We’ve all heard the expression, “There’s probably an app for that.”
Since the birth of smartphones, apps have been steadily flooding the market. As we speak, there are over 6.5 million apps (from a casual glance) in the leading app stores (Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Windows Store, and Amazon Appstore).
The question is, how do you promote your app in such a crowded marketplace and make it stand out?
Simple, through App Store Optimization (ASO).
What is App Store Optimization?
App Store Optimization, also known as App Store SEO, is the process of optimizing mobile apps to rank higher and get more visibility in the app stores.
It’s how app developers and marketers improve an app’s rankings in app stores such as the Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Windows Store, Amazon Appstore, and other app stores.
By increasing the traffic to your app’s listings within an app store, you increase the chances of getting more organic downloads, thus creating a loop in your marketing efforts.
Think of ASO as SEO for apps, not in the search engines but the app stores.
Why Focus on ASO?
App Store Optimization makes up the majority of an app’s promotion efforts. Think about it: you can spend your time and money promoting your app through ads or other promotional activities, but what’s the point if people can’t find it in the first place?
Here’s why App Store Optimization is important for you:
- Increase app discoverability: an optimized app will rank better in the app store ranking. That means when people search for it, it will be among the apps that show up at the top on app store result pages, which translates to more eyeballs for you.
- Higher organic installs, leading to a higher retention rate
- Provides a continuous cycle of marketing efforts and conversions
- Increase visibility for your app among users and publishers
- It helps you acquire new customers and repeat purchases
- Lower acquisition costs: By driving more organic installs, you’ll significantly reduce the amount of money you spend on paid marketing and other user acquisition channels.
- Better Conversion rate: When someone searches for your app on an app store, chances are they’re ready to download and install it.
The ASO Process
The ASO process must include three key steps:
Identify the keywords that you would like to target. Identifying these keywords requires some research on your part. There are several ways to analyse keywords for an app or game, including tools like the Sensor Tower keyword module or App Annie keyword research tool.
- App Store Listing Optimization
Build the most awesome app store listing ever. I know it doesn’t sound easy, but not really. You’ve made an awesome game or app, so building the listing should be easy. A completed app store listing should include screenshots, an awesome icon (don’t forget the 512px size), a catchy description (the first two lines are most important), keywords (targeted keywords), category, and publisher.
- Tracking, Improving and Localizing Your Main KPIs
Your ASO efforts don’t end with you optimizing your app’s store listing. It also helps to track the following: – the number of installs, organic installs, competitors’ ranking, impressions, and CTR (click-through rate). Or how else are you going to monitor your progress and improve on your optimization effort?
Tools to help you through this include Tune (acquired by Apple), App Annie (Social media tool for mobile apps), AppsFlyer, etc.
What to Focus on During App Store Optimization Process
With 6.5 million apps to compete with, getting your app noticed in the app stores won’t be easy.
So, what exactly should you be focusing on while optimizing your app?
Increasing App Discoverability: Put yourself in the shoes of a user. You are looking for an app or game to download. What are the chances that you could find your app if it’s ranked between 50th and 100th in the search results?
So, your first goal should be to increase your app discoverability.
Improve Organic Installs: Once you’ve improved your discoverability, it’s time to increase the number of organic downloads the app is getting from the app store.
Better Conversion Rate: What’s the point of getting a lot of organic traffic if they aren’t converting? Improve your conversion rate by adding relevant keywords and getting more people to rate and review your app.
Increase Your Rankings in the App Stores: Once you’ve got your conversions in check, it’s time to focus on increasing your rankings in the app stores.
Note that there’s always room to optimize your app store listings. With millions of apps competing for the same eyeballs, there’s no winning formula that guarantees the top spot. You have to keep coming back to these four steps to get the most out of your App Store Optimization efforts.
The Main ASO Factors
On-metadata factors: Developers can easily edit and control on-metadata factors from App Store Connect or Google Play Console. They include the app name/title, subtitle., app description, keywords field and promotional text (for App store), video, and screenshots.
