What is ASO?
The beginner’s guide to App Store Optimization

Posted in September 2018

App Store Optimization Guide

App Store Optimization (ASO in short) is all about gaining visibility in the app stores and increasing your organic downloads. This way, more people are able to find your app and download it.

More downloads mean more users and more users mean more revenue. Seems straightforward, right? Well, it isn’t all that simple.

You are probably wondering how does App Store Optimization work? Is it really worth the effort? Where should I start? Don’t worry, we got your back. We are going to cover this and many other ASO related questions in this Beginners Guide to ASO.

So keep on reading and start growing your mobile business now!

Topics you will learn about in this course:

What is App Store Optimization (ASO)

What is App Store Optimization (ASO)

App Store Optimization is the process of improving the visibility of your app within a mobile app store (the Apple App Store & Google Play). The basic principle of ASO, besides high rankings in the app store, is the focus on click-through rate (CTR). This means you have to convince people to actually click on your app once they find it. You can do so by optimizing your App Name, Title, Logo, Screenshots and App Rating. But it doesn’t end there.

Once people click on your app and are on your App Landing Page, you have to make sure they also download it or make a purchase. This part of In-App Store Optimization 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. Besides, ASO is utilized for mobile apps whereas SEO for websites.

Google considers 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.

Checklist on What is the difference between ASO and SEO?

Why App Store Optimization is important

More than 2 million apps are available in iTunes Connect and further 3,3 million apps are offered by Google Play Store (Source: Statista). It’s very likely that your app is facing a tough competition.

Why is App Store Optimization (ASO) important

The primary goal of App Store Optimization is to increase downloads and the number of users. So, the first step to maximize your download stats is to get your app found by customers. But how can you do that?

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

How users find and download mobile apps?

People are mostly hunting for specific apps in the leading app stores like Google Play Store and Apple App Store (iTunes). According to a more detailed study by Tune, 47% of iOS apps are discovered through app store search. On Google Play Store, even 53% of downloads are triggered by search. Clearly, app store search is the most common method for discovering new apps.

Visual Chart on How users find and download mobile apps and games

The majority of apps is discovered through search

What is more, the ranking position of an app directly correlates with the number of downloads. The higher your app ranks in a store, the more relevant it appears to users. Higher ranking apps also get more downloads since users usually don’t scroll through all search results. Without App Store Optimization, you are missing out on the largest marketing channel for apps & games. Therefore, learning about ASO and investing time into can be your secret weapon that brings your long term results. Curious about other advantages of ASO? Just continue reading and you will find out!

What are the benefits of ASO?

As you now know that most users find apps by searching the app stores, you probably realized 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 your Visibility & Stand out within the App Stores
    No matter how good your app or game is, if it cannot be found in the stores it is no good. So, don’t let your hard work go unseen, start optimizing!

  • Always get discovered by 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. This is what ASO helps you with as well.

  • Increase your Organic Downloads
    A good ASO strategy is great way to boost your organic installs and ensures long-term results. With regular monitoring and tweaking you make sure your efforts are successful.

  • Cut User Acquisition Costs
    Instead of spending money on ads, you can lower your user acquisition costs by focusing on organic growth with ASO. This no only saves you money, but also ensures a steady growth.

  • Increase your Revenue and Conversion Rate
    Ads, in-app purchases and similar ways to monetize an app are just part of a medal. If users come to your page through ads and dont download it, you lost them. That is why ASO is a must.

  • Grow your User Base Worldwide
    By making your app available in other languages you can find users from all over the world. ASO can help you take your app global.

What are the basics of App Store Optimization (ASO)?

Before we dive deeper into App Store Optimization, it is important to get the basics right. If you are a complete beginner to Mobile App Marketing our blog post explaining the terminology is a good start.



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 game. You can do so on Google Play, the Apple App Store or you can even decide to launch it on both.

Let’s take a look at these two stores in more detail.

iOS vs Android. Google Play Store vs Apple 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 ASO guide, we will go through the history, the key differences and algorithms of both stores.

History

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 million in 2018 (Source Statista). 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.

By now, apps with high crash rates and rare app updates are considered bad quality and therefore have lower rankings. Frequently updated apps that people use more often are rewarded and appear higher in search results.

That’s why it is essential to have an efficient app management. Tools such as App Radar help you monitor the changes and prepare updates with less work and more impact.

Key differences

One of the main differences involve the publishing aspect.

Whereas Google Play allows you to publish updates and make changes with virtually no time delay, each app on the Apple App Store has to undergo a review process. The review cycle usually takes up to 24 hours and involves checking the technical, content and design aspects. Apps on Google Play are reviewed usually after the app is launched.

Another thing to consider is the different ranking algorithm.

Although keywords are essential in both stores, they are evaluated differently. Google Play works similarly as Google itself. This means it considers all textual elements of your app when indexing keywords.

The Apple App Store, on the other hand, provides a field to specify your keywords. In some cases, it even gets them from your competitors and category name. In contrast to Google Play, it is recommended not to repeat keywords in your title and keyword section.

The main differences between the stores concern the review process & ranking algorithms.

ASO 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.

