App Store Optimization can help get your app in front of users, and once there, get them to convert. ASO best practices include optimizing metadata to aid in visibility, creative optimization to drive conversions, and supplementing these organic efforts with paid marketing to expedite the process. These initiatives combine to form the basics of an App Store Optimization strategy that can set your app up for continued success.
Apple has stated that the majority of users use the search feature of the App Store to find new apps, and 65% of search installs happen directly in search results. This makes search a vital channel to appear on, as it is where most users go to find new apps.
Improving keyword rankings in search results will increase your chances for users to find your app. This starts by understanding what terms to target, and how – the execution of doing this is vastly different for each platform.
Search – Where Apple and Google Crawl
Apple and Google’s algorithms scan metadata fields to determine how the app should index in the stores. The fields that are factored in, however, are different. Apple indexes the title, subtitle, and keyword field; the description is not indexed. Google Play indexes the title, short description, and full description, but there is no explicit keyword field.
Apple’s title and subtitle allot 30 characters each, with a 100 character hidden keyword field, for 160 total characters. The description, as stated above, is not indexed for keywords, though it can factor into a user’s decision to convert to download.
Google gives developers 50 characters for the title and 80 characters for a short description. Like Apple, Google has a 4000 character description as well. Unlike Apple, however, Google scans the description to “find” keywords for indexation. This means that there must be a balance between readability and keyword leveraging to appeal to both the audience and Google’s algorithm.
For both Apple and Google, keywords play an essential role in organic marketing efforts. Developers should target keywords that relate to the app features and functionality. These targeted terms should be diverse, encompassing every applicable facet of the app to reach the widest audience, expanding the overall chances of being discovered.
The more keywords your app is successfully able to index, the higher your chances are of being discovered. Ranking in top positions for high-volume searches will drive the most visibility, but higher volume does not always equate to a better target. These terms are more competitive, and often more broad in what they encompass. Low volume terms have less competition and may be easier to rank for. Though there may be fewer users overall looking for these terms, it’s important that those who do find your app if the term is hyper-relevant to your features and demographic.
Optimizing metadata is the first step to get a user to find your app in search results. The next is finding a way to compel them to download.
The creative set of your app listing, including the screenshots, icons, and videos, is what can grab a user’s attention when they are looking for an app to download. These art assets may be the deciding factor in a user’s decision to download your app versus a competitor.
An app’s icon is the first creative piece that is seen from the search results in the Google Play Store, and one of the creatives shown in the Apple App Store search results. As such, an app icon needs to stand out, aid in user understanding of the app, and entice users to download an app over the competitors. When designing an icon or creating variants, consider what is trending in your given category. For more information on ideas for designing an app icon, check out these tips.
App Store screenshots are an integral part of conversions, as they take up the majority of screen real estate in search results and on the product page. Beyond creating screenshots that “look good,” you will want to analyze what competitors in the market are doing, how they communicate their value propositions and features, and how you can make your app stand out from the pack. Elements like adding concise text in the image can communicate information more quickly, which is vital when users are quickly swiping through search results deciding what to download.
While icons and screenshots are required, videos are an optional creative asset. Videos will automatically play in App Store search results, which may capture a user’s attention better than a static image. But like all assets, their implementation should be tested against static images alone to determine their impact on conversion.
By optimizing your icon, screenshots, and/or video, you can increase the likelihood of users who find your app to convert to a download. The improvement here can only be achieved through controlled testing and incremental improvement from the findings of each test.
In the Google Play Store, you can test variations of your creatives using Google Play’s Experiments feature. Different versions of your creative sets can be sent to users in an A/B test, allowing you to assess which variant converts best over time. Since both versions are distributed to users on the same day, testing through Experiments is a great way to determine what performance would look like if you had implemented a change – say a blue icon versus a red icon – without having to fully make the change before testing.
The iOS App Store does not have this feature; changes must go live to 100% of traffic. Since changes can not be run simultaneously in an A/B test, factors such as seasonal trends before the change must be accounted for when assessing performance.
However they are being tested, it’s important to keep the number of changes to a minimum wherever possible. This way, you can assess what worked, what did not, and move forward for incremental conversion growth. Without having concrete data on what drove an improvement or decline in conversion, there is no roadmap to move forward.
Paid marketing efforts are a great supplement to ASO, but not a long-term solution on their own. Without first optimizing metadata for keyword visibility, as soon as the paid user acquisition budget is exhausted, traffic will decline to where it was before. Setting up your foundational metadata allows you to tell Apple and Google what to index you for; driving in additional traffic helps speed up the process. If metadata is structured properly, the benefits of a paid UA campaign can last beyond the date when the campaign concluded.
Paid UA can help organics, but organic metadata and creative optimization can also help paid UA. For instance, an unoptimized creative set may lead to a high rate of taps, but no installs- meaning that users don’t understand the app or find the creatives appealing enough to convert. These taps and lack of conversions can drive up paid campaign CPIs, whereas an optimized creative set can keep CPIs reasonable.
Paid UA & Organic Coefficients
As opposed to a paid user acquisition channel that drives external traffic to your app store listing page, Apple Search Ads (ASA) and Google Ads (GA) are paid user acquisition channels that allow you to bid to have your app served directly in the App Store and the Play Store search results. All acquisition channels can have organic benefits for your category ranking, but only these channels have a direct impact on your keyword ranking.
Increased Category Ranking
Category ranking is determined by the number of downloads that you receive compared to other apps in that category. Receiving continued increases in downloads from organic and paid marketing efforts at a higher rate than competitors will increase the app’s ranking in that category. This can open even more opportunities to grab users that are browsing apps within your category.
Increased Keyword Ranking
Apple Search Ads and Google Ads open up the opportunity for apps to be at the top of the search results, labeled as ads above the organic search results. Though they are labeled as ads, they still play a role in each platform’s algorithm for organic keyword ranking. If a user searches for a particular keyword and the user clicks your app, this signals to Apple and/or Google that the app is relevant for the keyword. If there are more clicks to your app instead of competitors over time, this will actually increase the app’s organic ranking, and your app will rise up in the search results.
Creating “the next great app” doesn’t just involve creating a sleek interface and cutting edge features. Users will need to be able to find the app, and when they do, convert it to a download.
App Store Optimization is essential to this goal. Optimizing metadata to expand keywords that are integral to the app, as well as updating the creatives using best practices can lead to increased ranking, visibility, and conversion rates. Paid user acquisition can then help play a role in the ability to compete for more downloads among top competitors, but only after foundational ASO is established.
This is just the first step. Just like any app needs frequent updates to fix bugs and increase user engagement, metadata and creativity must consistently be updated to keep up with current trends and user behavior. Don’t just stop at developing an amazing app and hoping for the best; ensure users can experience the app by implementing an ASO strategy.
For more tips on the ASO strategy, check out this article.
Gummicube Co-Founder & CEO, Dave Bell
Gummicube is a global leader in App Store Optimization with more than 11 years of experience optimizing and marketing apps. We offer the leading enterprise ASO technology and agency services, providing support to clients around the world. Our company is trusted by thousands of enterprise brands and leading startups including Microsoft, LinkedIn, Bethesda, SWEAT, GrubHub, McAfee, and many others.