Off-metadata factors: These are factors outside of the developer’s control. They include app category, overall app ratings (star rating), and coverage in the media.
Important App Store Optimisation Statistics You Should Know in 2022
Let’s begin with some of the most exciting mobile app statistics, including usage, download numbers, engagement rates, and revenue.
- There are over 6.64 billion smartphone users in the world today (as of February 2022). That translates to about 83.89% of the world’s population. In total, the number of people with phones (smart and feature phones combined) is 7.26 billion, which translates to about 91.62% of the world’s population.
- According to Statista, an average smartphone user has an average of 80 apps installed on their smartphone. These apps make their lives easier and more fun, whether games, messaging apps, or tools.
- About 3739 new android apps are added to the play store every day.
- 25% of the apps remain unused after the first use.
- In 2021, the Google Play store had 477,877 gaming apps
- In 2020, gaming apps generated a revenue of $76.7 billion
- The mobile gaming app market is projected to hit $102.8 billion by 2023
- App revenue is expected to hit 935.2 billion by 2023
- 49% of smartphone users regularly visit the Google Play store
Mobile App Stats: Download and Usage Data for 2022
iOS Apps Generate About 65% of all App Revenue
iOS apps lead the app revenue market, accounting for about 65% of the mobile app revenue. In 2020, iOS apps generated $72.3 billion. You might note that most iOS users are from the US, Japan, and China. It’s all because iOS users enjoy higher incomes.
A majority of Android User Come from India, Brazil, South America
Keep in mind that android is banned in China. That explains why China has so many iOS subscribers, over 228 million, to be precise.
It’s also worth mentioning that most android apps are free, unlike iOS.
20% of iOS Apps Are Games
There are over 1,007,145 active games on App Store. According to app statistics, that accounts for about 25% of all the apps in the store.
The second leading category is business-related apps, consisting of 480,830 apps.
As you can see, gaming apps are more than double those in the second category. It goes to show how much iOS app users love gaming.
There More Android Apps than iOS Apps
There are over 2.7 million apps on Play Store and about 1.85 million apps on App Store.
Apps in both stores are distributed according to categories. Users search for them based on their requirements. For example, if you’re looking for a shopping list, you can search the store by describing the app you want, and the store will pull out apps within that category based on keywords.
Over 100,000 New Apps Are Released Every Month
That’s how competitive the app market is, with over 100,000 new apps entering the market every month.
Unlike iOS, android apps are available on a range of devices. In 2018, users downloaded over 78 million android apps.
40% of App Usage is to Access social media
40% of the total app usage is to access social media.
Facebook is the leading social media with over 2.85 billion users, and it’s particularly more popular in the US.
What’s even more interesting is 98.5% of Facebook users visit the network via a mobile app.
Google owns most of the Apps on the Play Store
Google owns 46% of the most downloaded apps on the Play store. Facebook owns 20% of the most used apps on the store (including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger).
Smartphone Users Spend Nearly Half of the Browsing Time on social media
When smartphone users open their phones, the chances are one out of two times; they’ll be going through a social media network.
App Statistics clarifies this: 90% of social media users access social media networks via a smartphone device.
Facebook leads the pack, consuming more than 2 hours of an average social media user’s time.
Understanding App Store Optimization (ASO): General Overview
There are quite a few overlaps in the definition and understanding of app store optimization and traditional SEO.
SEO can be considered something that you do on your website to help it rank better. And yes, ASO is essentially applied SEO, only that it focuses specifically on mobile apps, not websites.
App Store Optimization (ASO) requires the knowledge of keywords, search engine optimization (SEO), indexation, app ranking algorithm, and more.
When you look at it this way, you’ll start noticing that most of the things that apply to traditional SEO also apply to ASO.
