Over 5 million apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store. More than 200 billion downloads in a year. Those are daunting numbers to say the least after you’ve just uploaded your app to an app store.
How on earth do you get your app noticed? How do you swim up to the top of this overpopulated ocean?
Everyone’s aware of many external options: content marketing, product marketing, networking, etc. But also remember to look internally, within the App Store itself. This is where something called App Store Optimization (ASO) comes into play.
It’s one thing to bring traffic and downloads for your app by promoting it outside the app store, but what about users who are simply utilizing the search bar in an app store? How do they find you? How do you find them?
App store optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the visibility and ranking of a mobile app in an app store. Each app store has a similar way of analysing apps on their platform to make it a better search experience for the users. Namely, the most popular app store platforms are Google Play and Apple App Store, which will be the main focus for this guide. The goal of ASO is to increase the app’s visibility and attract more users, which can lead to increased downloads and revenue.
Why is ASO important?
So why should this be something you should invest your resources into?
- Firstly, ASO can help improve the discoverability of your app. With millions of apps available in the app store, it can be difficult for users to find your app unless it is properly optimized. Imagine looking for a clear toothpick in a stack of millions of red-coloured toothpicks. By using relevant and specific keywords, you can increase the chances that your app will appear in search results when users are looking for apps like yours. That one clear toothpick turns into a thousand black toothpicks.
- Secondly, ASO can help improve the quality and quantity of user reviews and ratings. User reviews and ratings are an important factor in an app’s ranking in the app store, and they can also influence other users’ decision to download the app. By encouraging users to rate and review your app and responding to both positive and negative reviews, you can improve your app’s overall rating and increase its visibility in the app store. Note that there are different ways to encourage ratings, some better than others.
- Thirdly, ASO can help improve the user experience and engagement with your app. By creating a compelling app icon, screenshots, and description, you can give users a clear idea of what your app does and why they should download it. This can help convince users to give your app a try and keep them engaged once they start using it.
- Next, it can help you find the right target audience. By optimising your app and conveying its message and purpose more accurately and effectively, the app store platform will show your app to more of the right people. This can help you increase downloads.
- Finally, ASO can help increase your app’s revenue. By attracting more users to your app and keeping them engaged, you can increase the chances that they will make in-app purchases or use any other monetization methods you have implemented.
Apple App Store vs Google Play: the Differences
Now, the two biggest app stores–Google Play and Apple App Store–have some differences when it comes to ASO, which sometimes can be contradictory. Here are some things you need to pay attention to when optimizing on both platforms:
- Apple has a longer review process than Google Play, typically lasting a few days. This means that after you optimise anything on the App Store, it will not be reviewed and updated on the platform for a few days.
- Apple has a field specifically for keywords with a 100-character limit, whereas Google Play does not. The keyword field is invisible to users.
- Apple has a subtitle field with a 30-character limit, which shows alongside the app title in the search page. Google Play has it’s short description field with an 80-character limit, but it doesn’t show in the search results.
- The keyword indexing differs. On Google Play, keywords are indexed across all fields (title, description, etc), whereas the App Store has specific keyword fields. Note the following (bolded = indexed uniquely on respective platform):
Google Play indexes based on:
- App title, app short description, app long description, number of installs, number of backlinks for your app, updates, ratings and reviews, and in-app puchases (IAP).
The App Store indexes based on:
- App title, app subtitle, URL, keywords field, number of installs, updates, ratings and reviews, IAP
Here, as the Apple App Store doesn’t index the app’s long description, you can approach this field from a more creative, marketing-oriented perspective to attract users.
At the end of this blog you’ll find some DOs and DON’Ts for ASO, where you’ll find some more specifics regarding Google Play vs Apple App Store.
How to Optimise your App Store Ranking
Here are some key steps to consider when optimizing your app for the app store:
- Choose the right app title and keywords: The title of your app and the keywords you choose are important for discoverability. As mentioned, you must use relevant and specific keywords in the app title and in the app’s metadata to make it easier for users to find your app when searching the app store. Where keywords are indexed depends on which app store you are using (refer to DOs and DON’Ts below).
- Create a compelling app icon and screenshots: The app icon is the first thing users see when they come across your app in the app store, so it’s important to make a good impression. Choose an icon that is visually appealing and representative of your app’s purpose. Similarly, screenshots of your app in action can give users a better idea of what they can expect from your app and can help convince them to download it. If one app has a screenshot that looks like it was taken in 2010, and another app has a screenshot that looks technically advanced, which do you think will attract more users?
- Write a clear and concise app description: The app description is your chance to explain what your app does and why it’s worth downloading. Keep it short and to the point, highlighting the app’s main features and benefits. Use bullet points or numbered lists to make it easy for users to scan the description and understand what your app does. But be sure to convey the correct tone and atmosphere of your app through your description!
- Encourage user ratings and reviews: User ratings and reviews can have a big impact on an app’s ranking and visibility in the app store. Encourage users to rate and review your app by including a prompt in the app itself or by sending a follow-up email after they’ve used the app. Although it may seem difficult, make sure to respond to both positive and negative reviews to show users that you value their feedback and you’re willing to grow.
- Use app store analytics: There are several tools available that can help you track your app’s performance in the app store, such as Sensor Tower and data.ai. These tools can provide insights into your app’s ranking, downloads, and user engagement, which can help you identify areas for improvement and track the success of your ASO efforts.
- Optimize for app store algorithms: Both Google Play and the Apple App Store have algorithms that determine an app’s ranking in the store. While the specific factors that go into these algorithms are not publicly disclosed, there are some general best practices you can follow to improve your app’s ranking. For example, both stores place a high value on user engagement and retention, so keeping users engaged and coming back to your app can help improve your ranking.
- Consider paid app store advertising: In addition to organic efforts to improve your app’s ranking, you can also consider using paid app store advertising to boost your app’s visibility. Both Google Play and the Apple App Store offer advertising options that allow you to target specific users and increase the chances that they will see your app when searching the store.
Now that we’re done with those tips, here are some DOs and DON’Ts for conducting ASO.
Some quick DOs and DON’Ts
- Analyse your reviews for keyword inspiration. You can benchmark with your competitors’ reviews as well.
- Check the search volume of your keywords, which is the frequency a keyword is searched on the app store within a month. You can check search volume using tools such as App Radar. Targeting high-volume vs low-volume keywords will differ based on your company and industry.
- Repeat keywords across fields (only on Google Play)
- Repeat keywords over multiple fields (avoid only on Apple App Store)
- Overload fields with keywords
- Sacrifice a natural, human tone for the sake of including keywords
In conclusion, app store optimization is a critical aspect of mobile app marketing. But just because you’ve finished reading this guide doesn’t mean your ASO journey is over. No, my friend, this is just the beginning. The world of ASO is constantly evolving, and there’s always more to learn and optimize. So, keep experimenting, keep testing, and most importantly, keep an open mind.
At Appic, our expertise will ensure your app is optimised to experience growth and success. Contact us to learn how we can leverage your app’s features and benefits to follow through with ASO.
ASO can be a complex and ever-changing field, but by following the tips and best practices outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to getting your app discovered by more users and driving more downloads and revenue. But of course, it’s important that you continue to reevaluate current algorithms and adjust accordingly!