Five Tips For Getting iPhone Reviews

By
On February 26, 2009
Guest author Jim Bernard is the General Manager of MarketWatch.com and an iPhone marketing enthusiast. He can be reached at bernard.jim at gmail.com

Even though Mobile Orchard does not review apps, we get a surprising number of product pitches. Some are quite brilliant, others almost embarrassingly bad. This got us thinking: what makes a successful pitch-email?

To find out, we asked the experts at 148Apps, AppCraver, appstoreapps.com, and apptism to share the tips and tricks of creating a really excellent pitch. There was significant consensus among these sites, summarized here in five easy suggestions:

1. Provide complete information. Regardless of how great your program is, reviewers will not go to the app store and search around to ?nd it. Every email, website, video should include basic information such as the app name, your contact information, company name, and link to the app store page. This may seem like a basic tip, but reviewers report that it is common to get inquires that are lacking basic information. “If I have to ask for something, I probably won?t and just ignore the app,” says Jeff Scott at 148Apps.

2. Start with a great description. Lead your inquiry letter with a precise description of what your application does, what segment it belongs in (games, productivity, etc.) and why it is unique or interesting. “Keep it simple and to the point,” said Rob Libbey at apptism. “Show the facts and differentiators of your app in short concise bullet points or sentences.” Stay away from anything not related to your app — reviewers do not respond well to calls for sympathy or other gimmicks.

3. Include promotion code. Reviewers want a promotion code with your request for coverage. “Immediately provide a promo code for publishers to try the app hands-on,” suggests Libbey. Make it easy for them to write about your application by giving them a chance to try it right away. This may require a more selective set of places where you go for reviews, but better to get a few mentions than none.

4. Make a great video. A short video that shows your application in action is perhaps one of your best selling tools. It allows reviewers to get a sense of the graphics, sound and interaction in just a few seconds. Videos should be no longer than two minutes–if you hook the reviewer you?ll do it right away. Also, pay attention to production quality, especially sound, image clarity, etc. “It?s unfortunate, but I don?t have time to download and test every app that comes out,” said Barbara Holbrook, Editor in Chief, at AppCraver. “A video takes just seconds to watch and can be the difference in whether an app gets a longer look.”

5. Put your best app forward. “Most important of all” says Holbrook, “make sure your app is polished and superior to the competition before submitting it to the app store or to publishers.” Many aspiring developers submit apps that are by their own admissions incomplete. Publishers report getting submissions that say, “I created this app in 5 minutes. It?s not very good but your feedback would be appreciated.” If you can?t take time to polish your application, why should a reviewer take time to provide feedback and encouragement?

Holbrook summed up the chase between developers and review sites this way: “Crafting your email to an editor is like creating a pro?le on a dating site. You want to do everything possible to get that editor to ‘wink’ back at you. Pro?les with photos get more winks, but pro?les with videos that show personality get even more.”

Thanks to Jim Bernard for contributing this article. Have an article, or an idea for an article, that might interest our readers? Contact us!
  • Dan Grigsby

    I’d like to add a tip myself: personalize your pitch.

    I personally almost never read obvious form letters. In these cases, I figure we’re one of many people they shotgunned their message to and that since they didn’t put in the effort to get to me specifically then why bother responding.

    By contrast, when someone writes a personalized note (“Dear Peter and Dan”) and, even better, is an obvious reader of the site (e.g., by relating their note to a story) then I almost always respond.

    Top-tip: use plain-text. Form letters are almost always HTML messages.

  • Tim Haines

    Hi Jim,

    The easiest way with AppCraver.com is to send them $50. How’d you miss this in your article?

    Tim.

  • http://148apps.com Jeff Scott

    We get nearly daily questions about “expedited review fees” and “reviews with advertising”. We have a strict policy of separation of editorial from advertising. Wrote a little about that here:

    http://www.148apps.com/news/some-notes-integrity/

    Also doing some things with publishers of other sites to raise awareness of sites that play by good editorial rules. More on that soon.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  • http://theportablegamer.com Rob LeFebvre

    My philosophy, which seems to be paying off, is that personal relationships trump all. We try to limit our time to games that are high quality in our reviews. However, if a dev wants to get to know us and get some coverage for his/her app, all they need to do is email us with a personal note explaining that. PR is about so much more than just knowing which data points to include in an email.

