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What is App Store Optimisation (ASO)?

Building a user base around your application is as challenging as developing the application. Once you list an application on the Play Store (Google) and App Store (Apple) you have to compete with ~5 million other apps to gain visibility and for the user to download your application . ASO is the process of optimising your app to rank higher and get more downloads.

User behaviour around apps.

~50-60% of users find new apps by performing an app store search. There are other ways like word of mouth, web search, advertisements and top charts (if your app becomes popular enough). If a user is not searching for an app using its title, they will get hundreds of options available. Visitors are most likely to choose an app based on the top ten results displayed. To validate this decision, they will then consider the;

  1. Number of downloads
  2. Number of reviews
  3. Review score

Once they click through to your app landing page, they will not go through all the description content, instead, they will go through the graphics and illustrations available to understand how the app works and the features of it. Then they might go through a few reviews to understand the user experience. If satisfied, they will download the app and use it. Understanding this user behaviour and minimising any gaps will help you drive more conversions.

Factors to consider in ASO
1) Title, subtitle and description.

The title is the first thing users see and it needs to be appealing. Easy to read, unique app titles are important. It needs to be relevant to what the app is about. The short description can further explain what the app is about. There are slight differences between the App Store and Play Store

App Store Play Store
  1. 30 character limit for title
  2. 30 character limit for subtitle
  1. 50 character limit for title
  2. 80 character limit for short description.
Although there are 30 characters available, often only 19 will be visible on a search result page (based on user device). As a rule of thumb, if you can limit your title to be within this limit that would be Ideal. It's the same for the Play Store. If you can limit the title to 22 characters and 2 separate lines, that's the best practice.

App description on the other hand can be lengthy and descriptive. Both Google and Apple allow 4000 characters in this field and it's best to use all of it. It's important not to talk about:

  1. Other platforms and devices.
  2. Customer reviews and quoting them.
  3. Competitors and comparisons with other apps.
2) Keyword targeting

The right keywords are the heart of any ASO strategy. You need to target long-tail keywords at the beginning and then move towards short and more prominent ones. Using tools like Google Keyword Planner is important. And you can look at your competitor's keyword strategy to figure out what works best. There are three things to keep in mind when choosing keywords.

  1. High Relevancy - Does this explain what my app is about?
  2. High reach volume - How many are searching for this keyword?
  3. Low Competition - How many are competing for this keyword?

The App Store considers the title and subtitle as keywords and they off a specific keyword field (keyword bank) with 100 characters. It's important not to repeat keywords across these fields and avoid character spacing when adding keywords to the keyword bank.

The Play Store, on the other hand, doesn't have a keyword bank and considers the whole content on their search results. Even on the Play Store, it's important to avoid keyword stuffing and double-ups.

3) Illustrations and graphics

Users will judge your app by its graphics. Your logo needs to stand out, so that users notice it in search results. Prominent colours and high resolutions are important. Best practice would be to test a few different logos to find out what provides a better click-through rate.

Once a visitor clicks on a search result, they want to know how the app UI looks and if it has the features they searched. The best way to convince them is through feature screenshots and a preview video. Screenshots need to be the right resolutions for both mobile and tablet and they need to be curated to drive more conversions. If you are using a video preview, keep in mind that most users will watch it in autoplay mode and they won't hear any voice over you add to it. Adding text overlays to your video is important.

4) App download velocity

How many downloads your app gets and how fast it gets them is a key defining factor of your search rank. Not only installations, app updates by existing users are also considered. Releasing frequent updates and aligning marketing to app releases is key to helping you drive downloads velocity. Unlike SEO, app downloads that happen through paid traffic will be equally considered for search ranking. That's because ASO focuses on the conversion rate rather than the click-through rate.

5) Organic installations and uninstallations

Even though organic installations and paid conversions are considered the same in the download matrix, organic installations should be the focus of your long term app strategy. Apart from the fact that they are free, these users will most likely;

  1. Frequently use and update the app.
  2. Likely to proceed with in-app purchases.
  3. Not contribute to the uninstallation ratio.

Uninstallations is a negative signal for app ranking. It's important to understand the reasons behind those uninstallations and fix them. The reason could vary from an irrelevant keyword to a bug.

6) Localisation

Localisation is important to build a global audience around your app. You need to understand the demographic and geographical demand for the app and translate the content into different languages, time zones and currencies.

7) Reviews and Rating

The number of reviews you get and the overall review score will define your rank. Reviews act as social proof to drive more installations. You have to plan campaigns to push your users to review your app and rewarding them in return would be a good strategy. To maintain a high review score, you have to understand issues that cause negative reviews and fix them ASAP. Replying to negative reviews outlining the actions you took will help you convert new users, whilst turning customers who previously had an issue with your service into lifelong customers.

8) App indexing

Simply putting, app indexing is a way to direct web search traffic to your app. If your app is indexed with Google and other search engines, it will increase both the visibility and usability. For example, people search for things like "weather" on Google all the time. If they have a dedicated weather app installed on their mobile Google can identify that and redirect users to the app. This will increase your app usability and new users can discover your app through web searches.

9) In-app purchases

If your app is monetised and if users are paying for additional services and content (VIP memberships, subscriptions) it's a strong signal that your audience likes your app. Planing a monetisation strategy is a win-win to make money and have your app rank higher.

10) Analytics and testing

Analytics is important to understand your performance and to plan an ASO strategy. Running variant tests for your graphics, keywords and content is important to understand what drives more conversions and what ranks highly. Analysing app usage metrics and releasing updates to enhance the user experience is equally important.

11) App store featuring

Even if your app is new and doesn't have much visibility, maintaining a flawless app experience and optimising it can grab the attention of app store editors. If they think that your app is worth noticing by more users, they will flag it as an editor's choice. It’s a small badge that the users will see when they come across your app but this can improve conversions. Featured apps get ranked among the best apps and also get listed on top charts.

Ranking algorithms are complex and can change over time. But the above content outlines the factors that define your app store rank. There are tools available like Firebase that can help you manage, optimise and monetise your mobile app. Optimisation needs the same level of attention that you put into development to make your mobile app idea a success.

How Maytech can help

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