ASO Basics

What is App Store Optimization? Ultimate Guide to ASO in 2020

21 min read
Genie is the Marketing Manager at App Radar. She drives exciting in-house campaigns and collaborations to get the word out about app marketing and growth strategies.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of improving app visibility within the app stores and increasing app conversion rates. The major app stores are App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android. In addition to ranking high in the app store search results, ASO also focuses on click-through rate (CTR). This means you have to convince people to actually click into your app store listing once they find it. You can do so by optimizing your App Name, App Title, App Icon, App Screenshots and App Rating.

App Store Optimization is the process of increasing app store visibility. It boost your app downloads, which in turn boosts visibility.
Visibility leads to more downloads, which leads to more visibility

Once people click through to your app store listing page, you have to make sure they also download it or make a purchase. This part of ASO is also known as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

What is the difference between ASO and SEO?

ASO is often referred to as app store SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Both processes share similarities like keyword optimization, backlinking and conversion optimization. The main differences between App Store Optimization and Search Engine Optimization are the ranking factors. Also, ASO is utilized for mobile apps whereas SEO is for websites.

SEO factors for a web browser, like Google Search, involves more than 200 aspects and the list keeps expanding. The list of ranking factors for ASO is much shorter, however many people are still unsure of which ones play a role. It’s time to put an end to that!

The following checklist illustrates the main differences and similarities between ASO & SEO.

Differences between Search Engine Optimization SEO and App Store Optimization ASO
Differences between SEO and ASO

Why App Store Optimization is important for app growth

More than 5 million apps are available to download from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It’s very likely that your app is facing a lot of tough competition.

Number of available apps in App Store and Google Play
Number of available apps in App Store and Google Play

The primary goal of App Store Optimization is to increase downloads and the number of loyal users. The first step of maximizing your downloads is to make your app easily discoverable by the right users. But how can you do that?

To understand how to boost your organic growth, you first have to understand how people are searching for and finding apps.

How do users find and download mobile apps?

People are mostly hunting for specific apps in app stores like Google Play Store and Apple App Store. A whopping 70% of mobile users utilize search to find new apps. Furthermore, 65% of all downloads occur directly after a search. Clearly, app store search is the most common method for discovering new apps.

Most people discover new apps through app store search, making App Store Optimization vital to success
Most people discover new apps through app store search, making App Store Optimization vital to success

Moreso, the search ranking position of an app directly correlates with the number of downloads. The higher your app ranks in the search results, the more relevant it appears to users. Higher ranking apps also get more downloads since users usually don’t scroll through every search result. They usually look at the first 5 or so. That’s why achieving a top rank is crucial to app success. Without App Store Optimization, you are missing out on the largest marketing channel for mobile apps and games.

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Learning about ASO and investing time into it will be your secret weapon for app growth. It brings long term results in a sustainable way. Curious about other advantages of ASO? Just continue reading and you will find out!

What are the benefits of App Store Optimization?

Now you know that most users find apps by searching in the app stores. Because of that App Store Optimization is a must if you want to get your app in front of the right users. In fact, many people argue that optimizing your app is the most effective marketing strategy for mobile apps and games.

Here is how you can benefit from App Store Optimization:

  • Improve Visibility & Stand out in the App Stores
    People can’t download and use your app if they can’t find it. So no matter how great your app is, if it’s not easily discoverable you won’t reach the app success that you deserve. Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste, start optimizing!|
  • Always get discovered by high-quality and relevant Users
    It is not enough that your app is found, it has to be found by the right users – users that are actually on a hunt for an app like yours. App Store Optimization gets you to the right users because it matches your app to relevant keywords. These are the search terms people will use to find your app. 
  • Increase Organic App Downloads in a Sustainable Way
    A good ASO strategy will undoubtedly boost your organic installs and ensure long-term results. That’s because when people search for keywords related to your app, they’ll always find yours. With regular monitoring and updating you make sure your efforts are successful.
  • Cut User Acquisition Costs and Get Continuous Growth
    Instead of spending money on ads, you can lower your user acquisition costs by focusing on organic growth with ASO. This not only saves you money, but also ensures steady growth. 
  • Increase App Revenue and Conversion Rates
    There are various ways to monetize your app. This includes in-app ads, in-app purchases, and subscription models. As a result many of you may decide to run ads to bring in more users and thus, more revenue. But if your app store listing page isn’t converting, meaning convincing users to actually download your app, then your ad spend has gone to waste. Remember, App Store Optimization also involves Conversion Rate Optimization, getting people to click through and download. 
  • Reach a global audience with your app
    By making your app available in other languages through an App Store Optimization process called localization, you can get users from all over the world to discover your app. ASO can help you take your app global.

