App Store Optimization (ASO) Basics

As the role of mobile is increasing and more and more developers and companies produce  mobile apps for app stores, it is getting more and more important to be able to optimize apps for search.

ASO is a discipline that has a lot of common touch-points with SEO and includes keywords research and keywords implementation as the main pillars. Furthermore, ASO encompasses the visual representation of your app in the app store (icon, screenshots, demonstration videos).

This article is dedicated mainly to finding the best keywords for your app and what is important to achieve good traffic and ranking.

Keyword research

Basically, keyword research for apps is similar to keyword research for the websites.  You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What words describe my app?
  • What words would a user type in to find my app if he/she did not know it existed?
  • What user problems would my app solve?

Analyzing your competition is of paramount importance. A trick you may try is using parts of the names of successful apps in your category as keywords for your own app. You may, furthermore, analyze the description texts  or even reviews of the strongest competitor apps to hand-pick relevant keywords.

Another approach is using the autocomplete function in the app store itself or using the tools online to find out what relevant word combinations users are looking for. An important note hereto is that in mobile environment users tend to type in shorter queries than from desktop computers due to the size of the screen and the less convenient typing on a mobile device.

Keywords evaluation

To evaluate the gathered keywords (I would recommend collecting 150-200 keywords per app and language), use three criteria:

  • Traffic. How often the word is searched for, alone or in combinations with other keywords. You can try estimating the traffic using available SEO tools, but this would only approximately reflect the user behavior in the app store. However, there are a number of special ASO Tools that allow for more exact keyword traffic estimation (SensorTower, MobiledevHQ, AppRankCorner, etc).
  • Difficulty. One factor is a number of competing apps for a keyword in your category. You can estimate it by typing in the respected keyword in the app store and looking how many search results you will get.  Another factor is the “strength” of your competitors, meaning the number of downloads, ratings and reviews. Also here, good ASO tools will estimate the difficulty score automatically.
  • Relevance.  Does the keyword have direct relevance to your app? Does it match the visual representation of your app and its description, in users’  view?

Keywords implementation

For the Apple App Store, keywords are typed in directly in the keywords field when submitting, the space limited to 150 characters, including commas. Therefore, it is important to submit shorter words that also make good combinations (do not type in word combinations when submitting).  Another strong search signal is the app title, here you can use up to 255 characters, however the user only sees a maximum of 35 characters in the app list.  Furthermore, longer titles look spammy and are very difficult to remember).  Also the app category is considered (no need to include the category name in the list of your keywords).

For Google Play, app title, app category and app type are important signals. Furthermore, the description of the app must contain the keywords you want to rank for.

Apps Ranking

You can easily find out your current rankings using online tools such as AppAnnie or SearchMan. How you will rank will depend, firstly, on how well you chose and filtered your keywords (see above).  Secondly, newer apps may receive a boost in ranking, however with time if there are not enough user reviews and downloads, they will fall down in the search results.  So, promoting your app outside the app store (advertising, Social Media, video trailers, events, etc.) is of large importance. Also, ask your users to review the app and be attentive to the comments and suggestions for improvement.

Considering how Google app store works,  traditional SEO techniques such as link-building and in-app content are also helpful  in achieving higher ranking results with Google.

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Author: Elena

I acquired a BA degree in International Business with a specialization in Marketing from Nuremberg Technical School and a parallel degree from Leeds Metropolitan University. In 2013-2014, I worked in the field of performance and conversion optimization with an IT company and then was employed in content marketing. In 2016, I went back to working with Web Analytics and gained additional experience in project management. During this time, I received an Award of Achievement in Digital Analytics from the University of British Columbia (Canada). Currently, I am employed in Online Marketing. My areas of specialization include online marketing strategy, content creation, web analytics, conversion optimization and usability.

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