App stores, in effect, operate as closed search engines, heavily relying on the following:
- Easy-to-understand content (for app discovery)
- Indexation (helps app stores find an app based on relevant keywords)
- Algorithm for ranking (how app stores sort out apps based on relevance and quality).
App ranking algorithm is strongly tied to the following:
- Relevancy: Is your app relevant to what the user is looking for?
- Quality: How good is your app, considering factors such as performance and security.
- Categories: What category does your app belong to? Is it a highly competitive category or a less competitive one?
- Freshness: Is the app’s information (in the store) up to date?
- Brand Scale: Is your brand big enough for people to care about it?
- User Value Signals: How many times is your app downloaded, installed, and used? What are the reviews, ratings, and level of engagement?
Sounds familiar, right? Because search engines algorithms also rely on the same factor when ranking websites.
In this way, App Store Optimization can be considered a sub-domain of SEO.
9 Easy Steps to a Successful App Store Optimization
Let’s cut to the chase.
Here are nine steps to a successful ASO campaign:
Step 1: Use a Descriptive App Title
What’s in a name? A lot, as it turns out. Your app’s name is one of the first few factors that app store algorithms use to determine how relevant your app is to a given search query.
A common mistake some developers make is ignoring this and just slapping something random as their app title without considering what users might actually be searching for.
Your app title is one of the on-metadata factors you have 100% control over, so use it wisely. It’s not just about being descriptive but also wearing the user’s mind to understand how they might search for your app in the app store.
You want to include your primary keyword into the title while at the same time making it descriptive and easy to understand.
Bear in mind that Google Play Store and Apple App Store handle keywords and titles a little differently. So, how you go about optimizing your title for Google Play Store or Apple App Store will depend on the store.
Here’s Google Trips’ listing on Google Play Store. You can see that they have used the main keyword, “Travel Planner,” in their app title. That’s because they want the app to rank for this particular keyword.
How the Apple App Store Handles Titles and Keywords
Google is a little more lenient with title length, allowing you to use up to 255 characters. So, compared to the Google Play Store, that’s a bit generous of them.
While using a succinct might help you with branding, there’s little that does for your Apple ASO.
A simple trick you can use is to create a Title with your primary keyword and a sub-title with one or two supporting keywords.
How the Google Play Store Handles Titles and Keywords
Google isn’t as generous as Apple with title length. They have limited your maximum title to 30 characters only! That means you got to cut down on the fluff and get straight to the point.
With Google, you don’t have to be so concerned about keywords when drafting your app title. Instead, try to naturally include the keyword in the description, as explained in step two.
Step 2: Use Keywords Wisely
Keywords are what helps App Stores understand what your app is all about. You must, therefore, use them judiciously in the title, description, and app store page.
Apple has a keyword field that limits all your keywords to 100 characters. That means you should be more selective with the keywords you include in this field. Even more importantly, you want to try and get close to the 100-character limit as possible.
On the other hand, Google doesn’t have any such field. That leaves you with only one option: to sneak the keywords into your app description, where you have a comfortable 4000 characters to work with.
Figure out how to naturally include at most five of your most important keywords in the description. Just be careful enough not to overdo it — from what we know, over-optimisation is frowned upon by Google, and they’ll not hesitate to penalize you should your description sound unnatural.
Before you do anything, you need to know which keywords and phrases you want to optimize your app for.
There are several tools at your disposal, such as MobileDevHQ, TheTool, etc., always with their respective pros and cons.
According to Fiksu, researching the right keyword and naturally including it your app title and Keyword field (for Apple App Store) and description (for Google Play Store) is enough to propel your app store listing 80 to 100 or 10 to 20 positions up in the search results.
What to Focus on During the Keyword Research Process
- Traffic: Ensure that the keywords you are targeting get enough traffic. The more, the better, but don’t get your hopes too high; after all, not many apps will be able to compete with the likes of “Candy Crush Saga” (which has over 2 million monthly searches).
