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The Complete Guide to App Store Optimisation

Looking to maximise your app’s visibility in the app store? To get your app the attention it deserves, simply follow the key steps in this guide to ensure your app meets ranking criteria and rises to the top of the Apple and Google Play Stores.

It is crucial to understand the various marketing channels available to attract users and generate revenue. Once such channel is the very important, but often overlooked, technique of App Store Optimisation (ASO).

ASO is essentially improving your app’s visability on the app store to drive more downloads for your app.

When it comes getting your app discovered and downloaded by users, the numbers don’t lie:

    • Users discover and download apps through general app store searches 63% of the time.
    • Apps with keywords in their titles on average rank 10.3% higher in the app stores than those that don’t.
  • The more positive reviews and ratings you get, the higher your app will rank in such results.

There are a number of aspects that come into play when someone sees your app in the search results. To effectively optimise your app on the store, you need to focus on elements, including reviews and ratings.

If you have a vision for an innovative app that provides real value to users, here are the crucial steps to implementing an ASO strategy that maximises your app’s search ranking on the largest discovery channel available.

Step 1 – Understand why App Store Optimisation is important

In order to successfully optimise your app for the stores, you have to know what Apple and Google are looking for. Once you know what is used for iTunes and Google Play to rank the search visibility of your app, you have to optimise for these particular factors.

According to Forbes Tech, the two main factors when submitting on iOS app to Apple are the app’s name and keyword searches. Let’s breakdown the important factors involved in ASO…

Names and Keywords

Your app’s name is the principal piece of meta-data that impacts it’s ranking in app store search results. Therefore, the keywords that your target users are searching for (More on that in Step 2!) should feature in your app’s name, as well as the description. While the app’s name and icon grab the attention of potential users, it’s a persuasively written description that ultimately convinces them to download your app.

Mobile App Development

The app store title for One Minute Closer features the app’s name and an additional five keywords (‘Free’, ‘FIFO’, ‘Roster’, ‘Lifestyle’ and ‘App’) that target users would search for. Source: iTunes

Ratings and Reviews

You can’t control an app’s ratings and reviews in the same way you can find and leverage keywords for ASO, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim to influence them. These are two significant factors when you consider that 59% of people usually or always check ratings before downloading an app – even if everything else checks out.

Furthermore, a single star in your app’s rating can make a huge difference when attempting to reach target users. In fact, a 2015 Consumer Survey found that jumping from a 2-star to a 3-star rating directly increases your app store conversion by 340%. Managing ratings and reviews, gives your app the best chance to achieve a dramatic increase in active users.

Melbourne App Developer

Only 15% of people would consider downloading an app with a 2-star average rating, while over 95% would consider downloading an app with a 4-star rating. Source: Apptentive

Let’s now explore the app store optimisation practices you can use to maximise your app’s discoverability.

Step 2 – Research your target audience

Knowing who your app’s target users are is the foundation to implementing a successful ASO strategy. To figure out whom exactly benefits the most from being an active user of your app, you need to assess three elements of your target audience: 1) who you have designed the app for, 2) what demographics will get real value from the app, and 3) what is the problem it solves for them.

To systematically gather and interpret such information, you need to do market research. With effective market research, you can determine the likelihood of your app being downloaded in the app stores, as well as the motivations and behaviours of app users. As part of our Rocketfuel Workshops with entrepreneurs and businesses, the market research to clearly define an app’s target audience usually comprises of two parts…

Primary Research – User Persona Modelling

The more you know about your users, the better and faster your can meet their needs. Creating user persona models helps you understand the behaviours and motivations of your app’s target audience.

With an understanding of your app’s target users, you should then place your created personas into scenarios: situations where desirable or ineffective app features become evident. Consider a day in the life of your identified key personas – waking up, working, evening routine etc. – and how your app interacts with them. Use these scenarios to determine the app features that satisfy the market and then prioritise features based on your primary research.

 App Developers Australia

An example User Persona, featuring the target user’s motivations, goals, bio and personality. Source: Xtensio

Secondary research – Industry Analysis

Once you’ve identified the app features that satisfy your target users, it’s time to validate your app using the plethora of collected data and existing research available online. If your app is focused towards a certain industry, sources like IBISWorld offer readily available Market Research reports across every industry in Australia.

To find out if users are actually searching for an app like yours in the app stores, use tools like App Codes to track out what keywords your competitors rank for. This will empower you to find the best keywords for ASO and make sure your app’s gets maximum exposure for search results.

