2,000,000 and counting.
That’s the number of 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.
Like website SEO, there are both “on page” (App Store listings) and “off page” tactics you can use to improve app store optimization. The tactics in this round-up will help you:
- Get more installs.
- Get more visibility for your app
1. Keep keywords within 100 characters
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 upto 100 characters for keywords. 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.
2. Make your app title descriptive within 50 characters
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 keywords in the title to improve your position in search, and keep everything under 50 characters.
3. Avoid using generic terms or names similar to existing apps in your app title
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.
For example, check out how all these app in this screenshot tout mirror effects.
4. Don’t use celebrity names or trademarks in keywords
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.
5. Add keywords to titles
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. In this game, every percent counts.
6. Choose categories which describe the core function of your app
The App Store search algorithm 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.
7. Keep your app description user friendly
App descriptions are important in telling people what your app actually does. Here are a few tips for making your app descriptions better:
- Use bullet points and break up paragraphs.
- Use social proof (press coverage, user testimonials)
- List out benefits and use cases..
- Add information about version number, changes made in the new update, bug fixes etc
- Append links to website or support.
8. Optimize the first few lines in your description
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.
9. Target keywords with low competition and lower search volumes first
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.
10. Create first two screenshots which show off your best features
According to research by Storemaven 60% users won’t swipe past the first two screenshots. So, make those two screenshots count.
Some tips on designing better screenshots:
- Submit hi-res screenshots.
- Show off the best features of your app in the first two images
- Use overlay text and annotations to improve messaging
- Use a plain background for better readability
11. Use app preview video in your description with an attention grabbing poster frame
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.
12. Localize, localize, localize
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:
- App title
- First few lines in the description.
Once you have seen lift in conversion (an app developer saw a 767% lift just doing this) change other parts, like:
- Currency and date formats
Source: Product Coalition
13. Update your app regularly to comply with Apple’s policies
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.
14. Sweat over your app icon
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 how your icon looks.
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.
15. Use humans to to find unique keywords
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.
16. Use competitive keyword research tools
When you are getting started with app store optimization and keyword research, find out the keywords your competition is using.
- Use tools like AppCodes, AppTweak, SensorTower or Mobile Action to find out keywords competing apps are ranking for.
- Use SEMRush to find out keywords authority sites in your niche rank for.
These app intelligence tools will help you understand user intent and keep your competition from blindsiding you.
17. Monitor keyword ranking regularly
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.
18. A/B test everything on your app listing
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.
19. Ask ratings and reviews from happy users
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:
- Monitor in-app user behavior until they have gotten some kind of value from the app.
- Ask a Yes/No question to users about whether they like the app.
- Prompt the Yes cohort to rate and review, and offer the No’s to leave internal feedback
20. Change your revenue model or marketing strategy
To increase the velocity of downloads in the short term you can:
- Give deep discounts on your premium apps for a limited period of time
- Collaborate with AppSumo for an one time giveaway
- Give special discounts to members of online communities, listeners of podcasts, bloggers etc.
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.
21. Get Hunted
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.
22. Run search ads in the App Store
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.
23. Benefit from Apple’s 19 bonus keywords
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 as you have only 50 characters for the title and 100 characters for the keyword field to use for keywords.
24. Use trending topics as 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 23 tips and you will be better than 95% of the app developers out there.