Appstore SEO: A Complete App Store Optimization Guide

The mobile app space has burgeoned into a multibillion-dollar niche in about ten years. In 2012, studies done on the app space revealed there are about 1.2 billion mobile app users across the globe. With the niche being expected to grow at a rate of 29.8% in the subsequent years, the battle to get noticed has become even fiercer.

Despite the emerging importance of mobile apps and the growing demand, App store optimization has for years been relegated to the back seat as the mobile-first index, machine learning and new search algorithms steal the show. If you have mobile apps or plan to start developing mobile apps, this is one space you need to get right. This post is a complete guide to app store optimization.

What exactly is ASO? What are the benefits of focusing on ASO?

ASO (App Store Optimization), also referred as App Store Marketing or Mobile Apps SEO, is the process of optimizing the mobile applications to get higher ranking in app store’s results. To run the process effectively, it is important that the user understands the target clients’ well, especially what they want and how they want it.

ASO is very crucial today because more than 60% of business apps are discovered via searches on App stores. This means that search in app stores is one of the most important methods for reaching the target clients, making them download the app, and become clients. Ankit Jain, the Google’s I/O reported that search is the primary determinant of most installs for average mobile apps. Here are some of the benefits of using ASO.

  • The primary target of ASO is increasing apps downloads.
  • Enhancing the brand exposure.
  • Getting high ratings and positive reviews.
  • Better community engagement.
  • A great way of diversifying marketing.

If you are still trying to establish whether to invest in ASO, it is important to appreciate that the niche is growing rather fast. Remember that getting the target clients download your app is tantamount to getting your business into their mobiles and hands all the time. You simply cannot be left behind.

A closer look at ASO statistics: The foundation and main players

In 2016, a total of 224.8 billion apps downloads were reported. This figure was expected to shoot up significantly to 270 billion in 2017. When experts look at the fast growth of mobile apps downloads and slowing down the use of social media, they appear in agreement that ASO might be the ultimate tactic that your enterprise should prioritize to move to the next level.

A closer look at the mobile app industry reveals that it is dominated by two players; Android and Apple. Here is a closer look at the app downloads market share according to ComShare.

  • Android: 51.6%.
  • Apple: 40.7%.
  • Blackberry: 4.8%.
  • Microsoft: 3.0%.
  • Symbian: 0.4%.

Note that the app store niche is entirely different from the way the search industry operates. The primary reason for this is that the app store niche is not monopolized by a single player (Google). In the app store system, there will always be a number of players working to win the same space. Therefore, unlike the online search, the marketers have to go beyond Google.

To get it right on ASO, experts recommend that you look at it as a closed site search engine. This means that you will require important components including easy content discovery, indexation, and app ranking algorithms. Most SEO gains can be applied with great results in ASO.

The mechanics of ASO application

Most of these ASO applications have their roots buttressing from the SEO strategies.

Comprehensively understand the target client and the competition

As you set out crafting an ASO strategy, it is important to ask one primary question; how well do I know the target clients? A good ASO strategy must be hinged on understanding how the targeted clients use the application. This should go hand in hand with the review of the industry competition. To achieve these in ASO, you need to establish the following key points;

  • The language used by the target audience.
  • How the target clients describe the app.
  • The keywords targeted by the competitors.
  • The ease or difficulty of competing against other apps using the same keywords.
  • Which is the better approach; less obvious or obvious keywords?
  • Your ASO strategy commences with placing yourself in the target clients’ shoes.

The main aim is helping to improve discovery of your app in the app store searches and ultimately increasing downloads, traffic, and conversions from your site.

Go for the right title

The app title is one of the most important factors in ASO. The name of the app is not simply about branding. It should also help to reinforce the app’s value and differentiate it from others in the app stores. To get more from the name, it is important to include relevant keywords for better app store’s search results. In one of the studies done by TUNE, it became evident that apps that featured relevant keywords ranked about 10.3% higher compared to other apps. Remember that because titles allow users to use about 255 characters, there is an opportunity to include more keywords. This is an opportunity to use the keywords intuitively without stuffing them.

Note that App stores truncate long titles. For example, App Store truncates titles after the 23rd character while Google Play truncates them from the 30th character. In device navigation home and menu screens, the truncation in the App Store and Google Play is done at the 11th and 14th characters respectively.

To make the app identification easy, it is advisable to keep the title short and catchy. It is also important to use URL-friendly characters in the app store. Using special symbols can easily detract the ASO strategy and even make iTunes pullout the app numeric number as opposed to the name.

Ensure to maximize the app keywords

Unlike with the titles and understanding the target client that follow almost the same routine in all stores, things are entirely different with ASO keywords. You need to focus on each store differently.

Google Play: Google Store approach is closely related to the modern SEO. Google does not follow specific tags and scans when bots scrawl the app. Instead, it scans the description in order to extract the relevant keywords when clients key searches. The secret to ASO at this point is ensuring you use the right keywords naturally. Studies done on the keywords have demonstrated that using a relevant keyword five times will help to yield optimal ranking results. If you stuff the keywords too much, they could easily turn off the clients.

