App Store Optimization Tips & Checklist (2017 Guide for iOS & Android Apps)

App Store Optimization Tips & Checklist (2017 Guide for iOS & Android Apps)

What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?

App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing mobile apps to rank higher in an app store’s search results. It also improves an app’s overall and category rankings by boosting app downloads and conversion rates. Because of its similarity with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), ASO is also referred as App Store SEO, App Search Optimization, or Mobile App SEO.

The Story behind this App Store Optimization Guide

When I launched my first app on the app stores a few years back, I thought the app was so awesome that it would get a lot of downloads.

Then I waited, and waited….

What happened was, there were just a few downloads everyday.

Feeling frustrated, I first turned to buying advertising campaigns.

But the cost-per-install of an advertising campaign can easily cost you US$1 to US$5.  And you need at least 40k installs per day to get to the top 25.

If you do the maths, you will see why I felt like this:

app store optimization tips free

After doing deeper research, I realized that was a whole lot of app store optimization tricks I should have done.

In the end, I managed to increase the app downloads by 1478% in a month!

You may wonder:

“This ASO thing sounds quite useful. But there are tons of ASO tips, guides and checklists out there. And they are full of buzzwords and jargon. How should I get started?”

To help you understand the app store search optimization process in a manageable way, here is a 3-step simple guide you should remember:

How to do App Store Optimization?

Step 1: Find the right app store keywords

Step 2: Put the app store keywords in the right places

Step 3: Convert visitors to users

Bonus: If you find the tips below useful, remember to check out this App Store SEO Grader.  The tool automates the tedious app store optimization checking tasks for your app, and tells you how to improve your app to get more downloads!

 


How to do App Store Optimization?

app store optimization tips keyword ranking strategyStep 1: Find the right app store keywords

To improve your app’s search ranking, the quality of your app’s keywords is a huge deciding factor. This is why your app store search optimization effort should start from finding the right app store keywords.

a) App Store Keyword Ideas

To begin with, try and come up with at least 50 keywords. Here are some great tools that help you with the keyword ideas. All you need to do is to provide a keyword. These tools will then give you many keyword ideas to consider. And they are all free!

apple search ads keywords

You can also use Google Trends to check how popular a keyword is in different countries. This is very useful if you want to launch your app in specific countries.

Remember that your keywords must be relevant to your app. Don’t be tempted to use a keyword just because it is popular, but not relevant to your app. You want your app to be found by users who will really download and enjoy your app.

App Store Optimization Tips:

Time-sensitive Keywords
Let’s illustrate the idea by an example: using “Rio” and its related keywords during the Olympics 2016 would greatly help the exposure of your sports apps. Your app would also have a better chance to get into the app store’s feature lists too.

Review Keywords
Did you know the words in your app user reviews are indexed by the app store search engine?

That is why review mining is a very good way for getting app store keyword ideas. Your app reviews speak your users’ mind. And the words are highly related to how they would search for your app. Just by looking at your review keywords, you will be surprised to find out the keyword ideas that you have never thought of before.

There are some review analysis tools in the market. And this one uses Artificial Intelligence on your user reviews to find out what your users like and don’t like about your app.

b) Optimize Your App Store Keywords

With your initial set of keywords, you have to pick a strategy on how to filter for the right keywords. There are some keyword research tools that help you with this app store keyword optimization process. They provide the difficulties (or chances) and traffic of your keywords. In any case, choose about 25 keywords carefully for the next release of your app.

App Store Optimization Tips:

App Store Keyword Optimization Strategy
For a new app, choose keywords with low difficulty and reasonable traffic. They help your app gain the initial momentum. After gaining the initial momentum, start using keywords with higher traffic and reasonable difficulty. They help your app stack up more downloads. Work your way up gradually as your app gets more popular.

Long-tail Keywords
Use longer keyword phrases (aka long-tail keywords) to outrank the competition. For example, it is hard to outrank Zynga Poker by the competitive keyword “Poker” (high difficulty). But you have a better chance to outrank it by the keyword phrase “Poker Casino”. It is because “Poker Casino” is less competitive (lower difficulty).

