Author: Scott Calonico

Top App Development Companies Washington DC Area

app development companies washington

We’ll just come straight out and say it – here at Kumulos we love all things mobile. There’s nothing more we look forward to than working with some of the biggest mobile development companies out there to create awesome apps.

In the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting some of the best mobile app development agencies in the US of A. We started this series last year and have gotten a great response. You can take a look at our earlier agency write-ups on the up and comers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas, Mid-West US and North-East US. We’ll be updating those lists in upcoming posts, as well as highlighting areas of the US that we haven’t covered yet.

Right now, we’re going to turn our attention to the nation’s capital, Washington, DC. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to stretch the boundaries of DC a bit and include the neighboring areas of Baltimore and Northern Virginia as well.

So without further ado, presenting the Kumulos picks for some of the top app development companies in the Washington, DC area.

Let’s get started!


With offices in Charlottesville, Virginia and Durham, North Carolina, WillowTree believes that their smaller team sizes and open atmosphere allows them to outpace more top heavy companies. And with a client list including Time Warner, Pepsico, American Express and Nestle, it’s easy to see why. Their mobile product strategy synthesizes a client’s business model, market challenges and product positioning to create an app that delivers unique value.

Here’s an inspirational video from WillowTree CEO Tobias Dengel on the 5 Things He’d Wished He’d Learned In School and – believe it or not – includes a shot of him in German Lederhosen. Don’t worry, the Lederhosen ties in at the end.

Follow WillowTree on Twitter.


The motto of NS804 is “Making Dreams A Reality” and since 2012, that’s exactly what this Richmond, Virginia based company has been doing for app clients from all over the globe. Apps they have developed include CFO Sidekick, Surgical Rounds, SEKR and hundreds more. Rather than try to be an app dev business of all platforms, NS804 keeps their focus solely on Native Mobile apps. This gives them the expertise and ability to try new solutions that other app development firms don’t have the knowledge to implement. CEO Nick Jones, a self taught programmer with a background in business development and marketing, knows what makes for a successful app.

Follow NS804 on Twitter.


Located in the heart of downtown Washington, DC, Mobomo is in the business of awesome: awesome products, awesome design and awesome engineering. That’s why US Government agencies like USGS, the Navy, the FDIC and NASA (for which they won a Webby award) trust them with their apps. When designing for mobile, Mobomo focuses on the device with the least real estate first. That keeps their apps slim, sleek and working on any device. It’s no wonder than that they’ve chosen the Hummingbird as their company symbol – focused, energetic and blindingly fast.

CEO Brian Lacey started at the bottom floor in Mobomo as a coder and worked his way up to the top: “Having worked in all aspects of the business makes me dangerous, and knowledgeable, about every step of the development process.”

Follow Mobomo on Twitter


Cubix is an app developer located in the hart of downtown DC and headed by CEO Salman Lakhani.  Using Agile methodologies, Cubix works through the development process with the customer to ensure that the app that gets released is the one they wanted, and not just a pale imitation. To top it all off, Cubix backs their app development with a free 60 day maintenance plan after launch. That’s why they’re trusted by brands like Sony, Dreamworks, Nintento and Canon. Cubix supports Android, iOS and Windows phones and develop with HTML5, Flash, Unity, and PhoneGap, among other platforms.

Follow Cubix on Twitter


Founded in 2002 by CEO Todd Marks, a teacher-turned-technologist, Mindgrub was one of the first agencies in Baltimore to start developing mobile apps. In addition to native mobile, they work with several cross-development platforms such as PhoneGap, Corona, Xamarin and Unity. They have an award-winning dedicated games division and their client list includes international companies like the Economist, Discovery Communications, Yamaha and Polk Audio. In addition to development, Mindgrub has a dedicated marketing team in place to help get apps the marketplace traction to succeed.

The video below is a few years old, but it shows you how far back CEO Marks and Mindgrub go with the Baltimore/Washington tech community.

Follow Mindgrub on Twitter.


