How to Leverage App Store Optimization (ASO) to Grow Your Business

With millions of apps available, breaking through the noise is one of the biggest problems for new launches. Just like other optimization methods, it takes work and patience to get your offering in front of the right people. However, when it works, you can grab a spot in the most prominent places in app stores to boost your growth potential.

There are many ways to market apps, and they should be included in an inclusive digital strategy. Still, one of the best techniques to improve reach is app store optimization or ASO for short.

Research has highlighted that many people find relevant apps by browsing app stores. Another top way that apps get found is via the ‘top-rated’ or ‘most popular’ lists. So, being discovered by these methods is an essential way to increase the downloads and popularity of your apps.

Our guide takes you through the basics of app store optimization and explains why it’s a valuable technique to improve your reach. We’ll also give you handy actionable tips so you can start implementing new marketing strategies that include effective app store optimization.

What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?

Simply put, app store optimization (or ASO) is the process of optimizing your application to improve and maximize its visibility within an app store. This technique involves improving performance in general search results and the ‘explore’ features when individuals are browsing. By increasing these metrics, you can improve traffic to listings and make a positive step in gaining more downloads and in-app conversions.

The main area that ASO focuses on is encouraging people to take a specific action. In this case, it is downloading your app.

Why is ASO Important?

App store optimization is important because you want to be seen in the right places on an app store. As mentioned above, research shows that most people discover new apps via specific searches. So, undoubtedly, this is one of the main focuses of your ASO efforts.

There are now millions of apps available across different app stores, and trying to outrank other popular applications is challenging. However, ASO could be the answer to your marketing efforts in this area.

However, much like other search optimization forms, it takes time, patience, and analysis to keep it moving in the right direction.

Understanding the Basics of ASO

It’s important to understand that app store optimization is not just about the search aspect. Engagement is another factor that algorithms take into consideration. Also, similar to traditional SEO methods, there are several overlaps in terms of how to optimize your listings.

App stores are similar to mini search engines. They want to bring customers the best and most relevant apps for their searches. Apps also rely on a range of indicators to gauge search visibility with elements such as app quality and how much value it brings to the user.

On an engagement level, app stores are looking to showcase apps that meet most of their key performance indicators, such as impressions, shares, downloads, and reviews or ratings. The better you do in these areas, the more opportunity there will be to move into better positions in an app store.

Some of the main ranking factors include:

• App Name
• App URL
• App Subtitle
• Keyword field
• In-App Purchase
• Rating and Reviews
• Updates
• Downloads and Engagement

Another vital aspect to remember throughout the ASO process is that it never stays still. The digital marketing landscape is forever changing, and so are app store algorithms. Even the smallest of tweaks are designed to create a better user experience. Therefore, evolving with this is crucial for keeping your app in the top spots.

After you’ve gotten to grips with the basics, it’s now onto optimizing each area for your app.

The Foundations of ASO - Organic Optimization

One of the most effective ways to optimize your app is to use organic techniques. Similar to the traditional organic methods of SEO, there is some overlap in the tactics used to create the best app listing for a variety of app stores.

Check out the key elements of organic app store optimization:

Identify Your Audience

In any marketing strategy, you need to determine who your audience is. It is vital to understand what your users want and how you can deliver this when preparing your plan for app store optimization. Once you have a clear idea of this foundation in your app marketing efforts, you can implement the steps below.

Choose Your App Name

This might seem like an obvious one, and you may already have a planned name for your app, but is it user-friendly?

One of the main areas to consider when naming an app is its relevancy to the app itself. If you take a look at any app store, you’ll notice a pattern to app names. In most cases, you’ll see the name of the app followed what it actually does. For example:

VSCO: Photo & Video Editor
Seven: 7-Minute Workout
Udemy: 100,000+ Online Courses

Choose Your App Name

This not only gives the user a short snappy name they’ll be able to remember, but it also describes exactly what they’ll get when they download it.

When choosing a name, it also has to fit within the character limits. At the moment, Apple App Store is 30 characters, and Google Play Store is 50 characters.

One of the most influential ranking factors in this space is keywords in the app name, so that’s why you’ll see the main keywords after the brand name in most examples.

Your app name should also be easy to read and unique.

Keywords

Keywords are essential for app search optimization. Determining what keyword you want to use and be found for is the first step. This keyword is something that people will search for in the app store, so getting it right could make or break your reach level.

App store optimization tools can help you search relevant keywords and find a group of search terms that work with your message. While it’s essential to get this right when you set everything up, keywords can be a changing process and ultimately may need tweaking for future updates to ensure you’re still hitting the right audience.

