Seattle-based Appnique, a new startup from mobile industry veteran Jai Jaisimha, is focused on helping app developers achieve higher rankings and make their mobile applications more discoverable in both the iOS and Android app stores. It’s the latest company to target the ASO (App Store Optimization) space specifically, a new breed of optimization which looks at things like app keywords, titles and descriptions in order to make an app appear higher in app searches than its competitors, which in turn helps an app climb the charts in a given app store.
ASO is the new SEO, as you already know. But the recent surge of interest in tweaking keywords comes about thanks to the changes Apple introduced with the new iOS 6 App Store this fall. Because Apple’s new app search uses card-style results pages instead of lists, as it did before, it’s even harder for the longer tail of app developers to get their apps seen by potential customers. For developers in especially crowded spaces like games, the challenge is even tougher. The only real solution is hone in on what keyword combinations will work to surface the app higher for very specific app store searches.
Understanding what those keywords are, however, is easier said than done. That’s why services like SearchMan and AppStoreHQ’s MobileDevHQ are becoming increasingly popular with app developers and publishers. Used alongside analytics offerings and other competitive measurement and intelligence tools like those from Distimo or App Annie, for example, app developers and marketers can figure out what works, what the impact of those changes may be and what other developers in their space are doing.
This, too, is where Appnique now comes in. The service offers developers an online dashboard where they can identify the right keywords to use with their apps, compare their keywords with others, and track changes in their particular niche.
According to Jaisimha, founder and CEO at Appnique, it’s not just about offering ASO, it’s about doing it in a way that’s different from competitors. Jaisimha, who says he has been “working on mobile apps almost as long as there have been mobile apps,” brings a lot of experience to the new company. He previously worked at RealNetworks, mobile search company Medio, and most recently he spent two AOL, where he was VP of mobile technology and products before leaving to start Open Mobile Solutions, which is still up-and-running. (Appnique spun out of Open Mobile Solutions, which operates something like an Elance for app developers.)
“An important learning for us is that there’s a lot more people who know how to build apps than who wanted to outsource it through something like OMS,” he says of those earlier efforts. “And everyone who builds apps has a pain point around discovery.”
What Appnique Does
With Appnique, the company algorithmically discovers who a developer’s competitors are, what keywords they using, what they’re doing and how that changes their rankings and discoverability.
“Other SEO products provide you with keywords, and basically replicate what App Annie has,” Jaisimha says. But no one tells you, for example, when one of your competitors just made a change to their description and it caused their rank to go up, or that your rank dropped after you put out a new version, or that someone put out a new version and here’s what it contained, or that there’s a spike in the views that you got, or a change in your average rating,” he says, rattling off examples of how the tools can be used.
This information isn’t only presented in online charts on Appnique’s website, it’s also sent out via regular emails, alerting developers to what actions they need to take.
Because Appnique analyzes a broad cross-section of the two app stores, it can also uncover general trends in the app market as whole. For example, of the 1 million applications it now tracks in the U.S. app stores, it has already seen 580,000 version updates, 503,892 descriptions updates, 402,012 description updates, and 350,000 apps updated their titles. (From September to mid-December). This shows that developers are actually merchandising their apps pretty heavily. “The scale of it was quite surprising,” says Jaisimha.
Appnique offers a free version for one app, and then paid tiers ($50, $200 or $1000 per month, depending on size and scope) for larger app development shops.
The company is currently in the process of raising a round, with now $400,000 in angel funding from Mike Rowehl (Chomp; first engineer at AdMob), Rudy Gadre (former Facebook general counsel; former Amazon.com VP), and others. The total round will be between $750,000 and one million when it closes.
The company had been running a private beta with dozens of developer users until just recently. Now any developers can sign up here to join the public beta trials.