  • http://www.pinger.com Brook Lenox

    We’ve learned with our first app Pinger Phone, that keeping it simple was important. Reviewers are busy…if you make an app that is complicated, it’ll be harder to get their attention. Hopefully we won’t make that mistake with our next app!

  • John

    Yeah, AppCraver.com asks for $50 to “guarantee” a review within 7 days. I have boycotted their site since I received that email as I find it a bit of a cheap mechanism. It works against indie developers and IMO throws away the integrity of their review process.

  • http://www.appcraver.com AppCraver

    Thanks in large part to developer concerns and comments, we have updated our FAQ page to include a more transparent explanation of our Expedited Review program and our process for choosing which apps to review. AppCraver Expedited Reviews

    We encourage folks to take a look at our policies. The vast majority — more than 85% — of our reviews are NOT expedited and often don’t even provide a free download. In addition, expediency will not influence the outcome of the app’s rating. Our writers determine the rating independently and are not informed which apps have paid and which haven’t.

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  • zs

    I have a question for all the app reviewers… do you distinguish between apps that are sold by incorporated companies with those sold by individual contributors? I have a feeling that if the developer doesn’t put his own name on the app, instead putting a company name, it’ll be taken more seriously. Is that true?

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  • http://www.appcraver.com AppCraver

    We don’t make a distinction between apps that are sold under a company’s name or an individual name. All else being equal, we will sometimes look at videos and screenshots and make a judgement call of perceived quality based on graphics. Take the time to get a professional-looking icon, logo, splash pages, etc. These things add to the whole picture.

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  • Debbie Gordon

    Great info about submitting for app reviews.

    We also accept app review requests at appshouter.com

    Thanks

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  • http://www.digitopolisstudio.com digitopolis

    Thank you very much, Value Toppic

  • Internet Needs Escrow

    Disappointed with AppCraver. It’s been three weeks since I payed them the “expedited review” fee ($100), and the review is yet to be seen. Sent them two emails, got back zero responses. Developers, beware.

  • http://www.magicsolver.com/ Emmanuel Carraud

    Thanks Jim,
    I totally agree with your point of view. Marketing is essential but tough for small companies like ours, MagicSolver.com. It is time consuming and not so obvious in an international market. Our first app Sudoku Magic, although one of the best Sudoku game available at the moment on the App Store with very good users feedback and a unique photo technology to capture Sudoku in any newspapers, has difficulties to really take off in the market.
    I really hope that our second app release today, FaceShift, a photo app which detect faces and can automatically swap your face with your friends’ faces, will find the success it deserves :-). We released a Lite version to allow everyone to try it for free. We will try to apply your tips.
    If you have any innovative ideas for our small company to promote our apps Sudoku Magic & FaceShift, just drop me an email, I would be delighted to have your feedback

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  • PS

    You know, most of these things, although logical, are actually BS. 99% chance your email will not even be read at all, the only thing that will get sites to post your App is previous knowledge of it. Save your promo codes and let the reviewers ask for them after they’ve already heard of your App.

  • http://SlapApp.com Ryan

    Great article. This definitely touches on the important aspects of getting interest from iPhone App Reviewers. I can say personally that app review requests should be treated like a resume. You’ve got 15 seconds to stand out. If you approach it in that manor, and can get the key points across in an upfront, clear, and concise manner then you’ll do great. To request a review from us at SlapApp.com please follow the below link.

    http://www.slapapp.com/request-a-review

    Cheers,
    Ryan

  • http://www.fuzzy-frog.co.uk/ffsite/ Andy

    Hey, Just found this article while browsing around for good advice for getting your app noticed. There are some good tips here, but its like anything in life, you take your chances I guess.

    We’re an independent games developer in the UK: Fuzzy-Frog Games and just released our first iPhone app: Wang Ball
    (link to it here: http://tinyurl.com/yfo3d8b).

    Has an independent your always grateful for any exposure you can get.

    Andy
    http://www.fuzzy-frog.co.uk

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