The mobile market has been rapidly evolving in the past decade, with almost 9 million apps worldwide right now.

Considering the competitive landscape, it’s mandatory to work on promoting your app if you plan to succeed. One of the best ways to keep your app alive is ASO, or App Store Optimization.

Let’s talk about what ASO – App Store Optimization is and how it can help you achieve your app marketing goals.

Introduction to App Store Optimization or what is ASO?

ASO or app store optimization is the process of working on your apps page in the store for increased marketing results, such as:

The Essence of App Store Optimization

ASO is similar to SEO, in a way that you have a set of rules that you need to follow, in order to appease the algorithm for better results. It’s a combination of pushing content that keeps both the user and the system happy.

From changing the title to better suit the search and rethinking your description to increase the conversion rate to changing the frequency of deployments, everything has a small, incremental impact on your end result.

Key Benefits and Impact on App Success

The main reason for going for ASO is the increased ROI long term compared to other app marketing strategies. While ASO works a little differently and slower, in the end, it brings one of the best returns for your buck.

ASO is also a little less dependent on the budget. In standard paid media (for example Google or Meta Ads), once you plug the cash robinet, you also stop the leads and downloads. In ASO, the results linger for quite some time, allowing you to be more flexible in budget allocation from month to month.

Understanding How ASO Works

To be honest, ASO isn’t that hard to understand. Let’s look over your own experience while using the app store.

You’re an awesome entrepreneur or expert in your field, on a trip outside of your own country. As any such individual, you’ll need a place to work. As such, you’ll look for places to use as your temporary workspace.

You grab your phone, open the app store, and look for coworking spaces. After a few tries, you stumble across Pluria, an app that allows you to navigate through hundreds of office spaces and rent one just for you with just a couple of clicks.

You install it, create an account and grab a bike to your new office for the day.

It was just that easy!

And the magic that helped you find Pluria (and allowed Pluria to grab your attention, and money, was, probably, ASO).

Key Factors Influencing ASO

Similar to other online marketing channels and strategies, ASO has hundreds of factors influencing its results, from your title, to your number of downloads and the reviews. The app store will analyze your app’s entire profile and decide if you’re worthy of getting the right traffic and downloads or not.

Don’t worry, you’ll learn to be worthy!

General Ranking Factors in the App Stores

Please bear in mind that the order in which these are written is not the order of their importance.

App Name

You know how people put titles in front of their names? Doctor, Professor, Engineer?

In the same way, you can add extra information to your app name. If you launch for example, an awesome game called “Raccy”, in which you compete against the fastest cars, you may want to change your App’s name into something like “Raccy – Car Racing” or “Raccy – Fast Car Simulator”.

Even apps like Tinder use this trick, as to allow them to cater to users that do not know the brand.

App reviews and rating

Your reputation can make or break your marketing efforts, this is true in any field, including App Store optimization (ASO).

The system works only if it provides the best apps to you. If you look for certain apps and get irrelevant results, you won’t come back and the app store will lose a client.

One of the easiest ways to make sure this doesn’t happen, is for the app to collect real data, from real people, and allow this data to dictate which apps are good, or not.

Take a look at the image above, based on the review, which one will you pick? The one rated by over 8K people, or the one with 241 reviews?

I am willing to bet my beer that you’ll pick the one with the better reviews (you and other 59% of people that check reviews before downloading) and ratings, and the app store will do the same.

App updates

Besides the classics, people enjoy something new and shiny, and the app stores will as well. Similar to how the publish and update date can influence the ranking of an article in SEO, the updates can also influence the ranking of an app in the app store.

Some experts recommend pushing small updates from time to time, just because of this “newness” factor. Even if it’s a small fixed bug or a new feature.

App usage

The app stores have all the data related to your users. If it was downloaded through the app store, Google, or Apple, depending on the store, will know about:

And with great data, come great ranking, or something like that…

The thing is, try to make sure people find value in your app and come back again.

For example, if you sell telemedicine services, your usage may be low when people are not sick or in need of your exact services. You may add extra features to your app, that improve the life of users, but also make them come back into the app, again and again, such as:

  1. Assisted meditation;
  2. Journaling;
  3. Period tracker;
  4. Etc.

App downloads

As mentioned earlier in the usage topic, the app stores track everything that happens with your app.

Yet, the number of downloads is not the only thing important here. The rate of the downloads, the increase or decrease of time between downloads in a given period of time, all of these can affect your position.

