What is App Store Optimization?
App Store Optimization is the process of optimizing an app to rank higher in the App Store. It is something that should be at the forefront of every app developer’s mind and should be tracked daily, but in the chaotic nature of launching an app and running a business, these sorts of things tend to be forgotten.
There are tons of apps that are grossing millions of dollars per year, and there are major companies built on creating mobile applications. Yet, many people do not view ASO as a major concern. They often “set and forget” the keywords in their app and ultimately let their competitors rank above them.
The Basics of the App Store
While Apple’s ranking algorithm is constantly changing, and no one outside of Apple can at anytime definitively speak of their algorithm in great detail, companies like MobileDevHQ and SearchMan track an extensive amount of data which they can keep up with, and sometimes even predict, trends in the App Store.
Just a few basics to understand before we get started is that Apple allows you to submit 100 letters for your keywords. This means you have to strategically pick which keywords are most important based on how relevant they are to your app, traffic, competition and length of the keyword. This is extremely important, and it’s just as important to make sure that keywords are relevant. Even if a particular keyword has a ton of search traffic with little competition, it doesn’t make sense to go after that keyword if it’s not relevant.
Also, this should go without saying, but make sure your app is in the right category.
Now that we have the basics covered, let’s get into how your app will be ranked and what you can do to improve your ranking.
Optimizing your App
What we do know is that Apple favors downloads and how quickly you can generate those downloads, and now Apple is also accounting for app reviews. But, in order to direct your app in a favorable position to not only attract downloads, but the right kind of downloads, you need to optimize your title, keywords and description in such a way that makes sense for your application, as well as generate positive reviews from your users.
For iOS, there are several factors that should be accounted for when optimizing your app. First off, your title is more than just the name of your app. Apps with a keyword attached to their title, on average, experience about 10% more downloads than apps without a keyword in the title, according to Forrester.
It’s important to note that the keyword you place in your title should be the most relevant of your keywords, and you should not change it often, if at all, which makes it even more important to choose the right keyword or two.
For example, Whisk is an NYC based rider service app aimed at the everyday NYC commuter. The app is titled Whisk – Ride Service, which not only signals what that app is, but it generates more potential downloads by increasing the app’s visibility within the App Store.
When you submit your app, and every time you upload a new version, you are allowed to change your app’s keywords. This is something you should be monitoring everyday using a tool such as SensorTower. You can keep track of where you rank on the terms you currently have, suggested terms and where your competitors rank. When it comes time to update your keywords again, be mindful of the data and change accordingly. The App Store is a constant fight to the top, so any edge you can get is time and money well spent.
Choosing keywords involves understanding the competition for each keyword and being realistic. If a term is highly trafficked and is highly competitive (something you can see using SensorTower), you probably shouldn’t try to takeover the competition if you’re just an indie developer or brand new app, unless it’s your most relevant keyword.
While your description does not have as much weight as your title or keywords, you should still make sure that you have some of your top performing and most relevant keywords in your description, while still keeping it readable. You don’t want to over-optimize here, just take what you can.
After you optimize your app, the next step is to start ranking for the terms that you have identified to be important.
Boost Your App’s Ranking
Apple ranks apps based on how many downloads they’ve acquired (plus how quickly), user ratings & reviews.
Since negative reviews can hurt your app’s rank, it’s important to make sure your app functions properly (aka doesn’t crash and does what you claim), has a presentable design and attracts the right kind of users.
In addition, AppAnnie is a great (and free) tool that shows your app and your competitors rank.
Once that’s in place, you can focus on distribution.
Publish your app to ALL app stores. There’s more than just iOS and Google Play. Services such as InMobi allow you to submit to most app stores rather quickly and you should see more downloads.
Get creative, reach out to people with influence and who have an audience and get your app in front of as many people as possible, both online and in the real world. This is the hard part, so unless you have thousands, or millions, of dollars to throw at an ad campaign, you have to hustle for every download.
To generate more reviews for you app, look into a service like Apptentive which allows you to communicate with your users, generate positive reviews and collect invaluable feedback.
While there’s many things to internalize here, there’s also a lot more you can do to improve and distribute your app. I’d start with these suggestions first, and keep in mind that this takes a ton of work to start seeing significant results. ASO is a continual process that requires work on a daily basis, and most people that you reach out to will ignore you, but keep at it and keep tweaking your pitch. If you hustle, and if your app is good, you’ll see results.
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