How to get your app featured in the App Store

Published by Drew Johnson · December 21 2023
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Looking to get your app featured on Apple’s App Store? We can’t say it’ll be easy, but we’re here to help. At Rapptr we’ve worked on top-featured apps across multiple verticals. We know what it takes to succeed and we’re more than happy to share our insights with you. From why to use a native iOS code base to how to approach UX audits and product-led marketing—we’ve got you covered with a list of tips and tricks.

1. Take an iOS-first approach

If you’re a seasoned app development professional then you might find yourself stuck in the ever-enduring React Native vs. Swift loop, “Which is better, easiest to implement, and has the best performance on any given device” Well, worry not. Year over year, Apple has been leaning into Swift—exponentially increasing the amount of Swift and SwiftUI used in their own native apps. From this, we can guess that they’re going to continue to be all-in on apps built to work exceptionally well with iOS.

Is iOS exclusivity important?

We can’t provide a definitive yes or no here, we do know this though: if you’re not able to incorporate Swift into your codebase then you might want to consider making your app an Apple exclusive. iPhone users might be familiar with Bear or Agenda, both are exclusive to iOS and have been featured hundreds of times between the homepage and category pages. Providing a best-in-class experience, high quality and innovative branding, and error-free, “it works like magic”, code is a great way to stand out from competitors. Apple editors tend to reward the effort.

2. Do your research

If you’re new to doing market research this might seem a little challenging, there are a few quick ways to gather data though. First, consider and familiarize yourself with all the different featured placements available: App of the Day, Game of the Day, Editors’ Choice apps, and lists: top tens, featured apps, “best of the year”, etc. Then ask yourself if any of the apps featured in these placements are in your vertical market. If yes, which of these are your direct competitors? If you haven’t already, then you’ll want to make a list of these apps, their owners, and which placements you’ve seen them featured in.

SWOT and social scraping

There are a couple of common market research techniques you can leverage: SWOT and social scraping. You can use SWOT to help compare and contrast your app with your competitors, looking for ways you can differentiate your app along the way. Social scraping can help you gather qualitative data, and sentiment i.e. “people seem to really love sharing this app on social, it has mostly positive reviews too”. Word of caution though, social media isn’t an end-all-be-all—people who make the most noise online aren’t always representative of an app's overall user base.

Once you’ve figured out who your competitors are, identified ways to think different, and collected some sentiment from social, then you’re ready to review your app’s user experience.

3. Perform a UX audit

There are endless guides to performing a UX audit. Let’s simplify the process. Start with establishing goals and resources, answer these questions: What am I hoping to gain from performing a UX audit? How much time, money, and interest do I have to put into this project? If your research has shown that your app users are having issues with usability or accessibility then you’ll want to include these topics as high priority items when goal setting.

Have unlimited resources? Consider hiring someone to do an audit for you. This is a great option for businesses looking to optimize established apps. A little short on cash? You can try a DIY approach. A couple of great resources: HotJar and UXtweak both have guides that are concise, easy to follow and include checklists and templates that can help guide your audit.

What are some UX resources for beginners?

If you’re new to UX and taking a DIY approach, no worries. There are a ton of resources you can easily tap into. If you search for UX design basics, you’re likely going to be quickly overwhelmed. UX is a multi-disciplinary field that ranges from design to prototyping to researching physical products, mobile apps, cutting-edge VR experiences and more. If you’re looking for a deeper dive we recommend you read a few product design books, our evergreen favorites include:

  • The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman—an excellent overview of all things UX, from one of its most experienced practitioners.
  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug is a super short, great introduction to UX, with a no-nonsense attitude towards usability.
  • Hooked by Nir Eyal, provides deep insights on how to build habit-forming products that your users will love.

4. Implement updates

Before you start making updates we recommend you prioritize which changes will have the highest impact on your app’s overall performance and experience. Your audit probably uncovered a ton of “could be better”, “that’s, uh, not working correctly”, and “no one uses this feature” kinds of issues. Start with this the easiest to implement changes that will have the greatest return on investment. This will ensure you’re quickly deploying important updates while giving you extra time to decide how to proceed with tricker issues.

You also don’t have to fix every issue you identified. For example, you might decide that features that aren’t being used should be discontinued or bundled into other, similar, features. When all else fails, keep it simple. Do your users want a complicated, difficult-to-use, product or something intuitive and enjoyable? You be the judge.

5. Lean into product-led marketing

You might not have heard, but product-led marketing is having a moment. Some of tech’s biggest names have embraced it, from Notion to Klarna, you’ve probably experienced PLM without even realizing it. How does it work? A few big themes are: prioritizing customer success, focusing on metrics that help you understand exactly how well-loved your product is, and creating content that is not only helpful but compliments your core offerings (and performs well on Google search to boot). Wonder why all your favorite brands are blogging, why they’re creating short-form video demoing products, and why everything has a freemium tier now? Yep, PLM is the answer. If you want to build an organic following, this is the new way.

How can I use product-led marketing for my app?

A couple of easy ways to lean into PLM: One, if your app includes paid subscriptions consider including a free trial with a no-charge guarantee. This is great for users as it helps build trust, they get to try your product without needing to worry about canceling or getting charged later. It’s a win-win. Two, making showing a key component of your strategy. This could be in the form of user testimonials, video content, or even webinars and livestreams.

Over the years marketing has moved from text, to images, to video all with users primarily acting as consumers. Things have changed: user-generated content and feedback is huge now, understanding how this kind of content can impact your product’s placement in the App Store is more important than ever.

6. Fill out your paperwork

You’re almost there. If you don’t have an app developer account you’re going to need to create one or have your app developer submit your paperwork for you. Either way, having an account is a requirement for getting your app in front of Apple’s editors. Once you’re signed up you can start the submission process at Apple’s “Getting Featured” portal.

There’s a lot of information you’ll want to have on hand, from your app’s name to promotional images, it can feel like a lot. Occasionally the info required will be updated too. Instead of providing you a list of items that might not be useful in the future, we’ll just say this: if your business plan is up to date and you’ve got an outstanding “About us” page then you’re probably 90% of the way there. Apple loves storytelling, this is your shot—make it count.

7. Wait, wait, wait

Apple likes to plan. They’re also into getting it right the first time. Remember that time they waited 4 years after the release of Amazon Echo to release the Homepod? Their dedication to providing premium quality products isn’t always the speediest, but it does ensure they’re putting their stamp of approval on only the best and protecting their brand along the way.

All that being said, you probably won’t hear back from Apple’s editors right away. No need to worry if you never heard back either, you can try again—as your app grows and changes you can resubmit your application. Make sure you point out big changes, helping editors understand how and why you updated your app and why it’s a product iOS users will love.

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