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How does App Store Optimization work?

Once your app is developed and you are familiar with the basics of app marketing, you have to decide where to publish your app or mobile game. Most developers choose App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android. You may be publishing on both if you decide to develop your app for both operating systems. 

Let’s take a look at the two major app stores in more detail.

App Store Optimization for Google Play vs. App Store

Both of the stores have the same purpose: they provide a platform for users to look for apps or games and download them. This does not mean, however, that they work the same. In this chapter of the App Store Optiimization guide, we will go through the history, the key differences and algorithms of both stores.

History of Mobile Apps

With the frequent use of mobile phones, the app industry started booming. In this manner, the Apple App Store saw an increase in the number of apps from 800 since its launch in 2008 to 2.2 million in 2019 (Source Business of Apps ). Similarly, the number of apps available on Google Play has reached 3,6 million in March 2018. It is clear that the competition on the market is strong. This is leading up to the next point:

If you want to grow your mobile business, you need to be fast and agile when it comes to App Store Optimization.

Apps with high crash rates and infrequent app updates are considered low quality and therefore have lower rankings. Buggy, lower quality, or scammy apps are also subject to removal from the app stores. As more people develop mobile apps and games, Google and Apple become more selective with the ones they allow to be published in their app stores. 

Frequently updated apps that people use more often are rewarded and appear higher in the app store search results.

Key differences between App Store and Google Play

One of the main differences between App Store and Google Play involve the publishing aspect.

Both Apple and Google have implemented an app review process to ensure that they have high quality apps in their stores. However, Apple’s review process tends to take longer than Google’s. You should always take into account a 3 day buffer when you’re releasing a new app or update. Once your app is approved it will be live in App Store and Google Play within 24 hours. 

Although keywords are essential for ASO in both stores, they are evaluated differently. The indexing process for Google Play works similarly to that of Google Search’s. This means Google considers all textual elements when indexing keywords for your app. You’ll also want to repeat keywords 3-5 times across all fields in order to rank for them. 

The Apple App Store, on the other hand, provides a specific field for your keywords. In some cases, it even gets them from your competitors and category name. In contrast to Google Play, you should not repeat keywords across any fields for iOS apps. 

Below are the known ranking factors for both stores. 

Apple App Store & Google Play Store Ranking Factors

Google Play and the Apple App Store use sophisticated algorithms to sort search results. Even though the exact information is not available, it is possible to deduce factors influencing the app store rankings.

Apple App Store Ranking Factors:

  • App Name
  • App URL
  • App Subtitle
  • Keyword field
  • In-App Purchase
  • Rating and Reviews
  • Updates
  • Downloads and Engagement
  • Some Hidden factors

Google Play Store Ranking Factors:

  • App Title
  • Short Description
  • Long Description
  • In-App Purchase
  • Rating and Reviews
  • Updates
  • Downloads and Engagement
  • Some Hidden factors
App Store Ranking Factors for App Store and Google Play.
App Store Ranking Factors for App Store and Google Play

How is App Store Optimization done?

Now that you know where you want to publish your app it’s time to get down to business. To start improving your mobile growth with App Store Optimization, simply follow these steps:

1. First things first: Establish a Clear App Store Optimization strategy

Do your research and get to know your market. It is crucial to understand your users so that you can use these insights when preparing your app information. What keywords are they using when searching for apps that are similar to yours? Which language are they speaking? Once you have this information you can move on to the next step.

