When you put your time and effort into creating a mobile app, you want to make sure it’s in front of as many eyes as possible. Through traditional marketing, social media marketing, and word of mouth, you can get the word out about your app. However, your primary focus needs to be on optimizing your presence in the app store.
You can create the next Snapchat, Tinder, or Angry Birds, but it won’t mean much if your target audience can’t find what you’ve created.
How to Gain Visibility in Both the App Store and the Play Store
There are many factors and variables associated with the placement of your app in search results. The significance of App Store Optimization (ASO) should not be overlooked. Similar to search engines and your website’s optimization for search, app stores use an algorithm to deliver the best results.
According to a study conducted by Forrester, 63% of iOS apps and 58% of Google apps are discovered through search. Visibility can be your best and greatest asset when you focus on the right aspects of optimization.
The building blocks of your strategy should start early in the process. All factors of building your app profile indirectly contribute to your rankings in app store search results. Some areas have a high impact, while others complement those areas to help you get found.
ASO will help separate you from your competition, increasing your visibility and traffic clicking through to your app. Before launch, and even after launch, here are the areas you need to focus on.
As much as keywords play a role in your SEO strategy, you need to research the best terms and phrases that will increase your visibility.
What are your potential users looking for? How are users finding your competitor’s apps? When you’re targeting keywords, think about what will have the most value. Find relevant and highly searched terms using tools like Google Keyword Planner, then hone in your efforts with platforms created specifically for ASO.
Comprehensive data can be gathered from sites like SensorTower or AppAnnie. These tools give you insights, analytics, and stats showing the performance of your keywords, helping with suggesting additional phrases, and offering competitor analysis tools.
Keep these three factors in mind when conducting your research:
- Difficulty (Competition for search term)
- Relevance (Don’t trick users into thinking you’re something you’re not)
- Searches (How many searches per week does the term receive?)
Remember to always look for the terms that have the highest search volume with the lowest competition.
Your research and usage of keywords will vary for both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. Consider that 80% of all app store searches are for categories and genres like “games,” while just 5% are transactional searches, according to Forbes.
In the App Store, you have 100 characters to list your keywords. For boosted visibility and the best results, make use of all 100 characters, separating each term or phrase by a comma. Don’t reuse a keyword and don’t worry about pluralizing as it won’t have any effect. Keep in mind that users search for keywords in various combinations, so differentiate the terms to cover a broader scope.
In the Google Play Store, you can’t submit a list of keywords, so you must take full advantage of your app description, title, and all other components that help you gain visibility.
For purposes of visibility, the description is a value add. It’s a way to insert keywords, tell your audience what they’ll receive, and give further information about your product.
Make the most of your description. Keep your users in mind, and know that they’re looking for visuals, reviews, and snippets of information. Don’t hold back on your description, as it plays a vital role in helping to increase your visibility.
Again, this approach holds different value with iOS and Google. While not a factor in the App Store internal search, it will impact external app search results, according to Moz.
In the Play Store, this is where you utilize your keywords to benefit your discoverability. Focus on the first few sentences to get your message across, sprinkling in your keywords throughout the description without stuffing them.
Head of Search for Google Play, Ankit Jain, reported the title is the single most important piece of metadata.
Unique, short, and descriptive. Make it about 25 characters. The catchier your title is, the more it will be remembered. App titles carry a lot of weight into the visibility of your app.
Consider one of the most downloaded apps in April 2016 on the Play Store, Recolor. It’s a coloring book for adults. The full title “Recolor – Coloring Book” utilizes its most important keyword in the title without making the title too long and shifting focus away from the app.
Include the most important term in your title, the one with the most search traffic. You won’t always be able to include the keyword in the title, but research has shown that apps with the keyword in their title have shown a 10.3% increase in ranking.
Maintain consistency with your app. Once a title is chosen, it can be detrimental to the visibility if you change your app name and choose a different keyword. If people are talking about it and you suddenly change the name, you’re missing out on potential users. A maximum of 255 characters is permitted on iOS, while 30 characters are the maximum for Android.
Make your title memorable. You’ll see more traffic to your app profile, more exact match search queries, and increased exposure on the app stores.
Icon, Screenshots, and Video of App
Your icon needs to be eye-catching and appealing. It’s the first interaction your users have with your app. Make it stand out. Have a searcher click on your icon because they’re intrigued and want to find out more.
The icon could be the only impression a user has with your app and your brand. Don’t let them continue scrolling. Recolor’s icon is visually appealing and entices curiosity to explore further.
Use your screenshots to tell a story that your users want to see. It should not be a features list. Ensure your screenshots will assist your conversions. Personalize screenshots to show your best work, telling each searcher that clicks your icon to download your app. Catch their eyes with relevant images that highlight your product.
The icon and screenshots you show help make your app stand out, leading to downloads and engagement.
Provide a sneak peek of the app through a video trailer. Gear the trailer towards the consumers you’re trying to reach. Don’t create a video for the sake of Apple or Google, make it for your users. Best practice is to show the most interesting or entertaining features offered.
Give insight into the product and help persuade your users into a download. For Android, simply insert the URL from YouTube and watch the engagement soar. The video is placed in the feature graphic position on the Play Store.
