App Store Optimization 101

ASO (App Store Optimization) should be considered a key part of your business mobile strategy

Given a very crowded app market with about 2 million iOS and 4 million Google Play Store apps and an environment in which an acquisition strategy is very costly and competitive, ASO (App Store Optimization) should be a cornerstone of your mobile strategy.

Due to the similarities to SEO (search engine optimization), marketers often refer to ASO as app store SEO.

As a mobile marketer, you want your app to rank for keywords relevant to your app in order to rank highly in your respective business category. In other words, you want your app to be discoverable.

Furthermore, you want your users to perform precise actions in your app (in-app actions); therefore, a good ASO will prepare your acquired user to perform those actions, increasing your conversion rate.

We can divide ASO into three sub-topics:

  1. Discoverability
  2. First Impression
  3. Reviews & Ratings

1. Discoverability

Being discoverable depends heavily on the right mix of keywords and the category you choose. Ranking for the right keywords is fundamental to reaching the users who are not aware of your brand. It requires deep and continuous testing and analysis.

Keyword choice

The perfect choice of keywords is based on the right mix of search volume and difficulty. A good practice could be looking at what competitors are doing and for which keywords they are ranking. Tools like App Annie, Sensor Tower or App Follow help you find the right mix in order to position your app in the best way possible. After choosing the right mix, you need to monitor the results regularly. Neglecting the monitoring afterward is comparable to neglecting SEO on your website and relying only on paid acquisition.

Your keyword selection also heavily influences how apps are discovered in Google search but this is only one factor among several other ranking factors that Google considers.

Where to put your keywords

There are different possibilities and they depend on the platform.

2. First impression

The first impression of your app in the store is fundamental, not only to convince the users to install the app, but also to present the product in the best way possible and ensure a higher in-app conversion rate. It depends on different factors like:

1. App title and subtitle

Both the Google Play Store and iOS App Store algorithms scan the app title to position it in the app search results. App Annie suggests putting a keyword after the brand name to increase your ranking of 10% on average. Google Maps is using its title to rank organically for the keywords “transit” and “food”.

iOS allows you to include relevant keywords in the subtitle. This is a great occasion to rank for relevant keywords — in this example: GPS, city, navigation, traffic.

2. App icon

The icon is the first visual element you present to your potential user, so keep it scalable, simple and recognizable. A best practice is to perform A/B testing on different variations of the same icon.

Amazon is doing this very well. In fact, for their app icon, they are using both their brand name and an icon to illustrate the functionality of their app, namely the shopping cart.

3. App screenshots

The app screenshots are a good showcase for the main values of your app. The first two screenshots are stand-alone. Every slide should have a message on a clean background to avoid confusion. Another good practice is using the horizontal scroll to tell a story.

4. App video

According to App Annie, including a video can increase your conversion rate of about 23% on average. It’s important to keep in mind that users might have their sound turned off, so ideally your video is designed to be understandable even without sound. A further best practice is to include the main values in the first 12 seconds. The video is going to appear before the screenshots.

3. Reviews

Reviews and ratings have a great impact on your app ranking. Most of the top apps have a 4-star rating or better. The rating influences your conversion rate as well. Indeed, switching from a 2- to a 4-star rating can increase your conversion rate of 540%.

How to deal with reviews:

  1. Onboard your new user, so they learn quickly how to complete actions inside the app.
  2. Learn from the first reviews and improve your app accordingly.
  3. Respond to reviews and try to change the users’ opinions.
  4. Ask for reviews at the right moment.
  5. Ask only satisfied users to review your app.

What factors influence how apps appear in Google search results?

When users search for services or products, depending on the search intent, Google might display a block of relevant apps referred to as an “app pack”. To be able to rank here is influenced by many of the same factors needed to rank in the app store for generic queries. The general consensus is that if you are ranking for terms in the app stores, your app should appear for the same terms in Google search, but this may vary depending on the user intent.

The Goal of Being Discoverable

Ranking in a higher position organically is fundamental both for a specific category and for the chosen keywords. In order to rank on a higher position, you need all the factors we have listed so far and an increase in the number of app downloads. But, once your app gets to a higher position, it will also receive a higher number of organic downloads, just because it is easier to discover. As a marketer, you should consider running or increasing the budget spent on paid activities even if your app is not yet ranking on the desired position, just to keep the flow of organic downloads running.