Summary:

The App Store contains a number of “ladder points” where moving from one ranking to the next increases an app’s visibility — and, consequently, its sales. Those positions are worth vying for, even if you sometimes have to spend a little in ads to get there.

appstore

Imagine walking into a warehouse with thousands upon thousands of products with each aisle more than 10 miles long. Would you browse each aisle for the item you were looking for, or would you rely on the displays showing off the best-selling products?

Most likely, you’d rely on the masses to make your decisions for you and choose from the best sellers. The same is true for iTunes: There are simply too many apps in the App Store to accommodate effective browsing. Most people’s passive discovery comes from the lists of ranked apps. For developers, this is an important place to note and where to aim for an app to land.

The design of the app store has created a number of “ladder points,” where moving from one ranking to the next increases an app’s visibility — and its sales.

There are six major rank-controlled visibility points in the App Store:

  1. Top 10 of all Apps
  2. Top 10 in your category
  3. Top 25 of all Apps
  4. Top 25 in your category
  5. Top 200 of all apps
  6. Top 200 in your category

Achieving each of these rankings makes an app significantly more visible to the iTunes-perusing public. When browsing the top apps in a category, iTunes only displays the top 200 apps. If you’re ranked 201, you’re stuck with search as your main (and not very reliable) discovery method. The top 25 of each category is significant, because it’s how many apps are shown when viewing the app store on your iPhone. Top 10, of course, is the ultimate goal, with your app being displayed on the front page in your section. If you’re lucky enough to be in the overall top 10 (In which case, why are you reading this? You seem to be doing fine without the instruction.), you’ll find yourself on the iTunes front page.

The added visibility of these ladder positions makes them worth vying for, even if you sometimes have to spend a little in ads to get there. The purchase of enough pay-per-click or pay-per-install ads to get you up to, say, position 25 (shoot for 23-24 to be safe) may give you a negative ROI, but the added visibility of your new position could easily make up for it by driving new sales.

This is the second post in a three-part series. To learn more about marketing iPhone apps, read part 1 and part 3, which will be posted later this week. For an in-depth analysis, download the GigaOM Pro report “How to Market Your iPhone App: A Developer’s Guide” (subscription required).

By Aaron Watkins

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