As ASO practitioners, it’s crucial that we pay close attention to App Store guidelines in order to fully understand the dos and don’ts when it comes to formulating strategies to optimize an app’s performance. Taking shortcuts or overlooking certain details can prove costly down the line; but at the same time, no one likes scouring through pages and pages of content. To save you the trouble, we’ve gone ahead and done all the groundwork and created a refined, concise summary that’s easy to digest and will get you on your way to devising bulletproof strategies to effectively market your app.
In the sections below, we’ll highlight the most important points to take away from the App Store Guidelines in an easy checklist form. If you adhere to these suggestions, you’ll be sure not to attract any unwanted attention from the App Store reviewers and ensure your app’s visibility in the Apple app store.
Don’t put price-related keywords such as “Free” and “Paid” in the title and/or subtitle
- You can target these keywords in the Keyword Set
▢ Clearly mention “VIP”, “Paid” and “Premium benefits” badge/labels while promoting items, levels, subscriptions, etc., which require additional purchases
▢ Only include features that are available in the target market
- Don’t target keywords related to a new feature that is only available in certain markets. For example, targeting the Song Recognition feature in Europe when it is only available in the United States
▢ Don’t use competitors or popular app names in the metadata
▢ Don’t mention any third-party mobile platforms (e.g. Android) in the metadata or long description
▢ Make sure the text in the What’s New section is in line with the product changes
- For example, if there are UI changes or in-app actions, make sure these are mentioned in the What’s New section
▢ Apps not in the Kids category or including kid’s content cannot include terms such as “for kids” or “for children” in their name, subtitle, icon, screenshots, or any other descriptions that imply the main target audience is children
It’s common to see developers/marketeers deliberately tweaking the appearance of their app in the store in order to depict an enhanced UI. While it may be tempting to follow suit, don’t. Presenting potential users with a misleading visual representation of your app will only lead to rejection and possible sanctions. In short, stick to the checklist below and present a portrayal of your app’s UI that is true and precise.
▢ Include “VIP” or “Premium benefits” badge/labels in the screenshots and app preview videos badge/label when promoting items, levels, subscriptions, etc. that require additional purchases. For example, including a premium label in the screenshot while promoting a paid feature such as offline music
▢ Don’t promote your competitors’ screengrabs (UI) or fake screengrabs (UI) which are not of your own app
▢ To ensure people understand what they’ll be getting with your app, the app preview video may only use video screen captures of the app itself
▢ Don’t show any human interaction with the app (e.g. using a finger to navigate in the app) in the app preview video
▢ Do not Display any device in the app preview video — even a drop shadow behind the captured footage leads to rejection. Use only the app’s full-screen UI in the video
▢ Show at least 1 image of the app’s actual UI in the set of screenshots
▢ Don’t use any third-party mobile platforms in the screenshots
- For example, avoid using Android’s logo, screengrabs from Android devices, Android phone mockups, etc.
In addition to what we’ve detailed above, there are, of course, a number of miscellaneous practices that you should be sure to stay well clear of. While there may be other underhand tactics you can leverage to try and get ahead — which you should also avoid — we’ve listed some of the most important ones in the section below.
▢ Don’t switch to an irrelevant category in order to try to boost category rank and increase browse traffic
For example, a music app switching from the Entertainment category to the Utility category to boost category ranking because of comparatively less competition. As the app doesn’t fit in the definition of the category, this change violates Apple’s guidelines
▢ Don’t engage in any Black Hat ASO services and report it to Apple if you find that competitors are doing so. Black Hat ASO includes forcing users to rate the app, review the app, download other apps, or perform other similar actions in order to access functionality, content, or use of the app
- Examples of Black Hat ASO
- Buying keyword installs to boost ranking on a particular keyword
- Buying 5-star ratings and reviews from third-party services
- Inflating chart ranking with paid, incentivized installs (e.g. rewarded installs)
▢ Don’t suggest or imply that Apple is a source or supplier of the app or that Apple endorses any particular representation regarding quality or functionality (if the app is selected as an Editor’s Choice, Apple will apply the badge automatically)
▢ Don’t engage in harassment, bullying or discriminatory practices of any kind in response to App Store reviews
- Please treat everyone with respect, whether in your responses to App Store reviews, customer support requests, or when communicating with Apple, including your responses in Resolution Center
2.3 Accurate Metadata
Customers should know what they’re getting when they download or buy your app, so make sure your app description, screenshots, and previews accurately reflect the app’s core experience and remember to keep them up-to-date with new versions.
Choose a unique app name, assign keywords that accurately describe your app, and don’t try to pack any of your metadata with trademarked terms, popular app names, or other irrelevant phrases just to game the system. App names must be limited to 30 characters and should not include prices, terms, or descriptions that are not the name of the app. App subtitles are a great way to provide additional context for your app; they must follow our standard metadata rules and should not include inappropriate content, reference other apps, or make unverifiable product claims. Apple may modify inappropriate keywords at any time or take other appropriate steps to prevent abuse.
If your app includes in-app purchases, make sure your app description, screenshots, and previews clearly indicate whether any featured items, levels, subscriptions, etc. require additional purchases. If you decide to promote in-app purchases on the App Store, ensure that the in-app purchase Display Name, Screenshot and Description are appropriate for a public audience, that you follow the guidance found in Promoting Your In-App Purchases, and that your app properly handles the SKPaymentTransactionObserver method so that customers can seamlessly complete the purchase when your app launches.