App Store Optimization 1️⃣ Explanations, guides and tips!📱

Team Moburst

App store optimization tools show that there are over 5,000,000 apps in the app stores. Being present in the search results is the safest and most cost effective way to get users to download your app.

Of course, you can always promote your mobile app through ads, using strategies like the burst campaign. Yet, once you stop the ads, your downloads will stop as well.

If you want long term results, you need to do app optimization. That’s why we decided to write this article.

You’ll learn what app store optimization is, how it affects your app, how to do it and what aso tools to use.

What is App Store Optimization and how it can help you?

App store optimization is the app store marketing technique and strategy that works on improving the app in order to better follow the app store’s guidelines and improve the ranking on certain keywords for a better search presence and higher organic download numbers.

App store optimization is also known as:

  • ASO
  • App Search optimization
  • Mobile SEO

App store optimization will help your app increase:

  1. App downloads
  2. Conversion rates
  3. App discoverability
  4. App revenue
  5. App Ranks

If you want to better understand how App store Optimization works and how it will help you, just read below. We’ve got you covered, as we’ll explain everything in detail.

 

How does app store optimization work?

Let’s say you want to improve your emotional balance and relax through meditation. Of course, you have never done meditation before and you need some help.

You realize that you can use an app to help you out, so you log into the Apple App Store or Google Play store. You type the first keywords that come into mind and one that relate to your needs, like “meditation”, and hit enter.

Thousands of apps appear and you decide to compare:

  • Reviews
  • Number of installs
  • Icons
  • Names
  • Descriptions
  • Images

Of course, the first apps with the higher number of installs and best reviews should be the ones for you. After a few minutes, you install Calm.

App Store Optimization for meditation app Calm

No ads, no pop-ups, no invasive marketing. You just found and installed Calm because someone optimized the app.

Spoiler alert!!! Calm is one of our clients and we helped them get:

  • Hundreds of thousands of app reviews
  • Millions of app installs and users
  • Many more millions in revenue

You can always read more about our clients and what we did for them here.

Of course, you are here to learn. Now that we’ve explained how aso works using the example below, we’ll also talk a little more about what the main factors are and how they influence your app store presence.

App Store search optimization ranking factors

App store optimization works around algorithms. All app stores analyze the content and the app in order to better understand where your app should be positioned.

The app stores will also use hidden factors based on the category or keywords. Of course, there is no way to know every ranking factor. But, if you work on optimizing your app for the main ones, your chances of achieving app store success will sky rocket.

General app store ranking factors:

All app store take your success into consideration. The algorithms analyze how the users interact with the app in order to rank it.

If your users download or purchase the app, if they give you positive reviews and spend a lot of time in the app, you have a much greater chance of getting your app to rank higher.

App downloads

Your app download numbers and the way that number changes is a crucial ranking factor in your app’s ranking. If you get users to download your app fast, you can manipulate the ranking and boost your online presence.

The source of the downloads doesn’t matter that much. Because of this, the algorithms will give the same importance to a download that came from Facebook and one that came organically.

Knowing this, you can decide on 2 options to grow your number of downloads:

  • Steady growth
  • Burst campaign

With Steady Growth, you work on slowly growing your download numbers. It’s a strategy for the long run that can work for small businesses, as it requires less money in the start of the campaign.

Another benefit of this strategy is that you can use the revenue you get from the app to boost it even more.

You can steadily grow your app by using an aso agency, using social media and promoting your app through paids ads.

A burst campaign works by pumping high budgets with a high reward. You use ads to aggressively push your app to the masses. As a result, your app will get hundreds of thousands of app installs in a couple of days.

Such a rapid increase in installs will increase your position and ranking inside the app, working as a snowball that only gets bigger and bigger. As your app install grow from the ads, your position shifts, giving you thousands of organic app installs as well.

Of course, this strategy has a down side. You will need a big budget in order to do it.

You’ll also need a secondary budget for prolonged media buying, as the burst campaign will end in less than 72 hours.

 

App revenue

App stores work and make a profit by getting a cut of all of your app’s revenue. Because of this, they have exact data on how your app is performing financially.

If your income is high, they will also see increased profits. Because of this, they tend to push high earning apps as higher as possible.

It’s a win-win for both the app store and the app owners.