Arlington, VA based Segue Technologies provides app development and support to Federal, Non-Profit and Commercial organizations including the US Air Force, Five Guys Cafe, and the Gates Millennium Scholars. Before writing one line of code, they speak with the customers to develop a tailored solution. Segue then uses the customer’s requirements as a base from which their app development flows, continually testing the solution to ensure it meets the client’s specific needs. One of Segues specialities is the modernization of older enterprise applications to support today’s user communities. Before entering the business world, CEO Brian Callahan served 3 years with the US Rangers and embraces the Ranger motto “Sua Sponte” (of their own accord) in guiding his business philosophy with Segue.

Follow Segue Tech on Twitter.


Clearly Innovative, a minority-owned solutions provider operating out of Washington, DC, develops apps for businesses ranging from startups to enterprise-level organizations such as the Queens Public Library, Kaplan MCAT, the NAACP and one of their most recent clients, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. They work with whatever technology best fits the end needs of the client – including  HTML5, Swift, PhoneGap and more. CEO Aaron Saunders has over 20 years of experience in software and mobile development and continues to be a thought leader in the DC tech community.

Follow Clearly Innovative on Twitter.


Savvy Apps, have been around since 2009, the “good old days” as far as apps go. With their headquarters in Reston, Virginia, Savvy Apps, like the other app development agencies on our list, maintains a global client base by serving brands like PBS, The Motley Fool, the CATO Institute and Foreign Policy. Savvy Apps like to think of themselves as an extension of their client’s team – ideas, code commits, designs and just about every phase of app development are put into a shared space. This allows for constant collaboration between Savvy Apps and their clients. Their apps have been featured on Android, iOS and Windows phone platforms and app downloads number in the millions.

Here’s a video of CEO Ken Yarmosh walking through the process of creating and marketing your first app with one of their happy clients.

Follow Savvy Apps on Twitter


Hailing from the Washington, DC area, Apollo Matrix designs apps with the user in mind and, at the same time, provides services to keep their clients businesses running smoothly. Headed by CEO Pete Johnson, Apollo Matrix handles everything needed for mobile projects –  apps, product SDKs, back end services, and device management. One of the key services they offer is a monthly package that aligns and manages a client’s apps, branding, cloud services and more so they can concentrate on what’s important to them: their business. It’s no wonder, then that this type of attention has won them clients such as Limitedbrands, Comscore, Politico and Comcast.

Follow Apollo Matrix on Twitter


One of the fastest growing companies in Virginia, Richmond based Shockoe is a cross-platform mobile developer that specializes in integrating legacy systems. Since introducing their first mobile enterprise solution in 2010, they haven’t looked back. Shockoe, led by CEO Edwin Huertas, combines user-centered design, client collaboration and rapid iteration in creating mobile-first enterprise solutions for modern companies like Citibank, Farmers Insurance, Volkswagen and T-Mobile.

Follow Shockoe on Twitter

Top Washington, DC mobile companies

That’s our wrap up of the top mobile app development companies in the Washington, DC area.

How did we do? Miss out on anyone that needs to be in our next list? Leave a comment below or drop us a line on Twitter.

10 Tips for Creating Great App Store Screenshots

app store screenshots

They say that a picture paints 1000 words. With this in mind, it’s clear that app store screenshots represent a real opportunity to promote your client’s app(s) and show potential users why the app you’re company is offering is exactly what they need.

Here are ten tips to ensure you make the best of app store screenshots:

1. Follow the store guidelines

Apple and Google both produce detailed guidelines for the use of screenshots in their stores. (Apple’s are here, and Google’s are here). It’s essential to follow these very carefully, including submitting screenshots for all relevant devices, otherwise you risk your screenshots looking pixelated and unprofessional.

2. Select screenshots intelligently

It’s really easy to just think of the five main things the app does and screenshot them, but this isn’t the way to maximise success. Your collection of app store screenshots are your opportunity to truly showcase your customer’s app and show why it’s worthy of the home screen and memory space on user’s devices.

3. Prioritize benefits over features

Following on from the above, as far as possible it’s best to stick to the tried and tested sales approach of concentrating less on specific features and more on how those features will help (or even improve the lives) of your target users.

