App Store Optimisation (ASO) Strategies To Increase Visibility, Downloads, & User Retention
App store competition is vast. With 3.5 million android apps in Google Play and over 2 million iOS apps in the Apple App Store, getting your app discovered is a challenge.
What's more, is 48% discover new apps by browsing app stores, and 34% got recommended in the app store. So improving your app store ranking is a reason why app store optimisation (ASO) is important.
As such, use ASO to increase your app’s search ranking to take advantage of the largest app discovery channel.
What Is App Store Optimisation (ASO)
Besides increasing your app's rank in the app store's search results, app store optimisation is important for driving customers and users to install your app.
In fact, conversions are the most significant metric. A high conversion rate will reflect in your app's ranking.
Therefore, app store optimisation increases your app's visibility in the search results, by category, and recommendations. Then your prospective user or customer taps through to your app's page. Through ASO on that page, your prospect is convinced to install your app.
Overall, spending time and resources on app store optimisation will return benefits to your business.
Elements Of App Store Optimisation
Before we dig into how app store optimisation works, it is fundamental to know who your customer is. With that in mind, you will be more successful following this template while making a message to market match to increase conversions.
Basic App Store Optimisation
If you are familiar with SEO, then how to do app store optimisation will make sense. Although, android apps differ slightly from IOS apps. Nevertheless, we expect that as Google Play and Apple App Store take different approaches.
Accordingly, you should always follow the app store's best practices for app store optimisation.
To start with, metadata such as app name, subtitle, descriptions and keywords influence your app's ranking and installations. The challenge is to naturally fit in as many keywords as possible without coming across as spammy... avoid keyword stuffing!
To do that, you need to know your target market's most relevant keywords. There are tools you can use to research keywords. Soon I'll tell you some of the best tools you can use to discover those keywords. But first...
Your App's Name
It is best to keep it clean and simple. If you can slip a keyword in here, then it would be silly not to. But keep in mind that it may not benefit your app in the store's algorithm because of historical abuse.
In spite of this, if the keyword makes it clear to the user what the app is, there is an overall benefit.
For example, before WhatsApp and Spotify became household names, their titles "WhatsApp Messenger" and "Spotify: Music and Podcasts" will have helped the user understand what they do... as they still do today.
To optimise your title, try keeping it under 30 characters long with the most relevant keyword in there.
Play Console Help
- Your title should be unique and accessible, avoid common terms, and reinforce what your app is about.
- Keep your title focused. Longer titles are likely to be truncated or shortened depending on the device your users are browsing on.
- Avoid using subtle misspellings of general terms, as users may end up correcting misspelled search terms.
Your App Store Subtitle
Here is your chance to use some of your top keywords. They should match relevant search queries and make a short descriptive sentence. Also, don’t repeat the keywords in your app's name.
Your app’s subtitle is intended to summarize your app in a concise phrase. Consider using this, rather than your app’s name, to explain the value of your app in greater detail. Avoid generic descriptions such as “world’s best app.” Instead, highlight features or typical uses of your app that resonate with your audience. You can update your subtitle when submitting a new version of your app to help you determine the subtitle that’s most effective for engaging users. A subtitle can be up to 30 characters long and appears below your app’s name throughout the App Store.Apple Developer
Short Description on Google Play
Google allows you to provide a short description of your app. Their intention is for users to expand the view to your full description. So, entice your prospect with keywords and phrases to encourage them to take action. They may install your app or tap through to your full description.
Play Console Help
- Provide a short, one-line description of your app experience.
Descriptions in Google Play & App Store
Here is where the two stores treat descriptions very differently. For Google play, you will want to utilise the description as best you can, while Apple seems to completely ignore it.
At any rate, the goal is to convert our prospect. For this reason, use the space Apple provides to sell your app. What can you tell them to move them towards installing your app?
Provide an engaging description that highlights the features and functionality of your app. The ideal description is a concise, informative paragraph followed by a short list of main features. Let potential users know what makes your app unique and why they’ll love it. Communicate in the tone of your brand, and use terminology your target audience will appreciate and understand. The first sentence of your description is the most important — this is what users can read without having to tap to read more. Every word counts, so focus on your app’s unique features.