App store optimization revenue

Of course, some aso experts suggest that even more important than the revenue numbers is the trust factor. Their argument is that apps with higher sales are trusted by their users and that this trust is taken into consideration by the algorithms.

App stores take all of the revenue into consideration. Meaning that a free app with paid features can rank higher than a paid app.

App usage

The experience users have inside your app will greatly affect your app. If they only use your app once or uninstall it after one hour, your position may be affected.

By making sure that your users use your app every day and that they spend money inside your app, you are not only decreasing the churn rate. You are actively protecting your ranking on your main app store keywords.

App store optimization app ussage

App reviews and rating

Both app reviews and rating drastically affect your ranking, conversion rate and number of installs. All app stores try to give their users the best experience and utilities.

If your app is badly reviewed by users, the app store will quickly take it down.

App reviews and ratings can be considered “social proof”. They demonstrate to users that your app has helped other people (or not!).

Just so you know, 59% of people check your ratings before even considering downloading your app.

App store reviews

Just look at the image above. The first things you see are:

  • App icon
  • App Title
  • App brand
  • Rating

Would you even consider checking a 1 star app?

App keyword

Your app’s keyword may be one of the most important ranking factors you got in app store optimization. That’s why ASO is also known as mobile SEO. Because everything you do is related to the main topic or keyword that users search for in the search bar of the app store.

As we’ve mentioned in our app store keywords article, over 65% of all Apple App Store downloads are organic. People search for different keywords in the search bar and the app store provided. Considering the millions of searches users do every day, not getting your app featured in the first positions will decrease your chances of app success.

You need to make sure that you decide on a keyword after doing research on what is most searched. We’ll talk about everything a little later when we teach you how to put ASO into practice.

Of course, you can click the link above about app store keywords to skip ahead and read about it right now.

 

App updates

One of the newest ranking factors in SEO is the newness of the content. If a guide has been updated for example, it will receive a boost in ranking for its specific keywords.

The same concept applies to ASO and your app. By constantly updating your app with new features, bug repairs and information, you are telling the app store that your app is relevant. And that you also care about improving the experience your users have.

That’s why most experts recommend pushing small updates from time to time, even if you just fixed a small bug or have updated a small feature. It WILL help with ranking.

Retention and Number of Uninstalls of the App

In the first 30 days, your app gets scanned and monitored for retention problems. The number of uninstalls can have a detrimental effect on your position in the app store.

The chances of getting featured in different categories will also decrease if your uninstall numbers are high.

It’s extremely important to work on making sure that people do not uninstall your app too fast. Especially if you opted for the burst campaign as one of your marketing tactics.

One of the best ways to decrease uninstall numbers is to give people inside the app free features or special experiences and gifts within the first days. This strategy works best with mobile games or free premium features in the first days.

Localization

Not everyone speaks English. And, not everyone speaks French or Bulgarian. Because of this, translating your app and localizing it for different countries can boost your aso efforts.

The App Stores will rank an app higher in a specific region of the app was translated for those users.

You app conversion rates will also sky rocket if you work to localize and translate your app store screenshots.

Uber did this for the Japanese market. Not only did they update the language, but they also used maps of Japanese cities for the screenshots.

Uber Localize Screenshots
Uber Localize Screenshots

App Name

Optimizing your app name around a specific keyword can increase organic downloads by over 10%. When working on millions of downloads, that 10% can be a game changer.

Most app stores have a limit of up to 50 characters for the app name or app title. If the limit is big and your competition uses the extra character count, do it yourself as well.

Even Amazon, one of the biggest companies in the world integrated the generic keyword: “shopping” inside their title.

Amazon screenshots were taken from the iTunes store

App URL

Integrating your keyword in the app’s url can greatly affect your app’s ranking. A Mario game recently managed to rank for the ZARA keyword because of the way they integrated the random “Zara” keyword inside their app’s URL.

Apple App Store Ranking Factors:

Until now we’ve talked about general ranking factors that are available on most app stores, including the Apple App Store.

Yet, if you plan to create and promote an app on iOS or any other Apple device, you need to make sure that you work on the following ranking factors.

Pro tip: Make sure you create awesome images, graphics, app preview videos and screenshots for the Apple App Store, as these are some of the most important factors for users on the Apple market.

