If you’re launching a consumer facing app into the world, then your objective is, probably, two-fold: attract as many users as possible and earn revenue (either through in-app-purchases, advertisements, affiliate or CPI campaigns etc.)

With more than 1.6 million and 1.5 million apps in Google Play Store and Apple App Store, respectively, getting your app discovered can be a tad bit challenging, to put it mildly.

In 2014, Digital Economics conducted a study in which 10,000 indie developers participated. It turns out 50% of iOS developers and 47% of android developers make less than $500 per month/app.

Naturally, more active users and downloads mean more revenue. So, how can you improve your apps’ ranking, attract users and entice them to download it?

The answer is simple. Get the App Stores to like your app. Optimize your apps in a way the bots working behind the algorithms will be inclined to push your apps up the ladder.

The importance of organic in-store app search is compounded by Apptentive’s research that 63% of the users searching for iOS apps found their desired apps through App Store search. While, for android users the number is 58%.

discovery-method

Apptentive’s data may be circa 2012, but it is by no means irrelevant for the current tech environment. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Tune showed similar results. Of the 2,100 users they surveyed, 67% stated they discovered their apps through app store search. While, Forrester‘s report says the number is at 63%. Well, you get the picture, right?

Don’t Have A Huge App Marketing Budget? Don’t Worry, Make ASO Your Best Friend

Companies that have a dedicated marketing department for their apps, tend to invest heavily in Cost-per-Install Campaigns. Basically, the app developer pays the advertiser an average amount of money per install. In turn, the advertiser promotes the app which helps improve the apps ranking as well as discoverability.

Currently, to get your app in the US top ten chart, it needs to have at least a 100,000 downloads. Naturally, this can only be done via CPI. The average CPI these days is around $3.3. Roughly converted, you will need at least US$33,000 to get your app ranked in the US top ten.

If you don’t have thousands of dollars to market your app, then welcome to 98% of the developer population, where we make App Store Optimization our best ‘free/low-cost’ friend.

ASO is the fastest and cheapest way to improve your apps rankings in app store searches.

Although, technically both, Apple App Store and Google Play Store offer the same thing i.e. mobile apps, they have quite a few different rules and techniques for ASO. So that there is no confusion between what needs to be done for which app store, we’re going to be discussing the ASO for both Apple App Store and Google Play Store, individually.

App Optimization for the Apple App Store

Of the two stores, Apple’s algorithm for search ranking is the easiest-to-predict. The algorithm focuses primarily on downloads, but other factors play an important part, as well.

Although, optimizing for the Apple Store requires considerably less effort as compared to Google’s Play Store, it’s not without its loop holes. Loop holes that can be exploited by the crooked.

Here’s an in-depth look into the factors that affects app ranking in the App Store:

1) Keywords

Keywords are universally important, no matter what search engine you’re trying to optimize for. App Store is no different. It’s, without a doubt, the most crucial factor of ASO. Therefore, you should put in a lot of thought and time into researching the perfect combination of keywords for your app.

The best keywords are those that have very little competition. Google Keyword Planner can help you get a basic idea of the keyword you need to focus on. While, you can use Google Trends to figure out the common/trending queries people use for the topic/keyword you’re focusing on.

Once, you’ve figured out a focus keyword you can use Sensor Tower and AppAnnie to generate suggestions and keyword and competitor analysis.

keyword-report

Important: Placing your keyword in the apps’ name can boost your App Store search ranking by up to 10.3%

avg-keyword-ranking

A few quick tips for perfecting keyword usage:

App Store gives you only 100 characters to list your keywords. Don’t waste a single one!

Never use spaces. Spaces use up precious, well, space! Use commas, instead to separate keywords.

Repeating the keywords is redundant. The only good it’ll do is eat up your limit (which is not good, duh!).

Use digits where ever possible. 8 instead of eight!

Keep you keywords short. Users search for abbreviated keywords or shorter keywords; they don’t like paying attention to trivial things like grammar, very much!

You should stick to singulars. Pluralizing makes no difference.

Stop words should be your worst enemy (on, an, the etc.).

Things not necessarily related to keywords, but equally important for ASO:

Searches show the first 25 characters while scrolling. Therefore, make sure to cram the most eye catching and important aspects of the app into that space.

Using special characters don’t make a difference in ASO.

Sometimes, apps with same keywords can be flagged for duplication. Try to avoid keywords that already exist in other app names.

