Getting Reviews & Coverage For Your App
Forty one percent of app users discover apps via word of mouth or reviews (source: Apadmi 2014 App Survey) but getting publicity for your app in the most valuable places can be a real challenge. In this section we outline how to find those right places and more importantly – influential people – to get the exposure your app needs.
As a “bootstrapped startup”, you’re going to be on a limited budget. The good news for you is that there are nearly limitless ways of getting coverage for your app without paying.
This is basically working out who is your app going to be of interest to, what websites they go on and what type of publications and websites.
You need to think laterally; i.e., Apadmi is:
- a UK and Manchester-based company
- a software development, app development, iOS and Android development company
- run by entrepreneurs or “business leaders”
- expert in financial and medical apps
- used by enterprise companies and businesses who want successful apps that will help their business
- a technology company, designer and digital advocate
There are websites for each of the above, e.g. Manchester newspapers, business forums and app developer news sites.
One tip is to use Google’s autosuggest – go to Google and type “time tracking app for a” (or whatever sort of app you have) and see what suggestions come up. Retry with “time tracking app for b”, c, d, etc.
Using this information, we can see that a time tracking app is also an app for lawyers, businesses, freelancers, designers and many others.
Look for pre-existing relationships. Has someone written about your colleagues, investors or partners?
Don’t contact everyone possible. Be selective. Ask yourself:
- Does their site look like it’s used by people?
- Do posts have comments on them? Are the FB like/tweet counters all genuine?
- Would people using this site be interested in our app?
Always have a reason for contacting them that isn’t “I want coverage” but be honest that you are trying to get some exposure too. PR agencies call this “needing an angle”. Telling them that their previous reviews are so good that it would be a “privilege to be reviewed by you” probably won’t work.
We advocate a softer approach – language like “consider including” and “honest review”.
We found some great external resources on this:
Don’t just email. If possible, use the phone to contact the journalist/site owner.
Review sites and “best of” lists
We found a huge list of app review sites and another on reddit. If you’ve made a game then there’s a big list of YouTubers who review games. But with so many options, we’ve decided to share a few tips to get reviews.
- Try to get your app featured in monthly and category-based “best of” lists as well as reviews. Look for sites that feature that month’s best new releases/discoveries – or best apps in a given “category”
- Incentivise reviews by allowing sites to host competitions to give away your app
One approach we like is the “outdated content” method.
You can find outdated “best of” lists by searching Google for terms such as “best productivity apps 2013” or by using Google’s “advanced search” feature to show only results that were published before a certain date.
If they’ve not updated the content for the current year, you can email the author of the original and ask them if they were planning to – and ask them to consider including your own work.
Using backlinks to find useful sites
SEOs use tools like Ahrefs.com to see which websites are linking to a particular URL or site. This is also useful for promoting an app.
This is a partial listing of sites linking to the Uber (US) iTunes page.
Use a backlink tool like Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer to find out who is linking to your competitors’ Play and App Store listings. But an app available in five countries can have five listing pages.
For the iTunes App Store:
- The “UK” URL for the Uber App on iTunes is itunes.apple.com/gb/app/uber/id368677368?mt=8
- The US URL is itunes.apple.com/us/app/uber/id368677368?mt=8
- You’ll need to look at Australia (au), Canada (ca) too but you can use this country code list to find wherever else you need to look
- Or just Google site:itunes.apple.com inurl:app intitle:”uber on the” replacing Uber with your competitor’s app to find all versions of their app (example)
For Android, go to any version of the listing (e.g. UK version) and view the HTML source. In there look for “hreflang”… for a full list of pages (see example). Most sites will link to the generic version but check each version.
It goes without saying that you should check who is linking to the app’s official site. A game called Monument Valley has links from 840 domains. If you’ve made a similar game, maybe you should contact some of them?
Google Alerts send you an email when something new on a given subject gets published – usually within 24 hours. This allows you to contact the writer while it’s still topical so your email becomes a reply rather than a cold email.
- Monitor your own brand mentions so you can join in on any discussion
- Use Google Alerts to be notified whenever your competitors are featured in a news article or review. Contact the author of the article and offer your app as an alternative
- Use Google Alerts to monitor for discussions related to your app – “best X app” or problems that your app solves
Cross-promotion with others
Find non-competitors with similar audiences/demographics and promote each other’s apps to your user base. This can be done through reaching out to other developers or organised through networks such as Tap for Tap, Tapgage, Chartboost or Tapjoy. This doesn’t have to cost money – platforms such as tapdaq offer peer-to-peer credits that you can earn and exchange.
Cross-promotion can be done in-app (free reciprocal advertising), on your website/blog or on your social media profiles (i.e. you tweet and post about them, they do the same).
Incentivised downloads of other apps (i.e. offering benefits within your own app for downloading other apps) has been banned by Apple. This includes offering benefits for downloading other apps you’ve published.
Using Social Media to find influencers
Partner with existing communities to promote. Think of how Facebook targeted university campuses and organisations. Approach the moderators and leaders of student communities, Facebook and social media groups (meetup.com), forums, subreddits etc.
