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A Guide To App Store Optimisation

Published: January 17, 2022

With over 1.6 million apps in Google Play and a further 1.5 million in the App store, rivalry is intense. It is therefore important for app makers to understand how apps are optimised in order to increase visibility and attract users.

App Store Optimisation (ASO) is a critical piece of the digital marketing jigsaw. The algorithm designed by Apple is based primarily on keywords and the number of downloads, but also takes into account several other key factors marketers should be aware of.

This guide will give you an insight into the bigger picture and explains what you need to do to rank higher in app stores.

Should you build an app?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of optimising apps, you should ask yourself whether building an app is beneficial to your business in the first place.Whilst mobile applications do offer distinct advantages for businesses of all sizes, it should be noted they are not for everyone.First of all you need to understand your audience and determine whether they will use an app. If the answer is yes, determine what solutions you can provide your audience that will provide on-going solutions to common problems and make it worthwhile for your customers to use your app consistently.

twitter-292994_960_720 Research reveals mobile users spend 85% of their smartphone time using native apps, but only use five non-native applications downloaded from the app store. There is clearly a challenge for app makers to develop applications that have a long-lasting appeal. But businesses that do hit on the right idea can expect smartphone users to search and use mobile applications from app stores. It is estimated that 80% of mobile owners use their smartphones to search the internet. Portable handsets are now the most used device for browsing and as technology advances smartphones, tablets and wearable tech will play a greater role in how consumers interact with native applications.

Apps are arguably the future of brand marketing and for some online firms could take on a more important role than websites.  They certainly enhance customer engagement with your brand. They help to promote your company and your products alongside your website. Mobile owners like the convenience of native apps on their phones and tablets. They are easy to use and enable them to access your online store wherever they are, especially when they are on the move. And it gives them the opportunity to interact and communicate with you directly and in an instant.

So for business owners with a great idea that enables customers to access quality content, provide information they need and help make their life easier, building an app is a sensible move for the future growth of your business.

Why is app optimisation important?
A study revealed that 47% of iOS users discovered new apps in the App Store through the search function. Apps are ranked in a similar way websites are ranked in search engine results. Therefore ASO is essential for discovery purposes. If you are not optimising your app for visibility, you have wasted your investment building one in the first place. Like any search tool, app stores use keyword indicators to identify relevant apps against search terms and ranks apps in accordance with specific metrics based on user behaviour and popularity.

Keywords help to significantly enable search tools to match your app against search terms keyed in by the end-user. Keywords should be included in your App name for relevancy. In Apple’s App Store, your app name can use a maximum of 255 characters whilst Google Play only allows up to 30 characters.Your keywords should be relevant to the contents of your app and should match the search terms your target audience is most likely to use. Do some research on keyword planner to determine which keywords have the most relevance. But also take note of the most relevant keywords that provide the least competition.

Here are some tips for positioning keywords:
  • Use commas rather than spaces
  • Type in numbers (22) rather than words (twenty-two)
  • Keep keywords short
  • Don’t include stop words like, on, in, at, the
  • Don’t include non-letter characters like *,@, ! etc..
  • The first 25 characters are the most important so make best use of them
  • Don’t use your brand name as a keyword
  • Localise your keywords – this can boost your downloads by up to 767%
It is important to get your keywords right the first time. It is not good practice to keep changing your title and your keywords every few months as this will have a detrimental effect on the ranking metrics you have already garnered.

Differences in App Store keyword selection
There are slight differences in the way keywords are used by app store algorithms. Apple rank keywords from a designated field which provides users with a maximum of 100 characters. Google Play identifies keywords from your metadata and matches them with keywords used in your description field. By focusing on relevancy in your app description you will increase your chances of ranking higher in Google Play. Descriptions are not indexed in the App Store but play a crucial role in convincing users to download your app. Tell prospects what they can expect from your app and make it convincing. If you have any press releases, industry reviews or user testimonials that support your claim, add them in the description box.

Another significant difference in the discovery of apps that will impact ASO on Google Play and the App Store is categorisation. Apple has two different categories, apps and games, but Google lump them all under one category. In Google Play, the emphasis for discovery is through keywords because its search engine is more powerful.

Other ASO metrics
Apps with higher ratings rank more highly in the app store. This puts the emphasis on creating an app that offers value to customers. Encourage users to rate your app. According to app owners, end-users rarely rate apps or leave reviews. After all, what do they have to gain when they lose their time for your benefit?

Facebook-ad-targeting-dartboard Google Play offers the facility to do this through social signals in Google+. However, this means users have to log into their social media account in order to leave a review.

Apple has a similar function, but it is limited to iTunes rather than social media networks. Users can leave a review if they are logged into iTunes. It is therefore worth your while offering a token reward as an incentive for users to leave a review. Apps that have the most downloads also rank higher and other iOS users are more likely to download on app based on peer reviews. This should give you the incentive to offer at least a token gesture to customers that give your app a rating.

You will increase engagement in the app stores by using images and videos. Apple allow five images and video previews of 15-30 seconds, Google Play give you eight images and between 30 seconds and two minutes of video time.

Things to bear in mind
ASO does not end once you have uploaded your product to the App Store or Google Play. Optimisation is a continuous process and will take some tweaking over time before you reap the rewards. Although it is not good practice to change your title, you should keep a track on how well keywords rank. You can do this using free online software such as Google Trends.

Putting in the time to understand, iterate and test keywords and description copy increases your chances of downloads and subsequently your revenue. You can make your app more attractive to purchase by giving it a low price tag. Track your ranking each week, but also check on how well your competitors are performing. If you find they are having more success than you, assess their keywords and description and reinvent what they are doing.

Given there is a surge in mobile app development right now, together with huge investments, it is clear that leading brands recognise the value of native applications. No matter how big or small your business is, if you hit on the right idea for an app that consumers can use on a regular basis, apps can be extremely beneficial for your business so make sure you learn how to optimise your product in the App Store.

Author: Jonathan Gillespie

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