If you’re a mobile app developer, one of your biggest concerns is getting noticed. Companies like Smule and Tapulous already have recognized brands; however, for the independent app designer, the promotion process requires a fair amount of strategy. One proven method of increasing downloads is becoming listed as one of the App Store’s top selling services. We spoke to faberNovel‘s Baptiste Benezet to find out how indie developers can hack the App Store ranking algorithm.

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Benezet explains that although Apple offers a variety of featured content within the web-based App Store interface, 80% of sales are made via the mobile ecosystem. While sales are driven by Apple editorial content, category browsing and rankings, because there are no opportunities to advertise in the mobile app store, it’s more important than ever to promote your app using the right marketing mix. The company collected data from the Regie Autonome Transports Parisiens (RATP) French commuter app to create a good formula for product, pricing, placement and promotion.

Product & Pricing: faberNovel found that a differentiated pricing strategy was a good way to earn revenue. While the company hit a few hiccups with its initial pricing of 1,59€, after cutting the premium service cost by 50% and building a phenomenal free experience, the new pricing strategy generated 3 times more sales. Says Benezet, “A good free version is crucial in pushing users towards the premium service, especially when the cost of the paid app is high.” In addition to monetizing via app sales, the company earned a good chunk of revenue through in-app advertising in the free version.

Promotion: Buying impressions on major websites was abysmal in drawing new users. From 500,000 impressions purchased on major French networks, the site was only able to generate 4 app sales. Benezet suggests that cross-application advertising is a better solution as relevant users are targeted via the devices they’ll use to download the new apps.

Place: Benezet argues that in the world of iPhone applications, size matters. Once the RATP application download was reduced below 10Mb, the company saw its largest sales peak ever as users were able to access the service via their 3G networks (rather than via the web-based App store). In addition to this consideration, Benezet’s most groundbreaking finding was in the App Store’s ranking algorithm. Explains Benezet, “The formula for App rankings only accounts for your last 4 days of sales.” The formula is 8 times the sales of the current day + 5 times the sales on the 2 proceeding days + 2 times the sales on initial date.


Benezet suggests that a promotional campaign of 4 consecutive days is more likely to pay off with a top ranking rather than a staggered date campaign. Furthermore, because app sales tend to increase by about 20% on Saturday and Sunday (even with a commuter app), it is most advantageous to be one of the top ranking category apps at the start of the weekend. As your sales increase over the weekend, your app’s daily ranking increases and the next four days revenue generation becomes a self-fulfilling cycle.

While the rankings remain relative to other application sales, faberNovel believes this model will help you increase the success of app downloads. After testing the theory, the company welcomes feedback to faberNovel.com.