Checklist for Publishing to the App Store

Rocket launchLet’s say you’re ready to submit your new software to an application marketplace. You have your binaries ready and you’re just about to go on and upload it. Hold your horses, Buster! Contrary to many developer’s belief, a binary doesn’t necessarily mean a product. There are a number of other stuff that needs to go with an app and not packaged inside the app bundle.

I’ve just launched my sixth app in Apple’s App Store and I’m sharing with you a checklist of all these other materials that needs to accompany an app launch while they’re still fresh in my mind. You wouldn’t believe all these extra bits and bobs that needs to be done for a launch! (especially when you haven’t launched an app before). Although most of these items pertains to Apple’s App Stores (iOS and OS X software marketplaces), you should find the checklist adaptable for launching an application to Android or Windows Phone marketplaces.

The Checklist

  • The app bundle
    • Analytics library
    • Advertising library (if ad-supported)
    • Link to your website
    • A way to contact you for support
  • Marketing sites
    • Product information page
    • Press information page
    • Facebook Page
    • Twitter Account
  • App Store Metadata
    • App Name
    • bundle ID
    • SKU
    • App Description
    • Keyword List (100 characters max)
    • Support URL
    • Product URL
    • Privacy Policy URL (if you have one)
    • High-resolution icon (1024 * 1024 pixels png file)
    • Retina display screenshots
  • Press Information
    • Press release
    • Press Kit

Some Explanation on the Checklist

App Name

When you submit to the iTunes App Store or Mac App Store, your app name may have already been taken. Even though you’ve search around in iTunes or in the App Store app and can’t find an entry with the name that you’re after. Someone else may have an application with that name that’s submitted but not made available and likely the reason why you get a “name not available” error. Therefore be prepared to have alternate names before you reserve your entry on the App Store.

Application URLs

Make sure that you have analytics tracking information in the Support URL, Product URL and Privacy Policy URL that you submit to the app store. This is so that you know which hits to your website that comes from your product’s page in the App Store – don’t bother using the referrer HTTP header for this purpose. Google has a free Web Analytics service that you can use for tracking these clicks and you can embed their tracking code using the Web Analytics URL Builder.

Marketing Sites

The product page should contain an overview of what your application does, some screenshots, link to your press information page, a link back to the App Store as well as links to your app’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Even better when you can provide walk-throughs of the application and some videos on how to use it.

Your application’s Facebook Page and Twitter account should contain blog posts that you’ve made about the application (of course, you did some marketing blog posts about the app before it was launched, didn’t you? Go write some if you haven’t and backdate those posts). You can use Networked Blogs to easily syndicate these posts automatically from your blog’s RSS feeds.

Some people prefer Facebook whereas others use Twitter more often. It doesn’t hurt for your application to have both a Facebook Page and a Twitter account. They take about half an hour to create and configure and can be a great way to communicate with your users before it is worth while to signup for a proper support site account in Zendesk or Freshdesk (or their many other competitors).

Press Information

A press release’s primary purpose is to notify bloggers and other Internet journalists that you have a new application. It also has a secondary purpose of providing a “cheat sheet” for those writers who just need to copy/paste your stuff to their site for immediate reporting. You’ll want to make life easy for these Internet reporters since they also receive many other product launch notifications

Often these people (who copy-paste their materials) often need to post a certain minimum number of articles each week. I call them as “level 1 journalists” – there will be many of these and each aren’t likely to be much skillful since chances are their job is populating content farms and posting filler articles. Nevertheless their output provides backlinks to your site and somewhat useful for your rankings in Google or Bing.

A good press release should contain:

  • your product name
  • a short description of your product
  • your product’s tagline
  • link to your product’s website (or product page)
  • link to your product’s press kit
  • information how to contact you

Where to submit a press release? OS X and iOS developers are fortunate to have PRMac for submitting press releases. These guys have been handling press releases for Apple related stuff for many years now (probably since the Mac was invented) and is the to-go place for submitting Apple-related new product information to the press.

A press kit is targeted for the more sophisticated members of the press who prefer to rephrase or rewrite your marketing materials to add their personalities into the piece. They also found out about your product from the press release and choose to read your website to dig for more information that they can use.  Likely they will be needing a screenshot of your application and some information that they can recast in their own article. 

As they are probably too lazy (or doesn’t have enough time) to actually use your product, I call them “level 2 journalists”. They write better materials that receives higher rankings in Google’s algorithmic eyes (because their articles won’t be seen as duplicates of the press release) and are helpful to get potential customers to stumble upon your product easier. Since search engines ranks their articles higher, links from their articles are also more valuable in pushing up your own search rankings.

These stuff needs to be in a press kit:

  • Print-resolution icon (2560 * 2560 png file)
  • Feature sheet + marketing copy
  • Several marketing screenshots
  • Your company logo in print resolution (at least 300dpi)

Then you might ask, who are “level 3” journalists? They are the ones who ask you for a reviewer’s copy and actually review your product. They’ll try out your application for about half an hour and write what they think of it. Usually these people are more established and have a loyal reader base who rely on them to get a first glance about a product. These “level 3 journalists” may download your press kit, but likely only use the application icon to create a link back to your website. Chances are they will take their own screenshots and instead of posting the ones you gave.

What about level 4 journalists? There isn’t any. From this level on there can only be satisfied customers who paid for your product in full price and recommend it in their own site. They are called zealots (or fanboys/fangirls) and are very instrumental in your product’s success. You’ll need to recognize who are these people and give them special privileges – like for example access to beta releases or discounts for your next products. 

Next Steps

Writing these press releases and marketing materials aren’t easy. You can try writing them out yourself or hire a copywriter for it. If you want to learn these kind of writing, the easiest way to start is to plagiarize the press releases of companies that you admire. See their structure and writing style and substitute your own content. As long as you don’t make use of their logo or name, this kind of copycatting should fall under the “fair use” term.

Good luck in your release!

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