Tips for app store optimization

Optimizing your mobile app’s listing could help it rank higher in the app store for relevant keywords. Through app store optimization, users more easily find your app, which could lead to increased downloads and sales.

What is app store optimization?

App store optimization (abbreviated ASO) is the process of improving the visibility of a mobile app in an app store — the App Store for iOS, Google Play for Android, the Window Store for Windows Phone, or Amazon Appstore for Amazon devices.

ASO is a similar process to search engine optimization (SEO). In fact, ASO is sometimes called mobile app SEO. Like website SEO, the process takes into account everything that is known about a search engine’s ranking factors. Using this information, ASO conforms the elements of an app’s listing (such as its metadata, title, description, and images) to meet the search engine’s current best practices. Also like SEO, improving your app’s visibility requires ongoing and constantly evolving work.

In addition, ASO encompasses conversion rate optimization (CRO). CRO tries to increase a mobile app’s conversion rate. The conversion rate is calculated by taking the listing’s number of impressions and dividing it by the number of downloads, expressed as a percentage.

Downloads are almost always the goal of ASO, but supplemental goals may include positive app reviews and ratings or increased brand exposure.

How important is app store optimization?

According to Apple, 70% of App Store visitors use search to find apps, and 65% of downloads occur directly after a search on the App Store. Therefore, in order to be found on the search engine results page, your app needs to outrank competing apps.

Every month, Apple pays out billions (yes, billions) of dollars to developers. Even an incremental increase in rankings could mean a huge jump in revenue. Similarly, not doing everything you can to get your app higher in the search results could mean you are missing out on significant sums of money.

Finally, ranking organically in the app store may be less expensive than running pay-per-click (PPC) ads, thus improving your app’s return on investment (ROI).

How does app store optimization work?

ASO encompasses several areas to understand, including

  • In-app store tactics
  • Out-app store tactics
  • App updates

In-app store tactics

The available fields within each app store vary, but core elements you should focus on and improve include the following:

  • App name, URL, and subtitle: For each of these elements, identify core keywords. Use these keywords in a manner that is descriptive and reinforces your app’s value against similar apps in the category. Read more tips on naming a mobile app.
  • App keywords: Use keyword research to determine the latest in user search queries. Revisit your keywords at regular intervals to determine whether there are new opportunities. Avoid generic or overly broad keywords like “photos” or “music.” Instead, start with the low-hanging fruit: keywords with lower search volumes and less competition.
  • Ratings and reviews: App stores use trust and reputation as a ranking signal. Develop an ongoing framework to solicit reviews from users. Respond and engage with reviews on a regular basis. The volume of ratings and reviews, how recently you received them, and the ratings themselves will all influence your ranking here.
  • Downloads: The more downloads your app receives, the higher its perceived value. However, raw downloads are not the only important indicator. Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, told us, “Ever download an app and try it out and realize it was a waste of your time and then immediately delete it? Well, in doing so, that negatively affects that app’s rankings in the store you got it from.” App stores measure how long an app stays on a user’s phone in order to understand whether it solves the user’s problem, need, or desire.
  • App icons and screenshots: The design of your app icons and screenshots will directly impact your app’s click-through rates. Use A/B testing to maximize every ounce of value available to you in the app stores. See below for detailed instructions on A/B testing.

Out-app store tactics

Your website should be your app’s principal purchase funnel. Do not overlook your website’s role in driving referral visits to your app store listings.

Because the app stores limit content on your listings, create expansive website content to increase app awareness and discovery opportunities. Work to build external authority and visibility.

App updates

Updating your app at regular intervals shows the app stores that you are committed to improving the user experience. Your app updates should reflect user feedback, keep pace with technology and policy changes, and constantly add new features. The regularity of your app updates plays a part in the ranking algorithm in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

In addition, frequent app updates tend to garner more positive and a higher volume of ratings and reviews.

App store optimization tools

A wealth of tools can help optimize your app store listings. Some tools will help you discover keywords, others analyze user sentiment, and still others instantly create screenshots and other marketing assets.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, app store optimization tools include the following:

App store data and analytics tools

  • App Annie –  app analytics and app market data platform for developers and marketers
  • Sensor Tower – data and tracking, app ranking, keyword optimization keyword translation, download and revenue estimates
  • Apptopia – market intelligence and competitor tracking
  • Prioridata – keyword intelligence, market intelligence (to analyze specific app categories and countries), usage intelligence to conduct research on the app market
  • App Radar – keyword tracker with AI-based keyword suggestions and optimization tips
  • App Tweak – keyword and search ads tool, including multilingual keyword intelligence and cross-competition analysis

Review and sentiment analysis tools

  • Appbot – monitor and analyze app reviews and ratings across all major platforms, understand current issues, and identify quick wins
  • Apptentive – validate product roadmaps, create seamless customer experiences, engage with customers through intelligently timed surveys, messages, and prompts
  • AppFollow – reply to all comments in the App Store and Google Play efficiently

Mobile app A/B testing tools

  • SplitMetrics – personalize app pages for different demographics and analyze user behavior
  • TestNest – A/B test your pages to get more quality users for less
  • RaiseMetrics – provides a visual understanding of how your audience interacts with your app listing, and what you can do to maximize conversions
  • PickFu – A/B test elements of your listing such as your app icon and name before going live in the app store. This saves time that might otherwise be lost in the approval process. PickFu helps you easily poll hundreds of people at a time. Those people can be targeted to match your app’s target demographic. For instance, you can poll people based on their mobile device (iOS or Android), how much they spend in the app store, or whether they play mobile games. Respondents vote on the option they prefer and also provide a written comment explaining their choice, providing app developers with quantitative and qualitative feedback.

How much does app store optimization cost?

Your ASO cost will depend on the tools and resources you use to improve your rankings. You’ll need to factor in your software costs, your internal and external resources, and you’ll also need to consider that any live tests may jeopardize your current level of downloads and sales.

Because its testing platform occurs off the app store completely, PickFu is one of the most cost-efficient means of testing. You won’t lose time getting listing approvals in the app store, and you won’t experience any adverse effect on sales as you would in a live test if a new listing underperformed a previous iteration.

PickFu’s polls start at $50 but may be customized with additional features such as audience targeting. To see the cost of your poll built to your app’s specifications, use PickFu’s pricing calculator.

For inspiration, view recently completed polls that test mobile app icons, app store screenshots, and mobile app ideas, then create your own PickFu poll.