Including category names into your app name is redundant. For example ”free car games”; free and games are categories, which you would’ve already classified during the App Store launching process.

Over-stuffing of keywords is considered spamming, which automatically lowers rankings.

Place Keyword in Publisher Name?

Yes, Publisher name plays a part in app rankings as users may use a combination of the publisher name and an approximation of the app name (in case they’ve forgotten it). But, should you place the app’s keyword into the Publisher name? The answer is, no.

Place Keyword in In-App-Purchases?

Well, you can, but the latest update to the algorithm will only display the IAP if the keyword being searched is an exact match to the keyword used in the IAP. The chances are long, but can happen nonetheless.

Place Keywords in App Description?

The app description is not a factor that’s considered in App Store searches, but is crucial anyway. A catchy, engaging app description can entice a user to click on ‘more’ under the description (and eventually download) once they do land on the app’s page through their search. This is why sparsely placing the keyword into the first 25 characters of the description is encouraged.

2) Visuals

Beautiful things catch the eye. That’s just human nature. Apps should be no different.

When we say visuals we mean the app logo, the app screenshots, the introductory video, and the app website. In short, every visual aspect the users will come into initial contact with when they land on the app’s profile.

These visuals are the tools for establishing a brand for the app.

Let’s face it! Even when you are searching for apps you click on the ones that:

Have a small description under the screenshots

Have high resolutions, eye catchy screenshots (once you land on the profile)

Have a beautifully designed logo

Best match your result

Have an interesting explanatory/introductory video for the app

3) Off-Site Factors

These factors are a bit difficult to contend with because they are not under your direct control. The only way to influence these off-site factors is through outside promotional sources.

Off-site Factor 1: Number of Downloads

Naturally, you cannot affect the number of downloads directly. You will need several promotional sources to advertise the launch of your app. You can promote your app through the following sources:

Word of mouth – ask everyone in your social circle to download (and if you can coax them into it!) then give the app an honest rating.

Press Release – Announce the launch of your app via PR websites such as PRWeb or AppShout.

Bloggers/Reviewers – Ask reviewers, who are most often than not bloggers, to review your app pre-launch, and to share their experience with their audience. Some bloggers may do it for free, while you can hire others to do so (provided that you give them the leeway to write a truthful review, even if its negative!).

Exhibitions/Social Events – Attend as many exhibitions and social event as you can get yourself invited to, and advertise your app. Use your showmanship to attract potential users.

Off-site Factor 2: Ratings and Reviews

The higher your ratings and the more positive your app’s reviews, the greater the number of downloads. Put yourself in your user’s shoes. Before you download an app, don’t you at least take a cursory look at the ratings and reviews? And if the reviews don’t end up convincing you, you won’t download that app.

Similarly, your users are looking for indications whether or not they will have a good time with your app. They gather these indications via user reviews.

Do’s and Don’ts of Ratings and Reviews

Considering that ratings and reviews are a factor in app ranking, every app is eager for its users to rate their experience; even better, review it. That being said, there are apps that lose their existing users because they tend to go over board when asking for a rating. Here are a few do’s and don’ts of asking for ratings, to keep you in check:

Never ask for a feedback after a bug or crash report, you’ll definitely get a red mark on your ledger.

Never prompt them to rate the app when they are in the middle of using it (especially if your app requires concentration like a reading or gaming app!) – you’ll be killing their user experience.

Always ask them in a polite engaging manner to leave reviews/rating, instead of using words that would paramount to begging.

Do Factor 1 and Factor 2 Effect Search Rankings?

That’s a definite YES!

In case of factor 1, if the app is in a competitive niche, it will need higher downloads if it wants to climb the rankings. If it’s in a niche with less competition, the app can climb the rankings faster with a lower amount of downloads. In this way Factor 1 directly effects search rankings.

download-ranking

And, because factor 1 is dependent on factor 2 to a great extent, factor 2 inadvertently affects the search rankings, well.

Conclusion

Tinkering with these 3 factors can greatly influence an apps search result rankings. However, the word Optimization in ASO should not be overlooked (which most app app developers do!). Optimization is a continuous process.

The parameters for the 3 factors keep changing with the current trends of the mobile environment. Therefore, to keep improving on the search rankings, you need to keep testing the parameters i.e. analysis and analytics.

Check back in a few days for the Guide to improving app rankings for the Google Play Store!