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2. Pick the Right Name for your App

The name of your app is what every user sees first. That is why it is important to choose your app name wisely. Make sure that your App Title is relevant to your app, easy to read and unique. If the title is appealing, people will remember it, which in turn gives your app a higher recognition value. When picking the right name, don’t forget to consider the character count.

Currently, you have 50 characters available in the Google Play Store and 30 characters in the Apple App Store.

In addition, the keywords in app name has the strongest ranking weight. You can place your main keywords here, following the brand name.

Checklist for you app name or title

  • relevant to your app
  • easy to read
  • unique
  • 50 characters long on Google Play
  • 30 characters long the Apple App Store
Place keywords in your App Name is a good App Store Optimization strategy. Your app will be more likely to rank for keywords in the App Name.
Place keywords in your App Name is a good App Store Optimization strategy. Your app will be more likely to rank for keywords in the App Name.

3. Know how to do Keyword Research for your Mobile App

The goal here is to establish the keyword set that you want your app to be found with. Remember, a keyword is a word or phrase that people use to search for apps in App Store and Google Play.

When doing your keyword research consider the following questions:

  • What are the main features of your app or game?
  • What are the synonyms describing the features?
  • What are similar apps called?
  • What is your app’s category?
  • Which terms do people commonly use in this category?

Searching for the right keywords is an ongoing process, so don’t overthink your keyword set in the beginning.

There are many App Store Optimization Tools that can help you find your first group of keywords. App Radar is one of most comprehensive ones on the market. It provides an easy-to-use interface where you can track your keywords, analyze them, and get AI-recommendations on how to improve your app store ranking.

Get AI-recommendations on which keywords to track and how to improve app store rank with the App Radar
Get AI-recommendations on which keywords to track and how to improve app store rank

How AI can help with Keyword Research

If searching for potential keywords seems like a tedious task, don’t give up on App Store Optimization yet. Let the artificial intelligence do the work for you.

Powered by AI, App Radar provides a tailored keyword suggestions. This way you save time for your manual app store keyword search and can focus on your growth.

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4. Write your App Description

The App Description is another essential part of your app’s metadata. It provides users with information on what your app is about and gives an overview of its main features.

The App Description is not only relevant for the users, but also for the app stores’ ranking algorithm.

It’s especially important for Google Play. The description is one of the main areas where Google finds the keywords to rank your app for. This does not mean you can just put all your keywords into the description and wait for the magic to happen. Try to incorporate your keywords into sentences naturally. This way your description is both attractive to the readers and relevant for the algorithm.

Apple will not index keywords from your iOS app description. That doesn't mean you should ignore this metadata field. You can still use it as an opportunity to further show people the benefits and value of your app.

Ideally, your description is informative, easy to understand and clearly structured. You can get creative and use bullet points as well as emojis. Just remember that the description is limited to 4000 characters in both stores.

Checklist for your app description:

  • informative
  • easy to understand
  • clearly structured (bullet points, emojis)
  • includes keywords (especially with Google Play)
  • up to 4000 characters long
Google will index keywords in your long description. Be sure to repeat your main keywords here at least 3 times.
Google will index keywords in your long description. Be sure to repeat your main keywords here at least 3 times.

5. Get the right App Icon by A/B testing

Now that you know the basics which text elements increases app visibility, it’s time to look at the other factors: the visuals or creative assets.

Your app icon is what catches a lot of attention and can be one of the main reasons people click on a search result. Therefore, it’s deemed as another crucial element of App Store Optimization.

When designing your app icon, think about what your app is about and how you can convey that visually. If your app or game is playful, your icon should reflect that.

Remember that less is more, so avoid too many elements or text in the icon.

A great way to test what really works for your target audience is A/B testing. The idea behind it is to create more icon variations and find out which one got the most clicks. For instance, it might be interesting to test which colors or characters your users prefer. Once you have this information, you can adapt your icon accordingly.

