A few years ago, a very talented engineer friend of mine in Silicon Valley and I decided to build an app. We were inspired by Foursquare and the check-in networks and built our own check-in platform called Footfeed, complete with apps for the iPhone, Android and even Symbian (yes, I know. Why?). Check-in was all the rage and we thought we had a winning concept –check-in to multiple networks from a single app.
With our brand spanking new iPhone app in hand, we went about hacking our way to generate downloads. We were attending meetups all over the bay area and would demo every chance we got. I wrote to bloggers and influencers, asking them to review the app, which they did (thank you Sarah Perez). We built viral loops into the product in hopes of driving downloads through Facebook and Twitter.
We tried anything and everything to get people to download our app, in hopes of pushing our ranking in the App Store up. The higher we ranked, the more exposure we would have, driving even more downloads, we reasoned. It all made sense, if only we could push up our app store ranking. At some point, we even coughed up $10k to pitch our app at DEMO in front of hundreds of bloggers, investors and journalists, getting featured on the front page of VentureBeat. And while the exposure at the event and in the press was great, the truth of the matter was that our rankings in the App Store didn’t budge. That is, until…
While attending a meetup in Sunnyvale, I met a guy who worked for an app PR agency called Appency. He told me that they came up with a sure fire way to get our app ranking #1 in our category (social, of course) in the app store. He couldn’t share how they did it, but he guaranteed that it worked. As we were trying to raise money at the time, and were willing to do whatever it took to show traction, I shelled out $4,000 from my own savings to pay the PR agency to get our app to the top of the app store.
As it turned out, within 3 days, Footfeed jumped into the #1 spot in the Social category, ahead of Facebook and Twitter, and #13 in the entire app store! Our app was downloaded over 100,000 times (though our activation numbers were abysmal). While it was amazing to see Footfeed at the top of app store, I was shocked at how easy it was to manipulate the rankings and buy our way to the top. For $4k we were able to beat out Facebook and Twitter and most every popular app available at the time. Apple’s ranking system was clearly broken, until now.
Nearly 3 years after we gamed the app store to get Footfeed ranked #1, as of last month, Apple has finally updated their app store ranking algorithm so that app reviews are now factored into app rankings. Popularity is no longer based solely on app installs, as Footfeed was, but app ratings are also part of the the equation. While it’s not clear just yet how much weight Apple is giving to reviews, according to a report from Fiksu, apps with 4 or 5 star ratings are now seeing a boost in app store rankings.
Though the challenge for all app developers remains the same – build a great app that people download, love and share – with this recent change from Apple, if you want to get more exposure for your app in the app store by ranking higher, you need to be proactive and get your happiest users to give your app a positive review. A 2 or 3 won’t cut it.
To learn how to generate positive reviews for your app, check out Appoxee’s App Review Optimizer. The tool is built specifically to identify your happiest users and publish only the most positive reviews in the app store, Google Play included. Or if you would like to schedule a demo, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.