App Store Optimization: Making It Easier To Find Your App

If you’re a developer who happens to be a part of the mobile app development world, then you’ll probably get what we’re about to say next. When it comes to creating apps, get ready to pour in your blood, sweat, and tears to create an end product that you’re bloody proud of.

After all the work that goes into making an app, it’s pretty galling to realize that an app launch doesn’t necessarily equate guaranteed downloads. It’s the waiting room for you, no matter how awesome you believe your app to be.

There comes a time, in every developer's life, where he’s ready to show his creation to the world. And when that time comes, you need the right tools and app store optimization (ASO) to help your app hit the ground running. Because with the amount of time spent developing an app, this is the last place you want to lose out on.

And don’t worry, we’ve got your back. In this article, we are going to take a look at what exactly defines app store optimization by examining a few practices that take your app from a simple success to a doozy of a powerhouse (These work even for the Android Play Store!)

What is app store optimization?

There are literally hundreds of new apps just parking themselves all over the app store. Getting the spotlight over your app could get tricky. It’s an app a day, keeps the user away scenario (Not ideal, trust us) Which is where ASO comes in.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is essentially the process of optimizing mobile apps with the aim of achieving a higher rank in the app store search results. Due to its uncanny similarity to search engine optimization (SEO) for websites, app store optimization is also referred to as “App Store SEO”, “App Search Optimization”, or “Mobile App SEO”.

But why is it so necessary?

Like we’ve mentioned earlier, there are two reasons:

1. You need your app to achieve a higher app search rank, i.e, to get noticed and get noticed soon!
2. Like SEO, ASO works to drive more traffic to your app’s page in the app store, which in turn makes searchers download the app.

ASO involves a lot of different stages, and the use of several tools and even then, you might not see the impact - definitely not in a single day. Surely, if Rome couldn’t be built in a day, so also your app’s popularity won’t soar through the roof ASAP. It takes a lot to invest in  ASO, but the final result? Totally worth it!

What are best practices for app store optimization?
When it's time to carry out an app store optimization, there’s a whole lotta technique that you’ve got to follow. And being the generous souls we are, we’ve compiled a list of what they are and how they help. Read on ahead:

Rule #1 - Get yo basics right

When you’re getting your app store listing together, there are a few basics that you must include:

1. A 30-character app name.
2. A 30-character subtitle.
3. 170-character promotional text
4. Three preview videos.
5. Screenshots prepared for the new store listing.

While each of these is needed for all listings, there are a number of ways you can use app store optimization to get the most out of your name, subtitle, and more. And they involve:

The app name - Keywords, Format, and Length

After the time spent developing an app, you most certainly need a fitting name to go with it. Give your app a creative and searchable name. Not only does it help potential users identify what the app is all about, it also boosts your app search results.

Also, make sure there's a subtitle to go with it as well; using keywords that can dramatically increase your rankings. And while it’s a good idea to include a few keywords within the name itself (useful because search platforms play favorites with apps that contain the search input right in their titles), avoid keyword stuffing! Spammy is not a good look, especially on apps. It’s about balancing the keywords with your brand.

And when it comes to the actual length, the best thing to do? Keep it short and simple (Brand names are usually shortened to a few keywords, preceded by a dash or a semicolon) Some real-life examples include: “Amazon App: Shop, Scan, Compare, and Read reviews” or “Pandora – Free Music & Radio” etc.

Remember to use only URL-friendly characters in your title, and avoid any special characters like the trademark or copyright symbol.

Finally, when it comes to the length, you’re limited to a maximum of 50 characters. This means you’ve got to make the most of what’s available to you. The brand name could have 23 characters or you could use more than 40 characters to cover relevant app store keywords.

The promotional text and Description

Here are some numbers: An average of only 5% of users click the “read more” button below the description in Google Play Store and worse, it goes down to 2% for Apple! Add to that, you’re only allowed 252 characters for the mobile app description and that’s when you need to think fast.

A few years ago, there really wasn’t any division between description and promotional text. Yet today, you’re expected to put together a description that stays the same until your next app store listing, while the promotional text gets updated with the addition of new features.  

The description is supposed to sell the app. You don’t want to waste any unnecessary space but to grab as many eyeballs as you can. Blank lines and interrupted sentences are a strict no-no. By focusing on the app’s values instead of its features, you make it easier for users to understand what makes it so unique from the 1001 other apps out there. Mention its uses, the user's expectations, and always include a call-to-action text to get them moving.

