In today’s digital age, mobile apps have become integral to our lives, catering to our queries, interests, and entertainment.
However, with millions of apps vying for attention across various platforms, simply building an outstanding app is not enough to guarantee success. This is where App Store Optimization comes into play—a powerful and essential practice that can significantly impact your app’s discoverability and overall success.
In this blog, we will walk you through the fundamentals of ASO, unraveling the mystery behind the App Store algorithms to help you gain a competitive edge. Let’s start by defining App Store Optimization.
What is App Store Optimization?
App Store Optimization (ASO) goes by various names, including App Store Marketing and Mobile App SEO. The primary focus of ASO revolves around enhancing the discoverability of your applications within app store search engines like Google Play or Apple App Store.
By boosting the number of impressions, you can effectively boost other objectives, such as driving traffic to your online app and increasing the number of downloads.
ASO primarily centers around optimizing mobile applications (apps) to improve their rankings directly within app stores such as Apple App Store, Google Play, and Windows Store. The primary target platforms for app development are the iPhone/iPad, Android, and Windows Phone.
In the third quarter of 2022, Google Play offered Android users a selection of 3.55 million apps, establishing it as the app store with the most available apps. In comparison, the Apple App Store, with approximately 1.6 million apps for iOS, ranked as the second-largest app store as per a Statista report.
Benefits of App Store Optimization
Let’s explore the diverse advantages of ASO and the remarkable results it can deliver.
1. Enhanced visibility & unrivaled exposure: ASO fine-tunes your app’s listing to make it more discoverable in the app stores. By optimizing your app’s title, keywords, and description, you can significantly improve its visibility among relevant searches. As a result, more potential users will find your app and consider downloading it.
2. Attract high-quality, relevant users: Getting your app discovered is only half the battle; you need to attract the right audience. App Store Optimization targets users who are actively seeking apps similar to yours.
By incorporating relevant keywords and precise descriptions, your app appears before users who are genuinely interested in its features, increasing the likelihood of downloads.
3. Sustainable organic App downloads: With an effective ASO strategy, your app can experience a steady influx of organic downloads. You can maintain higher rankings in search results by continuously optimizing your app’s metadata and staying up-to-date with relevant trends. This sustainable approach leads to consistent organic growth over time.
4. Cost-effective user acquisition & continuous growth: Traditional marketing tactics often require substantial investments in ad campaigns. ASO, on the other hand, reduces user acquisition costs by prioritizing organic growth. By focusing on improving your app’s discoverability and visibility, you can achieve consistent and cost-effective user acquisition.
5. Boosted App revenue & conversion rates: Maximizing app revenue hinges on attracting users and converting them into loyal customers. ASO is critical in increasing your app’s conversion rates by optimizing your app’s visual assets, compelling descriptions, and engaging screenshots.
You can significantly boost your app’s revenue potential by turning more visitors into users.
6. Tap into the global market: App Store Optimization can propel your app to a global audience. By localizing your app content and optimizing it for multiple languages, you open doors to users worldwide. Expanding your app’s reach to a global scale can lead to a substantial increase in downloads and user engagement.
What are the items to target for ASO?
Different app stores have their own set of available fields and ranking factors, but several common elements are often targeted for App Store Optimization. These include:
- App name or title
- App description
- Ratings and reviews
- Regular updates
How does App Store Optimization work?
App store optimizations and search engine optimization (SEO) share similarities in enhancing visibility and discoverability. In app stores, users rely on search queries to find apps and games, while the stores recommend popular apps based on user preferences.
Common ASO tactics include keyword optimization, search and paid ads (which impact organic search results), category rankings, and securing positions in top charts or featured lists on platforms like Google Play or App Store.
To boost organic growth, understanding how people search for and find apps is crucial. The first step in maximizing app downloads is to ensure easy discoverability for the right audience.
ASO VS SEO
While App Store Optimization and Search Engine Optimization may share similarities (keyword optimization, conversion rate optimization, backlinking, and more), they are different.
