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The mobile app ecosystem is all about numbers, and the most important number you should know is $77 billion. That’s how much the industry is expected to earn by the end of 2017, if the number of mobile downloads truly reaches the predicted figure of 268 billion. The following summer, the industry will be an entire decade old, but at its all-time high; the moment for submitting will be just perfect.
We’re here to inspect where and how to hop the mobile app gravy train. Our guide will include an overview of the most promising stores, their submission requirements, and common rejection cases. We’ll talk more about app store optimization techniques too, and hopefully prepare your brainchild for certain market success. To generate income, please pour some coffee and take notes.
These are the 25 essentials you should be aware of when submitting your app.
Yes, the total number of Android apps on Google Play is 2.1 million at the moment, making this store an absolute market leader. Meanwhile, the Amazon AppStore, GetJar, Aptoide, and Opera Mobile Stores respectively offer around 0.4, 0.8, 0.7, and 0.3 million Android apps.
Despite the Android mobile platform being available for download on multiple stores, the selection of places to submit to is still scarce. While competition is obviously less fierce on alternate stores, the audience on Google Play is way bigger. Have a great ASO strategy in place, and submit there.
Apple’s official App Store is still the mecca of everything related to iOS, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s the only place for submitting and finding great iOS apps. It currently offers 2.2 million of them, with GetJar and Appland following (not so) close behind with 0.85 and 0.13 million respectively.
If you are in iOS business, you simply cannot skip the App Store. Feel free to submit to alternative sources as well, but make sure that your app meets Apple’s requirements. We’ll discuss them in detail later on, so take another sip of coffee and keep reading.
Earlier this year, Apple has unveiled the biggest update on the App Store since its initial launching back in 2008. The changes are significant – navigation tabs now promise better discovery, and so do search results and product pages – but basic submission requirements and ASO rules remain the same.
The update was focused on gaining more control over which apps are pushed, which means that it still may affect the way your app is reviewed and ranked on the App Store. As a developer, you should definitely take some time to discover what’s new and review redesign from the user’s perspective.
In 2016, China outpaced US in terms of both iOS and App Store revenue. The app market is huge there, and it shouldn’t be overlooked. When it comes to Android app stores, MyApp, 360 Mobile Assistant, and Xiaomi App Store are in the lead, with 25.5%, 14.8%, and 11.5% of market share, respectively.
GetJar and Opera Mobile Store are great places if you develop for both Android and iOS, though they support Java and Windows Mobile as well. Honourable mentions in the cross-platform category go to NexVa (refined localization), Kongregate (game-focused) and Appland (app-store manager included).
In case you decide to submit an app to multiple stores, you’ll need something to help you keep track of its performance across all channels. The appScatter team has already developed a handy monitoring tool that delivers insight into four types of data – distribution, tracking, performance, and intelligence.
“There are more than 2 app stores. In fact there are over 300 app stores worldwide today and still growing”, the appScatter rep explains. “Distributing, managing and tracking your apps across multiple stores poses signiﬁcant challenges.” That’s true, so make sure to use the right tool and stay vigilant.
Wherever you choose to submit, the pre-process is more or less the same. The Apple’s App Store guide will recommend you to submit the last archive you distribute for testing as well, and will offer another helpful tip – use TestFlight. All instructions are available at Distributing Your App Using TestFlight.
Though Apple’s guide will certainly remind you of this too, it goes without saying that the last build you test should be product quality. This means that you app has to be finished, fully functional, and ready for tiny improvements before you submit it to the store as your final candidate.
The thing you should pay special attention to is the app’s interface, since approval processes at virtually all stores include rigorous reviews of UI characteristics. In terms of iOS design themes, expectations for quality are pretty high – at the App Store, they imply clarity, deference, and depth.
Under “design principles”, Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines emphasise aesthetic integrity, consistency, direct manipulation, feedback, metaphors for familiar experiences, and user control. Make sure they are all there, improve the UI if they’re not, and retest the app before you submit.
Different stores have different approval processes, and the time needed for inspecting quality and functionality is not always the same. In case of the Apple’s App Store, it usually takes a day or two. Still, the process can be much shorter and smoother if you previously check the store’s guidelines.
