Let’s start with some quick hard facts.

As of the first quarter of 2019, Android users were able to choose between 2.1 million apps. Apple’s App Store is close behind with almost 1.8 million available apps. Windows Store: 600,000 apps, Amazon Store: 470,000 apps and even Blackberry world with over 200,000 apps.

If you are about venturing into the mobile app space, things are about to get real very quickly. 

Image credit: Mindinventory

In this blog post, we will go through various methods for marketing your app. 

Understanding App Store Optimization (ASO)

App store optimization (ASO) is also referred to by a few names including App store marketing and Mobile App SEO. 

ASO is simply the process of improving the ranking of your mobile apps in an app store’s search results. Just like your search engine, the higher your app ranks, the more visible it is, the more your chances of actually getting downloads.

The primary goal of ASO is almost always app downloads, but sometimes it can include supplemental goals such as:

  • Brand exposure.
  • Positive app reviews and ratings. These have been known to influence downloads
  • Audience engagement.

Like any other marketing effort, the ASO process is hinged on the understanding of who your target customers are. This includes keywords your customers are using to find apps similar to yours. To summarize, app stores are some sort of closed search engines which rely on:

  • Content discovery
  • Indexation
  • Your app ranking algorithms. These are almost always tied to the number of downloads, app quality, reviews, ratings and engagement.

And here’s proof that it works. “On iOS, 47% [of users] said they found an app through the App Store’s search engine, while 53% of Android users did the same on Google Play.“  Also, 65 per cent of downloads come from searches on the App Store.

Here’s the good news for you. A sizeable number of publishers are not investing in app store optimization. So ready to take on ASO?

Breaking Down the ASO Components

There are two key components for ASO. Your keywords and title. 

Keywords: What keywords are relevant and used by your target market? It’s almost the same rule as with search engine optimization. What words do people think of when they search for your product? You can try monitoring your competitors to see what keywords they use. Have a list? Then you move on to the title.

Image credit: Keyword Tool

Before launching into keyword research for app pages and content, the following questions need to be answered:

  • What language do my customers use?
  • What terms do they use in searching for my app?
  • Customers intent before installing my app?

If you are in a market with an established competitor or competitors:

  • What keywords do my competitors use?
  • What terms are my competitors targeting?
  • Should I optimize for the same keywords, or optimize for the overlooked keywords and use them as my competitive advantage?

Title: Of all the keywords researched, place the one with the highest search volume in the title. You need to careful and definite at this stage because it will be difficult and almost detrimental to change your title after your rank gains popularity.

Remember, Apple’s app store has a 100-character keyword field limit while Google Play Store offers a 4,000 character limit. In addition to these, there are other important components to keep in mind:

App ratings and reviews: This could make or break your app’s chances. Bad reviews are like quick poison, the decision to forgo your app based on a bad review is swift. Unfortunately, you have no direct control over it. A hack here is to have a framework in place for generating regular reviews and replying to and engaging with reviews. Especially the negative reviews.

App downloads: This is a game of perception. The more downloads your app receives, the more it is perceived to be great.

In-app Store Tactics to Optimize your Page for More Downloads

Update your apps regularly

By this, we mean keep your apps fresh. If you have noticed, the best-performing apps in the stores are those you use user feedback, tech changes and feature additions to update their apps constantly.

If you fix a bad review for instance and push that out as an update, there’s a positive review constantly waiting for you. Similarly, regularly updating your app gives it an added relevance. You should note that both the Apple store and the Google play store take the regularity of app updates into account when ranking. Simply put, the more you progress your product app offering, the greater your app ranking.

Do not keyword-stuff your app descriptions

We have placed a lot of emphasis on keywords, however, a common mistake is to stuff the app description with a lot of keywords. Not only does this come across as spammy, it simply does not work.

Keyword stuffing may fool Google algorithms, but your app descriptions are read by humans with a genuine problem. They don’t care about keywords, they are concerned about how you are solving their problems. 

You can do enough keyword stuffing in your app title…remember to keep it moderate of course.

