How to Improve App Store Optimization

You've launched your app! Congratulations!

Now we need to make sure it gets noticed, and stands out in a crowded field of competition.

This is where App Store Optimization (ASO) is crucial.

What is App Store Optimization?

Just like internet marketers use Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, to get their web pages ranking highly in Google’s search results, app developers must use ASO techniques to get their app to the top of app store search results. It can be viewed as App Store SEO.

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Here are some important steps you’ll want to take to improve your ASO in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

  1. Use a Descriptive Title

  2. Use Keywords Wisely

  3. Describe Your App Well

  4. Use High Quality Screenshots

  5. Add an App Preview Video

  6. Pick the Right Category

  7. Focus on Icon Design

  8. Encourage Positive Reviews

  9. Use App Store Analytics

  10. Re-evaluate Regularly

1.) Use a Descriptive Title

Every element of an App Store Product Page has the power to drive downloads. The App Title is one of the most important ASO factors. After the App Icon, the App Title is the first impression a user gets of your app. Keywords placed in the app title are also considered very important by search algorithms in major app stores.

For example, check out this app’s title, which contains its primary keywords and clearly indicates the type of app it is.

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When it comes to keyword-based App Store Optimization, there are factors which you can and should optimize regularly:

  • App Title

  • Subtitle (App Store specific)

  • Keyword Field (App Store specific)

  • Description

  • Short Description (Google Play specific)

There are also factors which you cannot control directly – you need to impress your customers to effect these factors.

  • Total Number of Installs

  • Ratings and Reviews

  • Velocity of Installs

2.) Use Keywords Wisely

With Apple, you get only 100 characters for all of your keywords, so obviously, you need to choose wisely; it should go without saying that you should get as close to this 100 character limit as you possibly can.

With Google Play, though, there is no specific keyword field. However, the app description is searchable, and you have a comfortable 4000 characters to work with.

For the best App Store Optimization, you’ll want to put your most important keywords in your description five times. However, be careful not to overdo it – keyword stuffing will get your app penalized (just like keyword stuffing on a website would get your site penalized by Google), leading to a drop in your ranking. There is a fine line between optimizing your app description, and stuffing it with keywords – the key is to make sure it reads well and makes sense for a person reading it, not just for the App Store algorithm!

3.) Describe Your App Well

Your app’s description and page within the app store should be viewed as an important part of your App Store Optimization Strategy.

Start by assuming that users know very little about your app, besides its name. You need to think like your customer would. It often helps to think in terms of bullet points:

  • What does your app do?

  • What problem does it solve?

  • How will it make the buyer’s life easier?

4.) Use High-Quality Screenshots

People only spend 7 seconds deciding if they’re going to download an app or not. How your app store page looks is a crucial factor in their decision, and high quality app store screenshots are going to make a big difference.

In fact, they’re cited as being the second most influential factor when it comes to convincing someone to download your app (second only to your App Rating).

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You should use your screenshot real estate wisely, and focus on the key benefits and most engaging parts of your app. There are a host of tools available to help you create app screenshots that look great, such as Figma, MockUPhone, and AppLaunchpad.

5.) Add an App Preview Video

85% of the US internet audience watch videos online, and over half of video content is consumed on mobile.

You can harness the power of video for your App Store page to give prospective users a better insight into what your app can offer them.

Pro Tip:

Most people will view this on auto play with muted audio. So have text overlays to explain pertinent sections or features that you’re showing. And, only include footage of the app itself, don’t waste precious seconds filming happy, smiling people using the app. This isn’t 2009 anymore, people!”

Lionel Valdellon, Content Marketing Manager at CleverTap

App Previews in the iOS App Store allow you to upload 30 second long videos to showcase the features and benefits of your app.

This App Store Optimization technique is going to help your App Store page convert higher as you’re providing valuable content.

6.) Pick the Right Category

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Placing your app in the proper category on both the Apple App Store and on Google Play is not only helpful for users who are browsing apps by category, but it is also best practice for helping your app to rank well.