For example, with a fitness app, you need to show how the features are desirable to users. There’s no point in simply saying that there are “100 workouts!” It’s better to show how those work outs are fun, how they provide variety, how they can be completed in a short time, and ultimately how they’re going to help in their aim of getting people fit. If your screenshots appear like a feature list without showing these benefits, you’ve probably chosen the wrong images.

4. Highlight new functionality as an app evolves

Once the app is established, it does make sense to use one or more screenshots to show off new features, especially those that users won’t find anywhere else. But again, always try to aim for an angle that highlights the point and benefit of these features.

5. Consider annotations

There’s no shortage of online debate as to whether people should annotate their app store screenshots. Some people think it’s a bad idea, but it’s fair to say plenty of highly successful apps do have screenshot annotations on their listings.

One scenario where this is a good idea is if you have a particularly minimalist or graphical app where it’s not immediately clear what it does.

If you do decide to use annotations, ensure they’re done well and are completely clear to users. Poor use of foreground and background colours, together with small screenshots, can make for a very messy look.

6. Consider “screenshot shrinking”

flipboard-screenshotScreenshot shrinking is an alternative to annotation.

Instead of overlaying the screenshot with text or graphics, shrink the screenshot so it only uses some of the allowed space, and add supplementary text that describes functionality or tells the story of the app.

You’ll find this technique used to good effect on the iTunes Store listing for Flipboard.

Although, in theory, you could use a combination of screenshot shrinking and annotation in one screenshot, it’s almost impossible to imagine a situation where this would look anything less than confusing and cluttered.

7. Make use of localization

If you have localised your app for different language markets, you can include additional screenshots for other stores (the exact rules depend on the store).

It definitely makes sense to do this. If you’ve made the effort, for example, to translate your app into French, then French customers should see the French app version.

8. Think about how to order your screenshots

The order of your screenshots is crucially important, as many people will only glance at the first one.

There are various ways to tackle this. One of which is to tell the story of your app with ordered screenshots, but another is to ensure your first screenshot does the most to encapsulate what the app does and why people should want it. Exactly which method you choose will inevitably depend on the look and feel of the individual app.

9. A/B test your screenshots

A/B testing allows you to try out different screenshot combinations to see which are most effective at converting app store browsers into customers. You’ll find a previous guide to A/B testing best practices here.

10. Ensure your screenshots reflect your Unique Selling Point

The final step, which essentially rolls all these tips into one, is to make sure that your app store screenshots put across the USP of your app.

With so many mobile apps out there doing similar things, it’s essential to stand out. So if your app does nine things that the other apps do but one key thing that the others don’t, your screenshots (and indeed all of your app page content) need to show this unique benefit.

So now you’re ready to get cracking on that app store listing – but before you start writing your app store copy, take a look at our short video on app store mistakes. You’ll also want to do your keyword research carefully, which is where a good app store optimization tool (hint we have a recommendation) comes in handy.

Have any other app store tips? Leave a comment below or give us a shout on Twitter, in our community pages or on our Facebook page!

Kumulos Announces World’s First Custom Built Integrated App Platform


Howdy folks,

Wanted to share some exciting news with you. As you know, we’ve been pretty busy adding all sorts of improvements like app store optimization, reporting and customer portals to our industry leading MBAAS platform (not to mention the spiffy new website).

But today, at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona we’re unveiling a world’s first: the first integrated mobile management platform purpose built for Mobile App Development Agencies. The Kumulos platform now offers App Agencies an easy way to build a services layer in their business – helping them break away from sole reliance on project revenue.

“What makes Kumulos truly unique is the way it works for mobile app & digital agencies,” commented Bob Lawson, Director and Co-founder of Kumulos. “Our new platform lets agencies build mobile apps up to 40% faster. It also makes it easier for these mobile app agencies to take Kumulos features and present them to their customers, as part of their App After-Care services.”

Mark Petrie, Director and Co-founder of Kumulos added, “The announcement today marks the coming of age of the Kumulos App Agency Management platform, where all services can now be used fully independent of each other.