Checklist for App Icon A/B testing

  • Analysis & Brainstorming
  • Creating Variations
  • Running the Experiment
  • Evaluating Results
  • Implementing Changes
  • Starting Follow-up Experiments
App icon design is important to your overall App Store Optimization Strategy.
Places in the App Store where your app icon will be displayed

6. Prepare App Screenshots & Videos

Once you get the users to your app page, you have to convince them to download it. Although Screenshots and Videos may not affect your app ranking directly, they play a large role in conversion rate optimization – which is a factor of App Store Optimization.

App screenshots and videos give you an opportunity to demonstrate the functionality of your app or mobile game. Use them to show off the best parts of your app. 

In fact, around 50% of people base their download decision on a first impression. As a result, you need to pay close attention to how you design visuals. 

When it comes to screenshots, you can first choose between portrait and landscape layouts. This means you can decide whether you want to have a vertical or horizontal screenshot. The orientation of your screenshots should always follow how users would use your app.

For example, many games are played in a horizontal layout, so their screenshots are also horizontal. Well designed Screenshots give users a preview of your app and also tell a compelling visual story.

Visual storytelling is utilized in your app videos too. These are called App Previews in the App Store and Promo Videos in the Play Store. 

Checklist for your Screenshots & Videos

  • Illustrate how your app looks like
  • Highlight its main features
  • Tell a visual story
  • Pay attention to layout & size requirements
 Examples of appealing app screenshots designed to drive up conversion

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7. App Listing and Localization

Now that you have your app listing and visuals prepared, it’s time to take the next step. You probably did all that for English, thinking that everyone looks for apps in English, right?

Well this is not entirely true.

If you want to take your app or game global, you have to adapt it to be appealing to the target geo-market. This particular practice is called localization. This does not mean you have to start from scratch. You can use your existing metadata, keywords or screenshots and translate them into other languages.

TikTok localizes their app screenshots as part of their App Store Optimization strategy

With App Radar’s App Store Optimization Tool, you can add and update localizations in just a few clicks. 

Why is app localization important?

With localization, you can improve your app store search visibility and expand your apps’ reach. Basically, you make your app available for users who search in their native language. Presenting your app to a broader audience can lead to more downloads and revenues.

Users perceive an app in their native language as more trustworthy and thus, they’re more likely to download it. 

8. App Ratings & Reviews

Feedback from your users is an integral part of App Store Optimization. Both stores take into account the comments and reviews the user leave for your app.

The better your rating, the more relevant your app is considered by the stores and the higher it ranks.

In addition, 80% of mobile users read at least one review before downloading an app. As a result, it is also essential to reply to reviews. Potential users like to see developers who are care about user feedback and take user feature requests into consideration. You can easily reply to, analyze, and manage Google Play and App Store reviews with App Radar

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How to get app reviews?

Users tend to leave reviews if they really like an app. However, you can also encourage them to do so within the app itself. If you have a game, a good time to ask for a review would be after the user beats a level. But be careful, you can get penalized if you push it too hard. On iOS for example, you can ask for a review up to three times a year.

App Store Optimization Tips and Tricks

Know What Your Free Keywords Are

There are certain keywords that the app stores automatically provide, which means that you don’t have to include them. Think of them as free keywords. Many people don’t know that the category name of your app is one of them. If your app is in the “Free Game” category, you already automatically have “free” and “game” as keywords. So make sure to use that extra space for other keywords that matter.

Find your app niche and work your way up to the top

Instead of using keywords with really high search volume, try including keywords that are longer than one word (mid- or long tail keywords). This is simply because high search volume or popular keywords are harder to rank for at the beginning.

If you have a fitness app, you can start off by using “fitness for college students” instead of just “fitness”. Once you rank well for that, you start working your way up top.

Tracking App Performance

Preparing your app information is one thing, but how do you know if it’s working? The answer is to track your apps performance regularly.

Why is it important to track the performance of your mobile app?

Keeping an eye on your apps analytics can ultimately help you get more downloads and more revenue. This data can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your app and can be a good base for improving your App Store Optimization strategy.

Analyzing data can be exhausting and time-consuming. Fortunately, App Store Optimization tools can help you with that.

