App Store Optimization or ASO is the App Store equivalent to SEO for Search Engines, helping you get found within the various App Stores. Generally there are a number of ways to get your app found.
- App Store Browsing / App Store Lists
- Friends and Family / Social Networking
- Search Engines
But out of all of those ways, blogs, search engines, friends and family are your easiest zero or low budget options. Promotions are the next level up to leverage if you have the resources. These aspects are not surprisingly what helps power your rankings in the store.
Before we get started I just wanted to reiterate that if you have a good app that friends and family love, people are blogging and talking about then the strategies over this series will help you boost your app. It won’t boost an app people don’t want by any significant margin.
App Store Optimization
App stores are search engines for apps, that is why I use the analogy to SEO, its essentially the same thing but measuring different signals. The signals that are known to some degree are listed below.
Title, Description and Keywords are all controllable meta data you can enter into the various app stores. All of these impact the search results given when people search for an app. If you don’t know what keywords to use or target you can use this free Keyword Tool.
App Stores, particularly Google have a great advantage over other players in teh market by being able to see how many people are talking about your app in web pages and to a limited degree certain social media outlets. This information gets fed back into the App Store search and is helped to rank apps. App Store Optimization doesn’t all happen in the App Store.
We will cover this in depth in the next article but this helps search engines discover content on your web site that relates to the content or function in your app. This helps leverage existing content and search engine notoriety towards your app, dependent upon the App Store.
Ratings, Downloads and App Usage
Search results are also affected by ratings and downloads. The better the ratings and more downloads the higher the ranking. This certainly seems like the rich get richer approach but this is certainly how the world seems to work at the moment. This in itself isn’t a strategy, more of a highlight that once things get going, it gets easier to keep going. Ratings and downloads affect results on an ongoing basis, meaning that if an app hasn’t received any downloads or ratings in a long while, it is a signal that it is no longer relevant.
A secondary signal that I will delve into later is app usage. App Stores can track app usage and hence use this to provide relevant search results for users of their platform.
ASO Analysis Tools
If you are really serious about getting better rankings in the App Store search you may want check out these tools that monitor and report on various metrics affecting your ranking.
Tune (free trial + paid plans)
App Tweak (free report + paid plans)
Mobile Action (free trial + paid plans)
Disclaimer: I am not associated, nor have used any of these services. My recommendation is based on popular or 3rd party reviews of these products.
Conversion is the metric you measure or want to improve for when an user is sitting there staring at your App on the App Store and whether they decide to install or buy it.
From my past experience from SEO click through rates, to Ad Conversion strategies, there is one major thing you need to understand here. This isn’t a do this and increase clicks by X%, its a fail at any one of these things and you get 0%. While all the tips for increasing conversion work when you have people downloading your app, what most people don’t realize is that conversion is a checklist. You need to do ALL of these to an acceptable level, then you improve. If you don’t hit the acceptable level you get dismal to zero results.
For example, if you have a fantastic description with all the latest sales conversion strategies written by the best professional in the world, along with best graphics I have ever seen for an app, then you have 100 one star ratings, do you think I am downloading your app?
Almost your biggest conversion pull. When you look at an app the images are the first thing that gets you to even look at it. Tip, just spend some money for proper graphic design and the highest quality images you can reasonably provide.
Highlight a feature and show it in action. Nothing tells a story like an image. Remember that your screenshots don’t need to be full screenshots of your app.
Yes you can even have different images for different locations. if you are in more than one market, especially if you are in different cultures and languages you can change your images and text to suit.
This is different than keywords, now you need to tell them why they should download your app. Think sales here, with some exceptions, games being one, what problem does your app solve and how does it solve it? If you tell me that in the description, I know its going to do what I want and if everything else lines up I will download it.
Ratings don’t need to be perfect. In fact if you see an app with all 5-star reviews, due to the level of trust people have in ratings, they will start wondering how you gamed the system. Even the most tested and well developed apps have problems and people complain about things that aren’t even a problem. A good ratings screen will look similar to WhatsApp. It is one I trust is real.
Reviews are social proof that your app is doing what it says. Reviews on blogs or social media all help, however if they haven’t come from one of these places then reviews on the App Store is what is going to count.
Asking for Reviews and Ratings
Asking for reviews and ratings can be done very well if you follow some guidelines. First, you want to make sure that people giving ratings and reviews have used your app. Depending upon your app you can look at 5-10 launches over 3-7 days of usage.
Second, ask if they want to give a rating. Don’t just popup and ruin their app experience, show in the app with your content a place for them to give feedback.
Third and possibly the most important, ask if they want to give feedback, Have a section in your app appear after a certain amount of usage asking if they are enjoying using your app. If they say yes, ask if they would like to give a rating on the app store, if not, ask if they would like to send some feedback.
This is certainly a more complex approach than just popping up a dialog asking for information but you will get feedback from people who use your app (your actual users) and good rating from those enjoying your app.
Building a Great App
Remember than nothing above really matters if your app isn’t great. In order to build a great app its really quite simple. This is from my experiences in startups. Enterprise would be different than below but still some great points.
- Solve a specific problem. A single problem and your app provides the solution.
- No crashes, easy to use (great UX) and does exactly what you say it will.
- Counter-Intuitive of no crashes, build your code as fast as possible. You will rewrite it later. Do not architect a solution. If you use the word architecture in explaining your solution you went too far.
- The first version of your app should be a single feature to solve a single problem.
- I can’t stress this enough, ONLY BUILD ONE FEATURE.
- Launch the app and get people to test and use it. Refine your app to solve a different problem if you got the first problem you were trying to solve incorrect or something that people don’t care about.
- Polish the UI and UX. Make sure the experience is flawless. Everything from support to signup and login. Use metrics to confirm this, don’t assume. What are people using, how often are they using it.
- Ignore everyone asking for more features. They want you to solve other problems because you solved one of them so well. But that means you would lose focus on the problem you are solving if you were to do that.
- Get users. If you can’t you didn’t solve the problem correctly or there aren’t enough users with the problem you are solving, hence an nonviable business model.
For enterprise most of the above is applicable. The only change is architect your solution from the start, since you are guaranteed pay and have a commitment to deliver the predefined solution regardless of user happiness or if a real problem is actually solved. And now you see the problem with enterprise development.