January 15, 2016 1:45 pm

Give your apps more visibility – six recommendations for 2016

We are often asked what criteria the Windows Store uses to determine which apps to feature, as well as what developers can do to make their app more visible in the Store. Below I describe six recommendations that can increase your app’s ranking in search results, and also increase the possibility that your app is featured.

We are aware of several bugs impacting the Store that result in some apps not showing up in the Store search; we are working quickly to resolve these issues. If you follow the recommendations in this blog post, and your apps still can’t be found in the Store search, please let us know. The last section of this post describes the steps and information needed to make sure we can identify the root cause of the issues.

#1: Create an original app. Make sure you own the name, brand, icon and content

Customers sometimes look for specific apps or games in the Store. Your app name, title, icon and metadata should only use content that you own or have permission to use. If customers are confused because your app inaccurately uses content that you do not own, the owner could report you for IP infringement and your app and Dev Center account could be removed.

For example, don’t include the name of unrelated, popular apps in your app metadata, and don’t use an icon that might confuse customers into thinking your app is a different, popular app.

It is to your benefit to be original: The Store promotes and programmatically increases search visibility for apps that have original content and that bring unique value to Windows Store customers.

Recommendation: Your app icons, name, description and keywords should clearly communicate the functionality of the app, and must not confuse customers to think your app is a different one. Create a unique, attractive icon that represents the value of your app and attracts customers’ attention.

#2: Make sure your app stands out and has compelling capabilities

There are hundreds of thousands of apps in the Store. Today’s customers are looking for apps that offer distinct value and provide new options. When you build your app, make sure to offer features and experiences that set you apart from the crowd.

For example, if you submit a calculator app with only the generic capabilities already available in other calculators, your app will likely not be found when a customer searches because there are already other apps with unique or additional functions that are more appealing to customers.

Recommendation: Build apps that offer more or different value than apps that are already in the Store. The Store does not favorably rank new apps that provide similar functionality to apps already in the Store.

#3: Build one great app instead of several related apps

Offering one app with more value is usually better than offering multiple similar apps with limited capabilities or content.

For example, if you want to create an app that races cars in different countries, do not build a separate app for each country. Instead, combine all the content into a single app that has allows users to choose in which country to race. This solution offers a richer user experience, and gives you a better opportunity to be discovered in the Store. Another example is an app that is localized in 10 languages, and each language is a separate submission: combine all these apps into a single submission with an option for the customer to choose the language.

Several apps with the same content:

1_enUS 2_fr 3_es

An app that incorporates all content into one:

4_generic 

Recommendation: Do not submit multiple apps that can be replaced by a single app with more content. Building a richer app will also help it have more opportunities to be considered to be featured in the Store, since a single app that has more content will have wider appeal compared to one app with less content.

#4: Make a good first impression with metadata that’s compelling and accurate

Because the Store listing is often the first contact a customer has with your app, make sure your app description is accurate, clear and polished. For example, if you are building a guide to a game, it should be obvious to the customer that this is a “guide” and the app name and metadata in no way should confuse users into thinking that it is the actual game.

  • Name: Your app’s name tells customers about your app and its unique value, so make it relevant to your app, and make sure it’s not, for example, a collection of popular keywords that distract and confuse customers.
  • Description: This is how customers learn more about your app. Your description should be engaging, grammatically correct, accurate and informative. Make sure the description does not include names of other apps that are unrelated to your app’s functionality or could confuse customers. Do not mention apps or brands from other publishers in your description unless it is necessary to do so in order for customers to understand your app.
  • Screenshots: A picture is truly worth a thousand words, so choose your screenshots carefully. They should accurately represent what is special about your app. Use screenshots to tell a story about what your app does, and ensure they are a polished and distinct representation of your own app.
  • Keywords: Use terms that are relevant to your app and what it does. Use no more than seven keywords that are relevant to your app and represent its functionality, and make sure not to use keywords that are unrelated to your app. See the Policy 10.1 for more details.
  • Category; Make sure to choose the most accurate category for your app. Using the “guide to a game” example mentioned above, this type of app must not be published into the Games category, since it’s not an actual game. Books + reference is the more appropriate choice.

Recommendation: Invest in creating your app metadata to make it accurate and engaging. You never get a second chance to make a first impression! Remember that when the Store detects that an app has inaccurate or misleading metadata, we will reduce its visibility. For more tips on creating a great listing, see this blog post from our 10×10 series.

#5: Know and follow the Windows Store certification process and policies

Before an app is available to customers in the Store, it must pass the Store certification process. During certification, Dev Center tests the app for viruses and malware, as well as for technical and content compliance. The Store continuously evaluates apps, even after certification, and monitors comments from customers. If an app is found to be out of compliance at any point, the Store notifies the developer via email (using the account contact email), and the app may be removed from the Store.

