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.