The App Store: Unlike in the Google Store, App Store provides a 100-character keyword field. The store uses the title and all the keywords and keyword phrases are factored in establishing the search string that the app will show. Before you can use the keywords in the App Store, it is important to research them comprehensively to maximize downloads.

Remember that the bottom line to getting the keywords work for you is ensuring they are designed for the target clients and not the algorithm. This is because if the keywords are designed to simply target the ranking while they remain contextually irrelevant, such growth will be meaningless.

Where to get the right keywords for the app

Where to get the right keywords for the app

Like in SEO, the keywords you use in ASO should be comprehensively researched. You need to come up with keywords that draw quality traffic. Here are some of the top sites and tools you can get the keywords you want.

App Annie: App Annie is used by more than 80% of the app publishers because it goes beyond the keywords. It extends to how people interact with the app and will help you discover the trending keywords.

Tune: This tool was previously referred as MobileDevHQ. It helps app publishers boost their app search and ranking by identifying the trending keywords.

Sensor Tower: This tool is dedicated to assisting you to select the most important keywords for ASO. It also allows you take a look at the nature of competition in the industry. Indeed, you can even look at the keywords performance in different devices. For example, how do specific keywords perform in iPads and iPhones if designed for iOS?

App Tweak: This is a paid tool that allows you to identify localized keywords. Though it is a paid app, it comes with a one-week free trial. You could use this free week to get the best keywords and try them in your ASO.

Keyword Tool: This tool is very helpful in assisting you to find keywords utilizing App Store Autocomplete feature. This implies that the tool puts a lot of focus on most searched items by users in a store.

Make sure to craft a captivating description

Applications, like videos and images, can only be understood based on how you describe them. In addition to getting a catchy title and enthralling keywords, you need captivating description. A good description should be simple and concise.

    Important components to include in the description;

  • A call-to-action.
  • Benefits of the application.
  • The targeted keywords.

When visitors search for an app, it takes only a few seconds to make the decision whether to further explore your app or not. This is the short time you must captivate the client to win him to your app. Therefore, it is important to place a lot of emphasis on effort on the first 3 lines of the description. This will help to grab the attention of the reader and make him want to get more.

One important thing about descriptions is that they should be treated as living documents. This means that they should be reviewed regularly as the product updates hit the markets. You should also regularly explore the description to ensure that it rhymes articulately with the rest of the apps page.

    Tips to make your description great

  • Utilize the entire space provided for description.
  • Localize the description in all possible languages depending on the target audience.
  • Combine both mid and long-tail keywords.
  • Use short paragraphs and bullets to make the message clearer.
  • Include some emojis or rich formatting.
  • Mention the awards you have won and other major achievements.
  • Mention even the social media profiles including user communities.

Utilize unique ICONS

When the target audience visits app stores, they are hit by thousands of apps. Even before they can go to the description or even the title, what catches their eyes are the icons. Therefore, you need to draw the attention of the visitor’s eyes by adopting a unique icon. Note that like the keywords, the approach taken by Google Play and App Store when it comes to Icons are different. You should follow each store to understand the required metrics on size, color schemes, and geometry set for apps.

App icon guidelines for iOS and Android

When preparing an iOS icon, the recommended dimensions should be at least, 1024×1024 pixels. From there, Apple Operating systems will resize the icon for other applications. These include 180×180 for app icons, 66×66 for navigation icons, and 75×75 for tab bar icons.

If the icon is being designed for Android, the dimension requirement is 512×512. Note that Google insists that all components are designed in line with its guidelines that define everything from shading, lighting, to icon anatomy.

No matter the operating system your app is being designed for, the icon should help you break through the clutter, grab all the attention, and convey the right message to the target audience.

Useful tips to help craft better icons

When crafting an icon, do not make it complicated with unnecessary logos and words. To know how to craft a perfect icon, consider perusing through the top-rated apps in your niche in the top stores. Here are some additional tips to help you design winning icons.

  • Make the icon reflect the primary purpose of the app. At this point, do not get confused especially if debuting in the app market.
  • Once you pick a style, stick to it so that the target market can associate with it. Style includes things such as pattern, topography, and colors.
  • Ensure to balance the icon with selected elements without overloading it.
  • Be innovative and follow latest design trends. The aim should be selecting what catches the attention of the target audience.
  • Do not try to guess what the target users will prefer. Rather, split test all the tools to establish which icon performs better for the app.

Ensure to localize the app listing

Truth be told, there is no single marketing method that will guarantee the best ASO results. To demonstrate this, here is an example. North American consumers only generate about 31% of app revenue. However, about 72% of consumers outside the English speaking world opt for apps presented in native languages. What these examples imply is that if you can tap all the market segments, your app will be accessible to more people and yield the anticipated effect.

At the basic level, you should target speaking to clients using the language they use at home. The good thing about this is that there are many professional and affordable localization services to assist you to translate the business app keywords, description, title, and screenshots to the preferred languages.

Whether you are targeting Google Play Store or iTunes App Store, you are allowed to localize the listing to enhance readability and discoverability in different geo-regions. Localization can help to increase both adoption and convention with more over 70%.