If you feel like your app fits into more than one category, there are 3 ways to approach your problem:

  1. First, and most obviously, you’ll want to pick the category that best describes your mobile app.

  2. Next, it’s a good idea to check out just how many apps are in each category; choosing the least competitive category gives your app a better chance of ranking closer to the top.

  3. Finally, look at the estimated app worth (EAW) of the apps near the top of those categories. Put your app in the one with the lower numbers may be to your advantage as well.

It’s also important to remember that putting your app in a category that’s blatantly wrong can lead to trouble.

Apple reviews all submitted apps before publishing them to the App Store, and adding your app to the wrong category for App Store Optimization purposes will probably mean a rejection stamp.

As for Google Play, users can report violations for review. If you have a major error like Sports app in the Medical category, it’s only a matter of time before someone points that out.

7. Focus on Icon Design

There’s a direct correlation between downloads and ranking: the more downloads your app has, the more popular it is perceived to be, therefore the higher it's ranked.

Knowing how to design and an engaging app icon is very important as well. You only get one image to show app store audiences why your app is worth their time for consideration, so choose carefully!

Pro Tip:

“Test four app icon variants before launch. Just because you like the icon, doesn’t mean your target audience will. The app icon is the first visual impression people have of your app and it’s crucial to get it right. It also doesn’t hurt to do the same with screenshots.”

– Carissa Lintao, Founder at Apptuitive

And, since it’s been demonstrated that icon design plays a significant role in how many downloads an app gets, it definitely pays to spend some time and energy coming up with a great one, and it’s a crucial part of App Store Optimization.

You can argue about the injustice of judging a book by its cover (or an app by its icon), but at the end of the day, that’s exactly what a lot of people do.

Your app’s icon should be engaging, eye-catching, and not too similar to other apps.

8. Encourage Positive Reviews

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Positive ratings and reviews, both in terms of quality and quantity, have a huge impact on your App Store Optimization efforts. It’s in your best interest to get as many as you can.

Of course, they need to be honest reviews from people who have actually downloaded the app.

Pro Tip:

Nothing is better for App Store Optimization than an app that has a great user experience!

If people like the app, understand it, and are easily able to incorporated it into their daily routine, they’re going to be happy to provide a glowing review.

– Bennet, Chief Experience Officer at TheUsabilityPeople

You can encourage users you know through word of mouth to leave a good review of your app on the App Store or Google Play.

Another way to get app store reviews might be sending a push notification to encourage users to review your app.

9.) Use App Store Analytics

Just like Google Analytics for web page marketing, there are a number of powerful app store analytics tools that are designed to help your mobile marketing strategy. You will be able to see where your app stands in relation to the competition, and boost your store ranking accordingly.

Just to name a few, there are:

These app analytics tools are helpful because they give you hard data about all sorts of measurements related to your app. They can show you what you’re doing wrong in marketing your app, what you could be doing to improve your app store ranking, and much more.

10.) Re-evaluate Regularly

If it’s been a few weeks, and you’re not pleased with your app’s current app store ranking, take a look at your data, make some assessments, and change some things around:

  1. Maybe the keywords aren’t right?

  2. Is the description persuasive enough?

  3. Are you sure it’s in the right category?

  4. Does the icon needs some fine tuning?

All of these things and more can be improved upon to get a higher ranking.

When you do make changes, it’s important to make them one at a time, and then wait a week or so to see if there’s any impact.

What you want to avoid is changing everything at once; doing that won’t give you any idea what the initial problem was, and it could lead to a fall in your app store ranking.

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Final Thoughts

If you want to have a successful app with lots of visibility and downloads — and income-generating potential — you’ve got to pay close attention to your App Store Optimization strategy.

While Apple and Google do not share their exact methodology for establishing app rank, it has been established that there are certain things that will have a positive impact on how well your app ranks.

By following the steps explained here, you stand a good chance of improving the ASO of your app and standing out among the millions of apps on both of the major app stores.

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