With more than a million apps in the biggest app stores, standing out in the search results is hard but essential to your app’s success. Here is an introduction to App Store Optimization and a few tips to improve your ASO.

By now, you have probably heard of SEO – Search Engine Optimization. With about 50% of all websites traffic coming naturally from search engines, it is critical for your website to be optimized to stand out among the billions of web pages on the Internet.

Now, think about this: more than 60% (63% actually, according to Forrester) of app downloads come from people casually browsing their app stores. So, how do you get your app to all those people that might not be actively searching for it? How do you make sure that you are not missing out on what is probably the biggest pool of potential users for your app? Enter ASO, App Store Optimization.

What are the elements that can affect my ASO?

You will want to start with the factors over which you have complete control, most notably keywords and title. This is where your impact can be most significant, so spending some time searching for the right keywords and title, or working on your app description is a step you will hardly be able to skip.

The rest of your ASO depends on your total number of downloads and your ratings. You might feel like it’s harder to influence those, and it is, but knowing how the mechanisms work should help you guide your efforts in the direction.

1. Keywords are key

Keywords do not work the same way on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Apple lets you pick actual keywords, but the number of characters you have for your keywords is limited to 100, so you will want to make each character count. That means getting rid of all the words that will be ignored in a search on the app store (think “a”, “and”, “the”…) and focusing on the keywords that will make you stand out. Generic keywords might get more searches, but it will be harder to make a difference using only those because competition will be fierce. Try being present on more niche keywords, that are more specific to your offer, as it will increase your chances to reach your core target.

Not too sure what a relevant keyword could be? Answering these 4 basic questions will help you get started.

  • What would a smartphone user type in his search bar if he knew your app and wanted to find it on his app store?
  • What would he type in if he wanted to get a service provided by your app?
  • What are competitors using? If they’re aiming for the same audience, you should find enough material to give your brainstorming a boost.
  • What are people saying in their reviews of your app? If the same word is recurrent in an important number of positive reviews, it might be something other users will be searching for.

Apple won’t let you update your keywords list unless you have a new release, so each update is the perfect occasion to check how your keywords compare to the market, and make the necessary adjustments.

Google’s Play Store search algorithm works differently, without a keyword list. What is taken into account for your app’s ASO is its description. If you want your app to rank high in search results, your app description needs to be carefully crafted with the right amount of relevant keywords (no more than 5 repetitions of the same keywords). The keywords you found for your iOS release are probably a good starting point, but you will still need to find the right balance between using those and, um, well – having a description that makes sense.

Remember though, your app description will also help your SEO for Apple’s iTunes webpages, so any effort you put into optimizing your description for the Play Store will also benefit your Apple App Store ASO.

2. Make your title stand out

Not only is your title the first thing users will see from your app, but it is also a great way to get your app high in a search result. Including your best performing keywords in your app title is something that will boost your rankings (apps with keywords in their title rank in average 10% higher than those who don’t in app store searches).

Once again, think about competition. Having a trendy word in your app name (think “Candy”, “Insta” or “Flappy”) might seem like the easiest way to get easy downloads, but remember that more often than not your app will be drowned in thousands of apps with near identical names. Aim for something creative and unique, that will be easily remembered should someone try to search directly for it.

Pick the right keywords to improve your ASO.

The battle for trendy keywords rages on!

When it comes to apps, users tend to judge the book by its cover. You only have one shot to make the right impression and get that click through to your app page. Your app’s title and icon are your best allies in that battle, so make sure you give them the love and attention they deserve.

3. Localize your ASO

With specific app stores in more than 155 countries, and almost 30 languages to choose from, localizing your ASO is key if you want to reach users worldwide in the most efficient way. Before committing to a full translation of your app, localizing your ASO will help you evaluate the potential for the various markets you are considering for entrance. Translating your title and keywords is mandatory (unless your brand is strong enough), as it is more than likely that users will browse the app store using their native language. Remember that competition on keywords will vary from one language to one another so you might need to spend a little time making sure your keywords are still relevant in the new language and finding new ones if they’re not.

Because of market specificities, all ASO localization efforts might not show direct, or even long-term, results, but it will help you evaluate the opportunity to release a translated version of your app in a specific app store before you actually start looking into the time and resource-consuming process of translation.

4. High ratings bring high rankings

Ratings are key for your ASO. Not only will apps with high ratings rank higher in the search results, but they will also critically increase the chances of a user getting to your app page and eventually download your app. We could say A LOT about app ratings, but we recommend you check out this article we wrote on that specific topic if you want to know more!

In-app polls are a great way to get users to rate your app, but timing, message and targeting are essential to increase your chances of having positive reviews. polljoy lets you target your most engaged users and push the rating prompt to that specific group, making 5* ratings more likely.


5. More downloads bring more downloads

The total number of downloads for your app is the final element that will push it up in the search rankings, as it is seen by most app stores as a relevant indicator for popularity. Unfortunately, this is also where you will the hardest time having a direct impact. However, improving your ASO should bring you more downloads from your core users, and more downloads will bring more downloads (simple enough, right?).

Think of it this way: your first ASO improvements, keywords and title, will help you make sure that the people searching for your app, or for a service provided by your app, will have your app featured in their search results, and be able to download it. Those extra downloads will grant you a higher visibility and a chance to broaden your audience.

6. Be patient

Remember, you will need to keep on working on your ASO as you progress. You might not hit the best keywords right away, or you might need to adapt to competitors. Your ratings and number of downloads will influence your rankings and you will have to adjust to get maximum exposure at any given time.

What are your thoughts and past experiences with ASO? We’ll be bringing more ASO-related content to the blog in the upcoming weeks, so let us know at hi@polljoy.com or on Twitter, @polljoy!

Caroline Lee

Written by Caroline Lee
Community developer at polljoy - the in-game ratings and player feedback SDK. I'm passionate about helping devs make their games even more awesome. Reach me at caroline@polljoy.com