Look at who is interacting with your competitors’ Facebook pages and then look at these people and see what other pages and apps they like. Are any relevant to you or non-competitors? Approach their developers or moderators. Can you reciprocally promote each other to each other’s fans?
It’s also pretty easy to target paid adverts at Facebook users who have recently commented on or liked posts on your competitor’s Facebook wall using tools like Fanharvest and Social Lead Freak.
Journalists and bloggers often follow your competitors because they’re looking for things to write about. You can find journalists/bloggers who follow your competitors on Twitter pretty easily. Scroll all the way down on Toggl’s list of followers and search for the words “journalist”, “review”, “blog”, “writer” or whatever you think would be relevant.
Alternatively, use a paid tool such as Followerwonk to download lists of their followers. This will also pull in what websites they’ve listed in their profiles. Search for tech and relevant sites. They’ll be interested in hearing from you too.
Matthew Barby from findmyblogway.com wrote a rather good guide to hijacking your competitor’s campaigns.
Getting “Featured” on the App Store is huge for any app. Generic advice is to make an exceptionally well designed app but …
Integrate with something new that the phone makers, service providers or Android/Apple want to promote.
- This includes NFC, iCloud, fingerprint scanners, new accessories, new default apps or OS features. Watch the developer conferences to see announcements
- Apple likes exclusivity and apps which support all its platforms. It can sometimes be helpful to be only available on iOS
- Anecdotally: “Bowling 2 was featured over a dozen times in the Blackberry app store because it was built to take advantage of the features offered by a specific RIM phone. The game’s maker, Concrete Studios, was able to build for that phone because of strong relationships that they had built with RIM – through that relationship, they were able to get early developer access to RIM’s technology in order to make the game” (source)
Search for App Store managers on LinkedIn, get in touch and tell them about your app (source).
- Others have recommended use of targeted adverts at Apple employees on Facebook or Twitter
- The App Store’s marketing team actively seeks out the best content and can be emailed at email@example.com
- They’ll be interested in knowing about how your app takes advantage of the latest technology and any of the above details
Apple like seasonal apps! They’re more likely to feature apps or games with a seasonal twist, e.g. a special Halloween edition of a game.
Many handset manufacturers operate their own app stores (list) which feature their own recommended apps. Make a special approach to the people behind the listings.
PR tricks and tactics
Never underestimate the power of media exposure. Modern PR is based on finding an angle or story that’s interesting and using that to gain exposure. One approach is using controversy to create stories. Here are some approaches that we think could work for app developers.
You can sometimes use anonymous data/stats from your app to create interesting stories. In our example, do UK users tend to work fewer hours than people from the USA or Germany? What about New York users vs Los Angeles? People may be interested if you have the right angle.
Some apps have promoted themselves through “Newsjacking” – adding something to a breaking news story that will attract coverage.
- Newsjacking requires you to react quickly to big events that get a lot of coverage and to be creative
- Ways an app developer can newsjack include releasing a timely app that cross-promotes their other apps (e.g. the Flappy Bird clones) or analysing how real-world events have affected usage of their app
- For example, in May 2014, there was a story in the Washington Post in which a major contractor was overcharging the US government – allegedly padding their billable hours by up to eightfold. One way our time tracking app could have newsjacked this would have been to release a special edition of their app that tracks 8 hours for every hour and notifying the journalists covering the story… after receiving the appropriate legal advice
Promoting your app through content and resources
Remember the personas you brainstormed? Both your users and the sites that they read are important.
Stick to what you know about – or what others believe you’ll be able to write authoritatively about.
Content you produce can be creative, funny, useful or controversial. Distilled listed most types of content in this image.
Your content can’t be too self promotional – at least 80% of the content should be good advice.
For promotion, use your backlink tools to see who is linking to content that’s similar to what you’ve produced and get in contact. Alternatively, paste the other link into Topsy to see who tweeted it (example). But don’t spam them.
Content idea generation
A safe approach is to consider the sort of questions people who may need your app will ask before they start looking for an app.
- What problems do they have?
- What problem does your app solve?
- Think about a subject where your app is just a bullet point on a list of answers, e.g. Time Management Tips For Project Managers
There are lots of methods for finding these questions beyond brainstorming. i.e.
- Use the Google autosuggest method mentioned above. A suggestion from this is “time management methods“
- Searching Quora by Googling something like ““freelancing” time management site:www.quora.com/“. A good question in that list is “What products or services make a freelancer’s life easier“. However off-site lists like this (example) usually can’t be self promotional unless done through a freelance journalist intermediary
- Reviewing forums that your users may browse to find the most popular questions. Forums usually let you sort posts by most viewed (example). Some may be relevant to you but most will not. We like the question about “Determining what to charge a client” because time tracking will factor into that
- Reddit can be used in a similar way. We liked Sam Parr’s post on how the Roommates app team got 250,000 views to their infographic in just 1 week because it targeted something potential users of their app may be interested in
We’re also fans of Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique – basically finding which of your competitors’ blog posts received a lot of links and then making something similar that’s more comprehensive or up to date. The people who linked to your competitor’s version may appreciate your version too…
Topsy and Buzzsumo (examples linked) can also highlight content your competitors have done that got a lot of social shares.