When it comes to getting things done, mobile apps have become the go-to. When people need to find a new app they head right to the app store on their device, where there are apps for pretty much everything. Your app is probably there too, but with so much competition how can you make sure the people who actually need it find it?
Why App Store Optimization?
That’s where App Store Optimization comes in. ASO (for short) is a set of techniques that help you take advantage of how Apple’s and Google’s search algorithms work to ensure your app shows up where it’s most relevant, giving it more visibility and more downloads.
Many developers have already jumped on the ASO train and are optimizing their apps and seeing results. If you haven’t yet and need a place to start, here’s our list of must-dos before submitting your next update or publishing your app. You can do these once or experiment constantly. How often is less important, what’s more important is that you actually do it.
What You Need to Do to Get Visibility
First, we need to get the stores to recognize your app. That’s called “indexing”, and the result is getting visibility in search results. Here are the most important techniques that will help get your app more visibility in search results:
1. Find Your Most Popular Keywords and Focus on Them
ASO works best when it’s focused on 3-5 main keywords you want to rank in. Start by listing terms that are related to your app’s functionality, and using an ASO tool with keyword insights, select the ones that have a high popularity.
Important: What you think is popular may not be, so leverage insights and store data when possible.
2. Benchmark and Learn From Your Competitors
As part of identifying the keywords you want to optimize for, make sure you look at the apps that are currently ranking high for them because those are the ones you’ll have to beat to increase your rank. In addition to keywords, stores use downloads, ratings, and ranks, to rank apps for a specific keyword.
Create a benchmark of the apps you want to beat by keeping track of their downloads, ratings, and ranks. You can look at ranks and ratings by browsing the store directly, or use an ASO tool that offers app intelligence to get those numbers.
A common mistake when getting started with ASO is wasting time optimizing for keywords that are out of reach. If your app’s performance isn’t reasonably close to the benchmark, you’re better off finding keywords that are less competitive. Once your performance improves you can go back and optimize for those more competitive keywords.
3. Use Keywords in the App’s Name
Apple and Google give a lot of weight to keywords that appear in the app’s name when deciding where to rank the app. That’s why it’s necessary to include your most important keywords in your app’s name. The most common way to do it is to have your brand’s name and then a short sentence that includes the most important keywords.
Important: Where you place your keywords in the name also impacts your rank.
If you can, try to incoporate keywords in the beginning of your name. This isn’t recommended for apps with a very strong brand, because the brand is something people search for and also why people download the app. But in case where the brand is new, or isn’t well known try swapping the position of the keywords and the brand.
4. Use Keywords in the App’s Subtitle/Short Description
The keywords used in the app’s subtitle (Apple) or the short description (Google) are another place the stores look at when deciding where to rank your app. These are short fields, so it’s best to focus on the most important keywords here and not just “stuff” it with words, which dilutes the strength of your main keywords.
5. Optimize Your Keyword List (Apple)
This one’s only for apps going into the App Store. Apple lets you indicate which keywords the app should rank in. The list is limited to 100 characters, so do your best to use each and every character. Use single words separated by a comma and eliminate all spaces. Don’t enter full search terms, spaces, or your app’s name or category.
Don’t do this:
"buy shoes", "buy sneakers", "buy shoe accessories", "shop shoes", "shop for shoes"
6. Use Keywords in Your App’s Long Description (Google Play)
This one’s for Google Play. Google, the king of search, reads and indexes app descriptions to decide where to rank your app. Unlike the name and short description, the long description can be up to 4,000 characters long. Take advantage of that by using all of your keywords, repeating and varying them at least five times each throughout the description.
7. Actively Work to Increase New Ratings
The number of times your app has been rated has a direct correlation to its rank in search results. That’s why it’s super important to actively increase your ratings by asking your users to rate the app. Apple and Google both offer ways to ask users for a rating, and apps that do that have a higher rating and continue to grow that number every day.
What You Need to Do to Get Downloads
Now that you know how to get more visibility you gmith think you’re done, but you’re not! You still need to make sure those views turn into downloads. The following techniques will help convert the new traffic you get into downloads:
1. Design a Simple and Clear Icon
The icon is the first visual people see about your app and is a great opportunity to capture their attention before it drifts to a competitor. Use your icon as a way to convey what the app is all about quickly. Icons that don’t pack too much detail, have contrasting colors, and relate to the app’s functionality or the brand attract and keep attention.
2. Use Color to Make Your Screenshots Exciting
Your screenshots are the largest visuals on your app store page and draw attention very quickly. This is a great opportunity to show your app’s UI and keep the viewer excited about downloading your app. To make your screenshots pop, put them on a colored background. Doing that will put the focus on the app and the features that are being shown.
3. Caption Your Screenshots
Use the attention the screenshots already capture to tell people how your app can help them. Place a short sentence in large, readable font, into every screenshot. This is a good place to point out the most important and unique features your app has to offer.
4. Use Video to Show Your App in Action
Apple and Google let you upload a short video so people can preview your app in action. That’s a great way to take someone from not knowing anything about your app, to knowing the highlights very quickly. Some developers choose to just show the app, while others create a marketing video with captions and music. Which works better will depend on your audience, but the important part is to show off the app.
Bonus: Google Play uses YouTube to serve app preview videos, which means your video will also be visible to billions of people directly on YouTube. Even better, every video view Google Play counts towards your views on YouTube.
Important: Monitor Your Performance
A very important part of App Store Optimization is keeping an eye on performance. Whether you “set it and forget it”, or make changes regularly, knowing how your app is performing is essential. Your rank depends on many things, and by tracking your ranks you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.
The Bottom Line
App Store Optimization is needed for your apps to succeed, and the good news is that ASO isn’t as hard as many think nor does it take long to get started. In fact, you can invest as much (or as little) time as you have when applying these techniques and see results. You can optimize just one piece at a time, or all at once. Again, the most important thing you can do is actually do it.