If you choose to mention an accolade, we recommend putting it at the end of your description or as part of your promotional text. Don’t add unnecessary keywords to your description in an attempt to improve search results. Also avoid including specific prices in your app description. Pricing is already shown on the product page, and references within the description may not be accurate in all regions.
You can update your app’s description when you submit a new version of your app. If you want to share important updates more frequently, consider using your promotional text instead.
On the other hand, optimising the description is crucial to ranking in Google Play. Simply because you have 4000 characters to play with. You can tell Google all about your app with all of your keywords and phrases. And feel free to repeat them a few times if you need to. As long as your language is natural, you shouldn't get penalised for it.
In contrast, keyword stuffing is a common metadata violation Google does not allow.
- Focus on your users and what they will get from your app.
- Review your app’s description on the Google Play app and web store to ensure that the most vital text is visible on the top half of the web page where the users don't have to scroll down.
- Use SEO Best Practices in your "Description," but be mindful of the Google Play Content Policies regarding spam and IP Infringement (for example, keyword spamming, impersonation, etc.).
Even though your promotional text doesn’t affect your app’s search ranking, it would be careless to completely ignore the value. Remember, our goal is conversions... and retention... we'll get on to that in a moment. With that in mind, you should use every element available to optimise conversions.
Your app’s promotional text appears at the top of the description and is up to 170 characters long. You can update promotional text at any time without having to submit a new version of your app. Consider using this to share the latest news about your app, such as limited-time sales or upcoming features.
App Store Keyword Field Optimisation
By way of contrast to Google, Apple optimises with a specific keyword field. Here you have 100 characters to add the remaining keywords you want to rank for. But remember to never repeat keywords across any Apple App Store field because they only count once.
Plus, there is a trick to it... separate each keyword with only a comma. Spaces are a waste. That way, you will save your character count. To put it briefly, if you want to rank for the search term “digital clock weather”, then you would enter “digital,clock,weather”. That way each keyword is entered, and any combination of your keywords will render a result.
Keywords are limited to 100 characters total, with terms separated by commas and no spaces. Maximize the number of words that fit in this character limit by avoiding the following:
- Plurals of words that you’ve already included in singular form
- Names of categories or the word “app”
- Duplicate words
- Special characters — such as # or @ — unless they’re part of your brand identity. Special characters don’t carry extra weight when users search for your app.
Improper use of keywords is a common reason for App Store rejections. Do not use the following in your keywords:
- Unauthorized use of trademarked terms, celebrity names, and other protected words and phrases
- Terms that are not relevant to the app
- Competing app names
- Irrelevant, inappropriate, offensive, or objectionable terms
Naturally, you can identify relevant terms with Google Ads Keyword Planner. Apple has there own keyword tool, but unfortunately, only iOS app developers can use Apple Search Ads for keyword analysis. It is an essential keyword tool for the App Store.
Nevertheless, there are alternatives. One that we use is Keyword Tool for Google Play App Store. Plus, there are many other great paid for tools you can use for your keyword research.
Extended App Store Optimisation Elements
As you already know, conversions massively impact your app's ranking. Downloads are significant to ASO. Increasing downloads sends a signal to the app store, resulting in a higher rank for your app. Also, that metric is judged over specific timeframes for recommendations.
So, you may not be in the top 10 right now, but your app could make it on the list with the top guns through recommendations if you're on a roll.
Consequently, we look at other aspects of ASO that influence conversions. But first, we will focus on elements that do impact your App Store Optimisation.
Ratings & Reviews
Those star ratings - they grab our attention. If you've been paying attention, you will have noticed the controversy around fake reviews, especially on Amazon. That's because they are powerfully influential. They drive downloads. And they reflect your ranking in the app stores.
As it happens, if our user is making a snap decision between app A and app B, a 4.5-star rating may swing it over a 4-star rating. Alternatively, our users may be influenced and tap through to our app's page and read the reviews.