App Subtitle

The App Subtitle is a feature introduced for iOS 11 and only available on the Apple App Stores. The Subtitles are short phrases of up to 30 characters that can be integrated inside the app page, under the app title and app icon.

They allow for some smart phrases or taglines that will encourage your users to try out the apps.

Keyword field

This is one of the most important factors that can be directly influenced by the keywords you’ve decided on and the research around them. While the Google Play store scans all of the content for keywords, similarly to how search engines scan a blog, the Apple App Store makes it a little easier.

For iOS apps, you can simply integrate your keywords in the keyword field in order to help the algorithm better understand what kind of keywords your are trying to rank for.

Google Play Store Ranking Factors:

Considering it is owned by Google, the play store integrates a lot of ranking factors from SEO. While doing app store optimization for Android devices, you need to take into consideration the app description, keyword research and the number of backlinks going towards your app.

That’s right, you need to take a look at how websites link to your app, meaning that you may need to do SEO as well, besides ASO.

App Description (Short and Long)

The Google Play store allows you to integrate your keywords inside 2 app descriptions:

  • Short description of 80 characters
  • Long Description of around 4.000 characters

The short version is really important for your conversion rate, while the longer description helps your app store optimization efforts through keyword indexing.

The google play store reads both of them and decides on where to rank your app based on the main keywords used inside the descriptions.

The longer description can have emojis and be formatted using HTML.

 

Backlinks

Being that the Google Play store is owned by Google, it is somewhat easy to argue that what works in SEO works in ASO as well. Because of this, backlinks should be a gold mine that ranks app quickly.

Well, things are a little in the gray area here.

While some companies portray link-building for app store optimization as being useless, others use it strategically.

Daniel Peris did a simple experiment related to how backlinks and anchors affect the ranking of an app and managed to easily rank a random app for the name of the domain it used as a backlink and for the anchors the domain had.

Either way, backlinks will help, if they do not affect ranking, we are sure that they can increase download numbers through referral traffic. Just make sure that you work on actually bringing relevant backlinks from high quality websites.

Doing blackhat SEO or buying the links from Fiverr won’t really help.

What ASO marketing metrics (ASO KPI’s) should you follow?

There is no point in investing if you don’t know what you’ll earn back. Because of this, you need to make sure that you carefully monitor what your results are.

If you keep a close eye on what happens to your app, you can adjust your marketing strategy, change budgets, reduce costs and increase the overall quality of your app store optimization strategy and the campaign brought by your mobile advertising agency.

Downloads and Installs

All of your app store optimization and mobile marketing efforts are related to your main objective: Get as many downloads and installs as possible.

The best way to analyze this KPI or metric is to understand the following:

  • Numbers
  • Mediums
  • Sources
  • Time Frames

You need to make sure that you know how many downloads and installs you are getting at every moment of your app store optimization campaign. .

The medium of your installs is extremely valuable. Knowing that your paid efforts brought 30% of all of your installs can help you decide what mediums are profitable or not.

There is no point in investing in email marketing if you get almost no returns, right?

Mediums are broad analytics categories that you can split into:

  • Organic
  • Paid
  • Referral
  • Custom campaigns

The sources are a little more in-depth, showing where the user came from. The website, the search bar or some specific google ads campaign.

Looking into every install source will help you better understand how to manage your budgets.

Active Users and Stickiness

Users that install your app and never open it won’t help you in any way. The only way to generate revenue from a user (especially for free apps or mobile games) is to have the user be active in your app.

In order to measure active users you need to understand when the users start the app and use it.

The main metrics here are:

  • DAU – Daily active users
  • MAU – Monthly active users

App store optimization metrics - App Stickiness

DAU is given by the amount of people that log in at least once in the app. MAU is given by people that log at least once a month.

Stickiness is earned by dividing DAU/MAU. The higher the number, the better.

Retention Rate

When working on your app store optimization strategy, you need to work on how the app interacts with the user as well. It’s not only about bringing large numbers of users. These users need to stay in the app, use it and convert into revenue.

The app’s retention rate allows you to calculate how many users actually stay in the app.

App retention is calculated by dividing the number of installs in a day to the number of active users. The higher the number, the better.

