Hacking the App Stores
The Key to the Android Market is Search
- Find out what key words are relevant to your game that the Android Market users search for. Often times, they are key words that people search for to find your game, which you can track with Google Analytics. Alternatively, you can make educated guesses based on key phrases appearing frequently in top-ranked apps in your category.
- Add those keywords to your game listing as many times as possible, preferably in the title and many times in the description. This tactic may seem silly, but it works extremely well. The Android Market’s search algorithm is surprisingly basic when compared to Google’s homepage algorithm, and frequency does improve your results. Do your best to fit it in the conversation naturally, but also remember to add them at the bottom of your game description in the Keywords section. Just take a look at Lookout’s description to see this strategy in action.
- Take steps to improve your click-to-download rate with good marketing copy in the game description, while fitting in those keywords.
- Take steps to improve your retention rate, which we found had a strong correlation to our Market ranking. An easy way to do this is to simply manage expectations with your description and not over-promise or cater to the wrong audience.
Also, since the Android Market still allows incentivized installs, there’s no harm in buying your first 1,000 users to get that seed group of users and accelerate your growth. This helps tremendously with improving your ranking for a brand new game and gets app developers that valuable information you need to improve their marketing.
Optimize Your Icon
- Stand out from the pack. This sounds easy and straightforward, but it’s actually one of the most difficult parts of making a new icon. Look at what colors, styles and fonts that other games in your category are using, and then pick something totally different. You want your game to stand out from your surroundings and get the user’s attention.
- Decide on your brand. Whether its grungy or glittery, bright or dark, your branding is the personality of your game and the thing that users remember best. Your icon is the first time that users will interact with your brand, so having an icon that represents it is key.
- Keep it simple. An icon that is too busy visually will not as much attract attention or convey your brand as effectively as a simple icon. Instead, focus on a single object that defines your game, whether it be the main character of your game, a funny still involving the characters in action, a symbolic weapon/piece of equipment, or your game’s logo. The best games have simple representations of their brands that are unique and easy to recognize.
- Be consistent. You want to establish your brand in the marketplace and on user’s phones, and by redesigning it you essentially hit the reset button on that process. That said, you can certainly update your icon, but you want to make small, incremental changes over time and not surprise them with a brand new logo.
- What do you look for in a Featured app?
- What could I change about my app that would make it more valuable to users?
- Could I get my fans to request that you Feature my app?
- What can I change about my Featured app submission to increase its chances of success?
Not only does the ensuing conversation give you valuable advice, it also gives you a rapport with the representative so that next time you submit, they will recognize you and the improvements you’ve made in response to their advice. This makes it much more likely that they will accept your app for the Featured list, especially if you submit directly to the rep via email instead of through the submission process. That said, the tricky part of this is definitely getting an email back at all from the representative that contacts you. While I joined Lookout after a lot of the initial conversations, I did initiate a couple of new ones and I think there’s a couple tips I can give you to that end:
- Have an app that is new, interesting and polished, and they will make sure they find time for you (this is the “make a great app and you’ll get featured!” tip). That said, don’t wait forever to send it to them either: you can’t learn if you never submit it.
- Keep the email VERY concise. Pick one of the above questions and ask it. No fluff, no schmoozing, and no begging! You know that you aren’t getting featured, but want to learn from the experience and improve your app for your next submission.
- Be persistent. This is a tip I picked up from Dean Takahashi at the “Meet the App Press” event in July. Even if you ping them and they don’t respond, they remember you, and the next time they see your name next to an email, they might be more inclined to take a look.