Retiring Poor App Store Keywords
If you have already released your app with your target keywords, check your current app ranking of these keywords. Keep those keywords that your app ranks within top 10, and replace the rest with new keywords in your next release.

app store optimization tips guideStep 2: Put the app store keywords in the right places

Now that you have chosen and optimized your app store keywords, you are ready for the step 2 of app store optimization: putting the keywords in the right places.

There are a couple of metadata where you must fill in the text with your app store keywords.

a) App Name

Name your app in a creative and searchable fashion. Not only it is the first piece of the clue telling your potential users what your app is, but it also gets your app in the search results.

According to research by MobileDevHQ (now renamed Tune), using keywords in your title can result in up to a 10.3% increase in rankings.

app store optimization tips keywords titleImage courtesy of MobileDevHQ via John Rampton on Forbes

Both Google and Apple’s search algorithms scan the app name for keywords when a user performs a keyword search in the app markets. It is a good idea to include a few keywords in your app name. It is because both platforms give quite high priorities to apps with app names that contain the search input.

But don’t stuff every keyword into your title or your app will look spammy. You need to find a good balance between keywords and branding.

Also, Apple limits the app name to a maximum of 50 characters since September 2016. So you have to make good use of every character in your app name.

App Store Optimization Tips:

App Name Format
Keep the actual brand name short and sweet. You can then append this short brand name with a few keywords, typically preceded by a dash or a semicolon.

Here are some real examples:

app store seo increase app downloads google map
Google Maps – Navigation & Transit

app store seo increase app downloads amazon icon
Amazon App: shop, scan, compare, and read reviews

app store seo increase app downloads ebay icon
eBay: Buy, Sell, Save! Electronics, Fashion & More

app store seo increase app downloads pandora icon
Pandora – Free Music & Radio

app store seo increase app downloads weather channel icon
The Weather Channel: Alerts, Forecast & Radar

It’s also important to use only URL-friendly characters in your title, particularly in the App Store. It is because Apple uses the app name to create your app URL. Also, avoid any special characters in your app name, like the trademark or copyright symbol. They will cause iTunes to refer to your app’s numeric ID to scan for relevant keywords instead of your app name.

Did you know?
In less than 30 seconds, you can get an App Store Optimization Report of your app here. Just enter your app name, and the report will tell you how to increase your app downloads using app store optimization. And it’s free.

b) App description (for Google Play Store)

Android developers need to be careful with the app description in Google Play Store. It is because Google pulls keywords from your description to be your app’s keywords. Incorporate your keywords in the description in natural and sensible sentences. Note that keywords in the above-the-fold section (the first few lines) carries more weight than the rest of the description copy in Google’s ranking algorithm, so remember to put your main keywords in this section. Also, Play Store allows rich formatting and emoji in your app description. Make good use of these features, spacing, and bulleted lists to make your description stand out and easy-to-read.

c) App description (for Apple App Store)

Apple App Store does not search for keywords in the app description, but that does not mean iOS developers can be lazy with it. Mention the unique values in the first three lines, so that visitors can catch them even from the description preview. If possible, list out all the social proofs, awards, and honorable mentions your app has received. Also, try to keep the complete feature list there for new visitors all the time, and don’t forget to include your app’s social media links.

App Store Optimization Tips:

Short Description Text

According to StoreMaven, only an average of 5% users will click the “read more” button below the short description on Google Play.

This number is further down to only 2% on Apple’s App Store.

So every character in the short description counts!

On mobile, you only have 252 characters for this short description.

app store seo increase app downloads app description

You don’t want to waste any space here. Avoid blank lines and interrupted sentences.

Tell users what makes your app unique and why they will love it. Add a strong call-to-action text to encourage visitors to install your app.

d) Keyword field (available only for Apple App Store)

app store seo increase app downloads keywords
This metadata decides how your app gets discovered. Fill in the keyword metadata with your selected app store keywords. Follow the rules below and make every character counts!