App store optimization metrics - Retention Rate
App store optimization metrics – Retention Rate

If your numbers are low, it means people do not get enough value from your app. Meaning that something must be changed.

Churn Rate

Churn rate is the exact opposite of your Retention Rate. One of the least desired results in an app store optimization campaign is having a really high churn rate.

Churn rates can be calculated as the percentage of users who stop using your app within a certain time frame.

If you bring in 10,000 users and 50 of them uninstall the app in a given time frame, you can consider that you have an app churn rate of 0.5%.

Usually, over 70% of all app users churn in 90 days or more.

If your users churn in the first days in high percentages, your app or your app marketing efforts need to be changed. It’s either a problem with your users or with your app. Sometimes both.

Conversion Rate

Conversion rates are calculated as the percentage of people that make a certain active from the total of all the users.

So, for example, if you have a free app selling subscriptions or a mobile game selling ingame loot, your conversion rate can be calculated as Non-paying users/paying users in a certain timeframe.

ASO conversion rate

Of course, there are multiple things that can be tracked, not only sales.

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)

App revenue is mostly a numbers game. You work on increasing every percentage hoping to increase the total revenue of your app.

One of the most important app store optimization related KPIs is the ARPU. This metric works by dividing the number of users by the total revenue generated in a certain time period.

Average Revenue per User - ARPU ASO

By knowing this number, you’ll be able to work on predicting or plan marketing budgets in the future, as you can make statistically accurate predictions of revenue and profits based on future user growth.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

Oh, the CPA. This metric is what differentiates the best mobile marketing agencies from the mediocre. Anyone can bring installs to an app. Yet, if you pay $5 per install instead of $0.25, you are doing it wrong.

Knowing how much money you need to spend in order to bring a user inside your app is one of the most important metrics.

App acquisition costs
App acquisition costs

It’s also extremely relevant to know how much each traffic source costs. Sometimes, Facebook ads can bring cheaper users. Yet, their ARPU can be significantly lower.

Use this aso metric in correlation with the others.

Return On Investment (ROI)

We’re talking about profits right now. How much money do you spend and how much money is your app or mobile game making.

If you’re interested in scaling your app and getting investors on board, this is one of the most important metrics, as they are interested in the profitability of your money making machine.

Lifetime Value (LTV)

For many apps and mobile games, a user will convert multiple times. He may be paying for a subscription service, once a month, or he may be paying for multiple ingame items.

No matter the process, it’s extremely important to understand how many times a user converts and what the average revenue you can expect from a user is.

App user lifetime value in ASO

Knowing this value, the churn rate and your marketing capabilities, you’ll be able to predict the revenue your app will make in the future.

App Store ratings and reviews

As mentioned earlier in this article, app store ratings and reviews affect your position on the app store keyword search and your conversion rate.

If you don’t take into consideration what users are saying about you, your app’s chances of success are slim.

Make sure to track each review and analyze your rating from one time period to the other. By doing this, you can correlate your rating to certain changes you made inside the app. If you removed a feature and your rating fell, bring that feature back.

Also, the review system is a great place to find ideas for new features and get feedback from your avid users.

How to do app store optimization?

We’ve already talked about what app store optimization is, what factors influence it and what you need to track in order to achieve success, let’s talk about execution.

How we actually rank an app on the app store?

Research your app store keywords

The first and most important aspect of your app store optimization efforts is researching and deciding on the app store keywords you’ll use.

This step is the first and probably most important step in the entire process. A wrong set keyword can make you lose thousands of installs or waste your entire marketing budget.

While doing your marketing research related to app store keyword, we recommend that you follow these 4 steps.

  1. Brainstorm keyword variants
  2. Get insight from users
  3. Take a look at your competition
  4. Use tools in order to validate the data

Nobody knows your app better than yourself. Think about how you’d describe your team and what words represent your app’s features. Feel free to go into the app store and search random words. If those apps are similar to yours, you may be on the right track.

Another relevant option is asking users and getting insights from them. If your app is already launched, you can look through the reviews for ideas or ask the current users for feedback.

If the app hasn’t been launched yet, we recommend that you do market research.

Don’t try reinventing the wheel. If other companies have already launched apps similar to yours, try to do what they’re doing . If the competition is making powerful efforts to rank for certain keywords, that may be the way to go.

