2,000,000 and counting.
That’s the number of mobile apps in the iOS App Store, with thousands of similar apps overwhelming every category and subcategory.
With 65% users still relying on App Store search to install new apps, and Apple paying out developers a jaw dropping $10 billion in the past 6 months, not doing everything to get your app featured higher in search means that you are losing money hand over fist.
App Store Optimization, or ASO, are the techniques used by app marketers to improve organic rankings for relevant search terms in app marketplaces such as the iOS App Store and Google Play. Since the result is free traffic, it is one of the most efficient app marketing efforts you can undertake to promote your business.
Like website SEO, there are both “on page” (App Store listings) and “off page” tactics you can use to improve app store optimization and get your app ranking higher for high-intent queries. Apple — and most obviously, Google — know a thing or two about building search functionality, and their app search engines borrow many of the same ranking factors from traditional web search.
To improve your app store rankings, you’ll want to positively impact the same metrics you’d look for in SEO and PPC, such as click through rate and conversion rate.
The tactics in this round-up will help you:
While there are plenty of highly-skilled ASO services out there, you can use the following tips to improve rankings today — no outside help required. Let’s roll!
Apple allows you to add keywords to your App Store listing. The search algorithm uses these keywords to show your app in the results, and therefore it’s critical that you select the appropriate keywords which describe your app.
You can use up to 100 characters for keywords. This is an important number to remember for your ASO efforts. Don’t use long tail keywords, plurals, name of your app, or misspellings in the keyword field. Separate keywords with commas, and don’t use spaces. Keyword optimization can go a long way, so make sure you get this step just right.
Unless you are a major brand, your app won’t have any recognition among users. In this scenario, it’s important to use keywords to describe the core functionality of your app so that users are clear about what they are downloading.
Use relevant keywords in the app title to improve your position in search, and keep everything under 50 characters.
Using bland terms like “photos” or “music” in the title of your app will confuse users and cause them to ignore your app.
Be careful of using names similar to already existing apps. This is a black hat tactic favored by shady developers who put out fake apps, and might result in Apple banning your app from the Store — and same goes for Google Play Store.
For example, check out how all these app in this screenshot tout mirror effects.
There is a strict policy in App Store developer guidelines about not using celebrities, protected names, or trademarks as keywords unless you have permission to do so. Unless you can show that your app is an official app, or has some kind of affiliation, just don’t do it.
Apple will straight up reject your app for the following infractions:
Adding descriptive keywords in titles will increase your app’s discoverability by 10.3%, according to an analysis.
That’s a lift not to be ignored, making this keyword optimization tactic a must. In this game, every percent counts.
The iOS and Google Play App Store search algorithms also looks at categories while displaying results to users. While choosing categories, focus on the core functionality of your app and not on the secondary functions.
For example, Instagram is categorized in Photos and Video, while Facebook is categorized as Social Networking, even though both have a significant overlap in functionalities, and users consider Instagram to be a social network now.
App descriptions are important in telling people what your app actually does. Here are a few tips for making your app descriptions better:
This gif from Apple’s developer’s page shows how users see the description: by default they see only the first few lines, and only on clicking the More link can they see the full text.
Source: Apple // this looks like a static image but is actually a gif that should show in WordPress
All that work you have done in making the description stand out will go to waste if the first few lines do not grab users by the collar.
So spend time coming up with an engaging lead to your description.
In other words, be the big fish in a small pond instead of a small fish in a big pond.
Use keyword research tools to find out keywords that have lower search volume and lower competition and rank well for those. Once you have built up social proof and credibility, move in and attack the bigger boys on their own turf.
According to research by Storemaven, 60% of users won’t swipe past the first two screenshots. So, make those two screenshots count. These, combined with your app icon, are the only visuals you provide to users.
Some tips on designing better screenshots:
Apple recommends adding a short video (15-30 sec) in your app listing showing different functionalities of your app.
Test the video by using an eye catching poster frame (thumbnail image) so that users are driven to click on it. A survey by AppAnnie showed a conversion lift of 25-30% when video was added to the main page.
A good video will also drive down install costs and give you more loyal users and drive feature discoverability.
