How to Succeed at App Store Optimization

By Kate Vinnedge / 18 January 2019

It’s important to properly optimize your app to achieve growth in the app store. This includes app store optimization techniques directly in the app store, on social media, and through user interactions.

Your app’s app store optimization (ASO) isn’t set in stone – and neither are your methods for improving it. Tactics and keywords that worked at the launch of your app may no longer be popular, and your other marketing efforts may be under-used in their ability to support your rankings.

Your app’s ranking isn’t permanent and doesn’t end with the app store – and that’s a good thing. Let’s go over ways you can boost your ASO beyond the usual tools.

Your app’s ranking is based on a litany of measurements that are mainly based on keywords. User reviews, ratings, conversion rates, and user acquisition and retention all affect your app’s ranking on the app store.

ASO is the measurement and manipulation of these criteria to improve your ranking among other apps listed on the app store, in the same way, SEO is used to improve your website’s ranking among competing websites.

So, how do you go about achieving growth in the app store?

There are three “fronts” to your ASO campaign:

  1. In-store
  2. Social campaigns
  3. User interaction

In-Store Optimization Should Focus on Keywords

Your in-store efforts are powered by your app’s metadata – the creative use of keywords, descriptions, videos, and your app’s icon are all used to drive views and conversion.

The Importance of Keywords

If you’re familiar with SEO, you already know the importance of optimizing your keywords to specific searches. If you’re not, it’s a simple concept to understand: Users input a word (or string of words) into the app store’s search bar, and apps that include those words in their description are displayed based on two parameters: relevance and ranking.

Users are usually shopping for a specific solution to a particular pain point if they are searching directly on the app store as opposed to browsing a category, so it’s important to make sure your keywords are relevant and trending; we’ll get to figuring out trending keywords in a bit.

Optimize App Metadata

Your app’s metadata includes the app’s title, subtitle, promotional text, description, up to three preview videos, and up to 20 promoted in-app purchases.

Your app’s title is the name of your app and is limited to 30 characters. This will rank in keyword searches and is the one thing you shouldn’t change. It is possible, but this is your app’s brand, and barring some catastrophic unlucky streak, your app’s title should always remain the same.

Changing the name of your app can significantly decrease the power of word-of-mouth user acquisition, which accounts for 15% of all app downloads.

The subtitle of your app can be up to 30 characters as well, and this is where you want to pack in your keywords, as your app’s subtitle ranks in keyword searches. It’s almost like your app’s tagline – it should succinctly describe what your app does and also serve as the hook to promote interest in your app among users.

Your app’s promotional text doesn’t rank for keywords, but it’s important nonetheless. Up to 170 characters, this section appears above your app’s description. Use this section to share news and updates about your app, including sales, upcoming features, and events that may be taking place in your app's future.

Your app’s description isn’t ranked for keywords, either, but without it, users won’t be able to figure out what your app does, so make sure your description is concise, easy to read, and entertaining enough to create interest in your app.

As of 2017, promoted in-app purchases are ranked for keywords, so if that’s something your app is using, consider tailoring keywords specifically to draw users in. These act as additional content for your app, and your app’s product page can feature 20 in-app purchases.

An example of an in-app purchase would be additional content for a mobile game or additional features that extend your app’s functionality but aren’t absolutely necessary to the functionality of your app, such as extra brushes for a drawing app.

If someone is searching the app store and finds a promoted in-app purchase that piques their interest, they might search for your app specifically to find out more about it, opening another avenue for conversion.

The videos and screenshots of your app also won’t rank for keywords, but both of these forms of metadata create a package that serves as a small demo of your app.

Shown below are the three visual panels that serve as your app’s first introduction to users in the App Store.

Whystle app in Ap Store

The main focus of your in-store efforts should always be determining effective keywords and implementing those keywords properly.

Pay Attention to Social Campaigns and Interactions

Half of the ASO battle is research, and your social campaigns are a treasure trove of trends and user information.

The beauty of integrating ASO with your existing social campaigns is that you don’t have to change the scope or behavior of your social interactions and posts; you only need to look for patterns and trends that appear naturally.

Pay attention to users’ replies to your posts and posts from your competitors, keeping a close eye out for any word (verbs especially) or request that is repeated in multiple comments or posts.

For example, let’s say you run the social media efforts for an app like Whystle, an app that alerts its users about recalls, safety alerts, and public health issues. You’ve been putting out your regularly scheduled content, and you’ve noticed in a couple of comments the words “romaine lettuce” and “salmonella.”  

In the app store, under a section that ranks for keywords, it would then be the optimal time to include “romaine,” “lettuce,” and “salmonella” or a mixture of these keywords depending on the number of available characters. Whystle does much more than alert users about lettuce and salmonella, but by using these keywords, it could catch searches it might not have otherwise caught.

As an example, visitors to the app store may enjoy romaine lettuce on their daily sandwich, but they don’t want to contract salmonella. They want to know when it will be OK to eat a romaine-laden sandwich again, so they search the app store in the hopes that there is a solution to their particular pain point.

These potential customers aren’t interested in an app that alerts them about recalls; they just want to know when it’s OK to put lettuce on their sandwich again.

Due to searching the store with a phrase like “romaine FDA alert” and Whystle including “romaine” in its keywords, the app caught customers who wouldn’t have originally been interested in its services.

Using social campaigns in your ASO efforts will help you find relevant keywords that target potential app users.

Focus on User Interaction

A significant factor in determining your app’s ranking is user retention. The time your users spend engaging with your app is measured by the app store’s algorithm, so including features in your app that bring your users back frequently – such as push notifications –  is a powerful tool you can use to improve your app’s ranking.

Pay close attention to which notifications users follow up on and which ones they ignore.

If your app provides too many push notifications that aren’t beneficial to your users, they’re likely to disable alerts on your app or delete it entirely. It’s important to consider if a notification is providing your users with a quick entry to solve the pain point your app addresses or if you’re begging for attention.

Users want their apps to work for them, and not the other way around, so careful planning is necessary to successfully implement notifications and alerts.

A helpful push notification, for example, would be our very own lettuce-lover receiving an alert from Whystle giving them the all-clear on romaine.

User reviews are another important piece of user interaction and ASO.

Whystle reviews

Pay attention to what your users praise and critique. Use good phrases and reviews to bolster your keywords, and provide updates to fix issues brought up in negative reviews.

Paying attention to user behavior and reviews can help you better your ASO.

Creative Changes to Your ASO Can Promote Unexpected Growth

When it comes to improving your ASO and your app’s ranking on the App Store, don’t be afraid to get creative with keywords, as they can always be changed.

Pay attention to the fluctuations that come when those keywords are changed, and always be on the lookout for trending words you come across on your social media campaigns. Remember, you can always use your mobile app company for help.

Keep an open mind as to what users are searching for based on the time of year, and provide them with poignant reminders that your app is there to solve their particular pain point.

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