January 11, 2013
By Ravi Kamran
With the release of Apple’s newest iOS 6 mobile operating system come noticeable changes to the App Store.
The makeover includes some different features and functionality that will influence how users discover and engage with applications. Following are four of the most important.
Focus on the visuals
One of the most obvious changes in the iOS 6 App Store is the increased emphasis on visuals.
A more image-centric design is present throughout the entire App Store, which means that graphics such as screenshots and icons are playing a larger role in attracting the attention of potential users.
In fact, the visual focus is so strong now, these graphic elements are more important than an app’s description.
An app’s landing page is now shown in the format of a swipeable card.
These cards show a bigger icon and the first screenshot of an app, giving these visual elements a more influential role in attracting potential users.
No text is displayed at all until the card is clicked again, which means that eye-catching app icons and screenshots are necessary for good conversion rates.
When users do click the display again, they can see the first few lines of description text, so it is essential to have a high-impact sales pitch in those first few sentences.
Optimizing for search
Search results are now equally displayed as swipeable cards showing just one result at a time.
Users scroll across to see each new search result, whereas in iOS 5, they are shown continuous lists of thumbnails.
This new display now makes it much harder for apps to be discovered via the search function in the App Store.
Good app search optimization now becomes even more important for app marketers.
As with search engine marketing, keywords play a central role in App Store optimization. Under iOS 6, new rules apply that app marketers should remember.
Some aspects – such as the importance of an app’s name and keywords – have remained just as important as in the previous versions of the App Store, but Apple has made some changes to its search algorithm that affect App Store optimization best practice.
With iOS 6, singular forms of keywords are acceptable, so leave out the extra “-s” to make the most of those allotted 100 characters.
Now, an app’s category such as free or games automatically becomes a keyword, so there is no need to repeat it in your description.
In-app purchases no longer affect rank, and Apple actually seems to penalize developers for repeating keywords in an app’s name and in-app purchase labels.
Large download volume is still necessary to achieve a high search rank in the App Store, and now App Store page “Likes” also feature in the iOS 6 App Store and will influence search and chart ranking.
Changes in chart ranking
In iOS 6, Apple’s chart ranking algorithm appears to remain unchanged and is still based heavily on download volume from the preceding 72 hours, with the previous 24 being most influential.
The chart landing pages, however, have gotten a makeover.
In the Top Free and Top Paid charts, only four apps are initially shown.
Users can swipe to see the top apps in each category, four icons at a time, or click on “See All” for a full listing. This compares to iOS 5, where users see the top 25 and 50 apps with thumbnails.
In the past, app marketers aimed to reach the top 25 ranking zone, but with these changes this will likely lose its relevance as a target range.
Thorough tracking and monitoring of boost campaigns in iOS 6 should reveal a new range of ranks for marketers to target, such as the top four or 32.
Genius takes center stage
Another very obvious change in Apple’s new OS is the switch from Categories to Genius as a new main actor in the App Store.
The iOS 6 App Store has removed the Categories button from the app’s landing page and replaced it with Genius.
The “Categories” tab is now hidden behind a small tab in Featured and Top Charts.
With more than 700,000 apps now available in the App Store, Categories may have lost its relevance as a way to sort and discover apps.
Without the emphasis on Categories, users are more likely to turn to Genius, Top Charts and keyword searches to find what they are looking for.
Apple is putting more focus on Genius in hopes of it becoming another popular tool for app discovery in the App Store.
Genius recommends apps based on a user’s download history, though Apple is said to favor its own apps and those that are Passbook-enabled.
If Genius can prove itself as a useful recommendation tool for users, it could become a popular method of discovery.
As with most Apple algorithms, the Genius algorithm is a closely guarded secret, but as it receives more attention as a method of app discovery, more effort will be dedicated to deciphering it.
NIELSEN’S 2011 Q3 Mobile Media Report shows that 63 percent of users are using search to find apps, and with the App Store changes that number is likely to increase.
At the same time, the new card format means that apps sitting in the lower ranks of search results will have a much harder time being found.
To make their app stand out from the vast competition, app marketers need to understand the new rules in the iOS 6 App Store: a good app search optimization, a relevant ranking in the top overall charts and a great App Store landing page and appearance are the key to successful App Store marketing with iOS 6.