Recommendation: Read and follow the Windows Store Policies, and understand the most common certification failures.

#6: Keep a clean record

Lastly, much like a credit score, your app history will influence the visibility of your current and future apps. Focus on submitting apps that are high quality and follow Windows Store Policies and customers will tend to like, download, and use your apps.

App submissions that will negatively impact your developer reputation include ‘copycat apps,’ apps that use intellectual property you don’t own and thus mislead customers, large numbers of similar apps, apps with misleading titles and/or keywords, apps that are found to violate Store policies, and apps that are removed due to policy violation. Submitting these apps has a lasting negative impact on the visibility of all the apps in your portfolio.

Recommendation: Submit high quality apps that follow these guidelines, and do not submit apps that violate Store policies, to keep your record clean and positively benefit the search rankings of all your apps.

If your app does not appear via direct link

Apps may take up to 24 hours to appear in the Store after they are submitted via Dev Center. If you have submitted an app and the direct link is not functioning after 24 hours, open a support ticket in Dev Center. Please include the following information: the App ID, the direct link, the search terms you tried, and confirmation that you have followed the above recommendations. This data is critical to aid in triage of your Store search issues.

What to do if you can’t find your app in the Store

Apps that don’t follow the guidelines above could show up lower in search results, and in some cases, may be found only through a direct link to the app listing and not through Store search.

If you have issues finding your app via Windows Store search, here are the steps to take:

  1. Wait 24 hours after the app has been published. The deep link should work after 24 hours
  2. If more than 24 hours have passed and the app does not appear when using the deep link, please open a support ticket. In the support ticket include the App ID, the deep link, and the date/time the app was published
  3. If the app can be found through deep link but not through Store search, confirm you have followed the recommendations in this blog and confirm that your app has been downloaded by customers and has positive reviews. If that is the case, please open a support ticket and include the App ID, confirmation, direct link provided and the search terms you tried.

And once published, promote your app!

It is also important that you help give your app an initial boost. Promote your new app to your prospects and customers with the Store download badge, through your own website, email, and social media. Run campaigns with promotional ads and house ads, and consider letting customers try out your app with promotional codes. And, if you sign up for the Microsoft Affiliate Program, you can earn an additional 7% commission on certain sales through the Store download badge.

These recommendations can help your app be visible and more successful in the Store, while also help customers continue to find high value and relevant apps.

Updated January 19, 2016 11:07 am

Join the conversation

  1. #3 exists because your store is broken
    To fix #3 you need to make sure that following the other tips results in *more* installs than spamming the appstore.
    To be fair, most appstores have the same problem. But spamming appstores it is exactly what every app developer should be doing. That’s why they do it. It’s like putting ice cream in front of a bunch of children and expecting them not to eat it.

  2. Thanks very much Bernardo for keeping us updated with the issue & taking necassary actions for finding the bugs.

    2 of my apps are doing fine with store search now.However, some of them are still not searchable & effected by bug. I hope that they will be back in search soon,as your team is working to resilve the bugs. Please keep us updated.
    Thank you for understanding.

    • @Syed,
      Could you add your app IDs to your response, so we can investigate? or open a support ticket with the App IDs that are not appearing in search? Having the app ID helps us a lot to debug search issues.
      Thank you
      Bernardo Zamora
      Microsoft

  3. Hi Bernardo,

    The information in your post sounds great, but in reality the Store isn’t quite behaving as you say. For example, you state that developers should provide relevant keywords in the metadata and not to make the app name a collection of popular keywords. However, in the Windows 10 Store, metadata keyword matching is almost irrelevant compared to app name matching. I discuss this more in the forums: https://goo.gl/2TH2I1. The example search for ‘unit converter’ that I provide shows that my app, Calculator², which has almost 3 million downloads and 5,000+ reviews, is ranked well below other apps with no rating simply because the other apps have ‘unit converter’ in their app name and mine does not. I recently experimented with this by changing the app name to

    Calculator² : Scientific Calculator : Financial Calculator : Programmer Calculator : Currency Converter : Unit Converter

    The result was that it then ranked second in a search for ‘unit converter’. I’ve since renamed the app again as obviously the above is ridiculous and could put off consumers.

    The issue I have is, how can you advise developers not to make their app name a collection of keywords, when the current Store search implementation heavily favours this?

    I’ve provided this feedback over the weekend to a priority developer support member. I’d love for developers to be more involved in improving the new Windows Store. After all, we are a major user and I’m sure we have common needs that aren’t being addressed due to the lack of opportunities for direct feedback.

    Kind regards,
    Richard Walters.

    • @Richard,
      Thanks for the very detailed feedback. Could you add your app IDs to your response, so we can investigate? or open a support ticket with the App IDs that are not appearing in search? Having the app ID helps us a lot to debug search issues. We are planning some fixes to the ranking algorithm soon that should help with some of the issues you are seeing.