Everything you need for submitting to the App Store is explained in-depth here, while meeting Google Play’s requirements shouldn’t be a problem if you carefully read this guide. Skipping official guidelines is risky in more ways than one – if you miss something, you app may be rejected at the very start.
Both the App Store and Google Play, just as well as majority of other mobile app sources, evaluate submitted candidates in compliance with design, content, and technical criteria. Some are quite thorough, others are less so, but one thing they all hate are basic oversights. Here’s a list of them.
I’m sure you’ve planned to replace it with actual content, but
texts and placeholder photos are not a tiny mistake. The app you submit for approval has to be one insensible improvement away from being a finished product – bluntly speaking, apps that are still work in progress don’t pass.
Bugs & Crashes -
An app full of bugs will get rejected by any store in a split of a second, and the same can be said about candidates that crash upon the first test. Make sure to fix and streamline everything before submission, regardless of how measly or insignificant it may seem. Test the app a couple of times.
The information you leave on the store’s product page are critical for visibility, reviews, and rankings. Keywords and descriptions can make or break your ASO efforts, but they can also get your app rejected during the approval process. Still, if you focus on UX, you won’t have to worry much about ASO.
From a user’s perspective (which is simultaneously the perspective of an official app reviewer), product descriptions should have a pretty straightforward purpose – to explain the app in a couple of short sentences, describe its features and functionalities, and make them very easy to understand. Anything less (or more) could get your app turned down. Answer the following questions, and you’ll be fine: What does your app do? What problem does it solve? What category it belongs to? How does it work? What are the best features? What is unique about it? Why is it better than the similar app?
Submitted Information -
If you’re submitting to the App Store, make sure that all information forms required by iTunes Connect are filled in. Candidates with incomplete information rarely get vetted at all, so be as thorough and specific as possible. This includes all the details related to special configurations or hardware as well.
This is extremely important, so listen closely. Both the information you submit along with the app and the information you leave on the store’s product description page later on must not mislead a user. Be accurate and transparent, and never promise something your app cannot deliver.
The aforementioned Human Interface Guidelines published by the Apple’s official team will tell you everything you need to know about how to make your UI attractive both to users and the reviewers. They are pretty much in tune with what’s considered a standard these days, so read them carefully.
Apple’s Developer has also compiled a list of UI Design Do’s and Don’ts, with some additional recommendations that may help you create a delightfully smooth user experience. It includes tips for formatting content, designing touch controls and hit targets, choosing text size or colour, and more.
On the App Store, candidates with built-in ads are treated somewhat differently from other submitted apps. You’ll need to indicate whether or not your app serves advertisement and uses Advertising Identifier (IDFA) – if it does, make sure it’s clearly stated in your submission forms. If not, skip the step.
Even though it’s a trick all developers have tried to use at one point or another, submitting similar apps is no longer a viable option. One great app always promises a better user experience than two average ones, which is why the leading app stores don’t approve of this convenient trick any more.
Besides, similar apps slow down the reviewing process, and clutter the store itself. If by some luck you do succeed to publish them, you might end up with a couple of angry user reviews, which will inevitably hurt your ranking in return. The shortcut may be tempting, but steer clear from it anyway.
In the mobile app ecosystem, a delightful user experience implies foolproof functionality, an intuitive and user-friendly interface, and helpful and engaging content. If you follow all of the aforementioned tips, your UX will meet the requirements. In any other case, your app won’t be as liked as you’d hope.
On top of all this, you should pay additional attention to a niche audience you’re addressing and a category you’re submitting an app for. Poor UXs are seldom approved, but the same applies to apps developed for small niche markets. Check the store’s categories, and adjust the app to be a good fit.
App store optimization, or ASO for short, is a technique that promises better visibility. It’s very similar to SEO, in a sense that it organically manipulates the store’s search results page and helps your app stand out from the crowd. With over 2.2 million apps in the Apple’s Store, ASO is pretty important.
Optimizing for store search is not overly complicated, but it does require an in-depth understanding of your target audience. Forrester reports that 63% of apps are discovered through app store searches, which means that the more effort you put into ASO, the better your app’s chances are going to be.
