If app developers know one thing for sure, it’s that there is an ever-increasing amount of competition for downloads. Between the Apple Store and the Google Play Store, there are more than two million apps available for download.
Because of the plethora of choices, Apple and Google are working to make the user experience less overwhelming. The algorithms of their online stores are updated frequently to achieve this goal. Enter App Store Optimization (ASO).
ASO is the process of optimizing the features of an app to make that app more visible, relevant and available. Optimizing your app to align with these algorithms is the same idea as calibrating a website for Search Engine Optimization. If executed correctly, ASO will ultimately increase organic app downloads.
The Birth of App Store Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is an essential practice to get found online. The term “App Store Optimization” came about as the various online stores integrated algorithms to index and classify apps.
Various features of an app are examined, resulting in higher or lower visibility in the stores. The goal of ASO is to boost your visibility in different categories and keyword searches.
So what features need to be optimized to gain that visibility?
1. App Icon
This is the first feature users see when they encounter your app. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Consider this when designing your icon.
The icon must align with your brand. Will the user immediately understand what the app offers? Is the essential information visible without needing to use text?
Your icon should be simple but high-quality. It should align with the general design and feel of the app. Of course, it is not easy to convey all of these elements within the size constraints app stores require – but it can be done!
Once the app is downloaded, that icon lives on the user’s screen. Therefore, it must be distinguishable from different backgrounds. Using a border can help with this.
2. App Title
If it’s the icons job to draw the eye, it’s the title’s job to rope the user in. The title should be unique, descriptive, and catchy and use relevant keywords.
The title is an essential feature for reference for both the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. The keywords in the title help classify the app in search results. Because of the limited number of characters that can be used, though, app developers should focus on the most important three or four keywords.
Final note, avoid using special characters. From an SEO perspective, if special characters are used, the app ID will need to be used in the webpage URL. It’s best to avoid them.
3. App Description
The Apple Store algorithm doesn’t actually consider the description, believe it or not. But, since each app is indexed online on the product pages, the description needs to be optimized for SEO.
Unlike the Apple Store’s algorithm, Google Play Store considers the description as the most important piece of reference, alongside the title.
Whether for SEO purposes or optimizing for Google Play, relevant use of good keywords is an essential step in this process.
Keyword research is not always easy, but it should be done in order for you to reach your target audience. Keyword tracking is advised so you can really focus on the terms your audience is searching for.
When crafting your description, you must remember that this is your chance to sell your brand and drive conversions. The description is like your elevator pitch – you only have three visible lines of text to convince the user to download your app. You don’t want to count on your users clicking through to read more.
4. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
When talking about optimization, whether that be “search engine” or “app store,” the importance of keywords cannot be stressed enough. We touched on the importance of keyword research in the previous section, and here we will drive that point home.
Apple provides developers a “keyword field,” which is not visible to the user. This allows the algorithm to index the app based on your chosen keywords. Use the allotted 100 characters (about a dozen words) to sharpen the categorization of your app in Apple’s eyes.
It seems counterintuitive from an SEO standpoint, but you don’t need to repeat the keywords in your publisher’s name you have already chosen for your title. These have already been taken into consideration.
Again stressing the importance of keyword research, you should be using keywords that are relevant and popular. Keyword optimization is difficult but you don’t have to do it alone. There are various free keyword research tools to help you define the keywords you need to be targeting.
5. Visual Elements
In terms of conversion, other visual elements are crucial to ASO. It is typical behavior for a user to quickly scan search results and only stop when (and if) they are drawn in with visuals, like screenshots and videos.
Screenshots must be high resolution and optimized for every different screen size. The first two screenshots are featured in search results for both the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. You can use up to five screenshots on Apple and eight on Google Play.
If an app has a video, that will be displayed instead of the screenshot. For Apple, the video preview must be between 15-30 seconds. On Google Play, the video preview can be between 30 seconds and two minutes, but must be hosted on YouTube.
6. Reviews and Ratings
Customer reviews are an essential deciding factor for online purchases. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. The same goes for apps, in that a large number of positive ratings and reviews will drive conversions.
Algorithms place a lot of emphasis on the total number of ratings and reviews (as well as their average rating). Have you ever been in the middle of playing a game or reading an article on your favorite app and you were interrupted to write a review? This is why.
A high number of negative reviews and you will see your app be strongly penalized. On the other hand, enough positive reviews will push you to the top of the search results.
You can strategically ask users to review or rate your app with push alerts, but you need to be wary of when you ask. Usually after five uses is the best time to ask, as your users will have (hopefully) gotten a good sense of your app in that amount of time.
App Store Optimization is easy to understand but a bit harder to implement. Just as SEO is constantly evolving, so too is ASO. Competition and new algorithms are two things that you need to embrace in order to corner the market.
As such, it is essential that you stay up to date with changes and that you dedicate all of the necessary time and energy into optimizing your app store presentation.
Keep your keywords fresh and your visual elements engaging. Also bear in mind that with every new update, the app’s ratings go back to zero. This gives you an opportunity to start fresh if your ratings have been less than stellar.
If you keep your eye on the prize and dedicate yourself to App Store Optimization, your organic downloads will undoubtedly increase.