      Thank you
      Bernardo Zamora
      Microsoft

      • Hi Bernardo,

        Thank you for bringing up the Windows 10 Store App visiblility issue again. I opened multiple support tickets last year about my app not searchable through the Windows 10 Store, and I was told they already know the issue, and they cannot do anything about it.

        I submitted my app, EzPodder Lite (https://www.microsoft.com/store/apps/9nblggh3sh53), and use “podcast” as one of my app’s keywords, but searching “podcast” never shows my app at all. Could you please look into this?

        Thank you
        Weidong Shen

      • @Bernardo,
        Thanks for the reply. Unlike other developers, it’s not that my app isn’t visible under searches, it’s that it’s ranked very poorly under these searches, despite its huge popularity. I describe this in detail in the forum post, but just to summarise, a search for ‘unit converter’ ranks my app at 33rd, with more than half of the apps above it unrated. All the apps ranked higher have app names with ‘unit converter’ in the title (or some variant). When I changed the name of my app to include the words ‘unit converter’, it then ranked second under this search, behind only the Windows Calculator. There is far too much weight applied in searches to matching the app name, such that downloads and ratings are insignificant.

        App name: Calculator²
        App ID is 9wzdncrfhwxl

        Thanks,
        Richard.

      • Hi Bernardo,

        The current situation with Windows 10 App Store search is: 1) the search ranking is poorly designed 2) many apps, especially UWP apps, are simply not searchable.

        This becomes a fairness issue. For someone new to the UWP development world, they could spent hundreds of hours creating an app, and then found what they created is totally invisible in the Windows 10 App Store with no downloads. This will simply drive the developers away.

        You either disable the Windows 10 App Store search feature or rewrite the algorithm and get it right.

  4. These recommendations sound great if used for ranking search results. But it sounds like you use them as a basis for removing an app from search results altogether. If an app is in the store it should be discoverable via any one of its keywords. Put it at the bottom of the results but show it. That’s just common decency. If an app is so bad that you don’t want it to be discoverable, then remove it from the store. And let the author know why.

    Also, there needs to be complete transparency into how search results are ranked. Authors should be provided with the details of the factors which affect the search rankings of their apps.

  5. Hi Bernardo

    Why does the Web Store and Windows 10 store not contain the same amount of browsable apps? There are only a handful of apps browsable on the Windows 10 Store compared to the the Web Store. Combine that with a broken search and it is almost impossible to discover new apps.

  6. I just wanted to comment on the point that it’s recommended not to make a large numbers of similar apps. It’s the frequent changing technology and platforms of Microsoft that force developers to have a large numbers of similar apps. When I have an app in Windows 8, and then I have to migrate it to Windows 8.1, and then I have to migrate it to Windows 10. So I find it easier to start a new similar app in Windows 8.1 and a new similar app in Windows 10, than to migrate my Windows 8 app to the different platforms that Microsoft keeps changing.

  7. I’m about to give up on the Windows Store entirely since it is apparently impossible to submit an app due to these “guidelines”. I have made sure after multiple submissions that my app name and icons are specific and distinguishing from other brands. Every submission results in a rejection message of “The app name and icon do not accurately represent the app.”.

    When asking support for help, I receive nothing more than a canned response linking to this blog. I have no clue where to go from here except to just give up and not bother with the tiny, tiny amount of users who use the Windows Store.

  8. All my apps (e.g. “MyNextDays”, a calendar app) used to be listed in the old version of the store among the top 30 in the ranking for category “Productivity, payed”. Since the introduction of the new store, all my apps have disappeared from any ranking list. They aren’t even listed on the last position of the ranking. They simply have disappeared. Why? Since the introduction of the new store, downloads have reduced by 95% because the app is not visible any more. I am happy that my business does not depend on Micosoft’s store ranking algorithm.
    The app can only be found by a user if he knows the direct link or through a search. All other calendar apps have been transferred to the category “Tools” except my app.
    This is obviously a bug in the design of the ranking algorithm.

  9. I have about 15 completely different apps in the app store that are totally invisible, all thanks to this wonderful idea from Microsoft.

    Like seriously, what kind of weed is Microsoft smoking?

    You can’t search for these apps, neither are they listed as apps made by me.

    I have similar apps on the Android and BlackBerry store and I have never had this problem.

    All efforts to contact Microsoft returns with some generic response of App Rankings and all what not.

    After spending hours creating apps on the Windows platform, this is totally dissapointing.

    If the Windows Store is meant to display only facebook and Twitter apps, then they should make it known to developers.

    This is pure bias of the highest order!

    I don’t see the point of an app store, if it won’t display certified apps. At this rate, I don’t see the point of developing apps on the Windows platform.