Nick Jones, CEO of Richmond VA, USA based NS804 is excitedly looking forward to the new Kumulos features:  “Before we had Kumulos it was much harder to manage my rapidly growing app development business. Using Kumulos means it’s one less thing I need to think about, so I can concentrate working on my business and not in my business.”

We’re pretty jazzed, too – we really think the new platform is going to be a game changer. We’ll have more details soon. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to keep up with all the latest announcements.

Oh yeah, and If you’re at the World Mobile Congress, stop by and see us – we’re in Hall 7, Stand 7B31!

We’ll be hosting an exclusive event tomorrow, February 28 at 5PM – drop us a line or DM us if you’d like to attend.


Kumulos at GMSA Mobile World Congress, 2017


We’re super excited to announce that Kumulos will be participating in the GMSA Mobile World Congress 2017, held in Barcelona, Spain from February 27 – March 2 2017.

The GMSA Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry. In 2016, the MWC was attended by 100,000 attendees from over 200 countries and hosted over 2,000 companies showcasing the latest in mobile technology. The leading minds, technologies and companies that are shaking up the mobile industry will be mixing and mingling in a four day series of conferences, showcases and networking opportunities that shouldn’t be missed.

And Kumulos will be there on Stand 7B31. Come and look us up.

But we’re not going all the way to Barcelona just to soak up the Spanish sun. No – we’ve got some really exciting announcements about game changing improvements to our industry leading Kumulos platform. We’ll also be hosting some can’t miss events (hint: it has to do with Scotland’s favorite drink).

So keep your eyes on this space for more information – also be sure to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for updates and invites.

You can find everything conference related – including maps, dates and registration information over at the GSMA Mobile World Congress web site.

Categorize App Content with Push Notification Channels


If you’ve been using Kumulos for a while, you’ll know about our awesome unlimited push notification service for your customer’s apps.

Our push service gives you a monthly retainer where you can run engagement programs for all your client’s apps. Got a proactive client who wants to run their own push campaign?  No problem – just enable the client app portal (branded as yours, of course) – and clients can login to build and manage everything themselves. Prove your worth by adding on our automated monthly report to show your clients just how much you’re doing for them.

As part of this initial push notification service, we included segments – which allow you to target specific predefined sections of an app audience by app version, country, city, timezone and more.

But we decided that wasn’t enough.

So we put our nose to the grindstone (or rather, put our developers collective noses to the grindstone) and  launched our latest addition to our push notification service – channels.

Why Push Notification Channels?

Push notification channels gives app users the option subscribe to content based on their preferences – giving your clients the power to easily drive the right push messages to the right users. By defining either portal visible marketing groups or allowing your client’s app to create private or public groups, channels allow you to target content at this receptive audience.

The best part about using channels in Kumulos push is their flexibility.  Create turn based channels for a gaming app or private messaging groups for a chat app. What about that sports app your client has been pestering you about? Blow them away by creating separate channels for football, baseball, basketball, soccer, table tennis – you name it! Users can easily subscribe and unsubscribe from channels so they only get the messages they want.

push-notification-channelsSending a push notification to channels is as simple as logging into the agency console, entering your channel message and pressing that sexy orange “send” button. Or – with the client app portal – let your clients log in to manage push campaigns themselves.

You can take a look our complete online docs to find out more about using channels with push notifications in Kumulos.

Signed up for Kumulos but not using push yet? We offer a 30 day FREE, no-obligation trial. Simply enable push services by clicking on the push icon in the left hand side of your dashboard menu.

And if you’re one of the few agencies who aren’t using Kumulos yet – what are you waiting for?

Give Kumulos a try for free


A/B Testing Your Way to App Store Success


The fact that everybody wants their app to get noticed and perform well in the app stores is a no brainer.

A slightly less obvious no brainer is that it’s highly unlikely that the first combination of price point, branding, and description one tries when launching an app will perform the best in the stores. This would be an extreme case of good luck, showing extraordinary customer insight! For this reason, agencies launching an app should recognise the need to try different things to market it, to maximise interest and conversions.

