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Why Apple App Store Optimization Matters & How to Do It Yourself

The more serious the competition, the more difficult it is for a product to succeed. With more than 1 million apps on Apple’s App Store, modern app startups face the toughest competition imaginable. Getting your app noticed and downloaded makes all the difference between success and failure. Quality code is not enough.

How can you promote your app on the App Store? To make your app stand out you must engage in App Store Optimization, or ASO. Also, keep in mind that SEO is just as important as ASO for mobile apps. However, if ASO is basically about app description, then SEO is about app indexing. Read more about app indexing here.

Searches within the App Store are actually one of the best sources of traffic to your app’s download page. According to research firm Forrester, 63 percent of new mobile app installs originate from search results, while word of mouth is only the second most popular way to learn  about an app. Proper App Store Optimization makes your app easy to find and can also increase your conversion rate.

ASO optimization for apps

[Source: Forbes]

What do you need to know about ASO?

  1. As the term “optimization” suggests, ASO is  more of an ongoing process than a one-time solution. Apps and the App Store environment are in constant motion. Products evolve to meet the changing demands of clients, while App Store policies change according to Apple’s wishes. What’s called for is continual optimization.

  2. ASO takes time and effort, but is one of the most effective and cheapest long-term solutions for directing high-quality organic traffic to your app and promoting app downloads.

  3. The App Store has its own logic for ranking apps. Apple never reveals its secrets about ranking, but we know of multiple factors that can influence search results in the App Store, including title, keywords in titles and descriptions, user ratings and reviews, and  number of downloads.

  4. When you work on ASO, you need to keep in mind that you want to make your app easy to find both for search engines and for people. Optimizing for search engines is a bit different than optimizing for humans. When we think with search engines in mind, we come up with the most obvious keywords like “shopping,” “travelling,” and “social.” But the more we know about our target audience, the more targeted keywords we will come up with. For example, instead of shopping we can include the keyword phrase “buy a dress for a prom party” to target teenage girls; instead of travelling, we can use “fly to Bali from Sydney” to target Australians.

How to make ASO by yourself

[Source: Apptamin]

There are 6 elements that matter for App Store Optimization

  1. Target audience

  2. Title

  3. Icon

  4. Keywords

  5. Reviews

  6. Screenshots

Let’s see how we can work with each of these elements.

Target Audience

Defining your target audience and knowing what they want is often the most difficult part of designing any marketing strategy. You must know your target audience before: choosing  keywords, selecting the language for your app description, and preparing screenshots.

Understanding a particular market is often the key to an app’s success. Localization of mobile apps is a complex process that requires a lot of background research. Knowing your market means more that just understanding customer needs. It also means studying local regulations, copyright laws, payment methods and even considering the entire layout of your app.

Check out our article about Japanese, Chinese and Arabic UI and UX layouts.

Certain types of apps are more popular within certain countries. If you develop a niche product that is extremely popular in your country, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your app will be received as well on the world market. To increase your product’s chances of succeeding in a new foreign market you have to invest heavily in a well-thought out localization strategy.

Do it right and you will increase your app’s visibility and conversion rate.

Title

ASO for app promotion

[Source: 3dissue]

Your app’s title is arguably the most important piece of metadata. Conduct thorough research before picking a title for your app—but once you’ve decided on the title then stick with it.

Titles greater than 25 symbols in length get cut off. This looks bad, and encourages people to look for another app with a more optimal title. It may seem trivial, but it’s the truth.  

When people search on the App Store, they’re generally looking for a certain type of app (for example, a video editing app or a food delivery app). If they’re searching for a specific app, it’s usually because they’ve heard the name and it caught their attention. Unique names are easier to remember and to find in search.    

Don’t try to form your whole title only with  keywords, as it results in a poor user experience and is frowned upon by the App Store. You have to find a reasonable balance between keywords and your unique branding.

Try to come up with short phrases that potential users are likely to type, as this will help direct organic traffic to your app.

Read also: How to promote your app with Facebook SDK

Icon

Don’t use words in your icon.  Keep it simple and make sure it looks good at every size! Settle on a consistent style for your app and icon. Make sure the icon stands out against any background.

Keywords

Keep in mind three criteria when you pick keywords for your app’s title and description:

  1. Relevance
  2. Difficulty
  3. Traffic

First, you want your keywords to be as relevant to your product as possible. To make them relevant, describe some specific features of your app in keywords. Second, you want keywords that have relatively lower competition in the App Store, so it’s easier for your app to rank high in search. Finally, you want your keywords to generate as much traffic to your app as possible.