The primary distinctions between app store optimization (ASO) and search engine optimization (SEO) lie in ranking factors. ASO focuses on enhancing the visibility of mobile apps within app stores, whereas SEO aims to optimize websites for search engines like Google.
Google Search relies on numerous ranking factors, each carrying various weights to determine search results. In contrast, the list of ranking factors for ASO is notably shorter.
For instance, ASO concentrates on app-related elements such as app name, keywords, and ratings to improve app store visibility. On the other hand, optimizing content for SEO encompasses various website aspects like content quality, backlinks, and page load speed to enhance search engine rankings.
Apple App Store vs. Google Play: Optimization differences
Prior to app development, it is essential to determine the app marketplace where you intend to release it. The majority of developers opt for the Google Play Store as their primary choice for optimizing Android apps. The Apple App Store is equally popular and preferred for iOS app optimization.
However, a diverse array of choices are available, including Huawei AppGallery, Samsung Galaxy Apps, Amazon Appstore, and others. If you choose to develop your app for multiple operating systems, you can publish it in these various app stores.
Now, let’s delve deeper into the specifics of the two major app stores.
Difference between Google Play and Apple App Store
One of the primary distinctions between the App Store and Google Play lies in their approaches to app publication.
Both Apple and Google have instituted an app review process to ensure the presence of high-quality apps in their respective stores. However, Apple’s review process generally takes longer compared to Google’s.
It is advisable to account for a 3-day buffer when launching a new app or update. Once your app receives approval, it will be available on both the App Store and Google Play within 24 hours.
Regarding App Store Optimization (ASO), the significance of keywords is acknowledged in both stores, but they are assessed differently. Google Play’s indexing process functions akin to that of Google Search.
Consequently, Google considers all textual elements when indexing keywords for your app. To enhance your ranking for specific keywords, repeating them 3 to 5 times across all relevant fields is beneficial.
On the other hand, the Apple App Store provides a designated field for entering keywords; at times, it may extract them from your competitors’ and category names. Unlike Google Play, you should avoid repeating keywords across any fields for iOS apps to optimize ASO.
We’ve discussed the ranking factors for both of these App stores below.
Google Play ranking factors
These are the ranking factors for the Google Play store.
- App title
- App short description
- App long description
- Installs and engagement
- Reviews and ratings
- In-app purchase titles and descriptions
- App updates
Apple App Store ranking factors
Here are the ranking factors for the iOS app store.
- App name
- App subtitle
- App URL
- Installs and engagement
- Reviews and ratings
- App updates
- In-app purchase titles and descriptions
Keyword research for App Store Optimization
ASO keyword research involves investigating, gathering, and evaluating relevant keywords with the potential to enhance your app’s visibility.
Keywords play a vital role in ASO as they provide insights into users’ search behavior, revealing the exact words and phrases they utilize to discover apps. After conducting thorough research, you can customize your app store page to match user expectations effectively.
(Check out the best keyword research tools out there).
Conducting keyword research for App Store Optimization
To conduct ASO keyword research, compile a roster of words or phrases that best portray your app and its features.
Then, input these terms into Scalenut’s Keyword Planner, which will generate keyword ideas and furnish data on their search volumes, CPC, and relevance.
Although these keywords are tailored for Google web search, they can serve as valuable insights into the users’ search intentions.
Alternatively, you can also use ASO keyword research tools like Mobile Action, Sensor Tower, and Data.ai alongside Scalenut’s Keyword Planner.
Competition analysis for ASO
Similar to other marketing endeavors, app store optimization necessitates a thorough competitor analysis. A critical component of your competitor analysis involves conducting keyword research.
Understanding the keywords your competitors employ in their app store page optimizations is vital in refining your own strategy. This valuable information may also spark fresh ideas for your ASO endeavors. Conducting basic competitor research involves entering the keywords you’ve identified into the app store search bar.
