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The app market is a highly competitive space, with over two million apps across the two main stores (App Store and Google Play Store). As such, ensuring that your app is ranking well on the major platforms is key to beating your competitors to those prospective customers’ thumbs.

App Store Optimisation (ASO) is the process of editing and optimising your app’s listing in order to increase traffic on the app stores for one purpose: getting searchers to download your app. 

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So what can affect ASO?

One might be forgiven for thinking that ASO is just SEO for apps, following the same rules and processes. There are certainly similarities between the two. For example, keyword research and the optimisation of a listing can feel familiar to more basic onsite optimisation for SEO. However, there are quite a lot of differences, including CRO, the number of elements you can optimise, as well as the weighting that Apple and Google bestow on various items.

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Keywords

Ahh the fabled keywords. In the same vein as SEO, if you don’t include your target keywords in your listing, you’re immediately making your life as ASOs much harder. We’re not talking about keyword stuffing here. We’re talking about relevant application.

Don’t just point and shoot when it comes to keywords. Make sure you do your keyword research in order to determine keywords that are less competitive, whilst maintaining the same level of relevance to your target audience. Depending on your perceived authority, targeting keywords with a very high search volume may not be the best use of your time. Look to identify search terms that maintain high relevance and search volumes and choose the ones which offer the highest opportunity. The problem is that the high relevance search terms are often the high search volume terms. The days of finding low competition, high volume keyword are all but over. It’s a balancing act. 

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TUNE conducted a study that found that of the top 25 ranking positions on app stores, apps with a relevant keyword in their title ranked, on average, 10.3% higher than apps without a title keyword.

Understand your customers

Understanding your customers and how they search on the app stores is an essential step to reverse engineering your app page’s optimisation. Look at the app you’ve created - the main things to consider are: 

- What does it do? 

- What is your target market?

- How will your customers interact with it? 

- What are your USPs? 

- What keywords are your competitors using?

- What purpose does it serve? 

Most importantly - if you were looking for this app and didn’t know its name, what search term would you use to find it?  

“Do your research” is easier said than done. Brainstorming what you believe your target market will search to get to your listing isn’t always going to work. We all have our personal biases. It’s far better to make a data-driven decision. 

Content

App stores now allow room for five pieces of graphic content, be that imagery or videos to be displayed on your app’s page. According to StoreMaven, improving the quality and content of the first two screenshots on your app’s page can increase your conversions by 25%. Why the first two? 60% of users won’t scroll past the first two screenshots on your app’s page. 

Additionally, the first two to three screenshots are the only ones that will be shown at the initial load of the page before the user even taps on anything. Remember that user behaviour on app stores is similar to their behaviour on SERPs. They’ll make decisions in fractions of seconds, the information that users land on will in some instances be the only information that users will pay attention to. They will make purchasing decisions based on that information, so make sure it’s relevant and hits the key points you’re looking to tackle. 

In your first two screenshots, avoid welcome pages, sign up forms, and ads. The chosen screenshots should be images of the strongest features of your app and should be conveying a single message about the app and what it can do for your users. For lack of a better phrase – your USP. These images should entice and excite the reader about your app and make them want to download it. 

An introductory video of the usage of your app can be difficult to create, however creating an effective introductory video can increase install rates by 23%. Remember though that stats show, 80% of viewers won’t watch past the first 12 seconds of the video, so make sure that the video is clear, concise and streamlined. Avoid any fluff, superfluous welcome graphics or messaging. Try A/B testing with different approaches to your imagery and messaging to get an idea of what will and won’t work for your target audience. 

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Unique description

The description that you write for your app in the listing is in many cases, the penultimate section that users will look at before deciding whether or not to install your app (right behind customer reviews). Due to the increasing size and popularity of the app marketplace, there is a very good chance that users will have multiple other apps fighting for their attention. 

We’d recommend paying great attention to the first three lines of the description to entice readers and hook them in. Answer the main questions that will be in the reader’s mind - what is the app? What does it do? What benefit does it bring to their life? The description is also the perfect place to show off any accolades that the app has obtained. Bear in mind that your description may change with each essential update. As your app changes and evolves, so should your app’s description.

Additionally, Apple and Google index words from the description fields to be the keywords associated with your app unlike SEO where Google does not take meta descriptions into account. Ensuring that you include keywords that are relevant to your product and audience throughout your listing, demonstrates to the stores that these are the keywords that your app is most relevant to. 

Optimising the description fields to be readable for App Stores is one thing, writing for humans is another. Bear in mind that users will be viewing the page on a smaller device (mobile/tablet) so paragraphs will be condensed and will expand vertically. Using bullet points and lists to make your description more readable and digestible for users is essential for making sure that users are receiving the messages that you want to emphasise the most.

Simple, eye-catching icon

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Splitmetrics found through A/B testing that between two icons - one standard and one improved, their “improved” icon, saw a maximum 506% uplift in conversions and traffic. Any major changes to the icon should only ever be in conjunction with major updates to the app. The appropriate time to dramatically change an app icon is if, for example, the entire app interface undertook a complete re-design, too. Consistency and messaging are key when it comes to your icon. 

Local optimisation

If you’re promoting your app nationally, then this isn’t an area in which you need to focus too much of your energy. However, if you’re looking to promote internationally, you’ll need to shape up your app store listing in order to be effective in different countries, languages and cultures. What works in France, may not work in China. 

Only 23% of all app revenue is generated by Europe, followed by 31% in North America with a whopping 41% coming from Asia. Of the non-English speaking consumers, 72% will opt for their native language when searching and shopping, regardless of whether or not they’re fluent in English. These stats shed light on the potential opportunity for app developers who are willing to put in the extra time to cater to those markets. 

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However, if you’re looking to put in the extra work to make these apps accessible and familiar to consumers in different countries - it’s worth spending the time and money with professional translators. Don’t let your app listing be the equivalent of a lad’s-holiday-in-Magaluf-tattoo that’s supposed to say “Strength” but actually says “Kung Pao Chicken”. Google Translate is not your friend with this and it’s not worth the risk of alienating an entire market for the sake of saving a few pennies. 

The Google Play Store and the App Store both allow for localization of listings to aid discoverability for consumers internationally. Some studies have even found that effective localization of a listing can have as much as a 767% increase in downloads.

Summary

ASO isn’t a one-and-done project. It’s an on-going process that will take time and research, but it can also be rewarding and lucrative. Using these tips and pointers, you’ll be well on your way to a cast-iron ASO strategy. Of course, there are other metrics to consider that we haven’t addressed here such as download velocity and click-through rates (or sometimes called tap through rates) that should also be taken into consideration. However the successes that you’ll see from these metrics are dependent upon the proper implementation of your app store optimisation using the techniques that we have discussed in this post.

If you take the time to understand your target audience, research how that audience searches and ensure that each element of your app store listing offers relevance and value - you’ll be climbing to the dizzying heights of the app stores in no time.

Simon Ensor is the managing director of Yellowball