Step 3 – Identify the right app name and keywords

With your most relevant keywords identified during your secondary research, you can now optimise your app’s name. To increase the visibility and traffic generated, the identified keywords should be in your app’s name.

You have up to 255 characters for your app’s name on the Apple App Store. This is a generous amount of space allows you to insert relevant keywords that will lead to more app downloads. However, don’t start keyword stuffing, as this is widely denounced and often penalised by Apple.

Keep the following tips in mind when picking the right name for your app:

On iTunes, your app name is shortened after the 23rd character on the search results and top charts pages. Even with 255 characters, make sure your keywords fit in logically.

On Google Play, you only have up to 30 characters for your app’s name.

As a result, it is essential so to put your best keywords at the start of the app’s name.

A general rule of thumb is to include three top target keywords in your app name.

While identifying the top keywords to maximise your app’s visibility, focus mainly on the keyword ranking traffic and difficulty. Traffic is the measure of a keyword’s popularity in relation to search volume, while difficulty is based on how intense the competition is to rank for a certain keyword.

Aim for the ideal combination of a keyword that gets a lot of traffic and very little competition. It may take time to find the perfect one, but it’s worth it for the boost your app will receive in the rankings.

Step 4 – Create a memorable and unique app icon

As your app’s visual anchor, you want your icon to stand out and be memorable to app store browsers. An app icon is the key visual that users interact with when they see your app for the first time.

So what are the key traits of a great app icon that screams ‘INSTALL ME!’?

Firstly, your icon will be seen on a variety of screens and in a variety of sizes. Therefore, it’s important that your icon is scalable so that it maintains its legibility. Big or small, the app’s icon needs to look good.

 iPhone App Developers Melbourne

An icon should maintain its legibility across multiple resolutions. Source: One Minute Closer

Secondly, your icon is confined to a 57×57 pixel space, so ensure it clearly communicates what your app does. App Analytics firm App Annie provided the following tips to designing a simple, unique icon:

  • The most effective icons provide a clear message through simple design.
  • The icon’s colours should pop while still representing the colour scheme within the app.
  • The icon must represent the core values of your app. This may be the app’s primary feature (E.g. Gmail’s use of a letter) or imagery within the app (E.g. Clash of Clans featuring the main character).

Using these tips will help you highlight the unique selling point of your app, converting browsers into engaged users.

Step 5 – Feature high-converting screenshots

The sequence of screenshots on the app store page shows what your app can do. Optimised screenshots convey your app’s key selling points and unique value proposition.

Mobile App Development Melbourne

Life Pulse on Android Wear tells a story to engage uses. Source: Google Play

When submitting apps for our clients, we recommend featuring screenshots that showcase how the app works.

Life Pulse is a perfect example. First, it hooks users with the app’s starting point (Entering your Resting Heart Rate). It then outlines the heart monitoring experience by visually explaining the key features the wearable app provides to users.

To find out which screenshots optimise your app’s conversion rate, use A/B testing methods. When you know which screenshots perform better, as well as the correct order to present them in, you’ll greatly increase your app store conversion rate and, in turn, the number of app downloads.

To A/B test potential screenshots on the app stores, StoreMaven allows you to not just compare your screenshots against each other, but also test your screenshots to industry standards. There’s a 30-day free trial, letting you discovering which screenshots maximise your app’s conversion rate.

Step 6 – Maintain your App Store Optimisation

ASO is a marketing practice that you have to keep monitoring and regularly tweak for sustainable app store success. The best practice to efficiently optimise your app is to keep leveraging keywords that rank well and maximise the traffic generated for your app’s page.

It’s also important to consistently update your app so that you keep improving the user experience and performance it provides. Apps that are continually updated are deemed to be high quality and user-centric by the app stores and mobile consumers.

The average update frequency of the top 500-ranked apps is between 30 to 40 days. As a result, you should be aiming for this too. By providing users better versions of your app with each update, your ratings and reviews will organically increase. Additionally, better app store ratings and reviews, will help your app rank prevalently in the search results.

Before optimising your app…

Now that you know everything involved in implementing an effective ASO strategy, you can see how the path to startup success doesn’t end when your app is launched. That’s just half of the journey.

With this guide, your app can soar up the app store rankings and maximising visibility.

Can you recommend any other tools and resources for App Store Optimisation? We’d love to hear about them.