By Try Muller
Okay, so you’ve recently developed or launched a mobile app — congratulations. But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. It’s time to formulate a plan for app discoverability and conversions (downloads). Unless your app is one of the very fortunate few that realize acute user growth and mass app adoption (i.e. Evernote, DropBox, Snapchat, etc…), the chances of your app capturing a mere 1000 downloads is only 20%. Improving your chances of beating those odds will require an app store optimization (ASO) plan.
You probably have a decent understanding of ASO tactics – especially if you’re an inbound marketer. Basically, ASO is a practice analogous to SEO with the focus on boosting app store search rankings, discoverability, and downloads. However, unlike SEO, there’s far less visibility into attribution and traffic sources to the app store page.
ASO is critical for top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) mobile app marketing. Head of Search and Discovery for Google Play, Ankit Jain, revealed that 62% of daily active users (DAU) search for apps weekly and Google sees six million unique phrases searched monthly. Not to mention, app store search is the number one way users discover new apps. So here are the top ASO tactics and tools you should employ ASAP.
The Search Ranking Factors You Can Control (On-Page ASO)
As you might expect, the levers that impact app store search rankings differ between the Apple App Store and Google Play. I’ll highlight these differences as we progress through the post. We’ll start with the factors that can be controlled via app store metadata.
Optimize App Title (Apple App Store & Google Play)
Unless your app is part of a major brand or well-known startup, the app title (name, product name) by itself is not sufficient for ASO. The title is the first opportunity for branding your mobile app. Here’s how to go about it:
- Your app title should both brand your business and communicate the benefit(s) to the user. Take a look at the example of Any.Do. It brands the app with the company name and a two-word description of what the app is.
- Don’t forget to use relevant keywords in the app title to match app store search queries. Google has specific guidance on keyword stuffing in app titles and penalties for doing so. So please be relevant… for Google Play that is. Apple’s App Store, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be as strict with app titles as shown by Lookout Security’s two very different app store titles.
Optimize App Description (Apple App Store & Google Play)
Your app description is sure to be read – especially if users are casually browsing the app store looking for their next download. Should the user need to be swayed one way or the other, the description will certainly be a deciding factor. Here are the two types of descriptions you need to nail:
- Short description: Whether a user is searching via mobile device or PC, the full description will be hidden. The only part of the full description users will see is the first 3-5 sentences. So, in the first few sentences of your description you need to answer what and why. What value your app offers and why someone would let it occupy their precious mobile storage space. Check out this great above-the-fold description by mobile app presentation and ed tech startup SlideIdea.
- Long description: The rest of the description should focus on unique features, the benefits to the user, and any notable media mentions or social proof users might find compelling. It’s important to use bullet points to break up the information and organize the content for clarity. Reference Lookout Security’s Google Play Store long description. Lastly, don’t forget to optimize (not keyword stuff) the description for relevant keywords based on what you know about the app and potential users.
Optimize for App Keywords (Apple App Store)
As you can infer from the header, this is one lever where the Apple App Store and Google Play differ. In the app submission package for the Apple App Store, there’s a 100 character limit for submitting a set of keywords relevant to your app.
- Use a mix of keywords (not phrases) and try not to repeat the words that are used in your app title.
- Be careful with the keywords you decide on for the initial app launch since you can only change this data when submitting app updates. The first set of keywords will be critical to your early app store search rankings.
- Tool tip: If you’re serious about doing app store keyword research, competitive intelligence, search rankings, and analytics, look no further than MobileDevHQ. This is an excellent multi-faceted ASO platform I’ve just started using. (Note: remember you can always cross-match with research results you get from Google’s Keyword Tool and Google Trends.)
Use Visual Branding (Apple App Store & Google Play)
Visual branding elements (app icon and screenshots) are critical to converting app store page visitors because these are the first pieces of the brand users will see. Think of your app icon and screenshots as a handshake and a smile – the two actions on which people usually base first impressions.
- Make sure you have a high quality app icon that accurately represents the brand or the product.
- Your screenshots are really promotional UX images. This is an opportunity to visually take the user through the UX and show the screens you feel would most likely entice them to download the app.
