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  • Writer's pictureJoe Karasin

App Store Optimization

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Over 2 million apps exist in the major stores (Google Play & Apple App Store). Getting your app noticed is no easy feat. Below, we outline the best practices for getting your app noticed.

We all have apps on our smartphones. Businesses are almost required to have an app in the current market. With that being said, there are millions of apps, and being able to stand out is getting harder and harder. Marketing your app can be a tedious process, but one of the best ways to get your app noticed and downloaded is App Store Optimization.

Why ASO?

So why should you use app store optimization (ASO)? Aside from compliance with the store policies, are there really ways to get your app to show up ahead of other similar apps? And why not just push paid downloads via Google Ads or Facebook ads?

You should, by all accounts, market your app on many channels. Google Ads and Facebook ads both have specific ad formats that encourage app downloads. In addition, these ads offer you the ability to promote your app before the user even enters the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, getting them excited about their download.

But if you only do this, you are missing out on a large part of the market. 63% of app users say that they discover new apps by browsing the app stores. They search apps much like they would any product or service on a search engine. Much like SEO, ASO can help your app climb the ranks of the results, getting you organic downloads.

One of the other top ways people find new apps is by browsing the “top rated” apps within the stores. Ratings and downloads are another factor that play heavily into ASO. We’ll discuss what criteria makes for great optimization in both app stores, and how to go about achieving it.

What are the Main Factors in ASO?

There are several factors that can affect your ASO. While all of these are important, only two are essential to the performance of your app in the store. This is true of both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

The first major factor in ASO is the title. Spend time researching keywords and place the highest volume one in the title of your app. For example, let’s say you have an app with a modern name, like Askana, and it is an app that helps people manage life insurance policies. Askana is not going to have high search volume in the app stores, but life insurance would. So an optimized title would be Askana-Life Insurance Help.

Titling your app might seem simple, but the two app stores have different character limits for titles. The Google Play Store allows up to 50 characters for a title. The Apple App Store allows up to 255 characters, but recommends only using 25, as titles are cut off after 30-40. However, for keyword targeting Apple does use the entire title of the app.

In the Google Play Store, your best bet is to keep your brand name as short as possible, and include 2-4 of the top performing keywords for your app in the title.

The goal here is to succinctly describe your app and its functions. Do not change the title of the app too often (or at all, if possible) as your app will lose out on word-of-mouth marketing. In addition, multiple changes to the app title will consistently reset your ASO, causing you to start over again.

The second essential component of great ASO are keywords. Understanding the best keywords for your app involves researching. Research top performers in your vertical, or even adjacent verticals if your app is something brand new. Use keyword research tools like Moz or Ahrefs to find other keywords that are relevant to your app and your goals. Writing a good description which is keyword dense will help you.

app store optimization is helped by putting keywords in titles
Keywords in Your Title

Put your top performing keywords in the title and the description, and then others only in the description. The title has far more weight in the algorithm than the description or tags. Keywords in the title of your app will help you rank higher by about 10%, as the graph above illustrates. With 258 billion apps downloaded in 2019, and more to come in 2020, you can expect to see tons of downloads.

What Other Factors to Consider for ASO?

Much like SEO, titles and descriptions weigh heavily on the performance of your app in the search algorithms. Also like SEO, ASO has other factors that play into success, and those are not as easily controlled as the primary factors.

The first factor to consider are reviews and ratings. Much like Facebook or Google, the Play Store and App Store encourage consumers to review and rate apps. You can and should encourage this also.

Consumer psychology is such that users will want to use apps that are highly rated and reviewed by others. For this reason alone, 5-star reviews are essential to the success of your app. In addition, you can be featured in the “top rated” section of the stores, which will help you capture the 42% of App Store and Play Store users that search for apps based on this criteria.

Program your app to ask for reviews and ratings. This feature leads to exponential growth in the number of reviews you receive. However, a word of warning. Be sure your user experience (UX) is optimized as well. Asking for reviews for an app that users find confusing is not a great idea.

As you can see below, apps with higher ratings perform better in app store searches.

ASO relies heavily on reviews and ratings in the app store and play store
You Can Rank For Competitive Keywords With Ratings

So what about downloads? Consumers, as we discussed above, want to use the most popular apps. High ratings are one factor in determining popularity. The other major factor is downloads. How many times your app has been downloaded will directly affect your app's performance in search.

Having a lot of downloads will help you gain more downloads. This may sound like common sense, but it needs to be pointed out. Because high download numbers will also help improve your overall ASO, which you can see in the graph below.

app store optimization is bolstered by a high number of downloads
More downloads means more downloads and higher rankings

When Will I See Results?

The most often asked question from clients on any marketing effort is “when will I see results?” It is an understandable question, and the answer to it can vary depending on what marketing effort you are undertaking.

When it comes to ASO, you should think of it as a marathon and not a sprint. Results from any organic effort will take more time, and app store optimization is no different. It is an investment of time that pays off in dollars.

Tweaking throughout the lifespan of your app is essential. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but adding keywords or changing keywords based on performance is key to keeping your ASO healthy.

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