Thankfully, it’s possible to handle this in a scientific and data-driven way, without resorting to mindless trial and error. The way to do it is to use A/B testing.

A/B testing involves showing some potential customers one version of your client’s app’s store page(s), and the others an alternative version. By comparing conversion rates and other metrics, you can drill down on what works – what keeps customers interested, what makes them download and purchase, and what makes them head for the “Back” button. This method of testing is extremely well established with websites, and increasingly popular with switched-on app agencies.

Here are five crucial tips to help you implement a program of A/B testing for your app(s):

1. Choose the right tools

There are a host of tools to enable you to functionally implement A/B tests. Some of the most well-known include Optimizely, Google Analytics Experiments and Kissmetrics.

The cost of using these tools can vary, as can the functionality, but essentially what you’re looking for is something that allows you to serve one app store page to some readers, and another to the remainder. You obviously need something that allows you to analyse the results in depth too.

2. Establish your baseline data

Before beginning A/B testing, it makes sense to accumulate a meaningful amount of initial data based on your standard app listing. If you don’t do this, you have nothing to truly compare against.

This doesn’t mean you must wait months before implementing A/B tests, but you should have enough data to cover usual peaks and troughs in views and sales, or you could end up with test data that doesn’t paint a realistic picture.

3. Try one thing at a time

It makes absolutely no sense to carry out an A/B test where you change multiple elements of a client’s app listing.

For example, say you change your app icon, some screenshots, and some of the descriptive text. Even if the A/B test reveals that the “new” version of the page vastly improves conversions, you will have no idea which of those changes had the impact!

a/b testing app storeTherefore, it’s crucial to try one thing at a time. This exercise is all about drilling down on which elements work. A/B testing takes planning and careful analysis of the results. At the end of it you may well end up with the third icon you tried, the last set of screenshots and the first description you ever wrote – but if you do things properly you’ll know for certain which versions work. It’s also just an important to work out which didn’t work! The importance of a good App Store Optimization tool – which can help you focus on keywords, see which competitors are using which screenshots, and view app store copy – is key.

It’s also worth mentioning at this juncture that price points are another thing you can A/B test. You will find that there is a sweet spot with pricing and conversions where the multiple will result in the most income – but it will likely take you some time to identify it.

4. Think about timings

Timing is everything with A/B tests. Specifically, meaningful results take time. It’s therefore important to maximize accuracy by planning in testing periods that are long enough to “smooth out” the usual weekly “peaks and troughs” and reduce the risk of atypical days skewing conclusions.

It’s also unwise to carry out A/B tests over “unusual” periods, such as holiday times, or during global sporting and political events when people may be otherwise diverted.

5. Consider the impact on ongoing income

If you’re carrying out A/B tests on a successful and profitable app, you may have to accept that there is some risk to revenue while they’re in progress – especially if you test out a variation that is less successful than the live one.

a/b testing app storeIn some ways, this is just part of playing the “long game” towards greater success – but as you do start to hone in on that success, you will need to consider the income implications.

One way to reduce the impact is to carry out smaller tests on more drastic changes, by sending a smaller proportion of potential customers to the experimental page, for example.

A/B testing is a great way to ensure maximum app success, and it’s value is one of many factors that illustrates the fact that an app is a living product that can be constantly improved.

Any tips we missed? Feel free to leave a comment below.

And if you’re still looking for an App Store Optimization tool, take Kumulos for a FREE spin today!

App Icon Design: How to Do it Right


Choosing the right icon for your client’s app in Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store may seem like a very tiny job among the many others involved in developing and launching an app, but it’s actually extremely important. Not only is an app’s icon one of the key elements of a user’s first impression, it’s also how they’ll (hopefully) interact with the app in the future on a (hopefully) regular basis!

