What is App Store Optimization?
So you have built a great app. There is just one problem: how do you make it stand
out from the rest? This is where App Store Optimization comes in.
In 2022 alone, Apple’s App Store grew by approximately 1.6 million apps. Google Play, on the other hand, saw a 3.5 million app increase. In this expanding landscape of leisure and business apps, wonder App Store Optimization has emerged as a pivotal tool. After all, even the most innovative, essential, and feature-rich apps can get lost in the sea of other applications in app stores. So why do so many brands still struggle with App Store Optimization? And what does it even mean?
What is App Store Optimization?
App Store Optimization (ASO) is a digital marketing strategy, used to enhance the visibility and discoverability of applications on various app stores. Similarly to how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works for websites, App Store Optimization focuses on improving the ranking of an app’s search results within the app store’s search engine. This means optimizing various elements such as the app name, keywords under the listing, descriptions and images.
Using relevant keywords and compelling visuals on an app’s listing helps attract more organic traffic (referring to traffic from human or “organic” searches in the app store). Let’s say a user searches for the keyword “workout at home” while looking for an app that has a collection of exercises and workout routines. You will surely get dozens if not hundreds of hits, but probably focus your attention on the first couple of results, just like with any web search engine. The exact reason why some apps are displayed first is a well-kept secret, but from Google and Apple’s own documentation, it is clear that the app’s name and keywords, content and description matter a lot. Obviously, the reviews and rating, as well as the trustworthiness of the developer also weigh in – and can often be the deciding factor between two apps.
In short, a carefully planned and executed App Store Optimization strategy boosts app visibility, enhances user engagement, and increases conversion rates. Those that do make it, however, reap huge benefits: consumers spent more than $117 billion in apps and games in 2022, a result of 150 billion app downloads in the two most popular app stores alone. And there are plenty of other advantages for everyone involved in app making and usage.
Advantages of App Store Optimization
App Store Optimization presents important advantages for mobile app developers and marketeers.
- Increased Visibility and Discoverability: People rarely ever check out the second page of search results, let alone the third or fourth. An App Store Optimization strategy helps improve your app’s visibility within app stores, making it easier for users to discover your app when they search for relevant keywords.
- More Organic Downloads: More visibility leads to more organic downloads – that is, downloads that aren’t a result of paid campaigns. Not only does ranking matter, but higher-ranking results tend to lead to higher download rates.
- Better User Engagement: the goal of App Store Optimization is to attract users who are interested in the app’s features – versus misguided users who stumble upon the app’s page because of poor keyword usage. This will lead to more and better engagement from the user, increasing user satisfaction and hopefully more good reviews and ratings.
- Increased Conversion Rates: the ratio between the number of installs and the number of page views is the Conversion Rate.
- Higher User Retention: On average, the retention rate for Android apps is 22.6% one day after download, 6.5% seven days after download, and 2.6% 30 days after download. For the Apple store, the numbers are slightly better: retention rate for iOS apps is 25.6% one day after download, and 4.3% 30 days after download. The goal is to get users to keep using the app.
- Cost–Effective User Acquisition: organic downloads, as seen above, are a much more cost-effective way of getting users to become customers, without the need to spend on paid campaigns.
- Adaptation to Algorithm Changes: app store algorithms change over time, with different ranking criteria having different weights, and with even new criteria. By actively engaging in an App Store Optimization strategy, your marketing department is more likely to stay informed about these algorithm changes, and to be quick to respond to them, improving or maintaining your app’s rankings.
What are the limitations of App Store Optimization?
App Store Optimization is a great strategy for businesses. However, there are some hurdles along the way.
To begin with, developers, creators and marketeers have very limited control over the app store algorithms that determine search ranking and visibility. They are controlled by the platform providers and aren’t always fully transparent. With this in mind, app store ranking is a very competitive landscape, as there are millions of apps in app stores competing for visibility.
Similarly, a good ranking is partly dependent on user ratings and reviews. Positive ratings and reviews go a long way for an app’s credibility and ranking, but nevertheless, the opposite is also true. Language and localization also impact App Store Optimization strategies, as keywords can be challenging, depending on the market. For instance, countries with the same language may use different words to refer to the same thing, while in countries with different languages there may not be a direct translation of a keyword.
How to do App Store Optimization?
The app store algorithms aren’t static or 100% transparent and an App Store Optimization strategy needs to consider that. A successful strategy involves a combination of data-driven and creative optimization techniques, such as:
- Relevant Keywords: research, identify and use the most relevant and high-volume keywords related to your app’s functionality and purpose. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, different App Store Optimization platforms, and competitor analysis to discover keywords that users are likely to search for.
- Optimize the app’s info: important keywords should be included in your app’s title and description to improve its visibility in search results. The description of your app should also be clear, concise, and compelling, while highlighting the apps features and functionalities and including the keyword(s). Use clear communication to convey why the app is valuable, what problems it can solve, and what makes it better than others.
- Use compelling visuals: who doesn’t like eye candy? High-quality app icons, in-app screenshots, and videos are obviously more attractive than boring images or walls of text. Your images should accurately represent the app’s features and provide a glimpse of the user experience, while also be visually pleasing.
- Get user ratings and reviews: have a system in place to encourage feedback from users, for example after providing (excellent) customer support. Equally important, respond to user reviews, and especially address concerns to demonstrate your commitment to user satisfaction.
- Promote inbound redirecting: while App Store Optimization aims to make your app more visible in app searches, most of your traffic should come from outside the app store, namely your website. Combining channels and driving people to the app page is as important as in-app optimization.
- Updates, additions, improvements: in a few words, keep your app fresh. Apps that are more frequently updated (especially if these updates are based on user feedback) tend to get more positive and more frequent reviews. Additionally, both the Apple App Store and Google Play use the regularity of app updates as a ranking criterium.
- Track your data: using analytics to track and analyse user behaviour, conversion rates, and other relevant metrics helps identify areas for improvement in your App Store Optimization strategy.
Keep in mind that App Optimization isn’t a one-time effort. It is a continuous effort monitoring, analysing, and adapting to trends and algorithms within app stores, in order to make your app more visible and discoverable – it’s the power of consistency.
App Store Optimization done right!
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