Now, app store optimization is not exactly something that can help you with the approval process, but parts of it still have to be done in advance. And, since you should always develop and submit an app with these principles in mind, we’ve took the liberty of including a couple of ASO tricks here as well.
Just like with SEO, the success of an ASO campaign relies on thorough keyword analysis. Get familiar with your audience, step into their shoes, and think about the words and phrases they would use while searching for an app. Or, you can use online ASO tools such are AppMind, SensorTower, or App Annie.
The first thing you’re going to need a killer keyword for is the app’s title. Choose the one with the heaviest search traffic, and be absolutely certain that you haven’t overlooked a better one. Apps with keywords in the title rank rank 10.3% higher, and changing the title afterwards is not a very good idea.
In terms of great ASO and better visibility, making good use of the App Store’s keyword field is basically mandatory. While the app’s title cannot include more than a single keyword (or two, if you’re really creative), the keyword field offers a 100 character count limit. That’s plenty of space for you to use.
The App Store’s keyword field requires you to separate entries with commas, but it doesn’t specify anything when it comes to spaces between phrases. Though most publishers just assume that spaces are needed, they are really not. Ditch them to make extra room, and fill it with additional keywords.
In case you opt for Google Play, which doesn’t offer a separate keyword field, you can find the next best thing in the store’s full description section. It allows for 4,000 characters, so stuff it with keywords as naturally as you can. Unlike here, product descriptions in the App Store are not impactful for ASO.
Google Play also requires you to submit a short description of your app, with a character count limit of 80. This section is even better for keywords and frequently researched phrases, given that its main purpose is to provide a brief overview of an app and thus help users with their search queries.
Mobile Dev Hq has recently tested a number of ASO myths, some of which were busted in the process, and some of which have passed with flying colours. A suspected correlation between a number of times an app has been downloaded and its store rankings has luckily fallen under the second category.
The results are pretty clear – the more times your app has been downloaded for use, the higher it will rank on app store search. In terms of app development and audience targeting, it gives you something to think about both before and after submitting. Target the right crowd, and your rankings will jump.
The same series of tests conducted by Mobile Dev Hq has proven that rankings can be positively affected by user ratings as well. Don’t just ask for them, though, since they need to be earned. If your app is good and helpful enough to speak for itself, its users will gladly give you a five star rating.
It’s all about pleasing the crowds, after all. Modern app users expect nothing but the best quality, whether it comes to design, functionality, features, or content. Make sure to meet these expectations and deliver the UX that’s both engaging and unique. Your ratings will go up, and so will your rankings.
Is your audience multilingual? Will your prospective users come from different parts of the world, or will your app be highly localized to a specific area only? These factors are important to consider before and during the ASO keyword research, so that your app will be equally easy to find from everywhere.
Don’t make a common mistake and forget to count localization in while submitting an app. Include all the necessary details, and prepare keywords, descriptions, and screenshots in different languages. When your app gets published, localization will increase its visibility, downloads, and user ratings.
App store optimization is not overly complicated, but it won’t happen overnight. That’s exactly why you need to conduct a keyword research and develop a good strategy long before you submit the app for approval. ASO is an integral part of a development process, and it inevitably affects the apps’ UX.
Whatever you do, remember that app stores allow manipulation of search results only when ASO-empowered keywords, descriptions, and localization actually help users discover what they need. It’s always about them, not you, which is why you should optimize the app first, and submit it later.
If you believe in your app’s potential, and if you do everything in your power to meet the requirements of your audience and official reviewers alike, the approval process doesn’t need to be so rigorous and scary. Take your time, read the guidelines, test and improve, and your brainchild will be accepted.
The fact that the App Store and Google Play currently offer more than 5 million apps combined shouldn’t frighten you either. It’s a lot of competition to battle against, but it’s also a lot of candidates that aren’t as nearly as good as yours. Work hard on your dreams, and you’ll be able to realize them.
Thus we conclude our app submission checklist on a positive note – the market you’re entering is huge, and there’s always room for new and ingenious additions. It’s in the interest of leading app stores to deliver only the best to their visitors, so make your submission count. The more of the aforementioned tips you apply, the better your app will be. And, great apps get accepted everywhere.