App Store Optimization for Newbies

August 24, 2017 | Article written by Carly Morris

Today over 6 million apps are available in the leading app stores and competition for installs is higher than ever.

With endless troves of apps to contend with, many of which are likely similar to your own, you’ll want to take advantage of every strategy that sets you apart from the competition.

Paid user acquisition on mobile, social, and Apple Search are all great ways to significantly scale growth, but there’s another strong, and completely free, option that can help put your app at a strategic advantage – effective app store optimization (ASO).

Most app stores have standard layouts for every landing page, so you can’t exactly customize the experience. However, there are a number of ways to optimize your presence in a way that places you higher in the search results, and significantly increases your rate of organic traffic.

To craft an effective ASO strategy for your unique app genre and offering, it’s important to understand a little bit about how app stores work, and what makes someone download an app in the first place.


Why Do People Download Apps?

According to eMarketer, 31% of users install an app because a friend recommended it, while about 1/4 convert from an engaging ad, and 13% trust features from Apple or Google.

Getting a home page feature is the Great White Whale for every app marketer. It’s worth holding out hope, but it’s not smart to count on features as a means of driving installs or getting discovered.

So, with limited time to capture users’ attention, and lots of competition saturating the view, landing your app at the top of their search results can be a make-or-break factor for organic traffic.


App Store 101:

Excluding paid placements, your app’s appearance among top search results is based entirely on app store algorithms. These algorithms work hard to scan app store entries and determine which ones are most relevant to a user’s query.

Exactly what feeds the algorithms is kept pretty hush-hush, but there are a few key elements that we know for certain, including:

• Number of downloads
• Use frequency
• Keywords
• User reviews
• Time since app launch/last update

If you can optimize your page to capitalize on factors like these, then you’ve got yourself a pass to the top of the search results – which in turn, means a pass to hyper-relevant new audiences who are searching with intent to install.


ASO Best Practices:

Remember that your strategy will first depend on the app store you’re working with.

For the purposes of this introduction, let’s focus on the Big Two; Apple and Google. Comparing these two is a great example of why it’s so important to understand your core technical capabilities before crafting your strategy:

Apple App Store:
• Video: Up to 3 videos at 30 seconds each
• Categories: Up to 2 categories
• Screenshots: Up to 5 screenshots
Takeaways: The first few videos and app screenshots always pack the biggest punch. Put your best foot forward.

Google Play Store:
• Video: Up to 2 minutes, must be hosted on YouTube
• Categories: Only 1
• Screenshots: Up to 8
Takeaways: With only one listing category, making the right choice is essential. Do your research to see where apps like yours fit, but also where the market may be less saturated.

Despite their technical differences, there are still some overarching truths that apply across most major app stores. Based on the main areas of focus for their algorithms, here are a few more ASO tips that can help boost your organic traffic no matter where your app is listed:

• Number of downloads
Paid acquisition can be a great complement to your ASO, since it’s a surefire way to quickly drive installs.
• Use frequency
Also consider reengagement campaigns to increase user loyalty and boost your frequency of app activations.
• Keywords
Focus on using a range of single and long-tail keywords for the most comprehensive results. Also try to find a balance in your keyword popularity. Remember that more competition may signify a more relevant keyword, but it also means there are more competitors vying for your spot.
• Time since app launch/update
Frequent updates are the key to keeping “freshness” calculations high. The general rule of thumb is to release an update every two months, though it may be worth experimenting to find the happy medium for your industry. Try tweaking language, previews, screenshots, and videos with each update, and make note of your changes to see which iterations perform best.
• Description
It’s important to stay concise and specific in your app description. App store algorithms often pull text from your description as a main relevance indicator for users’ search terms. Be sure to use descriptive words early on and repeat them frequently throughout.

Every ASO strategy will be unique based on factors like device type, OS, app genre, and even your own disposable resource. But working on any one of these points is still a great place to start.

Also keep in mind that app store optimization is only one piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately, the phrase “build it and they will come” simply doesn’t apply in today’s competitive world of mobile app marketing. A successful app strategy must take a more holistic look at the user experience, and understand the value of balancing organic and paid strategies across the mobile ecosystem.