Because of this, many app store optimization experts crank up the numbers by pushing high budgets in paid media, in order to rapidly increase the download counts in the first few days. 

App revenue

This is pretty self explanatory. App stores take a cut. The more money you make, by providing a valuable app to your clients, the more money the store will make.

As such, if you have an app that generates high commissions, you will get better placements.

Retention and Number of Uninstalls of the App

If people are leaving, most probably you’re not doing something well. And the app store will find out about that and push someone else who doesn’t lose the clients.

Your retention is usually calculated depending on the number of people that installed your app in the last 30 days that still use it regularly.

Your uninstall number is also relevant, as someone that uninstalls your app sends a stronger message than someone that just forgets.  

Localization

With over 7000 languages in the world, you may need to think outside of your native tounge. When penetrating a new market, it’s mandatory to cater to the people there by speaking the same language and understanding their culture.

ASO is no different. If you wish to rank for keywords in other languages, you need to use those keywords in your copy, title and even images. Here is an example provided of how Uber localized their app for one of the Asian markets, as to better increase their ranking and conversion rate.

App keyword

Central to your ASO strategy is this key element: the primary keyword or topic that users search for when seeking your app. In the Apple App Store, over 65% of downloads are organic, highlighting the crucial need for your app to stand out and capture user attention.

Before you take any action, thorough keyword research is imperative. Understand the intrinsic value of each keyword. Knowing which keywords to prioritize and which to avoid is essential to ensure your app ranks highly in the most trafficked pages and categories. This strategic selection could be the turning point in elevating your app’s visibility and success

App URL

While it might seem unlikely, your app’s URL can also achieve rankings outside the app store, in Google’s search results. Consider an intriguing case from a few years ago: a Mario game inadvertently captured traffic meant for the fashion brand Zara by including the random keyword ‘zara’ in its URL.

This highlights an often-overlooked strategy: optimizing your app’s URL for your brand. People frequently search for apps not just through app stores, but also via search engines. Ensuring your app’s URL is clearly associated with your brand can significantly boost its discoverability and accessibility, both in and out of app stores.

Specific Factors for Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Apple App Store Ranking Factors:

We’ve previously discussed general ranking factors common to most app stores, including the Apple App Store. However, when focusing on iOS and other Apple devices, consider these key factors:

Pro Tip: Invest in high-quality images, graphics, preview videos, and screenshots for the Apple App Store. These elements are crucial for engaging Apple users.

Google Play Store Ranking Factors:

Given Google’s ownership, the Play Store incorporates many SEO elements into its ranking system. When optimizing for Android, consider:

Remember, while ASO strategies differ between platforms, understanding and leveraging these factors can greatly enhance your app’s visibility and success in each store.

Essential ASO Marketing Metrics (KPIs)

Let’s break down a couple of metrics into relevant categories:

We’ll talk about them below and provide more in depth information. Just take note, there will be other relevant metrics that differ from app to app and business to business. It’s up to you to decide what’s important in your plan for the short and long term.

Core Metrics: Downloads, Installs, and User Engagement

The core metrics relate around downloads, installs and user engagement. These are the metrics that both you and the app store pay the most attention to.

These will indicate how successful your app is.

Look over the following data related to your downloads.

  1. Numbers: Keep track of the total downloads and installs at all times during your campaign.
  2. Mediums: Identify whether installs are coming from organic sources, paid campaigns, referrals, or custom initiatives. This helps in understanding which channels are most effective.
  3. Sources: Delve deeper to pinpoint the exact origin of users – be it a specific ad campaign, search engines, or other referral sources.

The job is not done after the download ends. Honestly, a download sometimes doesn’t even mean installation. People will lose internet connection on the subway when pressing on download, only get half of the app, and forget about it and never try again.

As such, you may have a lower installation number than your downloads.

Afterwards, it’s time to talk user engagement:

  1. Active Users and Stickiness: Measure Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU) to gauge user engagement. A higher stickiness ratio (DAU/MAU) indicates better user engagement.
  2. Retention and Churn Rates: These metrics are critical for understanding user satisfaction and app stickiness. A high retention rate means users find value in your app, while a high churn rate could indicate issues with the app or its marketing.

In the case of App stickiness, it’s all a matter of how the ratio between DAU and MAU evolves.

You should thrive to make your app as sticky as possible. This can be done by adding features that persuade users to come back every day. One example would be the gamification of Duolingo that also became sort of a meme.

