T: @DuaneBrown

A Practical Guide To App Store Optimization

Mobile isn’t the future. It’s the present. Mobile apps are changing how we interact with devices, websites and even with a brand. There are new opportunities being created by companies who want to create a relationship with their customer and provide something of value in return.

This post will show the growth of mobile app, mobile search and what it really takes to gain a strong visibility in a crowded market place while trying to drive engagement and installs for your app.

Mobile Growth
When you  look at the top 10 online properties in the US, 34% of visitors are mobile-only (comScore data).  BuzzFeeds traffic is heavily mobile for the last 18 months and is only growing stronger each day.

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If you’ve any doubt that mobile is changing how we use the internet. Than you need to read Ben’s deck on Mobile Is Eating The World. This is no longer a revolution but a seismic shift in how business is done and how people will search for the future.

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I’d argue people are changing phones every 12 – 18 months now as we see Apple & Google release a phone every year. Plus Samsung and other manufacturers are trying to play catch up. If you can’t beat them, you join them as the adage goes. Plus kids growing up today don’t know a world without mobile devices.

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Mobile Search Results
So where does this leave us? This has forced Google to recognize and respond with “mobile friendly labels” and make it a priority for everyone. That way when someone searches on their mobile device, the result that come back are mobile friendly (similar to a local search). The results could come in two instances:

1. A mix of mobile apps & sites along with traditional results. This is especially true if someone is not searching for an app but a brand or a local listing. (Left Picture)

2. Only mobile apps and sites because someone is searching for an app about weight lifting or running. (Right Picture)

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Mixed Android Mobile Search Result Page

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App Android Mobile Search Result Page

I use an Android (OnePlus One) and over the last 6 months I’ve seen an increase in the numbers of apps I get in my mobile search result page. I can’t speak for iOS users but I imagine they have had similar experiences the last 6 months. There will be a difference between how Google and Apple display the results for your app, however, it’ll be subtle differences you may not notice.

Basic App Store Optimization (ASO)
Regardless of the operating system your app is for, you’ll need to have these areas covered to submit your app. The process is slightly different for each store but both require the following. When in doubt, optimize for Google unless you’re in parts of Asia.

Also, if you’re submitting an app in a category that does already have an app. I was in this position last year. I found looking for similar companies that are connected to my industry for help with a best practise approach.

App Title
screen568x568Keep it short and use a descriptive app name. If you don’t have a recognizable brand name. I’d suggest using your company name + a short description of what your app is for (see picture to right). At my last startup we used Mopp – Home Cleaning, which worked really well for us. If you’re stuck, use a few free keyword tools to help you figure out what people are searching for in your industry.

Google Play uses your listing page title as your app name. For iOS, there are actually two names associated with every app. The first one is the “app name”, which has a maximum length of 255 characters. The second is the “bundle display name”. This is the name that appears under your app icon on the home screen of an iPhone, iPod or iPad.

You don’t need to worry about the latter name for ASO, however, I’d still keep your app name to under 50 characters. This means you can use the same name across both app stores and not have to rewrite copy when you want to submit your app to the other store. In search results, the first 25 characters of your apps name might be the only words displayed on the results page.

Keywords
Make sure you keep the keywords you came across for the title. You’ll need to submit up to a dozen with your app. This will help people find your app when they search for it. Try to think of all the ways someone would search for your app and keep your dozen keywords as relevant and diverse as possible. This is especially true if you’re going international.

Keyword Tools: KeywordTool.io, Google’s Keyword PlannerSensor Tower, MobileDevHQ,

Icon
Mopp App Logo
Beyond the subtle difference between iOS icons being square and Android having rounded corners. Keep your icon simple with your company logo or a recognized symbol that works across smartphones and tablets icons. Make sure you read the Colors of the iOS7 App Store and Standing out in a sea of blue: Which color should you pick for your icon?. Both will help you pick the right colour for your app to stand out. Also check out What Do the Top 100 Paid App Icons Have in Common? (from 2011 but still relevant I feel).

Description Copy
I find a lot of apps write lengthy description and forget people are on mobile devices. Keep it short and no more than 2 paragraphs or 4,ooo characters total. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Blank lines count as lines. Use space sparsely.
  • Unicode can make your copy it look crisp and fresh. Just don’t go overboard.
  • Lines over 120 characters in length (45 for mobile) will lead to word wrap
  • Copy over 400 characters will force users to click “more” to read your description

We kept ours at one paragraph at Mopp because we were selling a service and wanted to have as much information above the fold in the app store and not have our words wrap. Word wrap happens when a descriptions exceeds a character limit for that line. When a word goes over that limit, it is bumped to the next line. This is important because one word of word wrap can waste an entire line of potential ad copy.

This is important: the length of your lines in your app description affects the placement of the fold. The fold is the point where iTunes, Web Preview or the iPad App Store app decide to make the user click or tap the More… button. Everything below the fold is out of sight, out of mind.

Screenshot
Take high res screenshots of your app. I feel somewhere between 6 – 10 should satisfy even the more jaded mobile users. Show as much of the inside of your app and feature what makes your app unique. A picture is truly worth a thousand words in marketing. This is not a time to be shy.

URL
You don’t have much control over this. iOS mobile app listings display the iTunes URL to the App Store and Google Play links to their app store as part of search result. Part of your URL is tied to your app ID. Always keep the ID handy as you’ll need it regularly for both app stores.

 Link Building & Reviews
From your brand site to social shares. Make sure you get as many links back to your app as possible and make it an ongoing task within your marketing team. Talk with your PR and content creation teams too. Every link back to your app is going to help increase your rankings.

The goal for your app is to increase installs (not just download), which leads to a higher number of ratings which leads to a higher average rating score, if your app performs as promised. What affects app performance under reviews includes:

  • Number of Ratings
  • Average Rating Score (minimum 3.5)
  • Content and Sentiment Analysis of Reviews
  • Downloads / Installs (always aim for the latter)
  • Engagement and Retention of Users
  • Internal links on App Store

If you’re having trouble getting reviews or need a helping hand as you don’t have the resources internally. Than look at services like Apptentive which is needed in this space. One thing to keep in mind if you’re getting bad reviews. Deal with them. Look at bad reviews as an opportunity to make a person love your brand even more.

Bonus ASO Tip: App Indexing

App Indexing lets Google index apps just like websites. Deep links to your Android app appear in Google Search results, letting users get to your native mobile experience quickly, landing exactly on the right content within your app.

Conclusion
This is just a basic guide that will put you on the right track to marketing your app. Later this month I’ll get into A Practical Guide To Mobile App Marketing when you’re ready to spend some real money, which is more fun.

  1. To run a successful ASO strategy you have to have the right data sources how to improve app store ranking that will provide you insights into which keywords to choose and how much to invest in,how to improve app store ranking. Find the most trusted agency here!

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