According to a recent study we conducted, 68% of both iOS and Android apps are discovered through the app store. The main places your app can gain visibility in the app store is search, Top Charts, or different featured sections. We decided to focus this Insider on getting featured and look into how that impacts your apps along with what to do to actually get featured.
For the purposes of this post, we focused solely on the Apple app store. To measure how getting featured impacts your app, we decided to look at the Top Charts rankings of certain apps that got featured in the month of April. Top Charts rankings are impacted by a number of different metrics, including downloads, so it is the best and easiest way to see the benefits of getting featured.
The Main Banner
The first featured section we looked at was the main banner you see at the top of the ‘Featured’ Page. It is one of the first things you see when you open the app store, and definitely draws the user’s attention with a large, bold picture. We looked at a number of different apps that got featured in this section, and found a few interesting themes.
Already Popular Apps Benefit (but not as much)
Clash of Clans is one of the most popular and successful apps in the app store. In 2013 it was the second highest grossing app in the behind Candy Crush Saga, and was also featured this past April for seven days on the main banner.
Where: Fourth position on the main banner between April 11th-17th.
Rank before featured: Before the 11th, it still ranked highly in the Top Free iPhone apps, hovering between the 23rd and 13th spots.
Peak rank while featured: Its peak was the 10th spot.
As you can see by the graph, being featured did not have a huge influence on this app’s Top Chart ranking. Although you can see a little bump, the rise and fall before and after being featured was not dramatic (especially compared to the other apps we looked at). This is likely due to the fact that Clash of Clans is already hugely successful. This is because the Top Charts ranking algorithm is likely relative to each individual app. Clash of Clans already acquires thousands of new users every day (over 38 thousand according to this source). To see a significant increase in the metrics impacting Top Charts rankings (downloads being one of them) they would have to have a huge influx in downloads.
However, just because the bump was not huge does not mean they did not see any benefit. Although they only moved up a few spots, that small increase likely equated thousands of extra downloads per day.
The reason we say they don’t benefit as much is because the new downloads they receive from getting featured are not compounded by a dramatic Top Charts ranking increase. An app that was previously ranked below 100 and suddenly shoots up into the top 50 gains increased visibility from being featured and from the Top Charts boost. This means they can now acquire new users from increase exposure in both areas of the app store.
The ‘Relatively’ Big Bump
For new or less popular apps, getting featured can have enormous impacts. Most of the apps we looked at saw huge Top Charts ranking spikes after being featured. This is because the increase in users is much larger relative to what they were receiving before being featured. One example of this is Trials Frontier, which rose all the way from being unranked to the third spot.
Where: Second position in the main banner between April 11th-17th.
Rank before featured: Unranked before the 11th.
Peak rank while featured: Its peak was the second spot.
This example goes to the extreme of showing how increasing relative downloads can help boost your app up the Top Charts (and how being featured can dramatically increase your users). Trials Frontier was actually launched the day before it was featured and was therefore completely unranked in the Top Charts. Due to the downloads it received on the second day it was live, it actually broke into the Top Charts in the fifth spot. It peaked in the second spot before drastically dropping once it was not featured anymore. After its time in the banner, Trials Frontier dropped down into the 200’s due to an apparently significant decrease in downloads.
Your Banner Position Matters
Being featured in the main banner is a double edged sword (compared to being featured in another area like the Best New Apps). This is because only one app is featured at a time. This means that when your app is featured, it receives a lot of attention. But if your app is not one of the first apps in the rotation, the chances that it will be seen go down. The app SpeakaZoo gave us some insight into how position impacts your app.
Where: Third position in the main banner between April 25th-28th and the second position between April 29th and May 1st.
Rank before featured: Before the 25th, it was unranked in the Top Free iPhone apps.
Peak rank while featured: Its peak was the 36th spot.
Now we’ve already talked about the huge ranking increase smaller apps can see from being featured. This is further emphasized here. However, the part that we really found interesting was the tiny bump you can see on the 30th after the app’s Top Charts ranking starts to dwindle. This is followed by a dramatic drop off when the app is no longer featured.
So what caused that spike? We believe it was the result of being changed from the third to the second position in the banner rotation. Because it was moved up, the chances of it being seen increased, and therefore it received more users. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to impact what position you’re in, but it’s interesting to note.
Best New Apps
The next featured section we looked at was the Best New Apps, which is right below the main banner. There are two main differences between this section and the main banner:
- It shows more than one app at a time
- Users can manually scroll through apps instead of waiting for them to automatically switch (although you actually can do this with the banner, though it isn’t as intuitive).
We saw very similar results in terms of ranking boost in this section as we did for the main banner. However, we also picked out a few new themes.