When choosing keyword groups for your app, there are some common questions to ask to help you create a suitable list:

• What are the main features of your app?
• What are the synonyms that are associated with it?
• What category will your app be going in?
• What are similar apps called?
• What search terms are people currently using?

Writing the Description

The app description is another example of metadata. This not only describes your app to users, but it also gives app stores the relevant information for its ranking algorithms. However, there are some differences in the way app stores recognize this field.

In the Apple Store, it is not indexed. However, that does not mean you should leave this section out. For the best user experience, writing a description will ensure your audience understands what the app delivers. It’s an ideal place to showcase the features and what value it will bring if downloaded.

Google Play apps are a little different as the description box is indexed. It is one of the places where Google looks for relevant keywords and search terms to rank your app accordingly. These elements should be utilized effectively and not just keyword-stuffed; as you know, Google is hot on lazy tactics to improve rankings.

Just write your description naturally. This way, it’ll satisfy Google’s algorithm and ensure readers understand it, which means they’re likely to revisit it.

When writing your description, make sure there is a clear structure. It’s also best not to just write a bulky paragraph as this is challenging to read, especially on mobile. Readers want snippets and takeaways from the content so they make a decision quickly. Use bullet points, emojis, or simply break it down into digestible chunks.

Currently, both apps stores have a 4000-character limit.

Create a Catchy App Icon/Thumbnail

Another vital factor of app store optimization is the creative assets you produce.

One of the first things people see alongside the title is the icon. This feature is small but significant, and should convey the message of your brand and app.

For this element, remember that less is more, as anything too busy is not appealing to the eye. It’s also a great idea to create variations for the icon and do some A/B testing to see which is more effective.

Throughout the life of an app, you can also change up the icon to represent the updates and innovations of your brand. While these shouldn’t be too drastic, they can add a lift to your existing message. Look at the evolution of websites and apps such as Facebook or Twitter. You’ll see the subtle changes they’ve made to the logo over time without detracting from the original brand persona.

App Screenshots and Videos

Another visual asset to create is screenshots and videos of how your app works. Although these features don’t contribute to ranking your app higher in the search results, they offer better conversation rates, which in turn, improve search rankings.

There’s no better way to show people what your app does than actually giving them an insight into what they’ll expect. You don’t have to give the entire game away, but displaying the functionality and features can boost conversion rates.

Another visual asset to create is screenshots and videos of how your app works. Although these features don’t contribute to ranking your app higher in the search results, they offer better conversation rates, which in turn, improve search rankings. There’s no better way to show people what your app does than actually giving them an insight into what they’ll expect. You don’t have to give the entire game away, but displaying the functionality and features can boost conversion rates.

First impressions count, and many people are visual information consumers and will respond well to pictures and videos more so than words.

This feature also shows the orientation of how the user would use the app. If it’s horizontal, make sure your screenshots are delivered this way to avoid any confusion when the app is downloaded.

You can also make use of visual storytelling via app videos. In the App Store, these are called App previews, and in Google Play, Promo Videos.

Adapting for Localization

When you have the wording and visual assets done, it’s now time to think about localization listings. Many people often believe that all apps are in English, but that’s not always the case.

For apps to appeal to the global market, you need to customize your app to the worldwide market. However, that doesn’t mean you need to create everything from scratch. All your existing metadata and creative assets can be translated into other languages. Several optimization tools can help in this area.

By delivering apps to a native audience, you can leverage trust and present it to a wider audience.

Encouraging Feedback and Reviews

A significant part of how well an app ranks is down to what people say about it. Both Apple Store and Google Play look at comments and reviews, and of course, the better they are, the greater your chances of ranking higher in search results.

Reviews aren’t just crucial for algorithms; users read them, too. Research suggests that at least one review is read before an app is downloaded. Plus, users want to see that you reply and take on board feedback to improve the experience.

Encouraging Feedback and Reviews

The most challenging aspect of this feature is getting feedback in the first place. Some people will naturally rate an app if they love it. However, sometimes people need some encouragement. So, why not ask them directly? This in-app feature is helpful to direct users to leave reviews, although there are limitations within the app stores in terms of how much you can ask.

Extra Tips for Improving Your App Store Optimization

Above are the steps to take to create a listing suited you’re your audience. However, to help boost your app in stores, check out a few extra tips to consider throughout the process.

Utilize Free Keywords

App stores generally have a range of keywords they automatically apply. This means you don’t have to include them in your metadata. However, this is something that is often missed when thinking about the title and description.