- Keyword Difficulty: It’s good to focus on the low-difficulty keyword. That’s because they have less competition and are easier to rank. You should, however, never discount high-difficulty keywords. Their potential benefits are just too good to ignore.
- Search Volume: You obviously want high search volume keywords. So, the more the searches for a keyword, the better it is for you and your app.
- Competition/Number of Apps: Not all keywords have the same competition. Many apps might be targeting the same keyword, making it harder for you to rank. The idea here is to look for low competition keywords with high search volume.
ASO tools such as SensorTower and App Annie can help you with the abovementioned process. They can provide in-depth keyword research data acquired from aggregate data collected from actual user searches.
7 Tips to Help You Optimize Your App Store Better
Here are seven steps you should always keep in mind while optimizing your app store listings:
- Put Your Primary Keyword in the App Title: A study conducted by MobileDevHQ reveals that including your primary keyword in the app title alone is enough to improve your listing ranking by 10.3%.
- Use Words Rather than Phrases: Unless a phrase is absolutely integral (such as “tug of war”) to your app’s name, don’t use it. Instead, focus on individual words. That way, you should be able to rank for multiple keywords.
- Choose Singular or Plural, not both: When researching keywords, compare their singular and plural and choose the version with the best numbers. There’s no point in optimizing for both. Just stick to the one with the best numbers, and you’ll be fine.
- Avoid Prepositions and Conjunctions as Keywords: Using prepositions and conjunctions as keywords is a waste of characters, as there are no real benefits.
- Use commas after every keyword or keyword phrase to separate them.
- Don’t spell out numbers: Use digits instead. They’re more direct and take fewer characters.
- Always focus on keywords with high search volume and low competition.
Step 3: Describe Your App Well
Think of your app’s description as your website’s landing page. It needs to be as detailed and informative as possible.
You can bring a potential customer this far and fail to close a deal because of a lousy description.
Let’s assume the user knows so little about your app. Try wearing their mind and think as they would. What will they be interested to know?
Here are a few questions you want to answer:
- What does the app do?
- What problem does it solve?
- How will it change the user’s life?
- What makes it different? What is your unique selling point?
Here’s a quick and easy way to write your app description:
State your USP in the first sentence.
- Keep it short and crisp. No one wants to read long blocks of texts.
- Use bullet points to optimize readability.
- Make sure your description is well-written and grammatically correct.
- Even more important, pay extra attention to your app’s keywords.
- Visually, you want to include a helpful screen of your app in action. All you need to do is showcase part of the app with a call-to-action to download it.
A better approach would be to take screenshots of the app features or parts that best represent the benefits of using the app, such as the image shown below:
As you can see, these screenshots highlight the benefits of using the app. These should help boost the conversion rate, especially since they give a glimpse of what to expect once you download the app.
Step 4: Use High-quality Screenshots
You only have five seconds to convince users to download your app. It starts with what they see: the screenshots you take, the icons you choose, and how you design your app store page.
If anything, screenshots are the second most influential factor in getting users to download your app, only second to app rating.
High-quality screenshots help sell the idea of using your app, leading to more downloads and revenue.
Remember that you have a limited screenshot real-estate, so make it count.
The best way to do that is by using screenshots that show your app’s USP in action.
If you don’t have the skills to make your app mockups and design the screenshots, hire a freelance designer.
Here are a few screenshot generator tools you want to check out:
Step 5: Add an App Preview Video
Users prefer watching videos. It’s easier to understand an app from a video than from screenshots.
You can harness the power of videos to explain your app’s features and benefits and boost its overall conversion rate.
Since you only have 30 seconds to sell the idea of your app, don’t waste time just describing it. Get straight to what makes it unique by highlighting its core benefits.
Here are a few tips that can help you create a compelling app video:
- Since most people view app videos on mute, you want to include text overlays covering pertinent sections of the app and its key features.
