Right now, iTunes has 375 million active searchers. More to the point, the iTunes search engine gets people spending more time on it than any other search engine (except YouTubes). Between the iTunes for the PC/Mac and the various iOS devices, iTunes is a very important search engine. People looking for information will often look for podcasts and videos there first before looking anywhere else.
Add the iTunes App Store into the mix, and if you’re not found on iTunes you’re making a huge mistake. Now, let me be clear about something: every business can benefit from being ranked on iTunes. I’ve helped local transmission repair shops quadruple their business, thanks to some iTunes tricks that I’m going to share with you.
Before Getting Into It, There’s Something Important To Understand About iTunes
When iTunes first launched it used only the number of downloads to determine how to rank things. Much later, the number of “stars” something had became a very light ranking factor, but it was so light that it almost didn’t matter. The problem was that something with a lot of downloads would be ranked higher for searches, which would mean that it would probably get more downloads.
That meant their search results were very difficult to crack, and would often stay fairly static.
Now, however, things are different. The number of stars something has gets more weight. They are also tracking how often something is opened, and how often it is used, as well. That means apps, podcasts, songs, and so on that are opened and listened to more often will be ranked higher than something else, even if that something else has more downloads.
Podcasts that give good information and are referenced multiple times will get better rankings (and therefore more downloads). Apps that people like, open often, and use for long periods of time will rank better, as well, against other apps that simply have more downloads.
In other words, with iTunes, good stuff is going to win, and this is important to know.
It’s also important to know that every business can benefit from being highly ranked, with good content (podcasts) and/or apps. No matter what you sell, the iTunes store and its 375 million dedicated and active searchers can help you get more customers. Now, let’s talk about how you actually get that done.
Like I said, it isn’t just about downloads anymore (though of course that’s still a factor). The thing is, unlike other major search engines, including Amazon’s, the number of inbound links to something doesn’t matter to iTunes rankings one bit.
That being the case, let’s talk about how you can gain better rankings with your podcasts and your apps.
1. Your app and/or your podcasts should ask people to rank your item with five stars. This is easy for you to add, and will likely cause a dramatic increase in the number of people that bother to give a ranking. The more people give your item five stars, the better it will rank.
2. Especially with apps, include social interaction through Facebook and Twitter. However, you can do this with podcasts as well. Create social media posts that drive people back to your content with things like “Go back to this time spot and listen to … I said that because …” With apps, you want people competing as much through the social networks as possible. Not only that, but if someone posts something to their Facebook stream through an app, then every one of their friends sees the app, which can increase your number of downloads. Further, the social engagement also increases the amount of time people spend in the app as well.
3. This next tip really is app-specific: include methods for people to communicate and engage live while in the app. This dramatically increases the length of time the app is used, and therefore dramatically increases the app’s ranking. Including “in-app messaging” between users of my apps has caused a seven times increase in “usage time.”
4. Make sharing as easy as possible. For podcasts that means making it easy for people to share with their Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest followers (this is actually mostly “baked in” to iTunes, except for Pinterest). For apps, this means allowing people to add “friends” or something. And if a user wants to add a friend who doesn’t have the app, then the app should provide multiple methods of contacting that friend. Again, get people to spread the word about your podcast or app; in fact, ask people to spread the word. Remind people in your app that they can have friends. Remind people in your podcasts that people should share it out.
5. Don’t be afraid to “pay per download,” either. Remember, downloads do matter. You can go to http://mturk.com and actually pay people 10 cents to download your app/podcast. All you need is a couple of hundred downloads in the first week it’s live to help make your podcast/app one of the top movers, which can then also increase its number of downloads.
The bottom line here is this: iTunes has an incredibly active, nearly fanatical user base, so you want to show up in the iTunes search. The great thing is that the changes iTunes has made means that the “big guys” no longer have the advantages they once did. Great apps/podcasts created by “the little guys” can now succeed wildly.
You can see more of my work at http://mattgoffrey.wordpress.com.