TechStars Seattle's MobileDevHQ Wants to Rethink SEO for Mobile Apps

Yesterday startup accelerator TechStars held its third demo day in Seattle, and 10 companies presented after participating in the 3-month program. One of those companies was MobileDevHQ, a startup that wants to rethink the way developers and companies get their apps found in the Apple App Store and Google Play marketplace. The company offers app store optimization, starting with helping marketers optimize their apps for search.

Co-founder Ian Sefferman originally started working on consumer app discovery with a company called AppStoreHQ, helping people find apps in the App Store. He found they were getting requests from developers and marketers asking how they could promote their apps and get found in the Apple App Store and Google Play marketplace. “It took us literally about two and a half years of getting hit over the head with requests like this before we said ‘oh hey, we actually have a lot of data, we could flip that data on its head and expose it to the app marketers,'” Sefferman said.

They rebranded and decided to first focus on app store search, helping companies understand what keywords they should include in their descriptions and titles in order to get found by potential customers, something Sefferman refers to as search engine optimization (SEO) for apps. “We believe that on the developer and marketer side, there’s a whole lot of money being spent in paid app distribution,” Sefferman said, everything from banner ads to incentivized app downloads. “There’s no real resources for marketers on the organic app distribution side…longer term the vision is really be that single dashboard for an app marketer to understand all of organic app distribution, and we started with search.”

MobileDevHQ charges on a monthly subscription basis, and pricing is based on the number of reports users want to run, from $14 per month for one report, up to $149 per month for 50 reports. Marketers get started by sending MobileDevHQ the app they want to track, a list of their competitors’ apps, and then the company does an audit similar to what HubSpot would do for a website, outlining what they’re ranking well for now, and the things they could change to positively affect their app store ranking.

Marketers get a report outlining everything from the keywords they should be ranking for, the search terms by relevancy, difficulty, and volume, for example telling a recipe app that it will be difficult to rank for the word “recipe” since lots of other apps are also using that term. They also get ongoing reports showing how they’re ranking vs. their competitors over time. It’s then up to customers to change their descriptions, titles and other app marketing materials; MobileDevHQ just provides the recommendations.

MobileDevHQ originally launched its tool in March, was cashflow positive by the time it entered the TechStars program, and is now looking to raise a round of funding. Sefferman said next they’ll be looking to help marketers with PR, outlining which journalists write about different categories of apps. And while right now they only work with marketers who have an app available, eventually they’ll look to provide competitive intelligence to marketers before they build their apps to help them understand the opportunity.

App store optimization is a new area of SEO, and while MobileDevHQ might be one of the only companies tackling it right now, along with competitors like, there’s nothing stopping existing SEO giants like SEOmoz from branching out to app store optimization down the line. Making sure they expand from just search will be the key to success, and potentially partnering with a web-focused SEO company to offer its services to clients with mobile requests.



Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is a Co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform. Also a former Managing Director at Eighty-Eight, a creative communications agency based in Toronto. She was formerly the Managing Editor at BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter at @erinbury.

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