The category name of the app is one of these keywords.

For example, if your app appears in the ‘Free Game’ section, the app store already gives you ‘free’ and ‘game’ as keywords so you can use these few extras words for other vital synonyms.

Discover Your Niche

Most apps will have a niche, but a lot of apps do not utilize them effectively. Suppose you take a look at the world of fitness, for example. In that case, there are thousands of applications that potentially offer the same type of thing. So how do you break through this noise?

Identify What Makes Your App Different

The keyword ‘fitness’ is a high-competition term, so trying to get to the top of these search results will be a long and challenging battle. If your app caters to fitness for a specific group of people, use that as a keyword first. Long-tail keywords are more likely to give you traction in a particular niche.

Examples could be ‘fitness for absolute beginners’ instead of using broad terms. When you start ranking for this term, you can tweak your tactics to move onto more competitive keywords and work your way up.

Think About App Weight

When you make an app available for download, it’s essential to think about how what downloading it entails. If it’s a hefty weight, then users will typically avoid downloading it onto their phone if they are not connected to WiFi. However, if this happens, they also may forget to come back and download it afterwards.

To ensure the conversion is not lost, make your download weight less than 100MB. This encourages people to download there and then and doesn’t affect their data usage too much.

Monitor the Competition

Alongside all the above features of ASO implementation, on-going competitor analysis is crucial. Being reactive to changes in your niche also ensures you stay ahead of the curve. Apps are being created all the time, so monitoring what’s happening and where you need to target next is essential.

You may also want to test the waters and become the changemaker yourself. However, this is typically advised when you have a good stake in the overall rankings. People can be more reactive to brands they trust over new starters.

Using Apple’s Spotlight Search Feature

Apple has developed a feature called Spotlight Search. This means users can search for apps they already have on their phone. Sound a bit pointless? Surely, they know it’s already downloaded? However, by enabling this feature, you can encourage more app use and engagement as people may not have used it in a while.

Develop in-App Purchases

Although many app users love free apps, if they like a resource, they’re more likely to pay to unlock some features. By developing in-app features at affordable costs, you can give users something exclusive without making it all about the money.

Apple Search Ads and Google Ads

The main app stores have paid advertising options that can help improve your visibility. While many people will opt to focus on organic reach, the beauty of Apple Search Ads and Google Ads for apps is that they have a connection to organic ranking algorithms. These algorithms take into account and determine relevance from organic and paid click-through-rates.

Although this might seem like the answer to getting your app out there, it’s also important to remember that you benefit from having a good organic reach first. Paid campaigns will help boost this reach, but if it’s not there to begin with, there is no foundation for it to work with.

Another plus with paid campaigns is relevancy. It is a more important aspect of the algorithm, rather than how much you’re spending. In basic terms, if your app is not relevant to the keyword you’re targeting on a paid campaign, it will often not be served as an advert on the app store. If you have a low click-through rate, it also may be retracted from the search altogether.

Another critical factor in optimizing a paid advert is to ensure your creative assets are appealing. Low click-through rates can sometimes be attributed to visuals that don’t stimulate the user; this, in turn, will lower your chances of being found in paid and organic search.

Keep on Top of App Updates

A significant part of app management is providing relevant updates when they’re needed. If your app becomes glitchy and deters from the user experience, you’ll start to get negative reviews and fewer downloads.

As we explored in a previous section, feedback and reviews are vital ranking factors that tell the app store what people think of your app. To improve the user experience, using the feedback and developing updates to tackle common issues will keep everything consistent and working correctly. If you don’t keep on top of updates, you’ll typically notice a similar trend in how people react to your application.

Once you’ve got everything set up and running, tracking your app’s progress and performance is the next step.

How to Measure App Store Optimization

Just like any other digital marketing strategy, keeping tabs on how well it’s doing is vital.

The data collected on your app can help determine the next steps to take and explore what’s working and what’s not within your niche.

One of the best ways to measure performance and actively monitor progression is by using app store optimization tools. There is a range of companies that provide this service and they have several features that build a picture of the app’s strengths and weaknesses.

These tools offer everything from:

• Analysis
• Optimization techniques
• Conversion data
• Keyword tracking
• Monetization
• A/B testing techniques
• Competitor monitoring
• Plus many other valuable tools

They are also a helpful way to track multiple apps in one place to enable you to streamline your analysis.

If you’re considering a manual performance management approach, here we show a little more detail into the key areas to focus on.

Monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

There are several KPIs to think about when managing the performance and success of your app. However, there can be a lot of data to crunch, so here a few recommendations to get started:

Keyword Rankings

Keywords rankings are always changing. Although most won’t fluctuate too much, there can be significant changes due to events or seasonal variations. For example, the pandemic saw millions of fitness app downloads throughout the months of lockdown. While fitness is a keyword that has been highly searched for years, the number of searches was unprecedented compared to other global events.

Tracking keyword changes will assist in developing a strategic plan for future growth. Starting with mid- or long-tail keywords can boost new apps in the app stores due to the low competition. However, as you move up the ranks, you can tailor your keyword targets to harness a broader reach.

Top Charts Rankings

Within the app stores, there is a section dedicated to ‘top apps’ or ‘recommended apps’. In reality, you’ll want to hit this feature a lot as it commands a prominent place on the homepage of the app stores.

Top Charts Rankings

You can track how many times you appear here and track your competitors too!

Reviews and Ratings

Another vital KPI is your reviews and ratings. This not only helps you understand how people use and rate your application, but it also shows the app store what they think of it, too. Maintaining a positive rating is obviously important. However, it’s also how you deal with the negative feedback that also helps your app.

Constructive or negative feedback can give you the tools to make changes. If you notice a pattern of similar issues, then fixing this is vital to improve user performance. Replying to comments and addressing current user problems will also improve customer satisfaction.

Reviews and ratings can be tracked for your app and competitors to give you invaluable insights into how they tackle this area.

Conversion Rate

As the app developer, you will be able to see how many times your app has been downloaded. You and the app store can only see this information, so you won’t be able to compare this to competitors.

Organic Installs

The term organic install refers to apps that are downloaded without any direct push from an advertiser. Users will find the app themselves via search or word of mouth. This type of user is considered to be the highest quality and is the best metric for a higher return on investment (ROI) and lifetime value (LTV).

However, organic installs are the hardest to achieve due to the volume of competing apps in app stores — although it’s not impossible. By analyzing and reacting to this metric, you can push your app organically to attract the right attention.

App Search Optimization Aspects You Should Avoid

To give you the best chance of performing well organically and through paid search, there are some areas to avoid for the best results:

Stuffing Keywords

Similar to traditional SEO keywords tactics, app stores do not like keyword stuffing. Character count is limited, so ensuring you optimize this section is vital. Using too many keywords in this area will also look unnatural, which can also affect user experience.

The App is Too Similar to Another in the Store

Some apps are just too similar to others in the app stores. Even if you offer something slightly different, but the message is still comparable, your app may not even be authorized by the app store for launch. This result will stifle your hard work and take you back to the drawing board. So, ensure it’s unique and has value to the user.

Changing Metadata Frequently

Although the process of managing and monitoring your app may involve tweaking keywords, it is typically best to avoid changing them too often. This can confuse people and doesn’t allow the algorithm time to index everything. Overall, try not to amend the title, description, and keywords too often unless you know it will benefit the results.

Steps to Take When Managing App Performance

There are several main aspects to ensure you manage your app’s performance successfully, including:

Analysis

Where you appear in search results is an important starting place. Analyzing your current visibility within an app store and how people find you is essential to improving your rankings. Manually exploring these keywords may take some time, so using a keyword tracker can help make the process quicker.

Optimize

When you’ve carried out an analysis of your app’s performance, taking steps to optimize it can improve its position. This stage is also a testing and experiment aspect. Although keywords may work better, they could also hinder results, so by ensuring you optimize well and target effectively, you’ll benefit from the results.

Publish and Distribute

Once you’ve optimized your app, it’s time to hit the publish button. Regularly updating your app can help you gain the best insight into what is working and what isn’t. Some experts suggest releasing updates every two weeks to gather these insights and make changes. This can be a hefty process, so using an ASO tool can help manage it.

Final Thoughts

App store optimization is not a quick process. Some apps seem to get all the luck, and others fail quickly. However, the key to not falling into the latter category is a consistent and methodical approach to ASO. Many developers focus on honing the app and delivering a fantastic product, only to rush elements such as the title, description, and visual assets. However, these are just as important if you want to gain high audience interaction and conversion rates.

Apps are being published every day, so ASO should remain a constant over the life of an app. Testing and experimenting with different elements can help to improve rankings and metrics, and ensuring app updates are available will improve its user experience.

ASO involves investment in both time and effort to drive traffic consistently. By implementing these handy tips, you will be in the best position to actively grow your reach and boost your business prospects.