Introduction to ASO Optimization For App Store and Google Play Store
A lot can happen in less than 15 years. In 2005, Google acquired a small startup that was known as Android. The company’s goal was to become the Microsoft of the mobile era. In his response, Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer said that his company saw no need of investing in the phone industry. Two years later, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world. Since then, mobile users have surpassed desktop users.
Part of the reason for this is the app stores, which allow anyone to launch their mobile application or game. As a result, we have seen the launch of many multi-billion companies like Uber, Lyft, Spotify, and Instagram that are built solely for mobile devices. Today, there are more than 2.4 million apps in the Google Playstore and more than 1.9 million apps in Apple AppStore.
While this progress is good, it brings a new challenge that developers around the world are battling in. The biggest issue they face is on how to make people see their applications and games. As with search engines, the reality is that people always download apps that are ranked higher in all the app stores. Very few people scroll down to see the apps.
What is ASO Optimization
The solution to this challenge is known as App Store Optimization (ASO) or App Store SEO. This is a process that is very similar to Search Engine Optimization because its goal is to ensure that apps are ranked high on app stores. App developers who use proper ASO strategies start seeing results on their apps within a few weeks of being live. Ideally, the process of ASO Optimization is relatively easy. As a summary, you just need to find the right keywords, add the keywords in the right places, and then convert visitors to users.
However, a few more steps need to be carried out before all this is done. First, you need to have a good idea that you have researched well. The app needs to help users solve a problem. For example, Instagram helped people share their photos while Uber helped them hail cabs. Second, you need to have good design. The benefit of having a good design cannot be understated because of how important the first impression usually is. Finally, the app needs to have little or no bugs. People tend to uninstall apps that are full of bugs. Once an app has been uninstalled, it will be very difficult for the user to reinstall it. Therefore, it will be impossible for your app to succeed if your app has these three issues.
Why is ASO Important?
App Store Optimization (ASO) is very important for all app and game developers who want to succeed. This is because of several reasons such as:
- Better app visibility. An app that is ranked high in Google play store and iOS app stores achieve better visibility. An app that is more visible to the public tends to be much better.
- More downloads. The goal of all app and game developers is to have millions of downloads. The more downloads an app is, the more money it makes for the developer. Therefore, when an app has more downloads, it means that the owner will make more money. Indeed, financial analysts usually track app downloads to forecast the performance of their companies.
- Reduced marketing costs. App developers often pay Google to have their apps rank higher. This is part of the process through which Google makes money from the store. Therefore, if your app is ranked higher on the app stores, it means that you will save a lot of money in customer acquisition costs.
- Better brand. As mentioned, most people believe that an app that is ranked higher on the play store is better than the one ranked below it. Therefore, a higher ranking will lead to a better brand for your company.
- Search Engine Optimization. In the past few years, Google has started to rank apps in search results. As such, if your app is ranked high on the app stores, there is a possibility that you will get more downloads.
- More interaction. If your app meets the three criteria described above, it means that more people will download and use it. The same people will leave reviews on the app store, which will help your app retain a better ranking.
What is ASO in SEO?
As described above, there are many similarities of ASO and SEO. The two strategies are intended to help your product rank higher on Google and Apple results. Indeed, as you will find below, ASO strategies are very similar to SEO strategies. The only big difference is that while ASO is for app stores, SEO is mostly used for legacy websites.
How Do You Optimize Your App or Game Using ASO?
The process of optimizing an application or a game is relatively easy but one that many people don’t understand. Before you move to optimize your app or game for app stores, you need to ensure that you have taken into account the three features mentioned above. These are the need for the app, the user interface, and the bugs. After doing this, you should move to the next stage.
Keywords For ASO Optimization
As with SEO, keywords play an important role when it comes to app rankings. A keyword is the term you search for in the app store when you don’t know the name of the app. Finding the right keywords to use will help you rank higher.
In SEO, we recommend that you use keywords that are not very competitive. Some keywords like local hotels or local salon are so competitive and are usually dominated by leading brands, Instead, you should focus on using ASO keyword tools that are available. While most of these tools are usually free, they usually charge some additional fees for the work. A good ASO tool that you can use is The Tool, which tracks the performance of apps worldwide.
After finding the keywords you should place them in the right places. Doing this will help Google and Apple identify the apps and rank them based on the keyword.
A good place to place your keyword is on the app name. A good way to go about it is to add the keyword next to the app name. For example, if you have a workout app called athlete, you can name it as athlete – best workout tool. A good example of this at work is that of Rosetta Stone that is shown below. Instead of naming the app just Rosetta Stone, the developers added the keyword, learn languages. Doing this helps Google know the type of app that you are offering and how to rank it.
Google itself has done the same thing on its Maps app.
ASO Naming Tips
Here are some tips that you should use to name your apps.
- Keep the app name short and memorable.
- Place the keyword next to the app name.
- Give it a name that is searchable.
- Be creative with the name.
Another place where you should be keen to place the keyword is on the app title. This is a feature that was introduced by Apple in iOS 11. Placing the keyword you are targeting there will tell Apple’s algorithms what your app is all about. Ideally, the keyword should be short as shown on the example below. In this example, the Weather app used Your Local Forecast & Radar as the keyword. The developers knew that many people used that keyword to search for weather-related apps.
Another place where you should have your app keyword is on the app description. While Google uses the information on the description to rank the apps, Apple does not. Still, you should always ensure that your app has a good and well-optimized description.
