So you’ve developed an app, but now what?
Amongst the 4.1 million apps in both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, only a handful get the recognition they deserve. Unless you’re featured on the front pages of either app store, your app is competing against millions of others vying for the same attention.
If you want to convert viewers into users in the app stores, some major attention needs to be paid to your apps’ listing. Check out these 5 steps to help get your app downloads.
1. Use Real Mobile Data
App Store Optimization may seem similar to Search Engine Optimization, but they’re not quite the same and shouldn’t be approached in the same way for two reasons: user intentions and algorithm design.
For the web, there are generally three types of search queries performed by users: Transactional (e.g. “watch a video”), Informational (i.e. when a user seeks information, such as the best restaurant in their area), and Navigational (i.e. search queries that seek a particular online destination, such as Wikipedia or the homepage of a musical band). App Store queries differ in that the vast majority of searches are two-three word phrases tied to app features (such as “photo editor” or “books for free”) or one word app/brand name searches.
The algorithms used by the Google web searches differ from the App Store and Google Play in that the app stores index your app based on metadata such as titles, keywords, and descriptions. The trickiest part is figuring out what combination of keywords and keyword phrases to optimize your app with.
Using Google Keyword Planner may work as a research tool, but as stated before, the intrinsic differences in how people search on the web and in the app stores doesn’t make it effective at finding the most relevant and high volume keywords as compared to specialized app store intelligence platforms.
A great trick is to use a tool like Qualaroo to survey your website visitors. Ask them questions around what they’re looking for in your app or what they wish to do. The language they respond with is usually a good indication of what similar users would search for in the app stores.
Let’s dive into how to best optimize your metadata for both human and algorithmic interpretation!
2. Optimize Your Metadata
Titles (iOS & Google Play)
The most important part of ASO is an app’s title. When users first glance at your app’s title, there are only few seconds to tell them the functions of your app. If users can’t immediately tell what your app does from the title, they will move past your app. The key to creating a compelling title tag is to use keywords that are relevant to both users and good for indexation.
Apple gives you 255 characters (technically bits) and Google Play gives you 30 characters to work with to make a title. With Google Play offering such few characters, it’s best to find 2-3 of the most relevant keywords you can garner to the title tag.
With so much space on iOS it may be tempting to jam your title with as many keywords as possible in an attempt to index better, but we generally recommend keeping it to around 100 characters or less, as having a title too “spammy” can turn users off and may result in your app submission being rejected by Apple’s Review Team for “keyword stuffing.”
Apple offers a keyword bank of 100 characters for developers and publishers to fill in with keywords relevant to the app. The keywords you choose here work with the keywords in your title to build the two-three word phrases that most app store users search for, so it’s unnecessary to repeat keywords that are already in your title. Your declared keywords are second only to the title in terms of indexation weight, so it’s important to make every character space count and pick the right keywords based on popular search phrases your target market is using.
Descriptions (iOS + Google Play)
After a user clicks through to your landing page, the description will be the place to highlight your app’s features and selling points and convert that page view into an active user. Descriptions are given a 4000 character limit, with Google Play offering a special 80 character short description that shows up as a preview for Android shoppers.
Although your app description may not weigh as heavily as the title or declared keyword bank for iOS indexation, it holds much more significance for Google Play, as the search terms you rank for are almost entirely based on the keywords in your text and how you structure it. This means that while it is best to word your iOS description in a way for Apple’s Review Team to see your targeted keywords as being relevant, you are free to be slightly more aggressive in keyword usage for your Google Play description.
3. Optimize Your Creative
Your metadata may catch browsers’ attention, but it’s your creatives (in concert with your description) that showcase how your app really works! A/B testing creatives to determine what works best will help maximize your app’s conversion.
Icons should be designed to creatively express what your app does in an easily identifiable fashion. If your app is already associated with an established brand, leverage it and create your icon to be representative of your brand’s existing logo. It’s advised against putting words in your logo, as icons are just too small on a phone to handily make out.
As screenshots are users’ first look into what your app actually looks like, they should highlight the core features of your app and carry on the expectation established by your app’s title. Additionally, add text callouts and use keywords in them for your screenshots as well, to better reinforce your keywords and features to both users and Apple’s Review Team.
A preview video is the absolute best way to demonstrate to users what your app does. It is the best conversion tool – Nothing else can convince a browser to download your app more than your video can.
So if you have one, make sure to pick an engaging and informative frame of your video that accurately portrays your app to be set as your poster frame, since it will act as a screenshot and be the first creative asset users will see (besides your icon.)
For iTunes, ensure that your video adheres closely to their strict guidelines and that it’s a good representation of user experience of your app, else it will be rejected. It’s recommended to use plenty of textual and design overlays, stay in-app as much as possible, and have far more screentime of how the app actually functions as opposed to cut scenes, as cut scenes may give a false impression of user experience.
Google Play’s guidelines has a far less constraints, allowing you to be as creative as you’d like within a span of 30 seconds to two minutes.
4. Analyze What Works & What Doesn’t
ASO is never a one-time deal: it evolves with trends in the market and as new competitors are added to the App Store and Google Play. What might have worked six months ago may not work now. If some keywords aren’t working, replace them with other relevant terms users may be using to find apps like yours.
Look at your competitors, and try to see what common keywords they stress in their titles and descriptions. If your app is offering something seasonal, make sure to call it out. Remember to always pay attention to trends!
5. Optimize Often (but not too often!)
Although it’s important to re-optimize your app to match with current trends, it’s important to not optimize too often. It normally takes around seven days or more for metadata updates to start indexing on iTunes, and (it’s difficult to ascertain, but roughly) three weeks on Google Play, so prematurely re-optimizing before your current metadata sets in may harm your app’s ranking.
Remember, organic isn’t the only way!
Mobile app discovery is by far driven by searching in the app store. Over 60% of downloads are from users diving through the App Stores’ search bar, and the highest quality users are acquired organically.
However, although organic should be thought of as your primary user acquisition channel, it doesn’t mean you should neglect other methods of driving installs – the app marketplace is probably the most competitive that has ever existed, so you possible avenue to make your app successful should be considered.
- Traditional Paid Avenues – Facebook Mobile Marketing is still one of the best run-of-the-mill methods to acquire users, giving you the ability to target specific demographics from your usual age, location, and gender, down all the way to even media interests.
- Social Media Influencer Marketing – Connect with mobile influencers to preach your app to their audiences – Popular Youtubers and content streamers have enthusiastic fan bases to tap into.
- Mobile Discovery Platforms – For games, tap into mobile discovery platforms such as Chartboost and AdMob, where it’s easy to surgically promote your games to players of specific gaming tastes.
- BlueStacks – If you have a Google Play app, consider app players like Bluestacks, which boasts a tremendous amount of daily active users and incentivizes users to try out new apps.
- Guests Article Posts – A guest spot on an influential blog or news site relevant to your app can provide a decent spike in users with relatively low spend.
- Sharing – If your app has social features, find ways to incentivize users to connect and share with their friends. Never underestimate the K-factor of viral marketing.
Whichever main route you choose to pursue, we always heavily encourage that a complete optimization plan should be defined and implemented as the core of any mobile app marketing strategy.
About the Author: Dave Bell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gummicube. He is responsible for overseeing the business strategy, including driving growth and market development. Dave is a pioneer of the mobile entertainment industry with more than 15 years of experience publishing, marketing and distributing mobile applications and games across carrier, direct to consumer and app store channels.