Observe the apps that rank highest for those keywords and scrutinize how they integrate keywords into their app names, subtitles, descriptions, and other elements of their app store pages. By analyzing this data, you can steer your optimization efforts, especially if you are new in the app market.
A guide to conducting App Store Optimization
Are you ready to start your App Store Optimization strategy? Follow our step-by-step guide and take notes while you’re at it.
1. Enhance your App’s title and subtitle
Your app’s title (or “app name” in the App Store) is one of the most important elements to target for optimization. This is because it’s the first thing a user will see in the search listings. It’s also among the strongest ranking factors for both major app stores.
Titles and app names can only be 30 characters long or fewer. That’s pretty short. So it would help if you were smart with using those characters. While you want to leverage keywords in your app title or app name, try not to overuse keywords or use them in a way that feels unnatural.
You want your app name to read naturally, be remembered easily, and use keywords cleverly.
Observe how EasyShare strategically utilizes two associated keyword fragments, namely “transfer” and “fast.”
Regularly test new names, keywords, and combinations until you discover the most effective one that boosts app downloads. Apple offers an extra subtitle field where you can provide additional context and information about your app.
This subtitle field permits up to 30 characters, presenting an opportunity to optimize keywords and offer a more precise description of your app.
2. Utilize keywords effectively
This one is specifically for Apple App Store users.
The Apple App Store offers a section where you can input keywords that describe your app and are crucial for its ranking in the app store’s search results. When ranking your app, Apple takes these keywords into consideration.
You have the freedom to enter multiple keywords. However, remember that the character limit is 100 or less, and you should separate keywords with commas, avoiding spaces. Utilize this opportunity to employ creative keyword research, just like you would with your app’s name.
Additionally, this section serves as a testing ground for trying out various keywords and combinations regularly to determine the most effective ones for your app. Finding a balance between common, highly competitive keywords (which might be harder to rank for) and less common keywords (that could lead to fewer downloads) is essential. That is, use a combination of short-tail and long-tail keywords.
Avoid repeating words or phrases in the keywords field, even if they appear frequently in your keyword research. For instance, instead of having both “invoice generator” and “invoice maker,” combine them as “invoice generator, maker” to eliminate redundancy.
For an imaginary invoice app, potential keywords could be invoice generator, maker, simple, easy, free, software, template, invoice, bill, freelance, estimate, and custom.
3. Craft engaging App descriptions
Your app’s description fields play a crucial role in your ASO strategy. This is because they offer a flexible opportunity to explain your app and its features more openly.
For instance, on Google Play, you have both a short description field with an 80-character limit and a long description field with a 4,000-character limit, both of which are considered for app store ranking purposes.
On the other hand, Apple’s App Store only provides a long description field with the same 4,000-character limit, but it doesn’t seem to utilize it for ranking purposes.
However, regardless of whether the app store considers your app’s description field(s) for ranking, it remains crucial because it significantly influences how users perceive your app.
Consequently, the description field directly impacts the number of times your app is downloaded, which, in turn, affects your app’s ranking.
Investing time in crafting a compelling description of your app is essential. Clearly outline its purpose, main features, the problems it solves, and any other relevant information that users should be aware of. Adobe’s Lightroom app does this beautifully.
Integrating keywords from your keyword research into your descriptions can also be beneficial, as they might contribute to improving your app’s ranking.
At a minimum, the inclusion of keywords will provide users with the assurance that they have discovered the app they are looking for.
4. Craft persuasive visual elements
ASO involves not only boosting your app’s visibility but also enticing users to click on it and install it. Downloads play a crucial role in determining your ranking, so it’s essential to captivate potential users through persuasive text and engaging visuals.
In the App Store, visual elements like screenshots and videos are visible both in the app search results and on the app’s store page. However, in Google Play, these visual elements are only displayed on the app’s store page once a user clicks on your listing.
Leverage your visual elements to effectively demonstrate how your app functions, its purpose, and the problems it addresses, emphasizing the value users will gain from using it.
