App stores is a crowded place
According to Statista, mobile commerce apps are expected to reach $935 billion in 2023. Research has recorded $218 billion downloads in 2020, and it will continue to grow in the next years.
The fast-growing in-app revenue has triggered the interest of more e-businesses to expand their stores to mobile. The number of apps submitted to the app stores every day is skyrocketing.
With more than 2 million apps in each major app store, getting your app visible to potential users can be a huge problem. Building a great app takes a lot of time and money, so it would be a waste if your app gets lost in the crowd and cannot be found.
According to Apptentive, browsing in app stores is the most popular method of app discovery (with 63%). Thus, marketers need to work on app store optimization to increase their app’s visibility to users.
What is App Store Optimization – ASO
App Store Optimization is the process of optimizing your app to maximize its visibility to potential users in major app stores. Consequently, the app will rank higher in the app store’s search results, boost traffic to the app’s page and improve conversions to generate a maximum number of organic app installs.
This process draws a free source of high-quality users to your app, which is the ultimate foundation for any app marketing strategy.
To get the best results of ASO, you’ll need to pay attention to these factors:
- App name and title
- Total number of downloads
- Ratings and reviews
Next, we’ll go through how to optimize these factors.
App Store Optimization in 4 steps
Here is the basic guide to App Store Optimization to walk you through this process:
1. Keyword research
When it comes to app search result ranking, the quality of your app keywords is the major determinant. Your app store optimization process should start from keywords. High-quality keywords should be (1) highly relevant to your app while (2) generating a large amount of traffic with (3) low competition.
To find the right keywords for your app, you need to properly and carefully perform the keyword research.
First, you need to come up with a list of potential keywords. You may want to start with brainstorming about 50 relevant choices. There are several sources for you to generate your keyword list.
- Your competitor’s keywords. Go through their app titles and description to get some ideas about what keywords they are targeting.
- User review and ratings are a rich source for your keywords list too. Scan through their reviews to see if there are any constantly used terms.
- Useful keyword suggestion tools that give a variety of valuable ideas, such as Google Keyword Planner, Google Trend,…
Once you have got a possible keyword list, narrow it down to about 25 keywords that best fit your app. Filter your list by its difficulty and then search volume to maximize your chance of high rankings.
Keep in mind that your keywords must be relevant to the app and your target audience. More specifically, the keywords should describe the app’s features, user needs, app category, market or niche. You don’t want your app to be found mostly by users who are not interested and less likely to download it.
2. Optimize on-page elements
When you have done with your final list, you’re ready for the next step: put your keywords in the right places and optimize other on-page app listings:
The first thing that catches potential users’ eyes in the search results is the app name/title. Not only does it give the target audience a clear overview of your app, but it also has a huge impact on your search ranking. App stores give the most priority to the keywords found in your app title. That’s why you need to save the most important keywords for the app name.
Make sure it includes the most relevant and popular keywords to your potential users, but don’t overdo it. Carefully pick 2-3 high-quality keywords, put them next to your brand name to maintain a good balance.
For iOS apps:
Keyword field: You have only 100 characters to include other important selected keywords. Use low difficulty and high volume ones, remember that ranking is more important than traffic. There’s no need to repeat keywords that were already included in other fields. You may want to break up word phases into single words to increase the chance of showing up for a wider range of keywords.
Description: Unlike Play Store, Apple’s App Store does not index the description field for search ranking. Although it does not get your app found by potential users, iOs app description still plays a significant role in generating app installs. In the first 3 lines of the description (they are seen the most by users), describe your app’s main benefits and go more into details after that.
For Android apps:
Short description: This field, which is limited to 80 characters only, weights more in-app search indexing than the long description. It’s critical to naturally integrate keywords into your short description, place the ones with higher quality first for better results. Clearly communicate the benefit in an easy-to-read form to maximize conversion rate. A strong call to action copy can effectively trigger app installs.
Long description: With up to 4000 characters, you have more space to explain in-depth its features and how it works for them. Optimize your description for quick comprehension and better readability, avoid being too technical. Highlight the most important stuff on top. Also, you can include social links to increase brand awareness. Make use of Google Play’s rich formatting to better organize your text.
Right below your app’s name is the subtitle. You can optimize by putting more descriptive keywords in the subtitle. While it’s quite short, about 30 characters only, don’t waste it. Users often check the subtitle before moving to the long description.
An app icon is the first visual impression of your app. If done right, your app icon can get more potential users to dive deeper into your app page, read the description, check out app screenshots and eventually tap the download button.
A well-designed icon should be simple yet eye-catching. Don’t stuff words into your icon. Use high contrast colors to make it stand out. You may want to add an icon border to make sure it looks great on both light and dark backgrounds.
Your icon design should be consistent with your overall app design to increase brand awareness and differentiate from your competitor’ apps.
Most visitors don’t see more than the first 2-3 screenshots. So deliver your app’s strongest features through these first screenshots. Add short caption text to each screenshot so that even people who know nothing about your app still can get it at once. Don’t just list out everything, focus on how users can benefit from your app. Also, A/B testing your screenshots can improve your app performance up to 20%.
A short video will be totally worth your effort.
It allows you to quickly and memorably show people what your app is about and how it works. It enables your potential users to experience your app before actually downloading it. Highlight your app’s best features, use attention-grabbing graphics and keep your video short and sweet (up to 30s). A clear call to action to install the app at the end is recommended.
3. Manage off-page factors
Off-page factors are the elements that affect app ranking and conversions while are not directly under your control. Yet, there are still several actions you can take to better manage these factors and improve your app’s ASO.
App ratings and reviews
Most users typically check app ratings and reviews before deciding to download them. As a result, the average star rating has a critical impact on your app conversion rate to install.
To get better ratings and reviews, the key points are (1) prompt happy customers to leave a review on your app page and (2) make it easy for unhappy ones to reach you and express their feedback so that you can fix the problem and update in the fastest manner. You can’t stop people from leaving negative reviews but you can change the ways they do it. By having a close eye on customers’ in-app actions, you can identify when is the right time to proactively ask for in-app feedback. If users are pleased with the experience, nicely invite them to submit a positive review on the app store. If they’re not, reach out to them for more detailed feedback and let them know their opinions are appreciated. Responding nicely to customers lets them and other users know that you are listening and ready to fix the issues (if possible).
This is the ultimate goal of publishing your mobile app, and it’s also a key factor to let the app store know whether to rank your app higher or lower on the search results. Moreover, potential users are prompted to first check out an app with more downloads.
Not only the total download number, but app stores also pay keen attention to the current download rate. For instance, a newer app with a higher current download rate may rank higher than an old app with higher total downloads.
4. Track and monitor your app’s ASO
When the above process is done, it’s time to check your progress and measure how well your app is performing.
Take into account the main ASO performance indicators: keyword ranking, top chart ranking, category ranking, organic downloads, conversion rate,.. to see the exact impacts and know where else to further improve your ASO.
Also, keep an eye on market trends, your competitor’s rankings, keywords, changes in app listings, other updates, …
App Store Optimization is a complicated and continuous process. It might take a lot of time and effort to see a better result. No matter how well-optimized your app is in the app store, the job is never done. When you finish the checklist, go back to step 1 and start all over again. The app market is dynamic and never stops changing, and there are hundreds of apps published daily. App Store Optimization needs constant observations and regular management to maintain and increase your app’s visibility and conversion.