- Google Play actually allows a mobile app promotional video to precede the screen shots. Lookout Security really capitalized on this opportunity with a great introductory video. A great video could push the user over the hump if he or she is contemplating downloading your app.
- Tool tip: Apptamin is a great solution for creating your mobile app promotion video. They hang their hat on being able to turn your video around in 7 business days.
The Search Ranking Factors You Can’t Control, But Can Influence (Off-Page ASO)
Just like the on-metadata tactics mentioned above, off-page ASO tactics are analogous to off-page SEO. This means the core pillars of your off-page ASO will be content, social media, links, and reviews.
Get the Primary Category Right (Apple App Store & Google Play)
The big thing here is to make sure you choose a primary category that accurately reflects the app’s features and benefits. Take a look at competing apps and do your best to align with their placement(s).
Secondary Category (Apple App Store)
The Apple App Store allows you to submit your app under a secondary category. What’s so great about this is you can expand your discoverability and potentially improve search ranking in a related field. Do an audit of available categories as they relate to your app features. You might find some commonalities that make sense for a secondary category submission.
Ratings & Reviews
Ratings and reviews are a key component to drive app store page conversions and to capture real-time user feedback. This is how your app is validated so devote extra energy here.
- One way to capture valuable early reviews and ratings is to have an invitation-only closed beta launch. This will allow you to get early feedback before you open the app to the market so you can tighten up any loosen ends or major issues.
- Align your business with key media outlets and bloggers to garner some quality app reviews. Research bloggers and reporters that cover app reviews in your space and pitch your app. There are also resources like Fiverr or Elance where you can hire bloggers to objectively review your app on their blogs.
- To achieve and keep a high rating, you must leverage user feedback to fix bugs, iterate, and innovate with your mobile app. Most users won’t even consider an app below a 3.5 to 4 star rating. However, there are always exceptions to the rule for well-recognized brands.
- Tool tip: A great tool for capturing feedback, messaging with users, and soliciting customer reviews is Apptentive. As you’ll see, the platform is dedicated to in-app feedback, surveys, and obtaining app ratings. Let’s face it, getting users to rate your mobile app is like pulling teeth. Apptentive will be a must-have companion moving forward.
Content & Landing Page
Diving deep into leading practices for developing a content strategy would be a whole other article. So I suggest you read this great blog post by Outbrain on how a well-planned content strategy will drive app discoverability and downloads. Additionally, I’ve listed some mobile app launch content readiness checkpoints:
- Do you have a blog post ready for your app launch?
- Do you have an ongoing content plan that ties into your app’s purpose?
- Can you newsjack any current, relevant, momentous events that align with your app?
- Have you cued up bloggers and media connections for launch?
- Do you have a social media plan ready for generating buzz?
- Have you reached out to key brand advocates and influencers to help with WOM?
Landing pages provide a great opportunity to leverage SEO and paid search to drive potential users to a destination completely devoted to promoting your mobile app. Here are the landing page must-haves:
- Obviously you need to tell landing page visitors what the app does, how it benefits them, and where and how they can get it.
- Include any social proof or media mentions (articles) to show market credibility. People like to know they aren’t the only ones committing to something.
- You should have a promotional video (or demo video) to engage the user so they know exactly what to expect.
- Incorporate a live twitter feed that streams all the mentions the brand is getting about the app. Users like to see real-time social proof and it creates an element of trust.
- Allow users to submit feedback from the landing page.
Leverage Link Building (Applies to Google Play)
This one should be pretty straightforward: Google OWNS web search and has access to PageRank. So Google will most certainly take into account inbound links to your app store page. This means the URL to your app store details page should be omnipresent on your owned media properties. Here’s a list of properties to promote the download of your app:
- Landing pages
- Blog site
- Blog posts
- Social media profile summaries
- Social media posts
- Partner sites
- Press releases
- Submit your app to credible app discovery platforms
There’s no “one-hitter quitter” when it comes to ASO. It’s a composite of on-metadata and off-metadata tactics that must be monitored every day to ensure maximum app discoverability. Take an implement-measure-learn approach to ASO. Implement the tactics to develop a foundation for app discoverability and downloads. Then start manipulating and optimizing certain levers so you can measure the resulting impact. Learn what works, document, and repeat.