Mobile Marketing Masterclass


How to Promote and Optimize In-App Purchases on iOS

by | App Store Optimization

If you use in-app purchases (IAPs) to monetize your app, I am sure you will agree that they are a great source of revenue. But did you know that they have another important function?

Since Apple introduced a major iOS update in November 2017, IAPs are indexed by the search algorithm. That means, they can appear on search results, contribute to your app’s visibility, and as a result generate more organic downloads. Sounds awesome, right?

In this post, you will learn how to make your IAPs searchable for Apple’s algorithm and optimize them to drive more organic traffic to your app. Let us walk through the single steps:

First, you need to promote the IAP that you want to see in search results. The term promote might be a little confusing in this context, because it does not reflect a marketing campaign. Instead, it refers to a simple technical setup:

  • Log in to iTunes Connect.
  • Click “My Apps”.
  • Select the app that contains the IAP.
  • Click “Features” (top navigation bar).
  • Click “App Store Promotions” (left sidebar).
  • Check the IAP that you want to promote.
  • Click “Save”.

App Store Promotions on App Store Connect

Second, add IAP metadata. Like your app needs a title, a description, and an icon, each IAP needs these elements, too:

The IAP title contains up to 30 characters. It should give users a first impression of the IAP’s content. But more important, it is the metadata that is actually indexed by the algorithm. So the IAP title is where you need to place your keywords.

The IAP description has up to 45 characters. Its purpose is to give users more details about the IAP’s content. As it is not indexed, you do not need to optimize it for search.

The IAP icon is a square graphic of 1024 x 1024 pixels in PNG or JPEG format. It visualizes the IAP’s content on the app’s product page and on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Before you start creating these elements, let me emphasize some important facts and best practices about promoting in-app purchases and composing their metadata.

Which IAPs can be Promoted?

Apple allows you to promote only IAPs that match two requirements. They must…

  1. …be non-consumables or subscriptions.
  2. …support the SKProductStorePromotionController API.

Non-consumables unlock content, features, or other benefits permanently after the purchase. Here are some examples:

  • collections of recipes for a cooking app
  • training plans for fitness apps
  • equipment like weapons or armors for games

Subscriptions unlock content or features temporarily. Typically, they are valid for at least one month and up to twelve years. Subscriptions can be auto-renewable, so they continue even after the initial period is over until the user cancels it, or non-renewing, so they end automatically. Subscriptions are used, for instance, to:

  • hide ads in an app
  • give users access to news, music, and video apps
  • unlock premium features in utility apps

Be aware that you cannot promote consumables such as in-app currency (“gems” in Clash of Clans or “Superlikes” in Tinder).

The Right Strategy for IAP Keywords

Finding the right keywords is the most important part of the setup process. Before we get into details, let me outline how Apple’s algorithm handles in-app purchases.

You already know that only words in the IAP title matter. So the algorithm will ignore keywords in the IAP description.

Another crucial fact is that the weight of IAP titles for the algorithm is low. Actually, it is the lowest of all indexed metadata elements. In other words: apps that contain a keyword in the app title, the subtitle, or the keyword field will outrank your app if you put the same term in an IAP title.

However, it is possible to use IAP titles to conquer the top ranks on SERPs for single keywords. But it is rather unlikely, and you should not focus on this goal.

There is a much better strategy: use IAP titles to target long-tail keywords. The algorithm will combine words from the app title and IAP titles, and rank your app for these long-tail keywords. As these are less competitive than single terms, it is absolutely possible to conquer their SERPs with this strategy.

Attention! This strategy only works for the app title. The algorithm will not combine long-tail keywords from IAP titles and the subtitle or the keyword field.

Finding Keywords for IAP Titles

So, which keywords should you put into IAP titles?

To answer this question, here is a great example of the app The Photo Cookbook. Users can purchase various non-consumable IAPs that have titles like:

  • Asian – 60 recipes
  • Italian – 60 recipes
  • Vegetarian – 60 recipes

In combination with the app title, these IAP titles form very relevant long-tail keywords:

  • asian cookbook
  • italian cookbook
  • vegetarian cookbook

And guess what? The app ranks for all of these terms (not always in the top spots, though).

IAP of The Photo Cookbook on SERP


For many apps that offer non-consumables or subscriptions, this strategy is easily adaptable. Use a term that describes a major feature of your app in the app title, and narrow it down with keywords in IAP titles. Here are some more ideas:

  • Fitness apps: training or exercise in the app title + body parts (chest, legs, biceps, back) in IAP titles.
  • Music apps: songs or music in the app title + music styles (rock, pop, latin, classic) in IAP titles.
  • Translator apps: learn or translate in the app title + languages (french, german, italian, chinese) in IAP titles.

How to Design the IAP Icon

When designing the IAP icon, you need to take two things into consideration:

  1. The IAP icon will appear in different sizes across the app store. It can show up in SERPs, but also in features and on your app’s product page. To make sure the icon is legible no matter where it appears, keep your design simple.
  2. When appearing in SERPs, the app icon will overlay the IAP icon, so the bottom left corner will be covered. Thus, try to keep this area clear, otherwise, you might hurt the user experience (see example below).

Subscription of the App


These rules cover the best practices for creating IAP icons:

  • Use one primary motif with few details for the foreground.
    • For a fitness app, it could be a pictogram of the body part (an arm or a leg).
    • For a music app, you could design a simple instrument that reflects the music style (an electric guitar for rock or a violin for classic).
    • For a translator app, the ensign that matches the language would make perfect sense.
  • Use a unicolor or a simple color gradient background. Make sure it has a good contrast to the foreground motif.
  • Avoid text components in the icon. A number to indicate the length of a subscription is a valid exception to this rule.
  • Try to keep the bottom left corner clear.

How to Write the IAP Description

Writing the IAP description is an easy task as you do not need to take care about keywords (remember: the IAP description is not indexed by the App Store algorithm). Simply follow these guidelines:

  • State clearly what the package contains. For subscriptions, add the subscription length.
  • Even users who do not know your app yet might see the IAP in search results. Make sure they understand its content nevertheless.
  • Write a unique description for each IAP, so users can distinguish them.


To promote in-app purchases so they appear in search results is a rather easy task in App Store Optimization. But on the other hand, they have great potential to significantly contribute to your app’s organic traffic: With up to 20 promoted IAPs, you can create additional visibility for 20 long-tail keywords (or more).

However, you must embed your IAP optimization into your overall ASO strategy. The fundamental requirement for promoting IAPs is a list of promising keywords that is the result of proper keyword research. If you already have created this list, it needs only a small extra effort to unlock the power of in-app purchases for search, and increase your app’s organic visibility.



Then you should check out the App Store Optimization Book.

On more than 300 pages, you will learn everything you know about ASO, including keyword research and implementation, writing app descriptions, designing screenshots and app icons, composing app preview videos, and localizing your product page.

The ASO book offers easy to understand step-by-step guides and more than 140 helpful figures and example graphics.

Share This