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5 Essential Components of App Store Optimization in 2015

Logan Merrick
5 Essential Components of App Store Optimization in 2015

With 1.4 million apps in the iOS app store alone, getting your app found and downloaded has never been harder.

Just like how your website should be optimized for easy discovery in search engines (SEO), your app’s page on the app store needs to optimized regularly to keep it driving traffic to your app.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing your mobile app so it ranks higher in the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, and is therefore easier to discover.

The overall goal is to drive more traffic to your app’s page and get more downloads!

Is App Store Optimization (ASO) Really Necessary?

ASO is a crucial marketing practice for developers - in 2013, old-fashioned app store search still accounted for 63% (iOS) of all apps discovered.

This means that if you don’t optimize your app for discovery, you risk letting valuable users slip through the cracks because they couldn’t find you on the app store, or they were searching with intent but ended up picking a competitor who was more prominently featured for the same keyword.

This post will explore some data-backed best practices for optimizing the 5 most crucial components of ASO:

  1. App Name
  2. App Description
  3. Keywords
  4. Screenshots and videos
  5. Ratings and reviews

Let’s dive in!

1. App Name

Your app’s name is not only important from a brand perspective, but it does actually factor into app store ranking algorithms.

There are three characteristics the perfect app name will have, purely from an ASO perspective (looking good for Apple and Google, basically).

Make it Keyword Rich

Some people come to the app store with a specific app in mind they want to download, for example ‘Pandora.’ Other people come to the app store and search for apps using keywords associated with categories, like ‘radio.’

To leverage both types of searches, add 2-3 natural, relevant and descriptive keywords after your app’s name.

You can see how even the big brands practice this below:

Big Brands App Optimizaiton

Choose URL Safe Characters That Display on All Devices

This means no special characters like★ or ✓

Keep it Short

Your app name can be up to 255 characters long, but you will be cut off on mobile devices at 25 characters. Keep it short and sweet, and put your most important (descriptive) keywords first.

App Store Optimization

2. App Description

Most visitors will only read your description after they have looked at you app icon and screenshots. Your description is the place where you win them over and turn them from a casual visitor into a download.

Here are some best practices:

Use testimonials, Social Proof and Awards to Build Credibility

“Downloaded over 200,000 times in 72 countries world-wide!”

This will make your app look like it has some traction, incentivising further downloads.

Keep it Punchy

Your description is basically an elevator pitch. Wow them over with your wit and charm!

Focus on App Benefits, Not Features

Break down your app’s functioning into digestable chunks of information. So your app has video messaging? Why should the user care about this? Instead, say ‘Video messaging lets you record life’s everyday moments and share them with friends.'

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Your keywords aren’t searchable in descriptions for the Apple App Store, but they are in the Google Play Store. According to Fiksu, the optimal number of keywords in your Play Store description is five. They also advise that you include your app name in your Play Store description. This can impact rank 10-20 spots!

Regardless of this difference in the app stores, your description should ultimately focus on convincing the reader, not Google.

Finish with a Call to Action to Download

Don't forget the primary ask: prompt the user to download your app.

Include Links to Support and Feedback

This is a simple way to minimize negative reviews and gives users another avenue to report bugs or crashes. Just remember to use a URL shortener like Bitly. It looks better, plus it increases keyword density in the Google Play store!

See how Words With Friends’ descriptionticks all the boxes.

Words With Friends Optimized Description

3. Keywords

You only have 100 precious characters to enter the keywords you want to be known for.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming and evaluating your chosen keywords:

  • Write down every keyword that comes to mind when you think of your app
  • Look at user feedback and identify the most common words that keep reappearing
  • Use tools like Sensor Tower, Google AdWords or App Annie to monitor your competitors' keywords and choose your own strategically.
  • Don’t repeat your app name as keywords. It doesn’t affect your ranking and it’s just a waste of space.
  • Choose long tail keywords to own your niche.
  • Spend time on the app store search page getting insights from trending searches, suggested keywords, and related searches.
  • Ultimately, choose your keywords based on search volume, competition levels and relevance. Just as with SEO, you want keywords that are high search volume, low competition and relevant to your product!

4. Screenshots and videos

You can upload up to five screenshots to the app store, and I definitely recommend using all of these spaces. Humans are visual, after all!

