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The number of apps for iOS and Android is only increasing. To take one example: There are more than 8,100 health and fitness apps for the iPhone. The What's Hot selection narrows the field to a still-daunting 120. How many iPhone owners have the time and interest to look beyond the top dozen or so?
Such is the app marketing challenge that developers face -- and not just in the health and fitness category or on the iOS platform. No wonder, then, that some developers are looking beyond Android and iOS and focusing on platforms such as Windows Phone. These smaller app selections make it easier to stand out from the pack.
"Right now, on Apple, only 40, 50, 60 apps get discovered," says Matthaus Krzykowski, head of marketing at Xyologic, whose app store aims to make it easier for developers and consumers to get a handle on what's available in a particular category.
Part of the challenge is that most consumers and businesspeople often don't visit Google Play, Apple's App Store or Amazon's Appstore with a specific app in mind. "The vast majority of searches are for app categories," Krzykowski says. "The typical user doesn't know any brands. They search for things like 'social networking' and 'arcade games.'"
App Marketing Strategies: Keep Away from the Crowd
One strategy for standing out in a crowded category is to avoid it -- strange as that might sound. "Many developers assume they fit in one category when they haven't really explored others that may work just as well -- with less noise and competition," says Robert Rositano, Jr., CEO of CheckMate Mobile, a developer that specializes in gaming.
"I have seen several apps that have crossover in gaming and social categories," says Rositano. "Developers seem to gravitate toward the gaming category because of its apparent upside and excitement. In reality, the social category will typically provide much more exposure and allow the gamified aspect of the app to grow virally. We have learned this the hard way. Experience has shown us a significant increase in downloads, rank and overall visibility. If you are going to hit the gaming category, the app should be a pure-play game for the hard-core gamer."
The Role of App Names
When naming your app, it can be just as important to appeal to major stores' search algorithms as it is to appeal to potential customers. The right name can leverage those algorithms to move up in rankings, as is the case with Apple's App Store.
"They rank by title and keywords," says Ben Sann, BestParking.com founder and CEO. "The title tag has to match the title of the app. You can't just take the title tag and cram it with keywords. They used to allow that, but they got a little more strict. You can still stretch the title tag a little bit to include additional keywords, but it has to be in a way that makes sense as you're reading it. You definitely want to maximize the title tag. Your keywords section should contain keywords that are not in the title tag."
It's also important to understand whether a particular store's algorithms can handle acronyms and other things that might seem like a slam-dunk way to rank high in searches. "The Apple algorithm is very strict in interpreting words," Sann says. "It won't interpret that 'NYC' means 'New York City.' Google's search algorithm does that; Apple's doesn't. It's very literal. If you have two words, you're better off separating them. So if you have 'CityParking,' you're better off having city, comma, parking.
"Even higher than the keywords and the title is the name of the company," Sann continues. "So you want to think long and hard how you want to call yourself. We probably shouldn't have been BestParking.com. Maybe we should have been Best Parking."
At the same time, don't get too hung up on a particular store's algorithms. These tend to change periodically and without notice. And by the time word gets around in the developer community, those algorithms might have changed yet again.
"If we (or any app developer) try and build our business on anticipation of what Apple may or may not do, what they are currently testing or what we hope will happen, we will have taken our eye off of making the most compelling app in our target category and ultimately lose as a result," Rositano says. "Keep it simple, stay focused and simply name your app in the most descriptive way possible -- or a name that drives so much intrigue a user just has to see what it's all about."