Deep Dive: App Store Optimization

Jun 13, 2017
By: Marissa Camilli

In app stores, 63 percent of all apps are discovered by search. Unfortunately, about 73% of all apps in app stores are so-called zombie apps; these apps are never seen by app store visitors. On Google play alone, this means that about 1.1 million apps never make it in front of a single set of eyeballs. You, however, can bring your app out of the shadows with some effective ASO. ASO can be broken down into two key areas: primary ASO and secondary ASO. Primary ASO has the most influence over your app rankings, while secondary ASO provides other factors that will also help boost your app’s search result rankings.  

Unlike SEO, which has a plethora of tools and software available to make optimization a lot easier, ASO requires a bit more old-school, trial-and-error effort. Most of this involves creating keywords based on the key characteristics of your app such as app category, the primary problem your app solves, and app functionality. Here are the steps to finding the optimal keywords for your app: 

Primary ASO

Primary ASO deals with finding the keywords that will get you optimal app store search result ranking. The goal of Primary ASO is to find the most relevant keywords to use in your app’s name and description. Here are the steps to finding the optimal keywords for your app:

  1. Create a keyword that defines the primary purpose of your app. This keyword needs to describe the primary problem your app solves, or if it’s a game, the type of game it is. 
  2. Create keywords that are based on key features or functionality. These keywords will form the basis of your actual research in the app stores where you intend to publish your app.
  3. Test your keywords. Testing your keywords by performing searches with them will help you to create keywords that will give you the top primary ASO ranking possible for your app. 
    1. Enter your primary keyword by itself and look at what other search terms turn up. For example, in the Google Play store, do a search for ‘recipes’, and see what other search terms show up beneath the search bar. There are a handful of valuable results, so make note of the keywords and any patterns in them. In this case, we find that the word ‘free’ shows up at least three times. If you have a free app, make note of this. 
    2. Enter each of your other keywords along with your primary keyword and record the search terms that show up. Continuing with the recipe keyword example, try using recipe + ‘italian’ and see what other search terms appear. There are several possibilities, some with interesting variations that hint at long-tail keywords (keywords that dig deeper, resulting in more targeted search results). If you enter a keyword combination that returns no search term options, make note of that. The other search terms that appear underneath the search bar are search terms at least one other user has entered when looking for an app. This keyword combination may be a miss for your app. 
    3. Once you have tried each of your other keywords with the primary keyword, begin a little mixing and matching, based on the results you have in the spreadsheet. Find the keyword combination that yields the most results. You need no more than three keywords! If you exceed this number of keywords, you may find that there are no search term options available. What this means is that nobody is using that keyword combination to search for a similar app. 
    4. Use the most effective keyword combination in your app’s name. This is critically important — failure to use this keyword combination in your app’s name will relegate your app to the zombie shadows of the app store.  
    5. Monitor competing apps and keyword performance. Avoid changing the name of your app unless you find that you absolutely need to — changing an app’s name multiple times can have and adverse effect on your app’s success. 

Secondary ASO

Secondary ASO provides organic boosts to ranking through the total number of downloads and quality of reviews. The more downloads your app gets, the higher it will rank. The better the reviews you get, the higher your app will rank. So, there are two questions that need to be asked: 

  1. How do I get people to download and install my app? First and foremost, you must have an app that is exceptional at what it does while delivering an equally exceptional user experience. This is more difficult than ever to pull off due to the sheer volume of apps that are published every month. The next most important factor is raising awareness that your app exists with an effective marketing strategy. While beyond the scope of this guide, it is critically important to market your app through multiple channels. 
  2. How do I persuade users to review my app? The best way is to ask your users at appropriate places in the user experience. Ask too soon, and you’ll annoy the user. Ask too little or too late, and you probably won’t get a review at all. To encourage users to review your app, you may want to provide an incentive of some kind, a freebie, a hundred gems, a bonus level — anything within reason that will motivate them to review your app. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews multiple times during use. Just watch out for asking too many times, since that will also annoy your user, triggering the possibility of a bad review. Apps with great reviews get higher ranking than apps with poor reviews. Aim for four or five stars. If your app isn’t getting at least four stars, then look at the user feedback and make improvements accordingly. 

When you have your Primary ASO and Secondary ASO working together, you will have an app that gets top ranking in every app store where it’s published. Great app + great ASO = huge success!

Marissa Camilli
By Marissa Camilli
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