App store optimization techniques to boost downloads and drive conversions

In 2017, there were 178 billion app downloads. That is a staggering number that is only projected to increase over time. 

As social media use shows some decline while app downloads continue to rise, the question many developers are asking is:

How can I optimize my app?

Surprisingly, many people aren’t even aware that app store optimization (ASO) exists, which is interesting given the rate of growth app development has and continues to receive.

This guide aims to provide an overview of ASO and what you can do for better app store optimization.

ASO Explained

The best way to understand ASO is to think of it as app store SEO (search engine optimization).

Much like optimizing web pages for search engines to improve visibility and rankings, ASO focuses on optimizing your app both in app stores (such as Google Play, iTunes, Amazon App Store, and the Windows Store), as well as outside the app store, with the goal of getting more downloads and conversions.

Although gaining more app downloads is usually the primary objective for most companies, a few secondary goals can often include things like:

  • Improved brand awareness
  • Accumulating positive reviews
  • Better audience engagement. 

App stores are basically like a site-specific search engine and rely on many of the same principles as web search engines like Google and Bing.

Keywords, indexing, relevance, and freshness are all factors that app store algorithms take into account to provide users with relevant results to their search queries.

Why is ASO important?

When you think about the sheer number of apps available across all the app stores, the competition can seem very intimidating.

How will you get your app in front of the right audience?

The good news is much like search engine optimization, ASO can help your app stand out in the sea of competition with optimization techniques that can be applied both in and outside of the app store.

As there are only a limited number of ways for an app to succeed on its own, ASO can make a huge impact on its overall success.

By fully optimizing your app within the store, you improve your chances of ranking higher and this, of course, will ultimately boost downloads and drive conversions.

Getting started with app store optimization techniques

There are several areas to focus on within app stores when it comes to your optimization efforts.

The strategy for each store may need to be approached slightly differently due to differences in layout, setup, and available features. Regardless, these are the main components to focus on which will mostly remain unchanged across each app store platform.

Keywords

If you’re familiar with SEO you’ll know the importance of keywords. ASO is no different. Keyword research and planning are just as important here as it is in Google or Bing.

Ensuring you have your keyword strategy in place beforehand will provide a smooth transition towards your ASO efforts.

app store keyword example - ASO guide

You’ll want to make sure that your URL, headings, and app name (whenever possible) all contain your primary keywords.

These will likely be some of the most weighted signals app stores will use when it comes to determining when and where to show your app.

Additionally, ensuring you are maximizing on any available keyword fields will play a vital role. You’ll want to make sure you update these fields whenever possible to reflect changing trends in search queries or key phrases.

App ratings

Much like how Google uses Google My Business ratings as a primary ranking factor for displaying the local pack, app ratings and reviews contribute greatly to the overall position an app will have in the store. Negatives reviews will obviously have adverse effects on your rankings so ensuring you’re gaining positive reviews at every possible corner will go the distance.

app store reviews - ASO guide

Reviews and downloads also tend to have a freshness period so an app with healthy growth can still outrank an older app even with substantial reviews and downloads (assuming the older app is lacking in updates or new reviews and ratings). Freshness, updates, and relevance cannot be overstated in importance as powerful ranking signals.

App downloads

It’s probably not surprising to hear that a higher download count will improve an app’s ranking. More downloads suggest higher user value and perceived buzz surrounding the app, which increases the likelihood of a higher ranking.

Of course, the real question anyone looking to improve their ASO wants to know is:

How do I get more downloads in the first place?

Don’t worry, we’ll touch on that as well.

Regular updates

App store algorithms place a large value on freshness and so it’s understandable that apps that receive regular updates tend to perform better than those that don’t.

Improving bug fixes and reflecting user feedback are just two examples of ways in which updates can also contribute to more positive reviews and ratings, thus improving optimization efforts further.

Allowing your app to evolve with technology updates, competitor changes, and user-feedback allows you to progressively refine your product.

This strategy will drive optimization for the long term by building app downloads, ratings, and reviews as well as keeping the app fresh with updates signaling it is active and ever-growing with an engaged following.

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) strategies

Getting your app in front of the right audience is one thing but that doesn’t always equal conversions. Optimizing your app page for conversions is an important aspect of your overall ASO strategy

Given the limited space available on your app page, making the most of what you have is imperative.

The images you choose for screenshots and thumbnails can make or break the decision to download in mere seconds. Ensuring your images are visually striking, high-quality, and clearly showcase the most valuable highlights of your app will be key in your CRO efforts.

Additionally, optimizing your text in descriptions with important keywords and compelling content will need to be well thought out and implemented.

App info

Details about your app may not directly affect your ASO, however, there are important considerations worth noting that could contribute to your CRO efforts along with reviews and ratings. 

For example, apps with a large file size will take up significant space on a user’s device. Excessively large file sizes can deter users from downloading if they don’t have enough storage or don’t want an app that will consume that much space. 

Additionally, considering the importance of user privacy, apps that require extensive permissions, especially permissions that seem irrelevant to the nature of the app, can often be a red flag to users and suggest shady behavior.

App permissions should always be kept to a minimum and should only request permissions necessary for functionality and nothing more.

Organic Optimization: How SEO helps your ASO

In-app store optimization techniques are vital, however, given the limited number of ways to maximize within an app store’s engine, the bulk of ASO success is largely dependent on organic optimization outside the app store.

SEO drives awareness

What is often overlooked is that quality SEO is the backbone of effective ASO. A complete ASO strategy needs to incorporate a broader mix of marketing efforts that go beyond the app store alone. 

A complete ASO strategy needs to incorporate a broader mix of marketing efforts that go beyond the app store alone. 

Search engine optimization can help to drive traffic to your app because SEO strategies are often interchangeable with ASO.

Keyword research, linking, click-through rate (CTR) optimization, and the indexation of app landing pages in the SERPs, are all contributing factors that play a role as part of your app optimization strategy.

Leveraging your website to drive traffic to your space on the app store is one of your greatest assets in regards to your ASO efforts.

It’s so often neglected from concentrating efforts solely on optimizing from within the app store alone when the reality is, organic optimization through SEO is probably the most important part of your ASO strategy.

Analytics and reporting

Measuring the impact of your ASO efforts is vital in determining your overall success.

When you begin to see results, you’ll want to know what metrics are contributing and how you can refine them to maximize your progress even more.

On the flip side, if you’re not achieving optimal results, data analysis can provide insights on where you might be going wrong.


Related: How to know whether your ASO is working


Having well-founded SEO experience, knowledge, and analytics tools will be a necessary component to gauging the performance of your ASO campaign and leveraging it to your advantage.

Additionally, incorporating A/B testing to measure the impact of key metrics both on and off the app store is a necessary part of gaining reliable and actionable data.

A winning combination

It’s clear that although ASO requires unique and specialized consideration, its success is largely derived from applying traditional SEO strategies. 

To make the most of your ASO objectives, you’ll need to rely heavily on your SEO efforts as well. Your success will largely be dependent on how well both of these are researched, planned, and executed together.

If you’d like to gain more insight into ASO and how SEO will support your objectives, come and say hello to a team that uses data and specialized analytics tools to set apps up for long term success. 

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