Which of these three factors is the most important?  Many people bank on traffic-generating keywords, but this  is not always the right strategy. Driving a lot of traffic to  your app isn’t  helpful if your app doesn’t meet the needs of the customers who find it. That’s why using keywords that generate a lot of traffic but aren’t 100% true to your product  is a dangerous strategy: you risk a pile of negative reviews from disappointed users.

Using keywords that are very popular makes it difficult for your app to rank high among its competitors on the App Store. Sometimes it’s more productive to go with less popular keywords in exchange for greater visibility within results for niche search terms.

Various  software tools are available to help you select keywords for your app to target. Two great tools for ASO are Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends.

Google Keyword Planner is ideal for basic research, and Google Trends is great for tracking changes in how often certain keywords are searched around  the world. With Google Trends you can filter search results within different countries to see which keywords work for a certain country or region.

Another keyword strategy is to analyze the keywords of direct competitors and then to outrank them  for the same set of keywords. You can manually analyze keywords that are found in your competitors’ positive reviews, or your can use review analysis tools that correlate keywords from reviews with user ratings. Sensor Tower is the leading tool for finding keywords for your app and learning about the keywords used by your direct competitors.

Sensor Tower provides four pieces of data: an app’s full name, keywords the app is targeting, ratings over the past three months, and a searchability rating. The paid version of Sensor Tower  allows you to track specific keywords for rankings and traffic, as well as to compare your app’s keywords to another app’s keywords. The paid version costs $79 a month for “indie developers” all the way up to $399 a month for “small business owners.” Larger enterprises can negotiate pricing on an individual basis.

Mobileaction is another  tool that can be used for ASO in general and keyword optimization in particular. Its price starts with the lower figure of $39 for 100 keywords.

Any of these tools will give you a list of keywords that your competitors successfully use and will help you set definite goals for your app promotion campaign.

Once you decided on a basic set of keywords, you have to choose between targeting somewhat longer phrases and/or targeting separate words.

Long tail keywords or keyword phrases are more likely to convert. Keyword phrases that consist of three or more words are highly  specific, and therefore customers who search for them and likely to be looking for precisely what you offer. Even though you want to generate as much traffic as possible, long tail keywords often bring better overall results.

Also check out: How to create app descriptions that sell

app store optimization tactics

[Source: SensorTower]

Reviews

Reviews can drag your app down or help it succeed, but many people feel like they have very limited control over the reviews users leave on the App Store. Seeing as user reviews directly influence your app’s rating within the store, you should learn how to take advantage of them. Here are several tricks that can help you get more positive reviews.

Negative reviews are often left as a sign of irritation or disappointment with a product. But they don’t necessarily mean that your whole app is a failure. More often, they mean that a particular user (or handful of users) encountered a bug. What customers really want is for their concerns to be heard and to be addressed. One of the most efficient ways to tackle negative reviews is to offer avenues for customer complaints and bug reporting.

You can do the following:

  • Include contact information at the end of your app description.
  • Add a Review Bar to your app’s landing page or website. This invites visitors to leave feedback. If they rate your app highly, the Review Bar suggests they should leave a review on the App Store. If the rating is negative, the tool suggests they should message you with a complaint.

Responding to complaints and fixing problems in a timely manner will show your clients that your product is reliable and trustworthy.

Screenshots

Icons hint at what your app does, but screenshots show potential users why they must download your particular app. The best screenshots define an app’s unique features and highlight its main selling point. The type of screenshots you should choose depends on the type of app you’re offering: it’s obvious that games should be presented in a different way than, say, a delivery app or a marketplace app.

Use screenshots to show how an app works, focusing on core features. Each screen should present a single feature and be  accompanied by a  brief description.

You can also do some A/B testing to find out which screenshots drive more traffic; once you’ve determined  the most popular image, use it as the first screenshot. Putting the most important screenshots first is importent.

See also: How do you get featured on the App Store?

Three things to remember about ASO:

  1. ASO is a long-term solution and a cost-effective option for people who are willing to continually invest time and effort in their app marketing. It is not a magic solution, however. It is a constant process of optimization and not a one-time action you can take to make your app succeed.

  2. ASO consists of multiple aspects that are partially overlapping (for example, a type of your app can predict your target audience, while the choice of your target audience defines the keywords). Some of these aspects are similar to tricks you learn working with SEO, others are unique and purely dependant on App Store requirements.

  3. ASO is something that anyone can master, but if you’ve never done it before you might consider consulting with someone who has a bit of ASO experience.
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