How To Be Evil (Or Not): App Store Scams vs. White Hat ASO

Who would’ve thought that How To Be Evil for iPhone programmers would start to shape up into a series? Well, turns out there’s more bad actors than you’d think (well, more than you’d think if you’re as trustingly naīve as we’re widely known to be) pulling scammy stuff on their users. Here is a particularly evil instance:

New scammy iOS app shows Apple may need to tweak its App Store review process

After downloading the app in question, called Heart Rate Measurement on the App Store, 9to5Mac reports that it works by claiming to read your heart rate through your fingertip using the iPhone’s Touch ID feature. What the app is really trying to do, though, is get you to authorize a transaction for $89.99 using Touch ID by “dramatically dimming the screen” to such a degree that you hopefully won’t notice the charge…



And this is not actually a one-off, apparently there’s a whole mini-industry of these tricksters:

Scam iOS apps promise fitness, steal money instead

But what if you’re not quite that short-sightedly evil, just want a bit of a leg up? Check out this masterpiece of a Guide To Evil™:

How to Game the App Store

I’ve been pestering Apple for years publicly and privately about the manipulation and outright scams going on in the App Store. Apple has made some progress here and there, but overall Apple’s strictness in some areas and hands off approach in others has disproportionately rewarded bad actors while stifling conscientious developers…

Go over and Read The Whole Thing, but here’s sample #1:

1. Find a keyword that drives a decent amount of organic search traffic. Obvious ones are keywords like “weather”, “calculator”, “solitaire”, etc, but those keywords are so competitive, and the rest of the tactics so powerful, you could get away with 2nd tier keyword targets. Now go to App Store Connect and name your app that exact keyword. “Weather” is already taken, and Apple doesn’t allow duplicate app names, so you’ll need to add a symbol. Let’s go with “Weather ◌”.

Here’s the thing, the App Store search algorithm gives a massive boost for an exact match to what the user searched, and the algorithm ignores symbols, so “Weather ◌” will get a huge search advantage, which will help to drive organic installs of the app…

Oh, one more we’ll excerpt — this one actually got us whilst trying out a scam app, luckily just for a trial subscription we promptly rescinded:

4. Trigger the subscription randomly while the app is running. This one is included in the above list, but is so cunning it’s worth a specific mention. Because the iPhone home button serves as a sort of universal back button, a panicking iPhone user is likely to hit the home button when trying to get out of something. Unfortunately, on iPhones with Touch ID, the home button is also how you confirm a purchase. So if the payment view is randomly triggered, many users will accidentally confirm the purchase while trying to exit.

Indeed they will. However, now we have a shiny new XS, so that at least isn’t going to happen again!

One money maker that’s called out is selling user location data, which apparently is a much bigger thing than we’d thought — check this out:

Report: Location Data Monetization in iOS Apps 

But all of us here are white hats, right, and we want to promote our app and earn money legitimately, right? Here’s a list of recentish (if “the last year or so” still counts as “recentish”) ASO resources and marketing tips worth reading to make a living without stooping to Evil™ tactics:

How I doubled App Store Impressions

Earlier this year I went through the App Store Optimization (ASO) process for one of my personal apps. App store impressions doubled immediately. Profits for the app almost doubled as well…

Surviving the App Store

A book on lessons learned in building mobile apps. Written by the indie game dev who built the number one app, A Dark Room…

How to Leverage Apple Pre-order for Your Ios App Launch

Not only does it allow you to get a good amount of pre-orders (and therefore downloads on the first day), it also gives you the possibility to start working on your app metadata for your App Store Optimization efforts…

The Smart Aso Trick for Higher Rankings

It’s no secret that titles – and now also subtitles – are the most important factors for keywords in iOS11. Here’s a smart and simple trick that you can use to leverage the fact that these keywords are given more weight than those included in the standard keywords field…

How to Combine SEO & ASO Techniques to Supercharge Your Keyword Research

There are a handful of excellent articles on Keyword Research for ASO (App Store Optimization), but I haven’t read any so far that combined: 
classical SEO + competitor based keyword research + ASO. So I decided to write one…

ASO in iOS 11: A Detailed Analysis of What REALLY Works

I have analyzed the ASO strategies of over 20 apps to provide you with a truly data-driven look at the impact of iOS 11 on keywords and conversion optimization…

Find the Best App Store Optimization Tools – ASO Tools List

iOS Dev Tools — App Store and Sales

What is ASO? The Ultimate App Store Optimization Guide

The 385 Pages ASO Book (2018): Advanced App Store Optimization

Mobile App Marketing Playbook: 36 Tactics to Promote Your Mobile App

Worldwide App Store Optimization

The Secret to a Great ASO Strategy is Optimizing for People

And don’t forget to keep abreast of the latest techniques in that old school  “classical SEO” to complement your ASO efforts — here’s a recent roundup to help you out with that!

The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2019

Alex | December 12, 2018

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