Build it and they will come. Sadly this is very seldom the case. Once your app is live, you need to do everything possible to help users find and download your app. In this post we’ll explore App Store Optimisation (ASO). Think of it like SEO for your app listing.

App Store Optimisation (ASO) is a really important part of your marketing toolbox, but it’s often ignored.

ASO can really help give your app a boost being discovered and significantly boost downloads. Understanding what goes into good ASO will make your app stand out from the rest and help people discover your app while searching through app stores.

Reports found that 63% of iOS and Android users used the app store search to find and download apps. With over 2 million mobile apps, getting noticed in the major app stores can be really difficult. At a recent Google I/O event, Ankit Jain said that for the average app, search makes up the vast majority of installs. That basically means if you’re not using ASO to increase your app’s search rankings you could be missing out on one of the biggest marketing and discovery channels available to your app.

Spending some time every week improving your ASO can create a meaningful impact on your app’s ranking and overall success.

So Where Do You Start?

First off, you need to understand your customers and your competition. We’ve talked about the importance of understanding your customers before. If you look back at our post on creating the scope of your app, we looked at creating personas. These can be hugely helpful here to get into the mindset of your potential customers and understand what they would be searching for. HubSpot has a great tool for building personas from a marketing perspective.

You can start by asking yourself some of the following questions:

  • How would your customers describe your app?
  • What are there top reasons for downloading your app?
  • What is your competitive advantage?
  • What keywords do your competitors target?
  • How can you easily compete against these apps on the same keywords?
  • Should you target the obvious or less obvious (and less trafficked) keywords that may speak better to your unique offerings or points of differentiation?

Your ASO strategy essentially begins by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes with the goal of finding out exactly what queries they’d use to find your app, and building a keyword list around this. It’s also crucial to understand what keywords your competition is targeting so you can decide if it’s worth trying to compete on the same keywords, or take a more niche keyword approach, or a mix. You can use a tool like Moz’ Keyword Explorer to help identify keywords to target.

What Next?

You want to use the knowledge of your customers and keywords and apply this to a few areas:

Your App Name

For best results with ASO, you’ll want to include relevant keywords within the title of your app as the text heavily factors into app store search results. A recent study found that in the top 25 ranking positions, apps with a relevant keyword in the title ranking on average 10% higher than apps without a title keyword.

That said, you shouldn’t stuff your title full of keywords – you need to remember the app name is your first impression to a potential customer. Longer titles will be truncated in search results. This is typically at around 23 characters (including spaces) on Apple’s App Store and 30 characters in Google Play. When installed, the titles are trimmed at 11 and 14 characters on a device’s navigation menu and home screen respectively.

To make sure your app can be clearly identified, keep the actual name short and sweet and then augment the short title with nonessential keywords after then name, typically separated with a dash or vertical bar.

Maximise Your Keywords

The Apple App Store and store provides a 100 character keyword field. It exclusively uses the title and the keywords field to determine what search queries your app will show up for. With this in mind, it’s crucial to use all the allotted characters and carefully research keywords to maximise your organic traffic.

Create a Compelling Description

With the app description, you want to include a few strategically placed keywords, but overall the description should be targeted to your customer, not a search index engine. Your description should be seen as a call-to-action for your potential customers. You’ll want to use simple and concise language to describe what the app does and the benefits it offers and compel the reader to download it. We typically recommend to focus a lot of energy on the first 3 lines of your description to immediately grab your user’s attention. There’s lots of competition on the app stores, so its important to make a user’s decision easy by immediately communicating what your app does and why they should use it.

Each time you submit an update for your app, take some time to consider the description, screenshots, keywords and call out new features, and use the opportunity to optimise the information where you can.

About Stephen Fourie

I've been a professional software developer since 2004, and running GEM since 2010. I've developed software for many different industries including automotive, logistics, finance and entertainment. I'm the GM at GEM Custom Apps where we build custom web and mobile apps for businesses.I love my wife, my dog, cars and gadgets. And coffee! I'm an Ironman 70.3 finisher, beginner skateboarder, xbox gamer and digital nomad :)