Getting your app up and running on the app store is only half the battle won, now comes the uphill climb of app store optimisation. Here's everything you need to know to get your app to rank higher in any app marketplace listing
What is App Store Optimisation?
Before we get started with how to do ASO, let’s take a minute to define what it means.
App Store Optimisation (ASO) is the process of improving the characteristics of an application that is designed for mobile platforms such as iOS and Android, with the goal of creating better search visibility and getting more downloads on app stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play. The characteristics that are optimised include: app name, keywords, screenshots, demo video, icon and description
1. App Title
A good title is crucial. If you don’t optimise your title, you can forget about a good ranking on any app store. Unfortunately, there is so much confusing information about this around on the web, it can be hard to figure out what makes for a good practice and what doesn't.
No one can help you choose a name for your app, but here are some evergreen tactics for your title
- 225 characters is the limit, but only 25 of them will show up in search result – make sure you put the essential words in that part.
- Don’t use names that are already in use – it won’t win you more downloads if you use the name of a popular app, it will simply mean you get lost in the crowd.
- Make sure your app name is short, easy to spell and easy to remember.
- Try to reflect the nature of your app in its name – you don’t want users to get confused.
- Add a description – there is plenty of space after the name for a description packed with relevant keywords. It’s a lot easier to rank well for keywords used in the title, but make sure it sounds like a natural sentence.
A very important part of App Store Optimisation. This is where you sell your app to potential users browsing the app market. It works a bit like the meta description tag for a website. It’s not searchable, so you don’t have to over-pack it with keywords. Treat it as a 3–4 sentence elevator pitch. Think along the lines of...
- The default fold – put the most important information before it
- List benefits and features
- Include a call-to-action to make people feel they need to have it
- Include some social proof to help convince people how cool your app is (awards/reviews)
If want to see what your description will look like before your release your app to the store, use software like AppSnippetPreview. It does exactly what its title suggests.
This part of App Store Optimisation applies to the iOS marketplace only. In iTunes, you are given a field to include keywords you would like to rank for. You have only 100 characters available to you, so you have to be smart about it. Here are a few tips:
- Use single words rather than multiple-word phrases
- Research competitors keywords and go for ones that are untapped and less competitive
- Don’t repeat words used in the title
- Put the keywords in priority order
- Keep experimenting with your keywords – the ones that do not convert now, might convert in the future as your app becomes more popular
- Separate keywords with commas, don’t use spaces
You only get one shot to make a great first impression. Your icon is the first thing that will draw users’ attention to your app – waste this chance and there’s a high risk users will just keep scrolling until they find something more interesting.
Pro Tip: Remember it’s not just for an app store – if you’re thinking about making a brash design to get noticed, don’t forget it will also be displayed on your users’ phones. Give them something they will like to see there.
- Think of something simple that represents your app
- Don’t use words – they won’t be visible on a tiny icon and they can make it look messy
- Make it consistent with your app design
- Keep trends in mind – you don’t have to follow them rigidly, but they are trends for a reason
- Don’t forget about details – users will see a small icon, but it also has to look great when scaled as well
Screenshots are as important in the visual description of your app as the icon. Unless your app is featured, it’s the screenshot that your user will look at first after finding you in search results. The decision whether to click on your app or not is dependent on a good first screenshot, but it doesn’t mean that the other four don’t matter. They are your way of making users interested enough to download your app.
6. App Category
- Show the ‘inside’ of your app, forget about splash screens.
- Add explanations, arrows, tips etc. Keep it clear, but show what user can do inside your app.
- Highlight your most popular and most needed features.
- Convince users that your app is exactly what they’re looking for.
- Localise your screenshots.
Category choice may be less important than your title or description, but that doesn’t mean you can overlook it. First of all, you need to remember that Apple will review if the category you choose really matches your app – if not, it will be rejected outright.
Sometimes the choice isn’t very obvious, so you can add your app to two categories. Go through all the categories and choose the one that really fits your app.
Pro Tip: If you’re choosing two categories, compare the apps that are in the top 5 of both of them and choose the group that’s less competitive as your primary category.
Reviews are the social proof that can convince new users to download your app. A lack of reviews not only looks bad, there’s no way you can beat your competitors if you have no reviews at all. Writing reviews yourself from multiple accounts is not the best idea, but there are some ways to get your first reviews and get a running start at good App Store Optimisation...
- Request friends & family to use your app and give genuine (hopefully, good) review.
- Use tools like Appsfire and Appirater to boost reviews on your app
- Encourage users to write long reviews. It doesn’t affect your app store ranking, but can go a long way in getting new users to download your app.
- Browse competitor app reviews to find new keywords you can use yourself.
- Listen to your users and answer their requests via updates to show that you care what they have to say.
Adding ratings in App Store is synced with reviews, so pretty much the same rules apply there as well. It is another social proof for new users, and the one seen in search results. If your rating is low, the road to success is going to be really bumpy. You can’t force your users to rate your app, but it can’t hurt to ask them.
- Display a popup asking for a review from people who use your app often. Just make sure you’re not being too annoying
- Ask friends & family for few five-stars review to get started
- Make it easy for users to contact you with their grievances before they leave low ratings or negative reviews.
- Offer upgrades and promo codes for the loyalty of your happy users
So far, we’ve talked about optimising your app listing for the English-language, international market. However, multiple case studies show that focusing on specific locations can drive huge growth. Localisation means simply translating all of your app elements into whichever languages you decide to target. There can be some other, non-language elements to translate, such as measurement systems or other cultural aspects.
First of all, you need to translate the metadata – app title, description and keywords. Your app will also need a rework as well – instructions, notifications or any other text included. Localisation can open the way to whole new markets where your English version won’t perform as well as a translated one (especially markets with different alphabets, like India and Chinese).
Choosing the right pricing model plays a big part in app store success. There are various models – completely free, free with ads, paid or freemium. The last (free with in-app purchases) is said to be the most profitable. Either way, you should keep playing with prices to discover what works best.
11. Traditional online marketing
- Do your market research on apps in your category to discover the best pricing practices
- Consider temporary price cuts to boost downloads
- Schedule price changes to coordinate with your own promotion activities or special dates (holidays etc.)
Don’t forget to think outside the box (or outside the app market). Utilise traditional, online marketing channels to push downloads of your app. Some of your downloads will come from organic searches, but you can get more from your web-version landing page. That’s why one of the first things you should do is create a webpage dedicated to your app, with a clear CTA directing user to your app download. Once you have this, the possibilities for promotion are almost endless.
To name just a few:
- Press coverage on relevant blogs and in magazines.
- App directory sites.
- Reddit-esque community sites.
- Email marketing campaigns
- PPC campaigns
- Content marketing
With these tactics in your app store optimisation arsenal, you should be well on your way to ranking for your keyword and target audience of choice. The key takeaway from these tactics should be to keep experimenting and optimising to find the ideal fit of techniques and results for your app.