Design yourself a distinctive icon

So, now that you’ve got a well-designed app with a description that ticks all the right boxes, What next? It’s time to whip up the right icon. Users can be nit-picky when it comes to downloading apps but a compelling icon can increase your downloads by 560%! In order to design a good icon, you need to remember certain key points:

1. Keep the design simple yet eye-catchy.
2. Avoid cramming in too many items or words.
3. Ensure the icon looks good even after being scaled down to the smallest size as per app store requirements.
4. Pay attention to the backgrounds, both light, and dark.
5. Avoid brand confusion - try to keep your icon as different as possible from your competitors’ designs.
6. Use the brand logo, if your app happens to have a brand. Eg. Facebook with its recognizable ‘F’.
7. If it's a functional app, use any object to define it. Eg. WhatsApp with the ‘Phone’ symbol.

Screenshots and Preview Videos

Another way app store optimization works is with regard to screenshots and preview videos. While screenshots happen to have the primary pull, preview videos take it to the next level. With screenshots, more than half of the user force won’t swipe past the first two images. So, how do you get them to check out all the screenshots? Simple:

1. Ensure every screenshot carries your app’s message, with the strongest messages present within the first two images. Optimally utilize each of the 5 screenshot slots you get!
2. Add in short caption texts to your screenshots but make sure they are on a clean background and creating a positive impression.
3. Avoid login, registrations, purchase forms, ads and even the “Welcome” screen. Use it to tell your users why your app’s the best.
4. Turn them vertical so that users get to see more of the screenshots on their narrow mobile screens.   

Now, when it comes to making a video, things could get difficult. Yet there’s no denying the fact that videos can increase install rates by more than 23%. So how does one show off their app via a video? By doing this:

1. Use the first 5 seconds to grab user attention.
2. Keep the spotlight on the best features, instead of all the features.
3. Since videos often autoplay on mute make sure it makes sense even with volume levels lowered down.
4. Always, always include a call-to-action.
5. Remember to use a good poster frame (iOS) or feature graphics (Google Play) - this impacts the watchable meter of your video.
6. Dodge the cheesy fade-in and “welcome” variety messages at the beginning of the video.
7. More than 80% of users don’t bother watching after the first 12 seconds. Which is why 2 duties - Short and to the point.
8. Help teach users the ways to get the most out of your app.

App Localization

Translating an app into multiple languages greatly increases an app’s downloads and exposes said app to an even greater potential audience. But localizing the whole app to so many languages can be intimidating. Before completely localizing your whole app, consider localizing your app listing first. This means translating your app name, keywords, screenshots, etc. A good localization strategy always includes:

1. Use of app analytics to find out the top countries via downloads or a check of the official languages of the top five countries.
2. Identification of top countries by revenue, ARPU, conversion rate, active devices or retention.

Once you’ve got all your basics in line for an app store placement, you can really go to town with your approach and polish everything. Some of these optimization practices don’t necessarily occur within the actual app store, yet they help you get noticed. A few further practices to remember when it comes to ASO:

1. Knowing your customers and the competition - Identify, analyze and develop your work based on what the users prefer. Same goes for the opponents. Discover what makes           them  tick in the market and work from there.

2. External publicity - This implies anything that hikes up traffic, eventually raising your rank amongst search results. Eg. Creating a one-page website for people searching for your      app. This includes a link to download the app in the store and helps your app store optimization in the long run.

3. Frequent updates - Revamp your app store listing frequently via promotional texts, introducing new keywords, informing users about the latest updates, etc. This shows you want      your app to be out there, gaining attention.

4. Welcome feedback - Another way to increase your ASO is via reviews, feedback, and ratings. Although users are often prompted when downloading or updating the app to leave      a  review, they won’t actually do so until you actively encourage and even welcome it. Eg. Incentivizing reviews, sending push notifications asking for a feedback etc

Alarmed? Don’t be. While app store optimization can feel like too much, too fast, we hope with this article you’re a little less unnerved. Developing an app means spending both tons of dough and valuable time. Which is why getting prime seats within the app store arena should be your number one priority. After all, if it’s good for your app, then it should be good for you too!