- If possible, use short animation videos in place of full-length ones. They are easier to digest and also make your video seem more dynamic.
- You can even produce videos with screen app recordings in action or how-to tutorials.
- Don’t use footage of real people. Time has changed, and this no longer works. What you want to do, instead, is take a screen recording of the app in action, covering essential features, while walking the user through everything you suspect they might be interested to know.
- You can even use whiteboard animation to highlight specific features. That works incredibly well for app walkthroughs and tutorials.
- If you have a great concept, a distinct design, or an original use case that sets your app apart from its competitors, then it deserves high-quality motion graphics.
Step 6: Pick the Right App Category
More than 70% of all app installs come from browsing the app store category.
So, be sure to pick the right app category.
What category does your app fall into? How can you fit it in one specific category when its features run across two or more categories?
In this case, here’s what you should do:
- First, you want to pick the category that best describes the app’s function and performance.
- Second, go through each category and see how many apps each category has. The idea here is to go with a category with the least number of apps as they tend to be less competitive and are easier to rank.
- Lastly, you want to look at the estimated app worth (EAW) of the apps that rank at the top of each category.
The idea is to pick an app category with the highest EAW and the lowest number of competitors.
Whatever you do, the last thing you want is to place your app in the wrong category. A wrong choice will result in your app getting fewer downloads and opportunities to rise through the ranks.
Note that Apple reviews all submitted apps before publishing them in the App Store. That means that if you pick the wrong category, it could delay your launch for days, weeks, or even months, or even get it rejected altogether.
Step 7: Create an Engaging Icon Design
App stores are big on engagements. The more people view and download your app, the more it will be perceived as popular and the higher it will rank.
To do that, you need to create an outstanding icon design. An engaging icon design is the one that immediately catches the eye of a user when they scroll through different apps on the search page.
It’s important to note that while some icons may work for iOS Store, that doesn’t necessarily imply they’ll also work well with Google Play Store. That’s because the two stores have different design guidelines.
So, to stand out in both stores, here are a few tips you should try when creating your icon:
- First, make it simple yet eye-catching. Don’t use too much text or imagery. That can be distracting.
You want to keep things clean and straightforward for the user.
- Second, make sure your icon is scalable. It should look great, even in small sizes and different resolutions.
- Third, make sure your icon is appropriately formatted. It should include the correct dimensions and resolution depending on its use.
- Fourth, make sure you choose an eye-catching colour palette. Some colours blend well together. Make use of this knowledge to make your icon stand out.
- Lastly, keep testing until you are happy with the results. Many online tools can help you preview your icon design against different wallpapers and display sizes. Use these tools to achieve the best results possible.
Step 8: Encourage Positive Reviews
Positive reviews and ratings, both in terms of quantity and quality, are crucial for the success of your ASO strategy.
You want to get as many of these reviews and ratings as possible.
We’re not talking about a few sentences or a review from a close friend or family member. But several genuine, unbiased reviews from users who use your app.
In addition to this, high-quality reviews play a significant role in helping your app rank better as they help build trust and credibility.
So, how do you get users to review your app?
- You can encourage the user you know personally to consider reviewing your app after using it. Just talk to them directly and let them know that you would really appreciate it if they could spare a few minutes to write down their thoughts.
- You can also send push notifications to encourage users to review your app after using it.
- Another way would be to use an in-app pop-up notification that encourages users to rate the app. This notification usually pops up after some time (i.e., once per week or month) if the user hasn’t yet left a review for your app.
- You can also use emails to reach out to past users and ask for feedback on your app, with a link directing them to an app store, where they’re to rate and review your app.
Step 9: Use App Store Analytics
App Store analytics operate a lot like Google analytics, only that they only work with apps, not websites.
They can help you track and monitor how users interact with your app, from when they download it to when they uninstall it entirely.
Find out where your app stands in terms of performance and competition, and see if there’s any room for improvement.
Here are a few app store analytics tools you want to check out: