With more than seven million apps available for download in leading app stores, getting a new app to stand out may seem like a daunting task. This is where App Store Optimization (ASO) comes in.
As product managers or ASO managers, you know that the only way to get the downloads – and therefore an active user base who will help you eventually boost revenue – is to improve your app store ranking. You could spend a significant marketing budget on a cost-per-install approach to raising your rankings, or you could develop a strategic ASO plan for getting the app stores to support your app. The key to this approach is understanding the algorithm that drives rankings.
While Apple and Android app stores do not release their algorithms publicly, below are some general factors to focus on in order to improve your app store ranking.
- Optimize App’s Title: Many app developers go with a short and brand-specific title for their app. However, adding a few descriptive keywords after the short title may boost your rankings as this text may be the most heavily weighted when determining rankings. The title should be catchy but also explain what the app does or who the app is designed for.
- Use Targeted Keywords Skillfully: Keywords are one of the most crucial factors that affect ASO, but it’s not as simple as creating a description solely out of these important words. Instead, keywords should be used to describe the benefits and features of your app in a unique way. You’ll have limited characters to work with, so pay attention to how you use keywords.
A few simple rules such as don’t repeat keywords, don’t use keywords in description that are already in the app category, use abbreviations to save space and focus on the first approximately 25 characters (these are what potential new users see as they browse through the app store) can help you improve the effectiveness of your keyword strategy. You also have to be careful not to overuse keywords as this might hurt rankings. Using too many keywords can be thought of as spamming users.
On the iOS App Store you have 100 characters within the own keyword field. Us them wisely as this will be extremely crucial for your app to appear in search results or not. Here you can stuff in your most important keywords. This is also a great place to start localizing and translating your app for different languages as people usually search in their mother tongue and this will help your app to tap into new audiences world-wide.
- Increase Number of Downloads: Quantity (how many total) and velocity (how many right now) of downloads also affect app store rankings. Marketing strategies including word of mouth, press releases, custom pitches to app reviewers and social events can help advertise the app. Before you get downloads, you first need people to know that the app exists. Using promotions or events to boost your downloads can have a longer lasting impact on your app, if it pushes your app into the top 10 or top 50 of a specific category. (e.g. https://appadvice.com/apps-gone-free for paid apps)
- Minimize Potential Uninstalls: While you can’t do anything after a user uninstalls the app, you can and should take action before this happens since higher uninstalls could ding you on the rankings. Your pre-launch strategy and focus on releasing a glitch-free, smoothly-functioning app reduce the likelihood that users will uninstall the app after using it for a short while. No app is perfect, so for the “worst case” provide quick and easy ways for your users to reach you if there is a problem: Is your support website / section easy to find? How can people reach out to you? Do you provide live chat or email support? Do you have a documentation or FAQ section that answers most of your customers’ possible questions? These are all strategies to reduce unhappy customers and therefore minimize uninstalls.
- Grow and Improve Feedback and Ratings: Even when it comes to apps, humans are influenced by others’ opinions when making a decision to download an app or not. Positive and a large amount of feedback and ratings can help convince new users to press the Download button. Getting reviews can be tricky. On one hand, you don’t want to annoy your users with pop-ups or plug-ins that disrupt their user experience. On the other hand, their positive feedback can greatly boost your ranking. Timing and how you go about asking for reviews are very important. Direct engagement, whether through review forums, comment boards or instant message, is one of the most effective ways of asking for a review. Once you cross the 4-star mark, some trend analysis suggests you will receive a ranking boost as well.
- Release Glitch-free Updates: Updates alone may not boost rankings directly, but there is potential for improvement in your standings during this time. Updates give you a chance to fix bugs which could appease users and lead to nice reviews. If you release a bug-free update, users may be inclined to leave a positive review as well. Also, updates give you a chance to change keywords to ones that may have a greater impact on rankings as well as play around with your description text. You can also change your screenshots and see if different layout approaches or formats have any impact on your conversion rate and therefore increase your rankings. Updates in general are a great way to try new things out. Make the updates meaningful for your users and they will become fans of your app.
- Incorporate Localization Differences: The are two kinds of rankings – global and country-specific. In order to improve your country-specific rankings, you need to make sure that your app addresses important cultural and language differences. Beyond translating text into the country’s official language, you should also customize your app to adapt to local customs, text direction and color and symbol significance. Offering different characters based on the country could also help with country-specific rankings.
With users finding most new apps through app store searches or top rankings lists in app stores, it’s important to implement a comprehensive ASO strategy that helps boost your visibility. Even without knowing the underlying algorithms for the app stores, following the above steps can help you increase your app store rankings and continue to grow your active user base.