What to do to make your app top ranked in the App Store

What to do to make your app top ranked in the App Store

By Nicolas Amarelle (CEO at CodigoDelSur)

I don’t have an idea of statistics regarding this, but as developers of products we have a very big ratio of top-rated products in the App Store for the amount of products we have developed.

Obviously this is not a merit that is only ours; we have participated in projects integrated by the most seasoned founders, with first line quality, experience and creativity.

Here is our list of “big hits”:

Skout  – Top 8 en US social networking category
Kindara – Top 1 en US medical category
Sharalike – Top 5 in Latin America Photo and Video Category
Count The Animals – Top 5 in Netherlands & Philippines Education Category
Fun Time Timer – Top 10 in Finland & Denmark Educational (Games)
Mathspace – Top 20 in Australia Educational (Games)

Therefore, in CodigoDelSur’s journey of 10 years as a mobile development company, we have acquired one or two tips when it comes to how to make your app stand out in the ever-increasing and competitive immense sea of apps. Something that, to our understanding, is the key in the success of a new app (check out the article: Five biggest mistakes that startups make in product development)

Obviously, I’m not going to go into obvious and over-known matters like: that your app should solve a real problem, that the user experience should be high-level and unique, that the performance should be outstanding, and other factors that obviously your app will need in today’s very-competitive-world, where the market does not accept more amateurs.

These tips I’m bringing come from the base that your app meets with the pre-requisites mentioned above, and uses these small tips and, with some luck, you will have the recognition of the selective and dark App Store.

Here is our contribution of what we consider the five most important tips to take into account when following the holy grail of the top places:

  1. The title and description

 The main ingredient so your app reaches the top places is the amount of downloads the app has. For people to download your app, one thing has to happen first: people should find it!

Nowadays, the App Store is an independent world in itself, with millions of apps solving millions of problems, all of them competing to be found. So you have to do an important job in terms of optimizing the content that will be added to the title, as well as the app description.

Opposite to traditional SEO where a lot of content comes into place; backlinks, links, page numbers, etc., the content we have to do in order for our app to be found in the App Store is very limited – title, description, and a few other things. This is why we should optimize these as much as possible.

Make sure to use the keywords (words through which you want to be found by) in your app title, even if this makes your app name not so cool.  One solution we have found that works is adding to the title of the app, a description like:

  • TravelMate – The Perfect tool for organizing travel with friends sharing expenses; or
  • SocialPot – Social Network to find stoned partners


  1. Focus on your app getting downloaded – nothing else matters

If your aim is to get to the top ranks, then your aim is to get the app downloaded.

Don’t get distracted from your purpose.  Don’t add mid-term stuff that will prevent your app from its main objective. Specially, do not try to monetize your app until it’s a big hit. I am referring to ads, in-app purchases of invaluable things, and free versus paid versions.

If your aim is to reach the top places, provide the most value you can without interferences and offer everything you can, for free. I can tell you that the reward will be much greater if you aim for high rather than intermediate benefits.

  1. Understand the process of app review which continues to be manual!

Understand how the process of app review and approval in Apple works. Something that many users don’t know is that in order to publish an app, it should be subject to a revision and approval process. And even if you don’t believe it, in the 21st century this process is basically manual.

This means that there is a John Doe with feelings, likes and dislikes, and subjective views of the world, who will decide if you app is worthy of being published or not.

For the purpose of the mere publication of the app, this wouldn’t matter that much because, if you follow Apple polities respecting the publication of apps, we shouldn’t have inconvenient, as John Doe is limited to following certain guidelines.

Now, when the issue at hand is how to make our app reach the top places, definitely we have a key player here with which we want to have relationship as narrow as possible. Ultimately, we want to impress John Doe!

Why? Basically because just as the process of revision and approval is manual, there’s a process that’s much more important for our purpose in question: the process of featuring an app.  And believe me; if you want to be at the top, definitely you want your app to be featured.

And guess who decides if your app is a candidate to be featured? Correct, it’s John Doe. So try to impress him as much as possible with the small amount of tools we have. Make sure to add something to the description, play with the data that the app shows to test, try to impress him – it’s John Doe the first one you have to sell your idea to.

Then also check on all your contacts, and contacts of contacts, to try to access someone inside of Apple that might be able to help with a possible admission of featuring the app. Believe me, we’ve done it, and it works, very well J

  1. Get reviews (good ones)

After the amount of downloads, the next factor that’s a determinant factor for the ranking the app will have, are the reviews.

First things first, the strongest wind against that we could receive is a bunch of negative reviews. Certainly, this point must be our main objective. You can get great reviews by basically making sure that our app has the necessary quality. For this, we must follow the right process of quality control and launching to the market, starting with unit testing in the development, testing functionalities, UX testing, and then testing the app in a closed environment with a reduced public. Then, launch it to the market.

Next, let’s go for the positive reviews. Generally just a small group of out-of-this-world applications (usually the ones that resolve a daily life problem) are the ones that are going to receive proactive reviews from users.  Even so, the rate of reviews is generally quite low.

Making a proactive campaign of reviews would be ideal, habitually presenting our users a reminder to rank us at the right time, when our users have achieved something through the app, whether passing to another level on a game, or putting a positive review of a host in a hosting app, or getting a date on our dating app.

  1. Launch it on Friday

You will get the “new release” status during the hottest download time of the week (the weekend).

I certainly want to use the benefit of the “new guy in town” when the bar is full of chicks and not when the bar if full of old drunks. Since this status lasts in average two days, we have to take advantage when the demand is highest.

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