with consumers having so many to choose from.
Getting your app noticed can be a challenge with consumers having so many to choose from.

It’s a difficult task; how can your app stand out on the App Store when there is so much competition? But as TabTimes discovers, there are ways of improving your chances of being seen on Apple's App Store, Google Play and other app stores.

Standing out on app stores is a problem for developers. One developer recently told TabTimes that his company is currently "struggling with" this problem, and he's far from the only one. A report from mobile analytics firm Adeven revealed that 400,000 of Apple’s 650,000 iOS apps never get downloaded due to poor visibility.

It's an ominous premise, but don't fear; here are nine ways to help your app stand out from the rest of the crowd: 

Don’t neglect design

Design is arguably the second most important feature (after usability) when building an app, but this can sometimes be overlooked by developers immersing themselves in code.

Nonetheless, it is important. Just for starters, a bright and attractive app logo will improve your chances of being downloaded, while a well-designed app is also more likely be used than others.

If you haven’t got the time for this, look outside the box. There are design templates online or you can always turn to outsourcing companies like App Design Company and 99 Designs -- a site where designers compete for the job of designing your mobile application.

Apple also pays close attention to app design when considering apps for their featured lists on the App Store: “It doesn’t matter what the app does as long as it does it well and is well-designed," said one former Apple designer recently.

Make your app SEO-friendly

Although research shows most mobile users find apps by trawling through the top charts, many also carry out their own independent searches within the App Store.

For this, you’ll want to make sure the name of your app is SEO-friendly. Think about the main feature of your app, what people will search for and how potential users would describe the app.

Lost for ideas? Then use Google’s AdWord Keyword Tool or Insight for Search to get some keyword suggestions.

Get your app reviewed by bloggers; embrace social media

Despite being described by one developer as a ‘short-term fix’, getting bloggers to review and write about your app can be a good way of getting noticed.

You’ll need to get your PR right in terms of describing why people need to use it and how it’s different, and hand out free promo codes to these journalists, but it could give your app some much-needed time in the limelight.

Tech and business websites will occassionally publish "best apps" lists and if you see any being promoted it's a good opportunity to pitch your app for consideration. TabTimes reviews apps on a weekly basis and is currently compiling a list of the 100 best new iPad apps that will be published later this year. TabTimes has also launched the first Tabby Awards /Business competition that will recognize the best apps across a number of app categories. 

Developers should also embrace social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and even Pinterest as a way to spread the word about their app.

“It is critical to identify your target and to reach out to that market through social media, review sites, free app offerings, targeted advertising and media PR”, says Mark Stetler of app development site AppMuse.

Price: Go free or "freemium"

Most developers appear to be pushing out free apps these days, with Gartner recently reporting that 9 in 10 downloaded apps will be free in 2012.

Going down the free route is an excellent way for getting people to try your app, but is does also mean that these folk are far more open to the idea of downloading a free app, and then deleting it pretty quickly if they don't like it.

If you're looking to monetize and build some loyalty around the app, the in-app purchasing (or 'freemium') business model may be the way to go. That way, people can still download the app for free and then pay to upgrade if they want to get more features.

Tempt new customers with discounts

A short-term price drop can cause a surge in interest, either through the App Store, tech blogs or on app comparison websites like AppShopper or app review sites like Apps Gone Free.

Evaluate your app's category

Apple previously allowed developers to regularly change categories on the iTunes App Store, but that's more difficult these days.

So consider where your app sits and remember that it will easier for your app to feature prominently in some categories than others. For instance, before the upgrade to iOS 6, a quick search for new apps on the ‘Business’ section of the App Store brought about 25,000 hits, compared to 2,500 for new apps on the new ‘Food and Drink’ category.

Look outside the box

Think about how else you can get ahead. Read up on books like ‘The Best Book on iOS Marketing’, ‘The Art of the App Store: The Business of Apple Development’ or ‘Appillionaires: Secrets from Developers Who Struck it Rich on the App Store’.

Promote your app on your website and look at other avenues too. Need an example? Paper developer FiftyThree filmed a video on its iPad app, with the video attracting 500,000 views in three days.

Go to events, get noticed by Apple

Matt Drance, a former Apple engineer, told Business Insider that app developers should head to events like WWDC to show their apps to those working at Apple.

“If they think it’s cool, they will start showing it to people in Cupertino,” said Drance. “There’s no secret handshake. It’s a fairly organic process.”

And...you'll need money

A report from mobile marketing company Fiksu back in July found that developers were being forced to spend more money to attract app downloads.

The firm says that developers that actively market their apps on iTunes spent $1.44 attracting each ‘loyal’ user in June, an increase of 13% from a year earlier. A loyal app user is defined by someone who opens an app three or more times.

Either way, it is safe to assume that you'll need to have some funds at the ready to embrace all of the suggestions above.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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