Duolingo is a language learning app that gives you points for coming back everyday and has leaderboards from which the users will drop if they skip a day.

Afterwards, we have retention rate, which is calculated by dividing the installations to the number of the active users in the same time frame. Just aim high here.

Last but not least, is a metric that you should aim to keep as low as possible, and that is the churn rate. Meaning, how many people stop using your app within a certain time frame.

Let’s say you have 1,000 users and 10 uninstall in the same given time frame. That means your app churns 1% of users.

In around 90 days, over 70% of people churn!

If you have too many people churning in the first day, you need to put all hands on deck and find out the reason, either your app is not delivering the right value or you’re bringing in unfit users, or both.

Financial Metrics: ARPU, CPA, ROI, and LTV

Financial metrics are essential for understanding the monetary efficiency and profitability of your app:

  1. Average Revenue Per User (ARPU): This KPI helps in understanding revenue generation efficiency, guiding future budgeting and marketing strategies.
  2. Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): It’s crucial to know how much it costs to acquire a user. This metric varies across traffic sources and is vital for optimizing marketing spend.
  3. Return On Investment (ROI): ROI is about the profitability of your app. It’s a key metric for investors and for scaling your app’s growth.
  4. Lifetime Value (LTV): LTV predicts the total revenue you can expect from a user over their lifetime. This is especially important for apps with recurring revenue models, like subscriptions or in-game purchases.

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)

When growing your app, you’ll soon begin to understand that you can extrapolate quite a couple of metrics from your data, and one of these metrics is your ARPU (average revenue per user).

By dividing your total revenue to the total number of users, you’ll understand, on average, how much each user will provide in terms of revenue.

By knowing this, you can better understand how much money you’ll generate in the future if you increase your user count through marketing channels. (of course, this metric can increase or decrease, depending on how your app is providing value to users or on the market and it’s buying power)

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

CPA is the cool kid on the block in the world of mobile marketing metrics. It’s the telltale sign that separates the savvy marketers from the novices.

Here’s the deal: getting installed is one thing, but if you’re shelling out $10 for each install when you could be paying just $1, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Understanding the cost to acquire a user for your app is crucial. It’s like keeping an eye on your budget while still throwing a fabulous party. You want the guests (users) to arrive, but not at the cost of breaking the bank.

And here’s a little insider tip: not all traffic sources wear the same price tag. For instance, Instagram ads might seem like a steal, but if users coming from there spend less in your app, that’s a lower ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) – something to ponder about.

Use CPA in harmony with your other metrics to paint the full picture of your marketing prowess.

Return On Investment (ROI)

Nothing simpler here, ROI is how much money you get from the money you spend.

Try to keep it as high as possible!

Social Metrics: The Influence of Ratings and Reviews

Remember, as we touched on earlier, those stars and comments in the app store aren’t just there for show. Ratings and reviews are crucial players in the ASO game, influencing your app’s visibility in keyword searches and swinging the pendulum on your conversion rates.

Turning a blind eye to what users are saying about your app? That’s like flying blind in the digital sky. These user feedbacks are not just opinions; they’re the pulse of your app’s success.

Regularly track and analyze your ratings over different periods. This is your detective work to connect the dots – if you dropped a feature and suddenly your ratings nosedived, maybe it’s time to bring that feature back to the stage.

And don’t just stop there. Your users’ reviews are a goldmine of insights. They’re like your unpaid R&D team, offering up ideas for new features and improvements.

Engage with this feedback, and you might just find the next big thing that keeps your app ahead of the curve.

The Art of Executing App Store Optimization

Oky, we talked tons about ASO, but how do we actually do it?

We’ll find out bellow.

Keyword Research and Optimization Strategies

Let’s start with the keyword, and more importantly, how to find it, select it and validate it.

  1. Brainstorm Keyword Variants: Start by putting yourself in your users’ shoes. How would you describe your app? What features stand out? Dive into the app store and play around with different search terms. If you stumble upon apps that echo yours, those keywords might be your golden ticket.
  2. Gather Insights from Users: Who better to tell you about your app than the people using it? If your app is already out there, mine the reviews for keyword gold. For apps still in the hatching phase, market research is your best friend. Direct feedback or surveys can reveal how potential users might search for your app.
  3. Eye the Competition: No need to reinvent the wheel. Peek at what your competitors are doing. If they’re heavily investing in certain keywords, there’s probably a good reason. And if you’re David against a Goliath in the app world, consider targeting adjacent keywords to find your niche.
  4. Validate with Tools: Once you’ve got a list brimming with potential keywords, it’s time to play detective. Tools like Keyword Suggestions (iOS-specific), Übersuggest, and Google Keyword Planner are your allies here. Cross-reference data across multiple tools for a well-rounded view.

With this list in hand, weigh your options. Consider search volumes, how closely a keyword relates to your app, and user intent. The goal? To find that sweet spot where your app meets user searches head-on.

Use your keyword

Once you’ve pinpointed your main keywords, the next crucial step is weaving them into all the right places. This isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s about strategically placing your keywords to enhance visibility and attract more downloads.

Maximizing App Name Potential!

Did you know that simply including relevant keywords in your app’s name can boost downloads by up to 10%?

Let’s take a look at Flowkey. They integrated their main keywords “learn piano”, “play piano” and “piano lessons” all around their copy. In the title, category and even description. This ensures that they are high in the ranking for these topics and results in higher install numbers.

URL Optimization

The app’s main keyword can also play a starring role in your URL, bolstering your ASO efforts.

While there’s some debate about the current impact of URLs, let’s not forget how Nintendo’s Mario game cleverly ranked for the ‘ZARA’ keyword by embedding it in their URL, seen here: Nintendo’s Mario Game.

Here is the link btw: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nintendo.zara

This strategy, though unconventional, underscores the potential of creative keyword integration.

Developer Name as a Keyword Vehicle

For smaller indie developers who aren’t as focused on brand presence in the app store, incorporating the keyword into the developer name can be a savvy move.

It’s a less orthodox approach but can yield substantial benefits in visibility.

Crafting Your App Store Descriptions

 When it comes to descriptions, you have a variety of tools at your disposal, including long and short descriptions and, on iOS, even subtitles.

Each of these provides an opportunity to seamlessly integrate your main keywords. However, balance is key.

Your descriptions should be compelling and relevant, not just a dumping ground for keywords. The goal is to engage users, not just game the system.

Direct Keyword Field on Apple’s App Store 

Apple makes it a bit simpler by offering a direct keyword field. With a limit of 100 characters, it’s advisable to use every single one judiciously.

This direct approach can significantly streamline your optimization process on the Apple App Store.

Remember, the art of keyword integration is a delicate balance between optimization and user engagement.

Done right, it can elevate your app’s visibility and appeal in the crowded app marketplace.

Conversion Rate Optimization Techniques

Once your app hits the store, it’s time to shift gears and focus on ramping up your conversion rate.

Attracting thousands to your app page is great, but if only a fraction are hitting ‘install’, there’s work to be done. Here’s how different elements can make or break your app store conversion rate:

App Icon 

This is the first visual encounter potential users have with your app, so make it count.

A vibrant and relevant icon can make a world of difference. If you’re a recognized brand, leverage your logo to capitalize on brand awareness. For others, aim for an icon that resonates with your niche. For example, Tasty, you can’t have a better name and icon for a cookie recipe app.

Name and Description

We’ve touched on the importance of integrating main keywords, but there’s more to it.

Your app name and description should also sell. Think conversion-oriented copy, calls to action, highlighting benefits, and addressing customer needs.

Video Preview and Screenshots

These are your visual storytellers and should be as engaging and relevant as possible. Show off your app’s functionality, its standout features, and scenarios that users can relate to. It’s about giving them a taste of the experience before they even download the app.

For mobile games or apps that use landscape mode, maybe, try to use landscape pictures and videos, as Legends of Runeterra did.

A/B Testing

Experimenting with different screenshots can significantly influence your conversion rate. Observe the before and after difference to understand the impact.

Remember, every element on your app page should work in harmony to not just attract eyeballs, but to convert curiosity into downloads.

With the right approach, you can turn those thousands of page visits into a flourishing user base.

Concluding Thoughts on ASO

All in all, I hope I was able to provide you with relevant value for the time you read this article and that you’ve learned about ASO.

My name is Vija Robert, the COO of Difrnt, a full service digital marketing agency in Bucharest, Romania, where we make sure our clients have the best return for their buck and are seen by their customers through awesome inhouse made videos, stunning graphics and impeccable marketing.

It was a pleasure being a guest of mReady in their experts series. If you want to read more articles like this, maybe subscribe to their newsletter.

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