Only 31% of app revenues come from North America, while 41% comes from Asia.
If your app listing is only in English you will be locking your app out from a vast chunk of mobile users worldwide. Internationalize your app’s codebase by following these guidelines, and then start by changing the:
Once you have seen lift in conversion (an app developer saw a 767% lift just doing this) change other parts, like:
Source: Product Coalition
Apple looks askance at apps which are not updated in a long time. Like Google which rewards sites that are updated frequently, regularly updated apps tell Apple that the developer is committed to providing a better user experience.
You also need to update your apps to comply with changes in Apple policy as well as see the app store optimization changes you are making reflected in your app store listing.
Apps that are either obsolete or abandoned face deletion from App Store.
Considering the fact that users remember your app on the App Store by how the icon looks, it’s absolutely essential that you pay attention to your app icons appearance.
According to an analysis of app icons by Incipia, simple icons with limited color palettes outranked gaudier icons.
Users also seem to prefer apps whose icons have a polished look and have effects like shadows and transitions, and are more memorable.
When you are designing your icons, check out Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines for inspiration and best practices.
While there are enough keyword tools out there that do a stellar job of identifying high value keywords, the problem is that your competition is also using them, and likely optimizing for the same keywords.
Instead, ask people to describe how they would search for your app by setting setting up Human Intelligence Tasks (HIT) in Amazon Mechanical Turk, and analyzing the responses to find appropriate keywords.
When you are getting started with app store optimization and keyword research, find out the keywords your competition is using.
These app intelligence tools will help you understand user intent and keep your competition from blindsiding you.
Like with websites, keep an eye on the rankings of your keywords, as well as any new keywords that might pop up.
You can use the app intelligence tools mentioned in the above point to track your keywords, and keep adding new keywords or removing older ones while staying within the 100 character limit.
Icons, screenshots, descriptions, keywords, videos- all these elements matter for App Store optimization. As this conversion study by AppAnnie shows, changing videos and screenshots seem to deliver 25-30% conversion lift, followed by icons and description.
To begin with, test the high visible titles, description, images and videos first, and then move on to other sections in the app store listing.
While the vast majority of your users will not leave a rating or a review, a tiny minority will leave negative reviews if something has crashed.
Top rated apps almost always follow this process to get positive feedback:
To increase the velocity of downloads in the short term you can:
These one time activities can boost downloads and app store rankings of apps provided they are well planned for, and there is a proven demand for the app.
Getting hunted on Product Hunt can give a huge boost to your app’s visibility. Because of its highly engaged community, you will get installs and if you are featured on the Product Hunt homepage, you can expect to see a significant leap in installs.
For freshly launched apps, the Product Hunt effect can help you avoid Apple’s infamous 7 day cliff and maintain your rankings because of the initial burst in user activity.
Check out this article on Product Hunt best practices.
According to recently released App Store search ads data, conversion rates on search ads are averaging at 50% for both major and indie app developers.
This translated to cost per install of 25 cents which works out to be 80% cheaper than ads on other platforms.
You can sign up for the Apple App Store ads platform and start driving traffic with a $100 credit.
In a recent study Incipia has analysed App Store descriptions to find out 19 keywords that you can safely ignore during the optimization process.
The list features keywords like ipad, iphone, free, primary and second category names, and stop words like for, by, of, and etc.
This information is very useful when you jump into ASO, as you have only 50 characters for the title and 100 characters for the keyword field to use for keywords.
You should consider using trending topics as keywords. For example, during the US presidential race a search for “Trump” showed 2.109 results and a search for “Hillary” showed 334 results in the App Store.
While most of these apps had nothing to do with the candidates, you can get really creative and focus on seasonal events, optimize your keywords and drive search traffic towards your app. For instance, if you have an exercise app you could add the routines of the star players during the Super Bowl and use related keywords to get high rankings.
You can use tools like App Radar to track trending keywords.
Source: The Ringer
The App Store optimization process never stops. These 23 tips barely scratch the surface, and you can find more ways to optimize your app and improve your listing as you take a deep dive into the topic.
However, implement each of these 24 tips and you will be better than 95% of the app developers out there.
Also published on Medium.
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