  • Use all 100 characters
  • Separate every keyword by a comma
  • Avoid space, articles and prepositions
  • Use singular OR plural, the easier one to rank for
  • Don’t repeat keyword
  • Use numbers instead of spelled out words
  • No need to include the words in your company name, app name and app category names.

App Store Optimization Tips: 

App Store Keyword Optimizer
You can use the App Store SEO Grader to optimize your app keyword metadata. The tool applies the above rules to your app keywords and tells you how to improve.

How To 5X Your iOS App Store Keywords
Do you want more keyword space for your iOS app? You can get up to 500 characters for your iOS app store keywords using this optimization tip. That is FIVE TIMES more!

 

ASO service - App Conversion RateStep 3: Convert visitors to users

After keyword optimization, optimizing the app detail page is another core step of ASO. The first goal of app store search optimization is to increase the app installs. To this end, the app detail page has to be persuasive enough to convert the app detail page visitors to app users. There are a few things related to the app detail page that developers have to look out for:

a) App Icon

A better icon can increase your downloads up to 560%!

To design a good icon, keep your design simple and eye-catchy. Do not cram the small space with many items or words. You want people to remember the icon after the first impression. Also, make sure your icon will still look good when it is scaled down to the smallest size required by App Store / Google Play. It should also look good against light and dark background.

To get more design inspirations, browse the top-rated apps in your category and Apple/Google’s top picks. Also, make sure your icon is different from your competitor’s to avoid brand confusion.  Contrasting colors, different shapes or adding a frame can also help.

App Store Optimization Tips:

Branded vs Functional Icon
If your app is a functional app, use one object to describe your app. If your app has a brand, use the logo to make your brand and your future products recognizable.

ASO - Branded App Icon Uber
Branded App Icon: Uber
app store optimization tips service - App Icon  7 Minute Workout
Functional App Icon: 
7 Minute Workout

b) Screenshots

According to StoreMaven, 60% of users won’t swipe past your first two screenshot images. A better version of your first two screenshots can increase your conversions by 25%!

To make better screenshots, make sure each screenshot is telling a single message about your app. Show your strongest messages in the first two screenshots. Add short caption text on a clean background into your screenshots and create a positive impression in the viewers’ mind.

Avoid login, registrations, purchase forms, ads and even “Welcome” screen in your screenshots. Make the best use of the screenshots to tell your users why they should love your app.

App Store Optimization Tips:

Vertical Screenshots
Keep the screenshots vertical. The users can see more screenshots on the narrow screens when the screenshots are vertical.

app store seo increase app downloads clash of clans 1 app store seo increase app downloads clash of clans 2
Vertical screenshots of Clash of Clans

Optimize Your App Screenshots
To optimize your app screenshots, use this App Store SEO Grader. The tool checks your screenshots’ dimensions, count, orientations, and their compatibility with various iOS devices, and tells you how to improve.

c) Preview Video

Making a video may be difficult but it can increase install rates by more than 23% according to StoreMaven. Don’t forget to use a good poster frame (iOS) / feature graphic (Google Play).  This graphic has a big impact to whether your visitors would watch your video.

App Store Optimization Tips:

App Marketing Video
Here are some of the essential elements of an effective app marketing video. They are recommended by Apptamin, a company well-known for its app videos and trailers:

  • Use the first 5 seconds to grab the viewer’s attention
  • Focus on the best features, instead of all features
  • Your video should make sense even with the sound turned off
  • Include a call-to-action

Remember, 80% of users don’t watch past first 12 seconds of the video. Do make sure you keep it short and to the point. Avoid any fade-in and “welcome” type of message at the beginning of your video.

d) Ratings & Reviews

Ratings and reviews have a great impact on your app downloads. Check out this infographic:

app rating infographic

App Store Optimization Tips

User Review Sentiment
Use this tool to get a user sentiment analysis of your app. It applies Artificial Intelligence on your user reviews to find out what your users like and don’t like about your app.