Spend some time designing high quality screenshots that showcase your app’s functionality. I recommend adding text to your screenshots to highlight your app’s benefits. This provides extra explanation for what’s going on in the screenshot.

See how Airbnb does this below.

Airbnb Optimized App Description

A recent new feature on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store is they now allow developers to upload a 30 second ‘preview video’ for your app, kind of like a movie trailer.

This can be expensive to produce, but if you have the resources I would definitely recommend it.

Video marketing is a powerful conversion tool, with viewers anywhere from 64% to 85% more likely to buy after watching a product video.

Recommended reading: 8 App Preview Videos You Won’t Be Able To Stop Watching

5. Ratings and Reviews

Users are looking at ratings and reviews for social proof, and so is the app store.

Apps will be ranked higher in search results if they have:

a) a greater number of ratings and

b) a generally higher ratings average.

While there is no secret formula for getting a flood of positive reviews (building an engaging app that people love to use is a good start!), here are some tips to encourage them.

Make it Easy to Reach You Through Multiple Online Channels

This may include a support button in iTunes, a link to support in your app description, an app website or landing page with support functions, social media profiles, within-app feedback prompts using a service like Apptentive, a ‘contact us’ page within your app with links to email, phone, web support and a FAQ page or knowledge base.

The idea is to nip potential complaints in the bud, before they lead to a negative review on the app store!

Do Not Ask for a Rating Too Soon

Give users time to explore your app before your prompt them with a push notification or in-app message.

Respond to Negative Reviews Quickly and Sympathetically

Not solving a customer problem can create a dangerous ‘bandwagon effect’ where you suddenly have lots of customers chiming in that they have the same problem!

Respond to Positive Reviews Gratefully

Let your users know you value them by saying thanks!

Wrapping Up

Just like SEO, you won’t see the impact of ASO overnight! ASO is something that you should monitor and revisit at least once a month.

Go back to your keywords, name, description and screenshots and see what is driving traffic and downloads. Split test and tweak every variable you can to see what the effect is!

By making ASO a priority strategy, you’ll increase your app’s visibility and ranking on the app store, and ensure you’re acquiring valuable new users.

This will go a long way to driving continued app growth!

Do you have additional questions about ASO? Please leave your questions in the comments section below.

For more detailed instruction on App Store Optimization techniques in 2015, download my free e-book: The Marketer’s Guide To App Store Optimisation.

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Logan Merrick is the co-founder and strategic director of Buzinga App Development, helping innovative enterprises and game-changing tech startups build world class apps. He writes regularly on the subjects of app development, mobile marketing, technology and startups on the Buzinga Blog. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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Hey Logan, great read! I would like to add a quick note in regards to keywords, mainly the difference in how iOS and Android have very different norms for the use of ASO-friendly keywords. I also wanted to share this http://growthlatte.com/app-store-optimization/ which goes a little more in-depth on some of the topics you presented.
iOS relies heavily on the use of keywords to market your app, along with the title provided. All of this is done within a limit of 100 characters, all of which must be researched extensively to ensure that they can accurately describe the app in a way such that it is easy for customers to see.
With Android, things are radically different. If anything, it has a much simpler way to market your app because of the store’s reliance on an SEO model. All that is needed is a name and a good description. You are allowed a consumer-friendly description of up to 4,000 characters, which grants you much more leverage in marketing your app. The summary must be aimed toward the customers rather than an algorithm.
Ryan Weber
Illustration shows the importance of various factors to your Apple App Store keyword search rankings. For a more detailed explanation of Google Play and Apple ranking factors as well as 4 easy steps to optimize them check out our free white paper: App Store Optimization Part 1: Breaking the Discovery Code - How to Achieve Top Search Rankings: http://nativex.com/whitepaper/...
Kathleen Burns
Ryan Weber
Interesting illustration. Thank you for sharing the link to the whitepaper. What do you think is the most important on-page factor to keep in mind for Apple App Store and Google Play store?
Ryan Weber
Kathleen Burns
For Apple App Store, the app name seems to have the biggest impact followed by keywords.

For Google Play store, the app name and description both have the highest impact.
Kathleen Burns
Ryan Weber
Curious! I wonder why Apple doesn't review the descriptions for ranking? I understand many people find new apps via keywords or the specific name, but what if you want an app that you only have a vague idea about? How do you find that within their store?

Thanks for the comment Ryan! :)