How to Use Updates To Promote Your App

Mobile App Growth

October 10, 2012

Without improving your app, chances are that you’ll get less and less downloads. Once enthusiastic users can become unhappy, ratings and downloads can go down. If you’ve released an app before, you know that things don’t stop once it is published on the store: you need to keep your users engaged and your app alive by doing updates. And since you put hard work into these, you might as well get the word out!

Keep users happy and engaged

You need to update your app to make your users happy and keep them engaged. Even if you put great care into building the first version of your app and you’ve had people testing it, chances are you didn’t get everything right.

Priority is on fixing any bugs of course, and you also want to add features or some things you noticed users (and bloggers!) complain about when reviewing your app. Don’t go too crazy with it by releasing updates every 2 weeks (Apple current review times won’t let you do that anyway) but do it frequently.

You don’t want your users to get bored, and you don’t want potential users to think your app is dead.

Updates now play a bigger role in App Store Optimization

The release of iOS 6 and its new App Store had several impacts on App Store Optimization. One of them is that the “What’s New” part on your app details page has now almost as much as importance as your app description. Also, the updates screen of the App Store now shows that section automatically on iPads (and is accessible with 1 tap on iPhones).

What's new iPhone
The ‘What’s New’ section has now more importance with the new App Store
An update example to promote your app on iPad
On the iPad, the metadata for each update appears directly

You have to use the first few lines of your app description to pitch your app, and you now have to use the first few lines of the “What’s new” section to engage and show that your app is constantly being improved.

You have an additional space where you can convince mobile users to download your app, so use it! Don’t limit yourself to “Bug fixes, new features” when filling the metadata for you app update.

After the first lines, it’s a good idea to list the new features. Like on the examples above, you can use special characters to make them more visible: ‘★’ or something similar. I also like what Path is doing for their bug fixing part, using ☂. Don’t get too technical when talking about features or bugs:  most users won’t understand technical gibberish so keep it simple.

Finally, do the same thing than in your app description and think about inserting a call-to-action telling users to download the update now.

I won’t argue that some of these are really small details, but it doesn’t take you much more time to get this part right. If you are doing an update just for bug fixes, you can still mention what was new in the previous version.

On the Google Play Store the ‘What’s New’ section is also pretty important, as it has its own tab on desktop and is right below the description on the device.

Where and How to Promote Your App in Updates

You can release the small bug-fixing updates “quietly”, but when you’re releasing big new features you have an opportunity to communicate with your customers and reach out to others. You might as well take advantage of this opportunity, so here are a few things you can do.

Promo Codes Giveaway Before your App Update

If your app is not brand new, chances are that you might not be using all your promo codes each time. Before submitting the update to Apple, why not give away some of these promo codes? Announce that an update is coming, and drop a link on Facebook/Twitter where people can redeem your app promo codes. If you have several apps, it’s a good way to cross-promote too.

Control the Release Date

Just like for an app launch, if you want to communicate around an event it’s better to know when it’s happening. It sorts of make things easier…So make sure you use “Hold for Developer Release”, and plan to do the submission at least 3 weeks before the time you’d like to release the update.

Promote the Update

If you have a blog, make sure you write a short post about it. It shouldn’t be hard to write it, since it should be a detailed version of what you filled in the ‘What’s New’ section of the App Store. Explain each feature you added and why, insert a couple of screenshots, give a link to the App Store details page and tell users to get the update.

Use Twitter/Facebook to talk about your app update. You can even start talking about new features as soon as you start working on them, letting users know when you submit the new release (see promo codes giveaway above). When you finally release the update, you can once again use what you came up with in the ‘What’s new’ section, with a link to your blog post or to the app’s page. Or both.

If you have a push notifications system in place, alert your users. But do it only for a major update that significantly improves your app or fixes a major issue: you don’t want them feeling spammed.

Less intrusive, you can have a small popup at the first opening following the updates with explications of what’s new for users that automatically download the updates. Some tools like Appboy or Apptentive will also let them know what’s new from within the app “inbox”.

Another thing you can do for major updates, is reach out to bloggers and journalists that could be interested. Only do this if the update is newsworthy, or else you’ll only be damaging your relationship with your contacts. A press release and/or a video showcasing what’s new in your app are useful tools to complement your pitch and get your point across.

If a blogger reviewed an earlier version of your app and insisted on something he didn’t like, make sure you let him know that you’ve done your best to correct it and that you’d love for him to try (and maybe review) your app again.

Updates are the best way to keep your app alive and show your users that you care about them. It starts with listening to their feedback to later improve your app. You should use this opportunity and communicate about your work and how it benefits your users by doing what we just mentioned.


Do you think we forgot anything essential or useful when it comes to app updates? Let us know in the comments!


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  1. Sylvain , i want to thank you for your help, i like this site very much, it gave me immense information, i have been reading this site for over 4 days, and i have read maybe only quarter of it.

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