Hostelworld uses a screenshot in its App Store listing to promise that its app will provide you with affordable hostels and sociable experiences.
Instead of static visuals, you have the option to incorporate a video preview, offering users a glimpse into your app’s functionality. Utilizing an impressive and engaging video can set you apart from competitors.
However, it’s essential to remember that while you can express your creativity through visuals, both app stores have specific guidelines that must be followed.
Google Play guidelines
- You are allowed to select a maximum of eight visual elements, comprising one video lasting up to 30 seconds in duration.
- Ensure that all screenshot sizes are appropriate for various devices.
- For the video, use a YouTube URL and ensure that monetization and ads are disabled.
- Keep in mind that your chosen visual elements should accurately represent the user experience of your app.
Apple App Store guidelines
- You are allowed to show a maximum of 10 visual elements.
- Out of these, three can be app previews (videos) lasting 15 to 30 seconds, though it is recommended to have one outstanding video.
- The videos should feature in-app content exclusively.
- Utilize all ten slots, ensuring appropriate image sizes for various devices.
- Text overlays can be used, but aim for evergreen content.
5. Encourage positive reviews and ratings
Ratings and reviews serve as a reflection of your app’s popularity and overall excellence. If your app receives low ratings, it is less probable to appear at the top of app store search results. It’s as straightforward as that.
A crucial aspect of app store optimization involves motivating users to share their experiences through reviews and ratings, particularly since both major app stores prioritize highly rated apps, deeming them more relevant.
However, the difficulty lies in determining the right timing to prompt users for feedback. Requesting reviews too frequently or after encountering issues in your app may lead to receiving negative ratings.
Read on to learn about the best practices and tips to earn ratings and reviews.
Best practices to encourage reviews and ratings
A. Solicit ratings and reviews following positive interactions
The optimal moment to request a rating is immediately after a user has performed a positive action. Consider asking for reviews when a user completes a level, creates a post, or makes a purchase. However, be cautious about the frequency of review requests.
The App Store permits only three rating prompts within a 365-day period. Google Play is more lenient in its review prompt rules, but it lacks clarity on the ideal frequency. It is advisable to wait at least a month or longer between prompts.
B. Encourage reviews via alternative platforms
When employing social media or email marketing to promote your app, encourage users on those channels to share their experiences through reviews. These platforms offer a more personal approach than an in-app pop-up box.
Additionally, your followers are likely devoted fans who would be willing to leave reviews in support of your app.
C. Establish alternative channels for negative feedback
To counterbalance negative ratings and reviews resulting from user frustration, provide a support chat or feedback method. This allows users to express their concerns without impacting your app store rating.
Addressing user issues in this way enables you to resolve their problems while maintaining a positive app store rating.
D. Request ratings and reviews after updates
A suitable time to seek feedback is right after implementing significant updates to your app.
Users familiar with your app may feel enthusiastic about the changes, increasing the likelihood of receiving positive feedback.
However, ensure that you have thoroughly tested the updates and confirmed that they enhance the overall user experience.
6. Maximize downloads with CRO
Increasing your app’s visibility in the app stores can lead to higher download rates, as popular apps are rewarded by search engines. To maximize the number of downloads, it’s crucial to enhance your conversion rate, which is the percentage of users who download your app after viewing its store page.
You can employ conversion rate optimization (CRO) to continuously monitor your conversion rate and make iterative changes to your app store page, aiming to improve it over time.
Some of the changes you can experiment with include modifying your app’s name or title, using different keywords in the “Keywords” field (for iOS), improving the description with better copy, changing the app icon, incorporating more engaging visual elements, or experimenting with different pricing models.
To implement CRO effectively, begin by doing A/B tests for a new element from the list above and closely track the changes over a specific period, such as a month. If you notice an improvement in your conversion rate during that period, it indicates that your changes likely had a positive impact.
However, if you observe a decline in the conversion rate, you can revert to the previous version of that element or try another variation.
