Did you know that as of 2018, there were 2.1 million apps in the Google Play Store and 2 million apps in the Apple Store?
Given the sheer number of apps in these mobile stores and the intensity of competition, it is really tough for creators to make their apps stand out. And even more difficult to get featured in the search results for your app category.
That’s where app store optimization (ASO) comes into the picture.
What is App Store Optimization?
App store optimization is the process of getting your app to rank higher in app store search results. You can think of it as SEO for your mobile app.
It is a cost-effective way to make your app visible to relevant users and get more downloads.
The ASO process requires you to have an in-depth understanding of your target market. This means you must know the keywords your potential customers are likely to type in for finding apps similar to yours.
Why is App Store Optimization Important?
According to research from Sensor Tower, 65% of app downloads in app stores come from app-store searches. Mobile app store searches are considered the most popular mode of discovery of new apps.
This further proves why app store optimization is critical to get your app discovered and get more downloads. If you’re not using it, you’re losing out on a chance to get your app discovered by new potential customers.
If used right, app store optimization can be the most effective tool in your arsenal to increase the popularity of your mobile app. If ASO is not yet a part of your mobile marketing strategy, it is time that you start doing it now.
Factors for Ranking Well in App Store Search Results
There are several different factors that affect an app’s ranking and should be optimized in order to get better app store search rankings. Here’s a list of some common factors that influence how your app stacks up against the competition:
1. Ratings and Reviews
Ratings and reviews are one of the key factors that impact your app’s app store search ranking. The search algorithm takes into account both the number of ratings and reviews and the share of positive ones.
To ensure that your app ranks higher in the app stores, you need to formulate and execute a strategy to get more positive reviews and ratings.
One of the best ways to do that is to ask for reviews and ratings when the user is more likely to leave a positive review. Let the user get engrossed in your app and ask for a review after a few days instead of asking immediately after download.
Ask for a review immediately after you have provided a great support experience. Or you can ask when they have unlocked a new level or attained a goal. Time your request for reviews in a way that gets you more positive reviews.
2. App Descriptions
There are two key aspects of writing good app descriptions—content and keywords.
Using relevant keywords in your app descriptions will help you rank better in search results. Clearly explaining your app and its features will help you get more downloads once the app has been listed in search results.
However, selecting the right keywords is not as easy as it sounds. You cannot always compete with already established apps for popular keywords. You need to select relevant keywords, but ones that do not have a lot of competition.
Both the Google Play Store and Apple Store provide the option for short and long descriptions. Use the short description to immediately and precisely highlight your app’s benefits. Users won’t bother to read the long description if they do not get attracted by the short description.
Then you can use the long description to provide all of the necessary details. Also, make sure that you use relevant keywords in a natural way that fits well within the content.
3. App Title
Following along the same lines, the app title also needs to include relevant and competitive keywords. This makes it easier for searchers and potential customers to discover your app. It also helps the app store search algorithm to index your app better and show it in relevant search results for those keywords.
Main characteristics of an effective app title:
- Contains your primary keyword
- Conveys what the app is
For example, check out this app’s title, which contains its primary keywords and clearly indicates the type of app it is.
4. App Category
Categorizing your app correctly is one of the most important factors to improve your app discovery and search ranking. The app category that you have selected is what will determine which search queries your app will rank for.
Select the most relevant category for your app. Then the app stores’ search algorithms can index your app properly and show it to the relevant audience.
5. App Updates
A lot of existing users updating your app can also provide a temporary boost in rankings. You should keep updating your app regularly. Not only to improve the app but also to get that regular dose of rank boost every time you send an update.
To make sure that your existing users update the app, you can send out in-app push notifications to users. In the notification, ask them to update to the latest version. In the app store, clearly, mention all of the features that have been updated to encourage more updates.
6. App Localization
Localizing your app for different regions is another factor that can help improve your app rankings. However, translating the app titles and content takes a lot of effort. But it is worth the effort because both Google and Apple favor localized apps while ranking them.
It is especially beneficial to localize for non-English speaking countries as you will get a clear advantage by translating into local languages.
Localization also helps as several regional Apple Stores index in multiple languages, so localization provides you with more keywords.
For example, the Apple Store for Japan indexes in both Japanese and English. An app that has been listed in both Japanese and English will rank higher as it will have twice as many keywords as an app that is only listed in English.
App Store Optimization Factors to Get More App Downloads
Apart from ranking high in relevant search results, the next most important ASO objective is to get more downloads. Following are some factors that can help you get more people to download your app:
1. Videos and Screenshots
Videos and screenshots of your app give people an idea of what your app’s interface looks like. Using high-quality visuals showcasing various features of the app is a good way to attract people’s attention and interest.
Use these to show the various tabs and functionalities of your app that users might find relevant enough to download your app. Also, make sure that the picture quality is high otherwise it will reflect badly on your app’s quality.
Take “Pocket” app’s Play Store screenshots below, for example. They clearly mention the app’s benefits, along with screenshots from the app showing its interface.
2. App Icon
An app’s icon is one of the first things that a user sees about an app. Using attention-grabbing, colorful icons can help you get the viewers’ attention.
App icons should either be related to the app’s functionality or show a brand’s logo (for established brands).
Using an icon that clearly shows what kind of an app it really helps when users are trying to select an app among numerous others.
For example, a popular app like Instagram needs no introduction and is easily recognized by its app icon.
However, a new app like PicCollage needs to show the viewers what it is all about. Since it is a picture collage maker, their choice of icon clearly depicts that.
3. App Size
Very large app size is a deterrent to app downloads as users find it difficult to download such apps using their mobile data.
To avoid losing out on such potential downloads, ensure that your app size does not exceed 100 MB.
The smaller an app, the easier it is to download and the more likely it is that users will download it.
Common App Store Optimization Myths Busted
Buying into common myths and misconceptions about app store optimization could ruin your chance of success. Make sure your tactics stay sharp by knowing the difference between myths and reality.
Myth 1 – Make frequent title changes to adapt to high-ranking searches
Reality – In reality, it would be better to come up with the right title from the beginning and stick with it.
Myth 2 – People will find my app as long as it’s in the store
Reality – The truth is that for an app to get recognition in today’s competitive app market, it needs to rank well and stand out in the crowd to get more downloads.
Myth 3 – Keywords aren’t too important
Reality – Using the right keywords for your targeted app users is crucial and is one of the most important ranking factors for app store searches.
Myth 4 – Ratings are everything
Reality – While ratings are important, they aren’t the only factor impacting your app’s search ranking.
Myth 5 – Descriptions aren’t necessary
Reality – The fact remains that the right description with a good amount of keywords can have a huge impact on your visibility. A well-written description highlighting app features also helps to get more downloads.
App store optimization is crucial, not only to get better visibility for your app in the app stores but also to get more downloads.
And now that you know the facts about app store optimization, use them to improve your app’s performance. Leverage the app store optimization tips mentioned above to reach a more relevant audience and get more users for your app.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.