Also, if you know what keywords the competition targets, it may be a wise idea to work around that, if you lack the budget or are up against a powerful company.

After you’ve come up with ideas and noted them all down, it’s best to double or triple check everything. Use aso keyword tools like:

  1. Keyword Suggestions (only for iOS mobile app developers)
  2. Übersuggest
  3. Google Keyword Planner

We recommend using multiple tools in order to compare the data.

After creating a list of relevant keywords, decide on what you’ll rank for depending on the search volumes, app relevancy and user intent.

 

Integrate your keyword inside the right places

After you’ve decided on the main keywords you’ll be working on, make sure you’ve integrated those keywords in all of the available places.

Integrating relevant keywords in the app name can increase download numbers by up to 10%.

ASO agency client Calm

Our client, Calm, the meditation app, increase conversion rates, position and the number of installs by integrating its 3 main keywords inside the app name.

They’ve also named their app after a keyword people look for.

The app’s main keyword can be used inside the URL as well in order to boost your app store optimization efforts.

While some experts argue that the URL is less relevant nowadays, Nintendo’s Mario game managed to rank for the ZARA keyword because of the way they integrated the random “Zara” keyword inside their app’s URL.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nintendo.zara

While it’s not recommended for most companies, you can also integrate your keyword inside your developer name. This is one of the best solutions for small indie companies that don’t care about the brand being present on the app store.

Work on the app store descriptions!

There are multiple options to present your app on the app store. You have multiple long or short descriptions and even subtitles (only on iOS). Make sure to integrate your main keywords inside each of these sections.

Also, do your best to present your app in a coherent and relevant format. Stuffing the description with keywords just for the sake of app store optimization won’t help you.

On Apple’s App Store, you can integrate keywords directly inside of the keyword field. This is a simpler way of optimizing the app.

You have 100 characters and we do recommend using all of them.

Work on improving your conversion rate

After you get on the app store, start working on actually improving your conversion rate. There is no point in bringing 10,000 users to your app page if you only get 50 app installations.

Your app store conversion rate can be affected by the following:

  • App Icon
  • Name
  • Description
  • Video Preview
  • Screenshots

You app Icon is the first image people see while searching for an app that suits their needs. Make sure that it’s colorful and relevant enough to catch attention. If you are representing a big brand, you can capitalize on your brand awareness and use your own logo.

If not, create an app icon that is similar to niche icons. Take a look at the icon our client Mailwise has. You know from the first moment what that icon is about.

App store reviews
App store reviews

We’ve already talked about your app name and description. It’s extremely important to integrate your main keywords inside.

Don’t forget to also think about the sales part. You need to create conversion oriented copy. Integrate call to action sections, present your benefits and write about your customer’s needs.

In terms of app store graphics, we can give you 2 main tips:

  1. A/B test
  2. Research as much as you can!

Working on your app store screenshots can do wonders on your conversion rate. We’ve helped Mailwise increase their app page conversion rate through A/B testing their app screenshots.

You can take a look below at what we’ve done for them.

Before and after.

A-B Testing Screenshots for Mailwise

The same thing goes for app store preview videos. Make sure you make it as relevant as possible. Show how your game works, present your app’s features, showcase a situation that your user can relate to!

 

What aso tools to use?

Being a mobile user acquisition agency that focuses mainly on App store optimization, we’ve tested a high number of tools during the years.

We’ve loved some and hated others. We also noticed that many app store search optimization tools give different data. Because of this, we did a research around the relevancy of the tools and decided on using less, more powerful tools.

You can always check the research and list in our ASO tools article.

Our main selections are:

  1. Apptweak
  2. Sensor Tower
  3. Mobile Action
  4. Google AdWords Keyword Planner
  5. App Annie

Final word

At Moburst, we live and dream app store optimization. We strive to offer the best services and educate entrepreneurs, developers and marketers on what app store optimization is.

If you’ve learned something from this article and think it would be relevant for other people, you can easily share it on your website or blog by copying and pasting the code below.

App Store Optimization Guide

If you’re a business owner or marketer in charge of an existing or upcoming app, feel free to contact us. We’ll do our best to skyrocket your app ranking and boost your app downloads and revenue.

Feel free to check our clients throughout the years.

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