Google gives developers two places to describe the app. The first place is used for a short description and is limited to just 80 words. The other one has a bigger limit of 4,000 words. As a developer, you should ensure that the keyword appears on the two descriptions. The screenshot below shows the shorter description of the Rosetta Stone application. As you can see, the developer has used the keyword, learn to speak a new language in this description. This is simply because very few people click the Read More button.
In the longer description, the developer mentions the keyword tactfully to avoid raising concerns of keyword stuffing. Therefore, you should always ensure that you mention your keyword on the description. In Google Playstore, you should limit the number of times you repeat the keyword to 5.
Tips for using keywords in the description
- Don’t overuse the keywords.
- Use synonyms or things that you believe users search for.
- Use long-tail keywords.
App Store Keyword Field
This feature is only available in Apple’s App Store. The field gives developers a platform to list the keywords that they are targeting. To maximize the value of this feature, we recommend that you do a few things. First, you should use all the 100 characters that you have been given. Second, you should separate all the keywords using a comma. Third, use synonyms of the keywords you generated in the first step. Finally, use singular and plural terms when it is necessary.
Both Google and Apple give web developers an opportunity to have images on their apps. These images are mostly screenshots of the app. The goal of the images is to show the users how the apps looks like. As with SEO, it is important that you describe the images well. Ideally, you should add the keywords on the alt-text and the description.
App Store Page
After the keywords, the next most important factor in ASO is the design of the app page. This is where most people make their decisions on whether to install the app or not. Therefore, spending a lot of time designing this page will help your app rank higher. There are several reasons for this. First, if your app is ranked higher, it means that it will have more downloads and more user reviews. All these are factors that influence the ranking of the app. Basically, there are three crucial things you should focus on when designing the page: app icon, screenshots, and video demo.
The icon of the app is very important when it comes to user downloads. I have failed to install many apps simply because I did not love the icon. Indeed, it is estimated that the icon can increase your downloads by more than 500%. Therefore, you need to spend a lot of time designing, testing, and redesigning the icon.
The app icon needs to have two key qualities:
- It should be simple and memorable. Think of all apps that you use on a regular basis. This includes apps like Uber, Facebook, Instagram, and Google. All these apps have the most basic app icons in the world. As such, design the icon with simplicity in mind. Don’t put a lot of details on a very small space. Further, ensure that the app will look good in all screen sizes.
- It should be of the right color. There is something known as the science of colors. The color of your app icon will help you improve the number of users who are likely to download the app. For example, yellow is mostly used to project optimism and is used to target relatively young users. Pink is mostly femine while black is used to project sophistication and is used mostly for luxury products. In short, make your icon to be of the right color.
Screenshots in ASO
Quality screenshots can increase the number of app downloads by more than 400%. The screenshots give users an idea about what is inside the application. In ASO optimization, there are several things that you should always do on screenshots.
- Your best shots first. According to studies, and based on my personal experience, most users will not swipe more than three screenshots. This means that you should have the best shots first. This will help to ensure that you catch the attention of the users.
- Portrait Mode. A common mistake we often see is when developers place their screenshots in a landscape mode. This is wrong. Instead, you should ensure that the apps are in a portrait mode because it allows the users to see more shots on narrow screens.
- Focus on what the app does. Don’t have a welcome message, registration and login page, and purchase forms. Instead, show the users what the app will do for them
Preview Video in ASO
All app stores give you an opportunity to add a video on the app. Having a good preview video can help you increase the number of downloads by more than 50%. This is because most users will always insist on watching what the app does before they install it. Here are the best tips for creating your app marketing video:
- Make it short. A good video should be less than 30 seconds.
- Focus on your best features. Your app might have loads of features. However, focus on the best of them.
- Having sound on the video is important. However, the app video should make sense even when the sound has been turned off. This is because most people install apps when they are in public places.
- Have a good call to action.
- In iOS, you can add up to two video previews.
Ratings and Reviews
Most people want to know the experience of the previous users before they download the app. This is the main reason why ratings and reviews are so important. Personally, I never install an app before reading what other people have written about. While you can’t directly control what other people say, there are a few things you can do:
- Share the app with your friends and groups. After launching the app, invite your close friends to use and rate the app. These friends will use the app, identify bugs, and offer their opinion in private. They will also leave a positive review.
- Give freebies for reviews. For the first few weeks, you can offer freebies to users who review the app.
- Wait before you seek for reviews. Wait before you fix your bugs before you ask your users for reviews.
- Reply to comments. You should ensure that you reply to user comments whether negative or positive.
The size of the app matters because many people still pay for broadband whenever they download an app. Indeed, many people ignore apps that are very big. Therefore, we recommend that you make your app relatively small. A basic app should not pass more than 50MBs. However, games can take more space. This means that a game can be a few GBs. Remember, games are always open to downloading bigger games that are better.
Google Playstore and Apple’s Appstore show the users when the app was updated last. More people will like to download an app that was recently updated. They never install an app that was updated lastly many months back. Therefore, ensure that you update the app regularly.
Google and Apple have invested a lot to ensure that app stores are localized. As such, the app store people see in the United States is not the same one as the one they see in Japan. Some mobile apps are only available in some locations. As you submit the app, you should ensure that you have set up the localization feature. There are several benefits for using the location setting:
- Better ranking. If you are targeting users in London, the app will be better ranked in the city.
- More functional. You don’t want people who won’t use the app to install it.
- Better ratings. If people who can’t use the app download it, they can leave a negative review.
Putting it All Together
App Store Optimization (ASO) is a very important thing for all app developers. Those developers who fail to optimize their apps often see poor performance of their apps. As we have explained in this article, the entire process of optimizing the app is relatively easy. All you need to do is to optimize your keywords and optimize the design of the app page.