Utilize screenshots to demonstrate how the app works

While the screenshots might not have a direct impact on app ranking, they are very powerful in increasing downloads. Images convey more about what the app is actually is and bring your descriptive text to life. This further allows potential customers to visualize using the app even before downloading it.

Though iOS allows users to add up to eight images, it is only the first 3 screenshots that show in the gallery of the page load. To get the best from these images, it is advisable to ensure that they speak to the largest audience. This means they should convince the visitor to check on the other screenshots or even download the application.

Though most app stores insist that you get screenshots that represent customer experience, you are allowed to include graphics such as character art. In many cases, publishers blend graphic designs to include text overlays that describe key elements and even features.

Whichever the approach you select, the targeted screenshots should be aimed at showing off the application’s most pivotal updates, features and even pages that clients will be getting every day after downloading. At this point, it is prudent to consider A/B split testing the screenshots to establish the ones that the target audience prefers more.

Use videos to increase conversion rates

Promo videos presented in Google Play Store and Previews in Apple App Store are short videos that allow marketers to showcase what the app is bringing to users. Though videos do not affect discoverability via search, they can greatly improve conversion rates.

When working on ASO videos, it is advisable to avoid tutorials that explain how people should use the application. Rather, consider making the videos catchy, demonstrate the competitive advantage of the app, and take note of the most important features that were not obvious with screenshots. If you are in the graphics-heavy apps, consider videos a must.

If your app targets iOS, the best videos should be about 30 seconds long. This means that you have to deliver the message fast and with great precision. For those in Android, a maximum of 2-minute promo video should be ideal. This means that you have a larger room to play. However, note that users are not likely to follow the entire two minutes. Therefore, keep the message articulate in the first 30-45 seconds.

Great tips to help make your ASO video more compelling

  • Make the opening very strong.
  • Put a storyline and script.
  • Keep the video short.
  • Get a great icon for the video.
  • Optimize the screenshots.
  • Do not make a mistake of expecting users to understand the video right away.

Extend the marketing campaign to other marketing channels

ASO is primarily targeted at helping drive traffic to the app page and promoting traffic. However, on-page optimization is only one tool. This means that your ASO needs to overflow into other areas of SEO. To determine your apps overall ranking, Google and Apple bots move far and wide following backlinks. This implies that you will need to run a campaign that seeks to inform and build links with other influential sites.

For most publishers, one great method that has proven highly effective is app indexing. Though it is among the new concepts, it helps to make the app content searchable and linkable. Clients who see the apps indexed when they make a search will simply need to hit the link for deeper-linkage. Indexing is, therefore, great for both acquisition and re-engagement through new channels.

You should also use the following strategies;

  • Social media marketing.
  • Content marketing.
  • Influencer marketing.
  • Work on regular reviews.
  • Online advertising.

Have the app rated and feedback published regularly

One of the best methods of getting the app quality validated out there is getting a constant flow of positive reviews. Many visitors who come to app stores are likely to follow back and check how the previous users faired on. If past users gave positive feedbacks, the chances of new visitors downloading and becoming top customers are very high. In one of the evaluations done on the 500 top ranking apps by Moz blog, it is the app that had more positive ratings that had more downloads.

Top ASO tools every marketer should use

When you take a closer look at the ASO mechanics, there is no doubt that significant efforts must be directed there. Whether you are new or have been in ASO for some time, you need the right type of arsenal to help make the keywords, description, videos, icons and every component work. The following are some of the tools that you should use.

App keyword optimization tools

These are tools designed to help users optimize app keywords to drive higher traffic. Some of the top options in this category include Mobile Action, ASOdesk, TheTool, Sensor Tower, and Priori Data.

App product page optimization tools

These tools go beyond keyword optimization to help to analyze the product page. Some will even provide suggestions for improvement. Great options in this category include AppTweak and Meatti.

Sentiment and review evaluation tools

These are tools like TheTool, Mobile Action, Apptentive and Appbot that analyze the user ratings and reviews so that you can know what they liked and what they did not like.

A/B split testing tools

A/B testing is meant to help you identify what version of a product that clients prefer. The best A/B split testing tools for ASO include Store Maven, RaiseMetrics, and Splitmetrics.

Search Ads Optimization Tools

These are important ASO tools that will help you optimize the advertising campaigns on Apple Search Ads. The tools come with automation features that will extend effectively to the competitors to help you craft better campaigns. Some great options to consider in this case include adHead, SearchAds, and SearchAdsHQ.

App Store intelligence tools

These ASO tools are meant to help you estimate the competitor performance as well as follow the app market trends. This means that the tools will help you about competitors app downloads, advertising spend trends, revenue, and market penetration among others. Some great examples in this category include APPlyzer, Apptopia, Mobile Action, and Sensor Tower.

The final take

As mobile apps become central in digital marketing, the focus is now shifting to App Store Optimization. With apps downloads hitting 224.8 billion in 2016 and the rate expected to continue growing rapidly, the competition is becoming very stiff. This guide will help you to understand ASO and craft a winning strategy for raising traffic, improving ranking on search results and conversion. Remember that just like other marketing strategies, your ASO strategy needs to be reviewed and adjusted regularly in line with the changing market.

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