If you’re in any doubt as to the important of app icon design, have a think about some of the apps you regularly use personally; The chances are there are one or two you just never seem to be able to find on the screen of your smartphone or tablet, despite flicking back and forth and feeling sure you knew where it was before? If so, it’s more than likely that the app in question has a poorly designed and unmemorable icon. Not to mention the fact that there’s not a lot of point into pouring resources into App Store Optimization if you’ve got an app icon design that’s going to drive away users in the first place.

Still unconvinced that iconography’s important? If so, also consider the fact that anecdotal evidence suggests that icon issues are one of the most common reasons for Apple App Store rejections. Icons that are unclear or look too much like something else won’t get into the store in the first place. This part of app development is not one to take shortcuts on.

With all of that in mind, here are five things to consider when designing icons for your client’s apps:

Limit your colors

Look at the icons for some of the most popular apps in use today. With some notable exceptions (Slack and Just Eat spring to mind) the vast majority use only two or occasionally three colors. (It is, however, fair to say that game apps are something of an exception to this rule).

That said, Netflix, Fitbit and Groupon all use just two colors for their icons, as do most of Apple’s native apps. The reason for this is that this simple design works best for “everyday apps.” While it is possible to make an icon with more colors work, it’s a very difficult task. Were it easy or wise, the market-leaders would be doing it.

Prioritize simplicity and clarity

Following on from the above, it’s fair to say less is more when it comes to designing app icons. If you want a few case studies for this, take a look at the icons for Facebook, Twitter and Spotify. All are bold and simple, instantly recognizable and (returning briefly to the previous point) only use two colors! Icons are about brand recognition and familiarity. They are not the place to make a try to illustrate features or attempt to say too much.

On this subject, they’re also rarely a place you’ll want to put text. Although some market leaders do this it is an exception to the rule, and usually when a brand’s logo is already extremely well-established (BBC News is a good example here). Broadly speaking, text in icons looks squashed and messy – and is best avoided.

Look at the icon in all sizes

Your client’s app icons will show up in all kinds of places, and in all kinds of sizes. App stores can use different sizes depending on whether you’re on a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Then once the app is downloaded sizes can differ too. As such, it’s no use having an icon that’s clear and eye-catching when it’s large but jumbled when it’s small. Nor is it any use having the reverse scenario when the small icon looks just right but the larger version looks pixelated and amateurish. Truly good icon design will work in all the relevant sizes.

Consider different devices and configurations

The different devices your app icon will appear on are highly relevant too. Does the icon look good on a budget Android device as well as the latest “Retina” style display? How about in “low light” modes, against a plain black or white background, or against the plethora of colors that may be part of a photo a user has chosen to use as their device’s wallpaper? Suddenly designing the perfect icon doesn’t seem so simple any more once you take all these things into account. This is all the more reason to give this task the dedicated attention it deserves.

Don’t copy!

Now it’s clear just how much is involved in creating the perfect icon, the temptation may be to have a thorough look at what’s already out there with a view to “imitating” something that works. Don’t succumb to this temptation. For starters, if you come too close to plagiarizing someone else’s design you run the risk of App Store rejection (or worse). You also risk giving potential customers a poor perception of your business ethics. Worst of all, however, it means you’ve not invested the time to find the perfect distinctive iconography for your app, which will hopefully be something thousands of people eventually tap on daily.

You will find a useful Q and A on App Store iconography here on the Apple Developer website.

Parse Shutdown Day


Today is the day.

Of what, you might be asking? If you’re not an app developer, you could be forgiven for not knowing the significance of today. But if you ARE an app developer, and you’re using any API or push notification services from Facebook’s Parse, AND you haven’t moved your services yet – you’re in trouble.

That’s because today is the day that Facebook will be pulling the plug on all of its Parse services. The Parse shutdown is today. As detailed in the Parse blog, they’ll be switching off APIs and other services on an app by app basis.

If you haven’t moved your apps yet, don’t panic. We’re here to help. Kumulos offers all the functionality of Parse services with more to boot.

  • All in one solution – Backend, Analytics, Push Notification and App Store Optimization all in one.
  • Just Push – If you’re just using Parse Push, replace with Kumulos Push.
  • Nothing to pay until your apps are rebuilt and out in store*
  • Unlimited number of development accounts. Unlimited number of push messages and active devices.
  • Free unlimited AWESOME support to help you with the migration.
  • Bring your Own Data – Free data import service and hookup feature so you can keep using existing data sources.