(Don’t forget to check out the best A/B testing tools for better conversion optimization).
7. Regularly update your app
ASO relies heavily on freshness since both the Apple App Store and Google Play employ app recency and update frequency as significant factors for ranking.
This emphasis on freshness arises from the desire of app stores and users alike to encounter apps that continually evolve and enhance themselves.
An application that hasn’t received an update in five years doesn’t hold much appeal, does it? Regular updates offer an excellent opportunity to enhance your app based on user feedback, address bugs, and introduce new features.
To inform users of your changes, you can utilize the “What’s New” field in the App Store or the “Release Notes” field on Google Play, incorporating relevant keywords and notable features that users may be searching for.
Consider updating your app once or twice per month, even if the updates are solely for bug fixes.
8. Expand your reach internationally
Expanding the reach and potential audience of your app can be achieved in a straightforward manner by making it available in various locales. Both the App Store and Google Play offer localization options, allowing your app to be accessed in multiple regions and languages:
- The App Store: Supports 175 regions and 40 languages.
- Google Play: Available in 143 regions and 49 languages.
By incorporating localization strategies, you can significantly enlarge your user base across different app stores and languages. However, it’s important to understand that localization goes beyond simple translation of the app’s content.
To effectively localize your app, you need to consider the cultural nuances, local laws, customs, and even currency preferences of your target regions. These elements should influence how you present your app in the respective app store listings.
For instance, regional variations in art, design styles, and aesthetics must be taken into account, and your app store page should be adapted accordingly. Neglecting to do so might lead to missed opportunities for conversions and user engagement.
Remember that localizing your app involves more than just ticking a checkbox and translating text. It requires thoughtful consideration and adaptation to the preferences and expectations of diverse audiences. Despite the complexities involved, the efforts invested in localization can significantly enhance your chances of achieving success in various markets.
Optimize retention rates
The retention rate of your app plays a crucial role in determining its ranking and visibility on both the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Retention rate refers to the proportion of users who continue using your app after a certain period following its installation. Apart from its impact on app store ranking and visibility, the retention rate serves as an essential indicator of how valuable and engaging your app is to its users.
It’s important to recognize that the retention rate goes beyond the traditional app store page elements, showcasing how App Store Optimization (ASO) encompasses various aspects.
ASO involves not only optimizing app store elements but also extends to enhancing app performance, user flows, user experience (UX), user interface (UI), and in-app copy.
To achieve the best results, ASO should be fully integrated into every part of the team, including app design and development, just like any effective marketing channel. App store-provided analytics offer valuable insights, including retention rates and other engagement metrics.
Keep yourself well-informed about these metrics and collaborate closely with team members to continuously refine and enhance them as time progresses. This process might involve delving into the intricate details of the app’s functionality, but it will lead to a more robust ASO strategy and an overall improved app.
By staying proactive in analyzing and optimizing these key metrics, you can ensure that your app maintains its competitiveness in the app stores and delivers a better user experience.
By consistently applying the ASO techniques outlined in this article, you can enhance your app’s visibility and boost its potential for success in the app stores. So, if you haven’t started your App Store Optimization journey already, now would be a good time to start.
What is the most crucial action I can take to enhance my app store listing?
The key to optimizing your app store listing lies in conducting thorough keyword research and selecting the most effective keywords to attract your desired audience.
What is the significance of optimizing my app store listing?
Optimizing your app store listing means tailoring it in a way that increases its visibility in search results when users search for apps that offer functionalities similar to yours. This boosts the likelihood of attracting more potential users to your app.
Why is App Store Optimization important for app developers?
App Store Optimization is crucial for app developers as it helps increase app discoverability, enhances user acquisition, and boosts organic downloads, resulting in improved app performance and potential revenue growth.
Should I focus on iOS or Android ASO?
Both iOS and Android App Store Optimization are essential as they cater to different user bases. Focus on optimizing your app for both platforms to maximize its reach and potential downloads.
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