Power of the Brand
Where: Fourth position in the Best New Apps between April 11th-14th and third spot between April 15th-17th.
Rank before featured: Before the 11th it was unranked in the Top Free iPhone apps.
Peak rank while featured: Its peak was the 54th spot.
Where: First position in the Best New Apps between April 11th-17th.
Rank before featured: Before the 11th, it was unranked in the Top Free iPhone apps.
Peak rank while featured: Its peak was the 239th spot.
It’s very interesting to compare these two apps. Both were unranked before the 11th, and both entered into the Top Charts in the mid-200’s. However, you’ll notice that the MTV app shot up significantly compared to the Baby Bundle app. We suspect that this is in part due to the brand recognition of MTV, although there were probably other factors at hand as well. However, it still highlights the importance of having a solid brand and outside marketing strategy.
The Power of Three
As we mentioned, one of the major differences between the Best New Apps and the main banner is the number of apps they show. Although you can see they tease a fourth app, there are only three main ones highlighted. Going back to the MTV app, you might have noticed that it moved up from the fourth spot in the Best New Apps to the third spot on the 15th. This correlated with another huge jump in their Top Charts rankings, from the 137th spot all the way up to the 54th spot.
This is especially impressive because the app store algorithm is most likely logarithmic, meaning the higher your app rises the harder it is to keep moving up. The 83 spot jump from 137 to 54 is harder than the 146 spot jump from 283 to 137.
It’s also interesting to note that most of the other apps peaked a day or two after being featured, and then started to dip after three to four days due to the decrease in the day-to-day difference of downloads. However, you’ll notice that MTV has a constant upward curve. Similar to how being closer to the beginning of the main banner rotation was better for apps, being in the top three apps in the Best New Apps section makes a huge difference.
Other Featured Section
There are also a number of other areas where apps can be featured within the app store. Besides the main featured page, each category also has a featured section with a similar layout and opportunity. These showed similar results to the more visible featured sections, but as you might imagine, the impact was less drastic.
Small Main Page Banner
As you keep scrolling down, there is another smaller banner. These are a cross between the main banner and the Best New Apps. Usually these are collections of apps rather than singular apps. But every once in a while a single app will be featured. The advantage of being featured here is that the app usually has some label such as ‘app of the week.’ So although the number of users that see your app might not be as great, an accolade like that might increase the conversion rate.
We looked at a few apps that had been featured, and the trend was the same. Many were unranked before being featured, broke into the Top Charts the day they started being featured, peaked a day or two after, and then slowly declined until their featured time was over. Once they were no longer featured they fell dramatically.
Getting featured: All or nothing?
It’s clear that getting featured can provide huge benefits for your app, especially if you are new or a lesser known app. However, one pattern we noticed was that after apps were no longer featured, they either fell off the Top Charts completely or fell dramatically. So does getting featured guarantee a successful app? Not necessarily. In some cases it may have been the kickstart an app needed, but in most, it only provides a temporary boost.
In the end, it seems that getting featured can provide huge short term gains, but will not make or break your app.
How To Get Featured
So you’ve seen the positive impacts getting featured can have, now you want a piece, right? Well unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Apple curators hand pick every app that they feature, so there’s no way to buy your way on the list. The curators are also kept fairly secret, so trying to leverage a relationship doesn’t help either.
That being said, there are a few things you can do to help your chances. Here are a few patterns we noticed among the apps we chose, and some tips we found.
Creating or altering your app to coincide and play off of large global themes or events is one way to increase your chances of being featured. The World Cup and March Madness are two examples of events that we’ve seen a lot of apps built around and which have also been featured quite regularly.
Exploit New iOS Software Features
Every time Apple releases a software with new capabilities, they are looking for apps that utilize and take advantage of the new technology. In the new iOS 8 update coming up, the access to fingerprint scanning might be one you try to include. You don’t have to be a new app built solely around these either, integrating it into an already existing app is great as well.
Sell Your Game
Always be selling. It’s highly unlikely that you can just put an app out there and it will catch on like Flappy Birds without any marketing or selling. You need to sell your customers, but you also need to sell Apple, and other media outlets. There are only so many apps the curators can really pay attention to. If you get featured in a blog or media outlet like Mashable or TechCrunch, it certainly doesn’t hurt your chances of being noticed.
Create a Great App
Bottom line, this is the most important thing. Make a great product. It’s important to remember the app store is a marketplace. Apple needs to make the ‘shoppers’ happy, and featuring shoddy apps won’t help their cause. If you make an app that has a great UI and UX, it will have a higher chance of catching the curator’s eye and getting featured.
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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.