App Store Ranking Factors

Apple App Store:

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

Google Play:

  • App Name
  • App Description
  • Backlinks
  • In-App Purchase
  • Rating and Reviews
  • Updates
  • Downloads and Engagement
  • Some Hidden factors

App store optimization (ASO) ranking factors for Google Play (Android) and Apple App Store (iOS)

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 ASO, simply follow these steps:

1. First things first: Establish a Clear ASO strategy

Do your research and get to know your market. It is crucial to understand your customers 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.

2. Pick the Right Name for your App

The name of your app (aka App Title) 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 is giving 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.

Two smart phones displaying well designed and ASO relevant app names
Two great examples of well-designed app names (Source: Memrise / Google Play, Bring! / App Store)

Checklist for you app title

  • relevant to your app
  • easy to read
  • unique
  • 50 characters long on Google Play
  • 30 characters long the Apple App Store

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

The goal here is to establish a keyword set for which you want to be found within the app stores.
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 yet. There are many App Store Optimization Tools that can help you with that. App Radar is one of most comprehensive ones on the market. It provides a neat interface where you can track your keywords, evaluate them and get customized tips to improve your ranking.


How AI can help with Keyword Research

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

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

In addition, this ASO tool lets you see which keywords your competitors are using. This makes it easy for you to find new keyword ideas and gain an edge over the competition.

Simply Sign up for App Radar and Get Started Now.

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 algorithm.

Especially for the Google Play store, this is the place where Google finds the keywords to index your app. 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 attractive for the readers and relevant for the algorithm.

The Description in the Apple App Store is less relevant in terms of keywords since you can specify them in extra field. However, it is still a great way to convince the potential users in to download 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

An example of a well written description that is great for improving your App Store Optimization
An example of a well–written short and full description
(Source: Journi / Google Play)

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

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

Now that you know the basics of how to write to make your app visible, it’s time to look at the other side of the medal: the visuals.

Your app icon is what catches a lot of attention and can be one of the main reasons people click on a search result. It is therefore 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 A/B testing

  • Analysis & Brainstorming
  • Creating Variations
  • Running the Experiment
  • Evaluating Results
  • Implementing Changes
  • Starting Follow-up Experiments

6. Prepare App Screenshots & Videos

There is more to visual communication than just the app icon. 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 part in conversion optimization - which is a vital factor of App Store Optimization.

App Screenshots and videos give you an opportunity to demonstrate the functionality of your app and game and convey its essence.

In fact, around 50 % of people base their decision on first impression, that is why you need to pay attention to detail with your visuals.

When it comes to screenshots, you can first choose between a Portrait and Landscape layout. In short, this means you can decide whether you want to have a vertical or horizontal screenshot. Similar to your icon, it might be a good idea to find out what works best with A/B testing. In general, well-designed Screenshots give your users a preview of your app and can even tell a visual story.

Visual storytelling can also be used in your videos. These are called App Previews in the Apple App Store (previously called App Store Connect or iTunes Connect) or App Store Videos in Google Play.

Best-Practice Screenshots Example Lottoland

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

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 the market. We call this localization or international ASO. This does not mean you have to start from scratch. You can use your existing metadata, keywords or screenshots and localize them into other languages.

Mobile phones displaying examples of a professionally localized app information crucial for international aso
Example of a professionally localized app
(Source: iTranslate / Google Play)

Why is localization important?

With localization, you can improve your app store search visibility and extend your target audience. Basically, you make your app available for users who search in their mother tongue. Presenting your app to a broader audience can lead to more downloads and revenues.

Users perceive an app in their mother tongue as more trustworthy – it is very likely that they will click on it and download it.

8. App Ratings & Reviews

Feedback from your users is an integral part of ASO. 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.

How to get app reviews?

Users tend to leave reviews if they like the app anyway. 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 winning a game. 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.

Tips & Tricks for App Store Optimization

Know your Free Keywords
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 niche and work your way up to the top
Instead of using the most popular keywords, try including keywords which are longer than one word (mid- or long tail keywords). This is simply because 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.

How to track apps 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 ASO marketing strategy.

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

Analyzing data can be exhausting and time-consuming. Fortunately, ASO tools such as App Radar can help you with that.

Must have tools for App Store Optimization and App Performance

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, iOS and tvOS apps. One of the main strengths of App Radar is that it supports you throughout the whole ASO 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 & monetizing. Powered by artificial intelligence, its neat interface provides features that save you time and help you automate your ASO 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 a 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.

AppAnnie

AppAnnie is a platform specialised in app analytics and market data. With its extensive database, it provides detailed insights on your apps performance. For instance, it allows you to get information on your apps downloads, revenue, ratings or usage. Its interface consists of three main pillars: Store Stats, App Store Analytics and Intelligence. People who would like to dig deeper into the data and are interested in understanding the market and competition are common users of this platform.

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.

How to manage your app?

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 ASO process with one tool. Let us show you how:

Analyze

A first step would be to analyze how visible your app is in the 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 Radars Keyword Explorer Feature and Keyword Rankings Feature.

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 clicks. Instead of guessing what to do next in your optimization process, you can simply follow the unique 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.

Checklist App Store Optimization

  • 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

Eliminate ASO complexity & focus on growth

Sign-up for App Radar. Take your ASO to the next level

Author
Thomas Kriebernegg
Thomas Kriebernegg is the CEO and Co-Founder of App Radar. Besides being one of the most followed persons on Quora and helping app businesses around the world grow, he can be found on windy places doing kitesurfing or enjoying the one or other trail with his mountainbike.
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