Ideally, you will want reviews with glowing colours. Unfortunately, perfection is impossible. Even Facebook only has a 2.5-star rating.
In spite of focusing on your user experience, there will be bad reviews. The trick here is to address their concerns. They are there and plain to see. You cannot ignore them, so address the issue. It might well be something trivial, unfortunate or something you need to spend time fixing.
Either way, people are filled with confidence when they see that you are proactive and responsive.
As you can see, ratings and reviews are powerful. In an ideal world, you will get top ratings and shining reviews. Regrettably, that may not be the case.
In fact, unhappy customers are motivated to express their feelings more than happy customers. Because of this, you will have to ask for ratings and reviews within the app to encourage happy users to take action.
How many times has an app asked you to rate it while using it?.. It works, so you should do it.
For positive ratings, most people are motivated to rate an app when they are engaged and immersed and enjoying the experience. Usually, that takes effect within the first week.
However, monitor your app's analytics and test for the best time to request a rating and review. Maybe it is not down to time but when the user completes a task or reaches a certain point.
Statistics show apps lose between 66% and 83% of users on day one. Then more than half of the remaining disappear by the end of the week. So get them while they're hot.
On the other hand, to mitigate bad reviews, you could provide a way to connect with your customers inside your app. That gives your users a place to express their experience with you. Hopefully, without the negative effect in the app store... as long as you handle them right!
Retention & Uninstalls
As we've already alluded to, user behaviour is key to a successful app. Where your app ranks in the search results, category list, or gets recommended, depends on what people do.
Ideally, your user will download your app and never put it down until they go to bed. For the vast majority of apps, that is unlikely. So, there will be some churn. And that is a big indicator to the app stores.
Along with conversion and installation rates, retention and uninstallation rates impact ASO. Referring back to the retention stats, having the ability to retain your user better than your competitors will give you the edge.
Along with that, reducing and slowing down the uninstall rate will reflect favourably on your app in the app stores.
Localise Your Store Listing
If your app is available in multiple languages, make sure to localise your app. Localise your app's text, keywords, video, and screenshots. Tailor your app to reflect the values of each market and to resonate with the local audience.
Google can provide automated store listing translations. However, professional translation for your app can lead to better search results and discoverability for worldwide users.
First Impressions Count
What's the old saying... don't judge a book by its cover... we do and always will. We decide within seconds. So your app will need to be pulling its weight straight away.
Along with your app's name and rating, the icon will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Images are very influential, especially if they look familiar. Effectively, the elements for your app in the search results influence the user to tap through to your app's page.
From there, you can express your app further with more images.
App icons, images, and screenshots help make your app stand out in search results, categories, and featured app lists.
While not all graphic assets are required in your store listing, it is recommended to add quality screenshots that showcase your app’s supported platforms (for example, phone, 7-inch tablet, 10-inch tablet).
Add as many quality images as you can, and organise them to demonstrate the best experience.
Use images captured from your app’s UI to visually communicate your app’s user experience. You can feature up to 10 screenshots on your App Store and Mac App Store product pages. Depending on the orientation of your screenshots, the first one to three images will appear in search results when no app preview is available, so make sure these highlight the essence of your app. Focus each subsequent screenshot on a main benefit or feature so that you fully convey your app’s value. If your app supports Dark Mode, consider including at least one screenshot that showcases what the experience looks like for users.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a video worth?
The App Store prefers to demonstrate your app to the user. They want them to experience your app before they get involved. So, it would be silly not to take advantage of that feature. The Play Store also gives you the option to add a video to your app listing.
An app preview demonstrates the features, functionality, and UI of your app in a short video that users watch directly on the App Store. Previews can be up to 30 seconds long and use footage captured on the device to show the experience of using your app. You can feature up to three app previews on your App Store and Mac App Store product pages, and localize them for all available App Store languages.
App previews autoplay with muted audio when users view your product page, so make sure the first few seconds of your video are visually compelling. App preview poster frames appear whenever videos do not autoplay.