Best App Performance & App Store Optimization Tools in 2020

There are many ASO tools which can help your with your efforts. Some of them focus on a specific aspect of App Store Optimization such as App Performance or A/B testing while others combine them and provide a workflow tool. Let’s take a look at a few of the must haves on the market.

App Radar

App Radar is an ASO tool for Android and iOS apps. One of the main strengths of App Radar is that it supports you throughout the whole app store optimization process.

It is deemed as the first ASO workflow tool, which covers all necessary steps of growing your app business organically: from analyzing, optimizing, publishing to monitoring and monetizing. Powered by artificial intelligence, its clean interface provides features that save you time and help you automate your App Store Optimization process.

With it, you can for instance analyze and track your keywords, keep an eye on your competitors and take the action necessary to improve your performance right in the same tool.

App Radar is the App Store Optimization tool of choice for people who want to avoid the complexity of ASO and still drive great results.

Appsflyer

Appsflyer is a platform specialising in mobile attribution and marketing analytics. It is a SDK (Software Development Kit) available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone apps. Once it it is installed, it provides extensive conversion data for your app which includes retention campaigns and user acquisition. This allows you to find out where your downloads come from and which sources are the most profitable for your app. Based on this information, you can take the decisions necessary to improve your marketing strategy and optimize your advertising costs. Appsflyer is especially popular with people focusing on data and paid user acquisition.

SplitMetrics

SplitMetrics is a tool with focus on A/B testing and conversion optimization. The idea behind is to increase conversions of your app by optimizing screenshots, icons, and other data. It lets you identify the elements that work for your target audience and to make the necessary improvements. A/B testing is another useful way to track how users interact with your app and increase your installs. SplitMetrics is popular with people who like to experiment and run tests regularly.

Managing Your App in the Most Efficient Way

App management can be tricky, especially if you have more than one localization. It gets even trickier if you have more than one app.

With App Radar, you can streamline your App Store Optimization process with one tool. Let us show you how:

Analyze

A first step would be to analyze how visible your app already is in the app stores. As we mentioned before, many people are actively searching for apps in the app stores. That is why it is important to know how people find your app.

A great way to do that is to look at which search terms people use in the app store to make your app appear in the results and to check your keyword rankings. Instead of manually searching for this information, you can do that with App Radar’s Keyword Tracking and Keyword Rankings features.

Optimize

Optimizing your app is a process that takes time and practice. It usually involves endless spreadsheets, a lot of numbers and information. Seeing this trend, we figured there had to be a smarter way to do ASO.

That is why App Radar has features to save you time and money. Instead of guessing what to do next in your optimization process, you can simply follow the AI-powered optimization suggestions. We even ordered all the issues by color and impact. This way you know exactly what to do next and where to start optimizing.

Publish/Distribute

When you are done optimizing it is time to publish your app. In order to get the best insights about what works and what not, you should push updates regularly. Best practice is to release updates for your main information every two weeks. If your app is available on Google Play & Apple App Store you can imagine that this task involves a lot of clicks and navigation.

With App Radar you can reduce the time spend for preparing and publishing to a bare minimum. And the best part, you can publish and distribute all your apps with one tool.

Monetize

There are many ways to make money with your app. One option is to turn to ads and paid user acquisition channels. These include both app stores, social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any search engine like Google.

Another way is to offer a paid app, meaning users have to pay you for app installs. You could even charge for special features and upgrades which count as in-app purchases. With App Radar and App Store Optimization, you can save money on advertisements and still get organic downloads.

App Store Optimization Checklist

  • App Store Optimization is a must and a vital part of your marketing strategy.
  • Winning at App Store Optimization isn’t only about finding the right keywords.
  • App Store Optimization is an ongoing process.
  • More downloads lead to more visibility – more visibility leads to more downloads.
  • App Store Optimization tools such as App Radar can help you in every step of the journey

Grow Your Apps with Less Effort


Find new keywords. Optimize all localizations. Spy on competitors. Track ASO changes.

Create a Free Account
Genie is the Marketing Manager at App Radar. She drives exciting in-house campaigns and collaborations to get the word out about app marketing and growth strategies.