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The world runs on mobile apps — 8.9 million of them, to be exact. With that much competition, mobile app optimization is more important than ever. If you want mobile users to be able to find, buy, and download your app, these top tips will help your app stand out.

What is mobile app optimization?

Mobile app optimization, also known as app store optimization (ASO) and App Store SEO, is the process of making your app as visible as possible on all the relevant app stores — the App Store for iOS, Google Play for Android, Microsoft Store, and Amazon Appstore for Amazon devices. 

Mobile app optimization: image of apps on a mobile phone screen

The goals of mobile app optimization are as follows:

  • Increase app visibility so that users will easily find or stumble upon it in a search
  • Drive more traffic to your app’s homepage
  • Persuade users to download or purchase the app once they find it

We’ll share a few ways to achieve these goals in just a moment.

How SEO and mobile app optimization are alike

Mobile app optimization is a lot like regular search engine optimization (SEO).

Like SEO, mobile app optimization uses everything it knows about a search engine’s ranking factors and molds the elements of an app’s listing to meet the search engine’s current best practices.

And like SEO, mobile app optimization is a never-ending, always-evolving process. It’s critically important to the success of your app because roughly 40-60% of mobile app users discover their favorite apps via app store searches.

Tactics to improve mobile app optimization

Since you’re competing with 8.9 million apps, mobile app optimization isn’t as simple as uploading your app and calling it good.

Here are the main areas to focus on when optimizing your mobile app within the app store of your choosing.

Titles and keywords

Select the right title for your app, using highly relevant keywords not only in the title but also in the subtitle and URL. These tips for naming your app have more information on that process.

Do keyword research via Google AdWords to find out what users are searching. Instead of picking high-volume keywords to include in your app description, choose keywords with lower search volume, as you’ll have less competition.

Ratings and reviews

Have you ever noticed that when you search for a specific type of app on some app stores, the top results will have robust five-star reviews? The lower you go on the list, the lower the aggregate ratings go.

Think about it. If you’re shopping for a piano lessons app, would you choose one with four or five stars or one with three or fewer?

Mobile app optimization: Screenshot of a search results page on the Google Play store
Source: Google Play store

And if you were having a tough time choosing between a few four- or five-starred apps, what would you do? You’d probably check out the reviews to see what users had to say.

App stores not only pay attention to ratings and reviews, they use them in their rankings.

To optimize your mobile app, you should also pay attention to those ratings and reviews and use them to make any necessary changes or improvements. Respond to reviews, whether negative or positive, as often as you can. But never argue with your reviewers! Instead, focus on how you’re going to improve their experience.

Downloads

App stores measure how many downloads an app has as well as how long the app stays on a user’s phone.

That’s why it’s critical to make sure your app is useful once users do buy or download it. Implement updates to fix glitches and bugs and always work on improving the functionality of your app.

Website

Most book authors have websites that serve as an online home for their readers to find out more about them and their work. Mobile app developers should offer the same.

A website is a good place to give users more information about your app, including why and how you created it, and let them know how to contact you.

Share the link to your site across social media to increase visibility. Link to it in your app store if you can.

Mobile app optimization: Woman scrolling on her phone

Screenshots and app icons

App icons and screenshots are like your mobile app’s book cover. They convince browsers to click — or not.

Every design decision you make to your icon and screenshot affects your users’ experience with your app. (Read more in our guide to design tips and best practices for mobile app icons.) One of the best ways to optimize your app’s design elements is by split testing your options before going live.

Using PickFu to optimize your apps

PickFu is a quick and easy way to split test your app icon, title, screenshots, descriptions, and more.

Upload the options you want to test, then choose a target audience of app store users. PickFu lets you target respondents by whether they use an iOS or Android device, whether they’re mobile app gamers, and whether they spend money in the App Store.

In this PickFu poll, a user tested three potential screenshots for a productivity app with 50 respondents whose App Store spend is between $10-$100.

Mobile app store optimization: screenshot of a PickFu poll for a productivity app

Respondents favored Option C, the only option without a background for the workout routine buttons.

“The additional card behind the tabs [in Options A and B] doesn’t really add anything,” wrote one respondent. “With [Option] C, each individual entry really stands out on its own.”

Other respondents agreed that Option C looked cleaner. “I think the darker brown creates a better contrast and highlights the actual screen,” wrote one respondent.

“I generally prefer darker colors in my apps, and Option C fits that category best,” said another.

This poll took just 32 minutes to complete. That quick response rate, combined with detailed written feedback, means you can move quickly and more efficiently when making changes to your app.

Optimize your mobile apps all the time

Mobile app optimization should be an ongoing process for you and your team. Save time and money by using high-quality tools like PickFu, and sharpen your skills with this article on mastering five key App Store ranking factors.


Learn more: Optimize your app icons, screenshots, and in-app UX and creatives, by polling targeted audiences like mobile gamers and iPhone users.
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