With the consistent year-on-year increase in mobile apps, app users and app downloads, it's essential that you understand how app stores work in order to use this knowledge to your advantage.
All app stores present a varied landscape of players, from app development companies with million dollar budgets, to small developers or hopeful entrepreneurs. Regardless of your marketing budget or type of app, everyone realizes that getting your app discovered and then download is progressively more challenging.
What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?
In contrast to search engine optimization (SEO), ASO deals with understanding of algorithms of app stores. However, what SEO and ASO have in common, is that ASO is concerned with controlling and managing everything that is possible to increase the likelihood of being discovered as well.
Why is ASO essential
In contrast to SEO, the exact ASO ranking factors and their importance are not so well known. Additionally, you are unable to consistently add value on app stores to potential users through blogs or other content. Because of this, it's essential you ASO your apps.
Failing to do so will cost you an enormous amount of traffic and possible users. According to Forrester, 63% of all apps are discovered via app stores.
You should start thinking about app store optimization in order to:
· Be discovered by users, as app stores are the biggest source of app downloads
· Outrank your competitors
· Rank higher for your keywords
· Rank higher in Google´s semantic search for applications
· Present your app and brand professionally and improve your other business assets
We will look at 4 crucial aspects of all app store optimization campaigns. In today's article we won't describe the importance of updates, screenshots, preview video and ratings. We will however talk in detail about your app's:
1. App name
The importance of your app name (also known as title) hopefully doesn't need to be explained in too much detail. Because it guides understanding of what your app is, it needs to be short and easy to remember, yet unique. A long name will be hard to remember, and you run into a possibility of having the name shortened with added ellipses. However, including keywords to app names is highly recommended. It will help your ranking, but stay away from keyword stuffing. Including your main keywords is a strong indicator of your app's relevance to the search term. A research by TUNE found that apps with a relevant keyword in their title ranked, on average, 10.3% higher than apps without a title keyword
Ideally, include a maximum of 3 keywords in your app name. To preserve and increase the value of your brand over time, try not to change the name too much - unless you have a good reason to do so. To my big surprise, TUNE also found that 84% of apps in their research didn't include keywords in their description.
Having an optimized name is a crucial aspect of app store optimization, and you must use it to its full potential.
As mentioned above, adding keywords to your name is advised, but don't overdo it. Keywords must be also present in your description. It represents a space where you can 'sell' your app. However, similarly to SEO, keyword stuffing your description is considered to be a black-hat technique and is likely to hurt your rankings. Apart from the description, you can add keywords also to other areas of your app store, such as updates and reviews. Although not confirmed, reviews with keywords can possibly contribute to higher rankings. However, asking for fake or inauthentic reviews is considered black-hat, so doing this on a mass scale is not advised. There is, of course, a dedicated area just for keywords too. Use all the 100 characters offered. The best practice is to list your keywords with a comma between them. However, don't add a space before or after the comma.
We touched on keywords in point 2 above. Instead of spamming your description with keywords, focus on providing accurate description of your app's features and benefits that will convince the reader to download it. By doing exactly this, you will (most likely) include contextual keywords. You should always adhere to one rule when writing a description: write for readers, not search engines
The content needs to be compelling and written for people who will make the final decision of downloading your app. After you finish writing your description, revisit it and edit it by adding keywords where appropriate and where it will sound natural. It's important to remember that people will see only the first 3 lines of the description. Because of this, use the well-known copy writing technique of front-loading the benefits.
Ads, app stores or any other content for that matter on whatever medium represents a battle for your audience's attention. The chances that a user will read the whole description are close to null. Therefore, you must spark the interest with your readers as soon as possible. A proven way of doing so is by including the main benefits early in your copy. This will entice them to continue reading or to download the app straight away. On the other hand, if you decide to save the best for the end, you are making a great mistake. The reader is more than likely to be bored and disinterested quite quickly.
Lastly, make sure to include a compelling call-to-action in your copy. If your app has a low acquisition barrier (i.e. it's free), a great copy and call-to-action will entice users to try out your app.
Last but not least, we need to talk about your icon. Actually, your icon is one of the most important elements of your app. Similarly to your title, it is likely to be the first touch point with your brand or app. The users will instantly compare it with other icons, and make a split second decision whether they like it or not, and whether they will want to know more. Because of this, your icon needs to be optimized to the highest possible standard. If poor design will deter a lot of potential users, all the work you put into other elements such as the description, keywords, screenshots or video will be in vain.
· iOs dimensions: 1024x1024
· Android dimensions: 512x512
· No words in your icon
· Simple and salient design
· Colour and style consistent with your app
· Unique (design, colour, idea) to differentiate yourself from others
· Once launched, don't change it (unless necessary)
Making minimum changes to your icon is essential for brand consistency and recognition. Remember that users will see only the icon on their phone. Therefore keeping it same will contribute to the mere-exposure effect (liking something because you are frequently exposed to it) as the time passes on. App designers often overlook this important point. However, when Instagram changed their icon, even social media gurus like Gary Vee reported that they stopped using it as much! And if this can happen to a social media giant like Instagram, what consequences will brand inconsistency cause to your app?
Wrapping it up
App store optimization is a complicated concept involving a lot of small elements that need to be carefully optimized. However, tackling these one-by-one with a strategic approach can significantly improve your rankings.
Remember that the competition for your users is increasing on a daily basis, while your users' attention is decreasing!
ASO plays an important role to your overall success, and therefore it needs to be tackled with the seriousness it deserves. Because ASO is an ongoing process, you need to keep on top of the latest algorithm changes to stay ahead of your competition.
The strategies discussed will however give you a great start to optimizing your app store.
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David Kanika is the CEO and marketing strategist at App Marketing Mind’s (http://appmarketingminds.com), an agency providing marketing services and education to app developers. He uses a variety of marketing techniques to acquire customers and oversees implementation of client campaigns. He is a vegan and he loves to tell people. You can connect with David at firstname.lastname@example.org.