What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?
If you want your mobile app to become a consistent and key driver of growth, you need to give it the best chance of success. And one of the first marketing opportunities you have is with App Store Optimization — or ASO for short.
App Store Optimization is all about making sure your app gets discovered and downloaded by new users who are looking to solve a problem or meet a specific need. And there are certain techniques and best practices to follow if you want to see results in this area.
In this article, we’ll show you what App Store Optimization is, why it’s important, and the best ways to execute your ASO strategy — with advice that applies to both iOS and Android apps.
What is App Store Optimization?
App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing your mobile app to ensure it ranks highly on the app stores — typically the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
The goal is to improve visibility to boost the number of downloads your app gets, without running any additional paid promotion.
Effective app store optimization will also help your app’s page rank highly in Google Search.
Why Is ASO Important?
Data from Google found that 40% of app installs happen via a search in the app store.
If you can rank highly for terms relevant to your app, you’ll generate downloads organically, without needing to run paid marketing campaigns.
App Store Ranking Factors
Just like you optimize your website pages for search engines based on factors such as keywords, header tags, and inbound links, there are a variety of ways to optimize your app to rank for terms you care about.
1. App Name
The first and most basic opportunity you have is to optimize your app title. A proven formula to follow is: “Brand name + relevant keyword(s)”.
As just one example, Calm’s Android app title includes the keywords “meditate”, “sleep,” and “relax”. If someone searches for those terms needing an app to help them with those specific things (without knowing the Calm brand), they have a good chance at showing up high in the results.
Source: Calm on the Google Play store
2. App Icon and Creatives
Next, you need to make it look great.
This starts with the app icon, and also includes the featured images you choose.
If your app icon stands out in the app store search results, you'll receive more clicks and ultimately, more downloads.
For example, when someone lands on the Uber Eats iOS app, the visuals clearly showcase the benefits of the app:
Source: Uber Eats in the iOS app store
It’s the #1 food delivery app, gives you access to multiple types of food vendors that will deliver food to your door. It’s exactly what someone who wants to order food would care about.
3. Get Reviews and Ratings
Your ratings are displayed alongside your app icon/ It’s one of the first things your potential users see. So, you need to ensure you’re collecting good reviews, plus listening to (and responding to) any negative reviews.
To get more app reviews, there are a few things you can do:
Firstly, you can set up a review request to be triggered at key moments in the user journey. For example, if you have a social media app, you could set a rule such as: user invites 2 friends to the app, and uses the app for 5 days in a row. When someone meets those criteria, you can send them a request to leave a review.
Another option which works well for apps with gated content, such as news apps, or games, is to offer incentives for a review. For example, offer users access to premium content in exchange for a review.
It’s usually best to wait until someone becomes an active user, rather than asking everyone who downloads your app to review it within minutes of installing. This way you ensure your reviewers are all happy users, and are more likely to leave positive feedback.
Your review collection needs to be an ongoing process. You can’t ask your early users to all review you and leave it at that. When someone leaves a poor review in the future, it will still show up, so there’s nowhere to hide.
For example, the popular game Heads Up! has an overall rating of 4.8/5, but because a comment that many people found helpful is shown in the featured ratings section, it’s an instant reason to consider choosing an alternative.
You can’t game this process, so focus on creating an app that your users love to use.
What skills are needed to execute a good ASO Strategy?
The most important part of ASO is your execution and more often than not this requires specialist skills. Some skills are transferable from other disciplines while others are not.
Here are areas you can consider getting expert help on:
1. Keyword Research
You know your audience best. But, an app store optimization expert will uncover new opportunities you hadn't yet considered by conducting keyword research.
The keyword research will identify what keywords your app should be targeting to help you get in front of interested users, looking for an app like yours. They will identify the most relevant keywords with the best volume and optimise your presence in line with this.
An ASO expert will have the knowledge of how to do the keyword research and also have access to the tools required to do it, allowing them to set up your app store presence to rank organically more effectively for specific relevant keywords.
2. Creating compelling App store screenshots
If you have a team of developers and marketers, you can quickly throw together graphics on tools like Figma or Canva.
But, considering people spend only 7 seconds deciding if they’re going to download your app, you need to make a stellar first impression. You can’t afford to cut corners on your app store screenshots and icon.
A specialist designer with experience of creating screenshots and icons will help create standout in the app store, showing off your app in the best light and consequently increasing app install rate.
3. Run Paid App Install Campaigns
Your ads will show a direct CTA to download your app, so it’s a perfect way to drive installs through PPC.
If you don’t have an in-house marketing team to manage the ASO process, you can connect with vetted ASO experts on Traktion’s on-demand talent marketplace. They can help you figure out what strategies will work best for your unique app, and execute them for you.
How long does ASO take to work?
When it comes to SEO, you’ll often hear experts saying “it depends” when you ask how long it’ll take to generate organic traffic to your website. It's a similar situation with ASO.
You can see faster results when making certain updates. If you overhaul your app title, description, and screenshots all at once, for example, you can get results within as little as a few days.
Keyword-based improvements can lead to an increase in rankings relatively quickly as your app becomes more relevant for new and different queries.
Creative improvements can lead to higher conversion rates, so even if keywords and traffic remain stable, you’ll see more downloads.
Tools for App Store Optimization
There are a variety of tools out there to help you get started with your app store optimization strategy. Here are some of the most popular:
- App Radar: Keyword discovery, optimization, rating and review management tools.
- AppFollow: App review management platform, keyword research tools, KPI tracker
- Apptweak: Keyword, competition, and ranking monitoring, as well as features to help with mobile ad optimization
Most app store optimization tools offer features to give you more insight into the keywords you’re choosing, showing data on how many searches they get per month, opportunities to help you get in front of more users, and ways to manage your reviews.
None of them are a silver bullet to app store success, and they’ll need to be used in combination with a cohesive mobile marketing strategy.
Wrapping Up: What is App Store Optimization?
If you have a mobile app and big growth ambitions then ASO is going to play a major role in your user acquisition strategy.
ASO will help you achieve more app downloads without necessarily needing to spend big on paid promotion. It’s fundamentally simple, but it’s important to remember that a good ASO strategy won’t just be about optimizing your store-facing assets. It’s about creating a cohesive experience for your users, from the moment they see your app in the iOS or Google Play store, all the way until they leave a happy, five-star review.
If you’re ready to launch your ASO strategy, you can find mobile marketing experts using Traktion’s on-demand marketplace. Sign up, and start building your agile marketing team.