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Complete guide to marketing a successful iOS app: How to make money on the App Store

Want to know how to make money on the App Store? In this article we discuss ways to market an app successfully on the App Store: how to climb the charts, how to sell in-app purchases, and what price you should set for your app.



You've made a fantastic iPhone and iPad app. What next? In this article we discuss the various strategies you can use to market an app successfully on the App Store: how to get to the top of the App Store charts, how to sell more in-app purchases, and what price you should set for your app. We even discuss the problem of app cloning, something that afflicts every successful iOS app.

iOS development and marketing  is a tough gig, make no bones about it. Recently a number of devs have revealed their revenue and cost figures, and it's become painfully clear that small indie devs, the lifeblood of iOS innovation, face a huge battle edging out the larger software companies and their swollen marketing budgets. (We discuss this in Why Apple should pay more attention to indie developers in the App Store.)

But don't despair. Small app developers can make good money on the App Store, provided they've got a great app, a strong marketing strategy and a bit of luck. We'll do our best to help with the second of those in this article - and big app developers may learn a thing or two as well.

Here are the sections in this feature:

How to make money on the App Store: How to get your app approved by Apple

We'll assume you've designed a great iOS app. (Easier said than done, obviously! For help getting started on that path, take a look at How to get started with Apple's Swift app programming language and Best Mac for app development)

But the first step on the road to marketing your work successfully is for some developers the most intimidating: you need to get your app approved by Apple. Which means treading carefully around Apple's curatorial restrictions: sex and religion are mostly off limits, for instance.

Francesco Zerbinati, an Italian indie app developer, found the approval process relatively painless, but stressed to us the importance of doing your preparation and striving to understand Apple's rules and regulations. You need to take this part of the process just as seriously as the design of the app itself.

"First, I read the iTunes app review rules before sending my app," he said. "Then, when the app got reviewed the first time, it was rejected because in the screenshots there was an image of a Kindle (it's called PriceRadar - you use it to monitor price changes of Amazon items). I had to re-upload the screenshot images and wait another 7 to 10 days for the review to be completed. It was the only time my app was rejected.

"I would recommend to any new dev to read the rules very carefully."

So get reading - but expect headaches anyway.

How to get your app approved by Apple


How to make money on the App Store: How to improve your app's search visibility

Search is a mature, sophisticated field in the open web, and the old silly tricks - keyword stuffing, unreadable repetition, link farming - won't get you anywhere any more. If you want to do well on Google, you just need to write good articles that people want to read. There aren't any shortcuts.

But App Store search is a long way behind. Run a search for the name of a popular app and you may well see that app appear top of the results - but it'll be followed by a mess of unrelated rubbish that stuck the established brand in their keyword fields and got away with it. And this in a market that Apple curates.

Here's an example. I was looking for the iOS version of Ghost Stories, a rather nice board game. So I searched for 'ghost stories'.

How to market an iOS app: How to improve search visibility


The game I'm looking for is in fourth spot - and note that its name is exactly what I searched for. Ahead of it, among a mixture of slightly dodgy-looking but relevant free apps, is some sort of ebook reader app that apparently mentions stories in its description. And this is standard fare as these things go - I've seen much worse search results. At least the app I was looking for came up somewhere on the first page.