Acquisition & Engagement

Beginner’s Guide to an App Update [Part 2]: 5 Tips and Best Practices

Becky Doles

This is the second installment of a two part series on app updates. Make sure to check out part one which discusses five awesome ways to strategically utilize an update.

If you’ve read part one of this blog post, hopefully you’ve had some time to brainstorm some new strategies to test out for your next update. However, even if you’re just running a standard update with just a minor tweak or two, there are some best practices you’ll want to follow to make sure you have a high quality release.

Here’s how to make a great app update:

One Test at a Time

In part one of this series, we talked about how you can use app updates to test things like your title, screenshots, and description. These are all very important parts of ASO, and you should definitely optimize them. However, it’s important that you only test one change at a time. If you’re focusing on your search ranking, make sure you only change your title and keep all other factors like screenshots and description constant.

You’ll also want to do your best to keep all other marketing tactics as constant as possible. If you run a paid campaign while testing one set of keywords, make sure to run a similar one during your second set. If you have a blog, try to post the same number of new blog posts (and make sure to compare the number of visits when analyzing impacts).

You’ll also want to record anything outside your control that might lead to downloads. For instance, you might want to set Google alerts for your app’s name so you know if a blog or other media outlet referenced your app. The new iTunes Connect will also show traffic sources from non-App Store sites. So when you test will be able to see exactly what your traffic sources are.

Even things like traffic to your app’s website (if you have one) can make a difference, so see how the visits compared across the two time periods. Because you can’t run A/B tests at the same time, the goal is to keep as much constant as you can in order to attribute an increase or decrease of installs to one change.

Everyone will have different aspects they need to control, but think through everything thoroughly before testing. Once you’re relatively confident that one test has led to more downloads, try testing a different aspect of your ASO.

Make Great Release Notes

The release notes of your app are important. They let users know what main changes you made to your app. They can also influence whether a user decides to update your app at all. Personally, before updating any apps I always go through the ‘What’s New’ section (for iOS) to see if the update is even worth it. Pick 2-5 key things to focus on that will convince a user to go through with the update.

Don’t be afraid to be specific either. If you fixed a bug, say what you actually fixed, or if you added a feature, let people know what it is. Look at these three release notes, all from different Facebook owned apps. Which one would you be most likely to update?

Instagram (middle) is vague and doesn’t make me want to update. The main Facebook app (left) notes at least let me know generally what is changed. But the messenger app (right) actually give a concrete example of what’s changed, and compels me to update the app.

Social Announcements

If you have a social account for your app (which you should), make sure to let everyone know about your update. It’s a simple thing to do, but is often overlooked. Sometimes people don’t even know that you released an update, but announcing it on your social accounts at least gets the word out to people who are interested in your app.

If you fixed a bug, let them know. If you added a feature, let them know. Getting users on the most recent version of your app is important, but in order to do so they’ll at least need to know an updates available.

Push Notifications and Emails

Along the same theme as social announcements, push notifications and emails can be used as well. However, these are a little more invasive and should be used sparingly. If you have a minor bug fix, you might want to ask yourself if risking annoyance is worth them updating the app. If it’s a major UI change or a big bug fix, it might be more appropriate. Another scenario where an email or push notification might be useful is for targeted users who haven’t opened your app in a while. Maybe the news about an update is just the spark they need to get back into your product.

Press Release

It (almost) never hurts to get some press coverage. Make sure to write a thorough press release on all the things you changed in your update. Don’t shy away from bug fixes either, even if it was a major one. Earned media can have a huge impact on your app’s downloads, so admitting to a mistake and highlighting how you fixed it might just help spike your installs.

Of course, if you have a major feature update with some awesome new additions, focus on those. But I think you’ll be surprised how even a small change can get picked up and written about.

Media Kit

This might seem small, but it fits into the theme of getting earned media. If you’ve decided to change your icon or screenshots (hopefully due to positive results from testing), you’ll want to also update any media kits you have with the most recent assets. This way if you do get written up, the authors have high resolution images to use that are easily accessible and current.

Branding is an important part of the app store and you’ll want any brand-focused changes to be shown in as many places as possible so your app is recognizable.

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.