App store optimization, or ASO, is an important strategy for app developers who wish to improve their app’s chances of being discovered across the various app stores. The higher an app is in the search results or the top app charts, the more likely it is to be discovered and downloaded by users.
There are some slight differences between optimizing for the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, but the basic strategies behind ASO are pretty much the same. Some ASO strategies are easily accomplished by you, the developer.
However, there may be some areas that are out of your immediate control. Here is what you need to focus on to make you app shine in the app stores:
In Your Hands:
This may seem like a no brainer, but a good, strong, and catchy title can make a world of difference for an app. Make sure your title hints at what your app does or use your strongest keyword to help users find your app when they search the app stores.
On the Apple App Store, titles are truncated after 25 characters. This character limit can vary on the Google Play Store, but it is best to try and keep your app title as short as possible.
This is where you describe, in more detail, what your app is and what is does. Try to make the first three lines of your app description as catchy as possible, as most app stores will shorten a long description (try to keep it under 4000 characters).
If you are stuck when writing, try to answer questions like: What problem is your app solving? What niche are you trying to fill? What value will the user get from your app? You should also use relevant keywords as much as possible in the app description, especially in the Google Play Store.
Think about the most popular apps on each app store. You may notice that each app has an iconic, easily recognizable app icon. This is what you should strive for. Your app icon should reflect the color scheme and branding that the user will see in your app.
Aim to make your app icon as unique as possible, especially among your app’s direct competitors. It may seem trivial, but users will quickly discount an app if the icon is poorly designed or nonexistent, even if the app itself it beautifully designed.
Each app store has different requirements regarding screenshots, but both strongly suggest that developers upload a wide variety. Think of an app screenshot like a retail store window.
App screenshots are a great opportunity for users to “window shop” and see exactly what the user interface and the user experience will be like if they download your app. If your app is optimized for multiple screen sizes, make sure to share those screenshots as well!
The better your keywords, the more likely it will be that your app will feature high on search results. Do some research ahead of time. Come up with a list of potential keywords and test them by searching them on the app stores.
If there are thousands of entries for one keyword, it may be worth it to find another with less competition.
Once you have your keywords finalized, try using one in your app’s title. Use another 3-5 keywords in your app description. While it is important to use keywords, it is also important not to overdo it. Both app stores condemn developers who try to beat the search algorithms by overloading their pages with keywords.
Choosing the right category can make or break an app’s potential. If your app is in the right category, it will have a better chance of reaching your target user.
Both app stores will bury your app in the search pages if you try to put it in the wrong category to fish for downloads. The Apple App Store even allows devs to choose a secondary app category to help even more with app discovery.
In The User’s Hands:
Reviews and Ratings
Unless you decide to use bots (controversial, but not necessarily banned), the reviews and ratings that users give your app are totally out of your hands. But there are some things you can do to increase your chances of positive feedback.
First, make sure your app is as free of bugs as possible. An app that is buggy or lags will not receive positive feedback from users.
Second, prompt users to rate and review your app after they have completed several app sessions. First-time users are not the ideal group to prompt with reviewing, as they will be more likely to review negatively. Return users already have shown that they enjoy your app, so their review will more likely be favorable.
Third, reward constructively critical reviews with a response. If a user is pointing out a potential bug or glitch, respond to them and let them know that you are working on a solution.
While these things may seem trivial after spending so much time developing and perfecting an app, good app store optimization can help your app break through the noise and achieve its potential!