THAT’S what we can offer you with Kumulos.

Even if you’re not effected by the Parse shutdown and just want to come over to Kumulos to kick our tires – feel free. With our 30 day free trial, you’ve got a no cost and no obligation chance to see what it’s like to work with Kumulos.

How to Pick the Right App Store Keywords


With over two million apps in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, it’s important to do all you can to maximise the chances of people finding your clients app(s). A crucial part of App Store Optimisation (ASO) is selecting the correct app store keywords to use to show both the stores, and your apps potential customers, what your app is all about. This task is much like the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) that’s so important to the success of a website – and just like that takes effort, research and expertise.

The article puts forward five tips to help you with your keyword planning and give you the best chance of your app being discovered via searches.

Obey the guidelines

Before you start, you should familiarize yourself with the guidelines both Apple and Google make clear regarding listings for their stores. (You’ll find information for the App Store here, and the Play Store here).

The guidelines Apple and Google set have many similarities, and both companies strongly advise against grey / black hat optimization techniques, particularly involving excessive “stuffing” of keywords into app names and descriptions. However, it’s just as important to learn the differences between Google and Apple’s approach as it is to learn the similarities.

For example, Google Play Store indexes descriptions, so keywords within descriptions are key there (within sensible reason). Apple, meanwhile, focuses on a specific keyword field where you must select keywords up to a 100-character total limit.

As such, it’s well worth taking time to optimize your listings for each store individually. Broadly speaking, there are no big “tricks” you can employ here – algorithms are generally sophisticated enough to reward those who do good research and optimise their listings whilst obeying the guidelines.

Do your research

With the above in mind, it’s clear that research is the key, and it begins with a well-conceived list of the keywords you think you need to target.

Your objectives should then be to:

  • Learn how many people are searching for those keywords.
  • Ascertain what the competition is like for each.
  • Choose which subset of your app store keywords is most likely to bring you traffic.

As with traditional SEO, the idea is to find keywords where there’s a healthy level of search traffic AND a low enough level of competition to stand a chance. Very general keywords such as “camera” may have vast traffic, but will also be so hotly contested it’s hard to stand a chance.

It’s best to use a combination of tools to conduct this research. Traditional SEO tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner are helpful for starters, but dedicated App Store Optimisation tools are a better choice, and will allow you to look at both your chosen keywords and those being used by your competition.

Find your niche

Hopefully you will already have a clear niche in mind for your app, but the keyword research exercise above will quickly reveal if the niche is too broad. With so many apps in the marketplace, yours needs to be different enough to throw up some keywords that hone in on where the app is unique.

These will end up being the search terms that lead people to your app rather than your competition. ASO tools can help you find new keyword inspiration, but it bears repeating that a USP for your app that you can play into some of your chosen keywords is crucial too.

Consider localization

This may not apply to all apps, but if the intended audience spans different countries and languages, you can make use of localization to give you more space for descriptions and keywords – one set per language. Investing time in professional translations of descriptions and keywords can pay dividends if you think it’s likely people could search for the app using keywords in other languages.

In the case of the Google Play Store, “machine translated” localizations are added automatically, but if you’ve used Google Translate you will know that these are sometimes amusingly inaccurate. For a small investment, you can give a professional impression to customers who speak other languages AND give yourself extra space for local keywords.

test different app store keywords

App store optimization isn’t a one-off task. It’s vital to continually monitor both your clients and your competitors’ apps to see how you are ranking for various keywords, as these rankings will never remain static for long at all.

In time, the chances are you will begin to finesse your app store keywords strategy, but in the early days it’s likely you’ll want to do plenty of experimentation with different keyword sets and descriptions. One feature to look for in a good set of ASO tools will include keyword tracking – which will allow you to monitor how keywords are doing over time.