Choosing A Category & Tags
Sometimes choosing the right category can cause indecision. Your app could nicely fit in more than one category. To get around this issue, Google and Apple take different approaches.
In the App Store, you can allocate two categories to your app, primary and secondary.
By the same token, Google Play lets you choose a category and multiple tags that best describe your app. These help users discover apps in the store. Your app can have a maximum of five tags. Those tags affect conversions as app store visitors see your tags in search results.
Test Elements To Optimise Results
Now that you have tinkered with your app's elements, you need to test to see if you have made improvements. Mobile app A/B testing is the way forward here. But remember, a true A/B test will only change one aspect at a time to learn what worked. As I will explain...
...Split testing or A/B testing is a method of challenging a variation against your control. In this case, we are A/B testing. Split testing can test more than one variation against the control. Nevertheless, the goal is to find the winner and use that as the control for the following experiment. Along the way, you will make improvements to your ASO.
To do that, you might monitor your click-through rate from your app listing to your page or installation conversions.
Google allows you to run A/B tests on your store listing. "Run store listing experiments to try out different graphics and localized text for your store listing, and see which version performs best. You can run experiments on your main store listing or on custom store listings, to help increase installs and retention."
- Get the biggest impact by testing icons, videos, and screenshots
- Get the clearest results by testing a single asset at a time
- Test for at least a week to account for weekday vs weekend traffic patterns
- Revisit assets over time to account for changes in users, locations, and seasonality
- Opt-in to email notifications to be alerted when a winning variant has been declared
Apple will introduce A/B testing sometime soon.
Top Metrics To Measure App Store Optimisation Success
Once you have optimised and released your app, you'll need to measure your campaign success. To do that, monitor metrics like visibility, conversions, engagement, and retention.
Both Google Play Console and Apple App Store provide tools to monitor store listing performance and identify opportunities to customize your acquisition strategy. You can "view visitors and acquisitions across a range of sources and dimensions to understand where your store listing traffic is coming from, and to identify areas for improvement".
App Store Visibility
To get going in the app stores, your app needs to be discovered by your target audience. The top metrics to keep your eye on for app store visibility are:
- Keywords ranking
- Your position in the search results for your keywords and phrases.
- Top charts ranking
- Where does your app rank in the charts?
- Category ranking
- The position your app ranks in its category.
- Does your app get featured by the App Store or Play Store?
- Similar & related apps
- Monitor which apps are linking to your app.
Your user behaviour is key to where your app ranks in the search results, category list, or gets recommended. So you'll want to monitor their activity. How often are they using the app? How many users are using your app per day, week and month?
Because conversion and installation rates impact your app's ranking, you will want to track those metrics. As the user discovers your app they will click or tap through to your page. You can measure that click-through rate and follow the user to installation, your conversion rate to install.
As you can imagine, app stores promote the best apps. Therefore, if your app fails to keep users and they uninstall it, that is a strong negative signal to the store. So you will want to know your uninstall rate.
Reports in Play Console
- Customize the acquisition report to answer specific acquisition questions on the conversion analysis page. Share your customized reports with a URL or export the data.
- Compare your app's conversion rate to similar apps and monitor how it changes over time. This helps you understand whether any shifts in performance are a result of something that has affected the whole ecosystem, or if it’s specific to your app.
- Evaluate how changes to your store listing have affected conversion rates
- See what users are most interested in by reviewing Google Play search terms that drive the most visits to your store listing
- Identify countries with a high number of visitors that may be good candidates for a custom store listing
- Determine where you need to improve your translation by identifying languages with low conversion rates
Measuring App Performance
By understanding how users discover and interact with your app, you can create even better app experiences that help grow your business. Get valuable data you won’t find anywhere else in App Analytics, Sales and Trends, and Payments and Financial Reports within App Store Connect.
Finally, ASO needs tweaking and monitoring. As the game evolves, your strategy will allow you to adapt. You can dig into the data and continuously test for the best results.