The more you can show them through visuals, the better the chances of conversion.
App store algorithms look at ratings and reviews from users to determine how visible your app should be to other consumers. Those with positive and enthusiastic reviews have a higher position in the search results.
Both you and your users rely on the ratings. They could be the difference between a download and losing a user to your competition.
When talking about visibility and discovery, ratings and reviews are a factor in searches as part of the metadata. Gaining reviews and ratings gives you feedback about what works and what needs improvement, while also helping you to get found.
In both the App Store and Play Store, ratings are part of the ranking algorithm, as higher rated apps are rewarded and lower rated apps fall out of visibility.
An often overlooked aspect for app developers is the inclusion of localization for your target audience. Don’t overlook this aspect, as it’s one of the most powerful ways to increase the number of downloads.
It’s a tedious task, but it can pay immense dividends when localizing each asset. From language translations to cultural adaptations, localizing your metadata and assets helps you become more visible and stand out from the overbearing amount of apps you compete with.
KISSmetrics published an in-depth guide about localization, highlighting an app titled Harlem Shake Yourself that increased downloads by 767% by just localizing the keywords to varying languages. The article relays the fact that targeting countries with high mobile device ownership (South Korea, China, Russia, Brazil, Japan) is your first step towards localization, and you can branch out from there.
At a minimum, translate keywords into each language you want to target. You have a worldwide audience and distribution potential. Maximize your visibility in international markets with localization. Android provides you with a checklist to get your app ready for a global release.
In the Apple App Store, it’s simple to add language localizations. Open the app details, hover over ‘Versions’ and choose an additional language.
Test localization for your app and see the difference it makes for your ASO.
Don’t let your ASO efforts to increase visibility and generate downloads go to waste by letting your app hang there to dry. In a fast-paced world, change is good. There are always ways to make your app—and the user experience—better.
Update to fix bugs, make the images higher resolution, and adjust to new operating systems. This also gives you an opportunity to update your description and include some more instances of your keywords.
In a study by Moz that looked at rankings across versions, “The first and possibly most important finding is that apps across the top charts in both Google Play and the App Store are updated remarkably often as compared to the average app.” They found the average iOS app at the top of the charts was just 28 days old, while Android apps at the top of results were just 38 days removed from their latest update.
Think of all the factors I’ve pointed out that aid in your ASO efforts. Ask yourself if you can target more keywords, if your design could be enhanced, or if you have out of date screenshots.
How do frequent updates boost your app?
- Shows Your App is Fresh
- Improves Conversions
- Builds Trust
- Increases Downloads & Retentions
- Creates More Positive Reviews
The last thing you want is for your app to be abandoned once downloaded. Engagement and retention are two important factors in your ASO.
Improve and update when necessary to increase user experience. You’ll discover what is working and what isn’t. Correct the issues and submit a new version of the app.
Price and Permissions
These two factors are not directly associated with visibility and ASO, but the price and permissions are often the phase where users decide whether to download or not. As I’ve mentioned, the number of downloads has a direct correlation with your rankings.
When it comes to permissions, users are easily dissuaded, especially when you’ve just launched your app and they know nothing about you. They want to protect their privacy. When an app that sounds intriguing and curious is asking for access to your camera, SMS, contacts, location, ability to read your SD card, and more, users could decide to bypass altogether. I know I’ve let some apps pass by when they want too much information for a product in a certain category.
As far as price goes, apps like Temple Run have seen success when offering a free version, updating to a paid app that quickly rose to the top of the charts. Pay attention to the user experience. Offer in-app purchases like Celebrity Crossword does for “coins,” or have users upgrade to a paid version like Tinder does for unlimited swipes.
Monetize your app with ads and take advantage of AdMob. Showcase your app on other apps to increase engagement and download. Or, generate revenue by offering other apps ad space within your game. Google benefits with a portion of the revenue you earn from AdMob.
Again, these aren’t directly related to your ASO, but the more interaction you see with your app, the better your visibility. Don’t neglect permissions or your price.
Tools to Use
When you’re looking to increase your visibility and discoverability on the app stores, you have plenty of program options from which you can choose.
From end to end solutions to analytics, intelligence, and insights, these tools give you the best chance of improving your discoverability:
With help from these programs, you can get a look at your competitors’ keywords and what strategies are working for them.
The importance of presenting your app to the right audience is crucial. Implementing the proper strategies can be a gold mine for your success. Targeting the wrong keywords will leave you buried with the millions of apps on iOS and Android devices.
Learn from your competition. Track them, check for new competitors each day, and watch what they’re doing. What keywords are they targeting? How positive are their ratings? Look for new opportunities and evaluate different strategies.
If you take away anything from this article, just know that the following will have the greatest impact and influence on your app visibility:
- Utilization of Keywords with High Search Volume & Low Competition
- Number of Quality Ratings
- Number of Downloads
- Engagement & Retention
Remember, there are millions of apps available in the store. It’s not an easy task to drive traffic to your app. It requires an approach that is constantly tracking, adjusting, and analyzing the performance and visibility. Don’t leave downloads on the table. Targeted ASO and careful tracking are investments you must make to boost discoverability.