Equally important is to leave them running long enough to extract meaningful results. App store ranking algorithms will always be something of a mystery, but many factors will play a part, from reviews to uninstall rates, to the authority of incoming links to your app. It’s a good idea to do some A/B testing on the app listing – to try out possible keyword variations.

With so many things playing a part, it’s important to work to ascertain what changes are helping or hindering – do too many at once and you’ll struggle to work that out!

In the end, picking the right app store keywords is both an art and a science – but, with a little practice and testing – you’ll soon be able to get your clients apps found in no time.

App Agency News Roundup – January 2017


The holidays are over. Its still cold and dark. Those New Year resolutions have fallen by the wayside.

Welcome to the third week of January 2017! Only 49 more weeks until we do it all again.

Year end statistics for 2016 for mobiles and the app markets are starting to roll in, so we thought it’d be a good chance to do a short roundup of what 2016 left behind so you can get your app agency off to the right start in 2017.


Techcrunch made some buzz in the news feeds on January 17, 2017 when it announced in an article that worldwide App downloads were up 15 percent in 2016, according to a report from analytics firm App Annie. A large part of this increase can be attributed to China, which surpassed the U.S. in 2015 to become the top downloader in the iOS store.

What’s interesting is that, just a few days previously, on January 12, 2017, Techcrunch ran another article with the banner headline “The mobile app gold rush may be over“. The basis for article was a report by the firm Flurry which stated that, for 2016, overall app usage grew by only 11 percent for 2016, compared to a figure of 58 percent for 2015.

So for 2016 overall, downloads are up (kind of) and app usage is growing (kind of). But what does this really mean from an agency point of view?

From all signs, it appears that app growth is starting to stabilise and maturing in the established app markets such as the United States, UK and Europe. To put it in other words – just because you put out a shiny new app for a client, it doesn’t mean that users are going to download it. Or, if they do download, and they don’t get exactly what they’re looking for, they’re going to turn right around and toss it in the virtual trash.

“Oh no,” we can hear you say. “That would never happen to one of OUR apps. We’re the best agency in [insert hip part of your town here]!” Think again – its estimated that up to 94 percent of users uninstall an app within the first 30 days.


In another section of their 2016 report, App Annie noted that in 2016, the total Worldwide Time Spent in apps in 2016 was up 25 percent from 2015. These figures, however, only counted Android devices and, interestingly enough, the only country it excluded was the country mentioned above as passing the U.S. in 2015  – you guessed it – China. Flurry’s take on the same statistic – they’re calling it Mobile App Time Spent – documented 69 percent growth in 2016.

You can check oapp-agency-news-reportut the whole report over on Flickr, which also includes interesting stats such as US App Usage During Super Bowl Game Quarters and Top Chinese Mobile Personas.

The biggest app winners, according to Flurry, were messaging and social media apps, which grew an insane 394% over last year – due in no small part to apps such as Snapchat and Facebook Messenger (I’m even using Facebook Messenger now so you know it’s achieved market saturation).

This is also tied into the phenomenon of “Communitainment” where users are spending more time using integrated technologies to both generate and consume entertainment from within an app – such as making phone calls from within Whatsapp.

The Price is Right

On the Apple app store front, 9to5mac broke the story this month that prices for apps in the UK, India and Turkey app stores would be rising by as much as 25% to keep up with current price fluctuations in the pound (we’re looking at you, Brexit). That means an app that previously sold for £0.79 in the UK app store would rise to £0.99, on par with the $0.99 app price in the U.S. store.

This isn’t a factor for a U.S. based agency, but if you’re operating elsewhere, you’re going to have to start thinking about your pricing model – maybe it’s time to bring out the Cost Per Install spreadsheet and update it for 2017.


The takeaway from 2016 going into 2017? Apps are getting more expensive and users are downloading less of them. The apps that users do wind up downloading – if they don’t uninstall them after the first few days – they’re using more.

So what’s all this mean if you’re an app agency out there developing apps?

Good luck in 2017 everyone!

Did we miss anything? Leave us a comment below or join the conversation on our LinkedIn,Twitter, Facebook or Community page!