Run A/B Tests on your App Store Listing

The mobile app blog AndroidPub switched their app icon and got a 30% increase in downloads. A great ASO trick is to periodically make adjustments to your app store listing. It could be as easy as tweaking the visual components!

To do this, you can send one half of your web store traffic to one variant and the rest to the other. When you do this, you can test various elements of your listing such as:

  • App title
  • App description
  • Screenshots
  • Videos
  • Visual icons

You can determine which title, screenshots, or other elements appeal most to people. For Android apps, the Google Play Store has a built-in tool for running split tests called Google Experiments. You can run tests without relying on third-party solutions. 

Apple’s App Store, however, does not offer this option. Instead, you can either test on your app’s mobile landing page, or use third-party software to emulate the look and feel of the App Store.

Bonus Tactic:  Amp up the visual elements.

Your visual icon is like a billboard for your app. It is also important for driving conversions. You have one chance to make an impression on people when they click on your app’s link. You want your app icon to communicate your app’s function while cutting through the clutter. 

Try screenshots too. Like app icons, they aren’t a factor in your ranking but they could be very instrumental to downloads. Use screenshots to:

  • Highlight key features
  • Depict everyday use
  • Address primary benefits to users

The ASO process is not unlike SEO. it takes a lot of time and requires constant tweaking over a period of time. Being found is one of the most difficult challenges for mobile apps, but it is a problem you can actively solve.

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Growth is the only essential thing you need to be a startup. Startups are created to grow fast. Everything else that happens within a startup is a derivative of growth.

Everything – ideation, product validation, product management, team building, fundraising – follows from growth. Without growth, early stage startup is just a small business losing money.

That is why founders are encouraged to focus on one metric – the one that matters. This is because, as a startup, your limited resources are a deterrent to wasting your time trying different things.

Depending on your type of business, growth will mean different things to different startups. And your one metric that matter changes over time. Getting rid of distractions enables you to focus your already limited resources – people, time, and money – on the one thing that moves the needle.

What is the one thing that signifies that your business is growing at a particular point in time?

In the beginning, growth for a lot of startups has more to do with user acquisition and engagement than revenue. The advantage of defining your growth metric is it tells you the most important thing about your startup and how should drive it.

You need to consider the followings when choosing your growth parameter.

1. Your business model

The way you monetize your product is an indication of the value that will be created by your business. It’s not always about the money, but revenue metrics provides a standard benchmark for growth metrics.

2. How you acquire your customers

The rate at which your products gets into the hands of users is a substantial measure of how scalable and successful your product can be. Inherent in the DNA of startups is the ability to build products that have the potential of being ubiquitous and viral within a short time frame.

That is why most startups are tech-enabled companies because technology enables innovation not just in the way products are made, but how they are distributed. You can measure your growth based on metrics such as unique web visits, page views, app downloads, partner signups, user signups, conversion rate, churn rate, etc.

3. The stage of your business

The stage of your company will determine what to focus on. Early stage business should be obsessed about metrics that validates their product-market fit more than mid or late stage companies.

In the beginning, your growth metric is based on time-based milestones you need to reach such as partnerships, signup at a particular time, user signup rate, number of feature releases, etc. It is important that you wrap this with specific numbers as much as possible to measure progress.

4. How you measure growth

Answering this question will help you make right decisions. Let’s assume you decide to measure your growth by the number of subscribers to your email list. First, you’ll have to optimise your product, website, app, content and every potential user interactions to grow this list.

You then measure the results of all your actions on a regular basis against this metric. You hold yourself and your team accountable with data and see whether you are making progress or not. You deep dive into all your acquisition channels to identify where you are getting the most number of subscribers. You look at the numbers every day and experiment with various tactics and tools to see how you can grow the subscription rate.

As you focus on a particular growth metric and optimise your products accordingly, magic happens. You identify particular big hairy destinations to drive your startup towards and you can measure the how and the rate at which you are getting there. And as you grow, your goal may change, and you redefine your growth metric.

You build, you measure, you learn.  And you continue the cycle until you reach your true north.