But how can you get more 5-star ratings for your app?

Delay asking for a rating until there’s a likely moment of constructive feedback. For instance, ask when the user completed a reservation, finished a mission in a game, etc. When the time comes, ask nicely, and don’t beg.

What does that mean? Circa News app is a perfect example. It got 90% 5-star ratings for every major version. Here is a flowchart of how it asks users if they would like to provide feedback:

app store optimization tips Service - Cicra News feedback flowchart
Image courtesy of Circa News

The key is to encourage satisfied users to leave positive reviews and deflect negative reviews by using a “send feedback” option.

To do this, you can either develop your own version of rating and feedback flow or simply use the tools like Apptentive’s Ratings Prompts.

App Store Optimization Tips:

The Right Paths To A Review
Direct only positive reviews to App Store, and negative reviews to support.

Plus, remember to reply the app reviews and feedback! Only the ones who care about your app will spend the time to leave a comment. Show them you care about them as well! This is a great way to let the visitors know that the developer is active too.

For Google Play, there is a “Reply to a review” option in Developer Console for you to do just that.

app seo increase app downloads reply review

For Apple App Store, you can also do this since iOS 10.3 release in March 2017.

On iTunes Connect, go to ‘My Apps > Choose your app > Activity > Ratings and Reviews’.

There you can see the “Reply” option in each of the reviews.

app store optimization tips reply to review

Also, Redditor amirrajan shared some awesome tips about how to sweep bad reviews under the rug. He also tells you how to give a positive first impression about your app by making good use of the five-star reviews.

App Store Optimization Tips

How to Reply to Reviews

Try to reply to all feedback immediately following a major release of your app.

If you can’t respond to every review, try prioritizing reviews with the lowest star ratings or those mentioning technical issues with the most current version of your app.

When you release an app update that fixes issues users mentioned in older reviews, consider replying to the relevant reviews to let them know that your update addressed their concerns.

Once a user indicates that your response answered their question or fixed their technical issue, consider asking them to update their rating and review.

You can also foster deeper engagement by asking users for feedback on future app updates as part of your reply.

e) App Size

Try to make your app smaller than 100 MB. It is because users cannot download apps that are more than 100 MB using cellular service.

app seo increase app downloads 100mb

So for example, if a user on a bus or a train can’t download “now”, it is unlikely the user will write down the name and try again X hours later when they’re home.

Need some proof? This post from appfigures shows that ~98% of the top 100 free and ~62% of paid iOS and Android games can be downloaded are under 100 MB.

Do you think 100 MB is not enough for your app? Take a look at Clash of Clans. Its iOS version is just 85.3 MB.

App Store Optimization Tips:

Make Your App Smaller
To reduce the app size, consider compressing some of the graphical assets or make some of the contents downloadable after install.

Compare with the Top 100 Apps
Do you want to know how your app size compares to that of the top 100 apps? Use this App Store Optimization tool. It tells you whether your app size falls in the reasonable app size range of the top 100 apps.

f) Update Frequency

Statistics show that there is a high correlation between high ratings and app update frequency. In fact, Releasing regular updates has many benefits. It improves user loyalty and keeps an app top of mind because your app will show up in the updates list in the app stores. Apple and Google also like to see app updates because they show you’re committed to the app and that it’s still being maintained.

How often should you update your app?  Check out this chart first:

app version update frequency chart

For these 25 top iOS apps, the average was about 30 days between updates. I’d recommend at least an update a month, and up to once a week.

Of course, you shouldn’t do an update just for the sake of doing an update. Your updates should always improve your app in some ways, either by bug fixings or enhancements.

g) App Localization

App localization gives you a larger audience to download your mobile app. But localizing the whole app to many languages can be a daunting task.

Before doing a full localization of your whole app, consider localizing your app listing first. It means translating your app name, keywords, screenshots, etc.

David Janner of MAKE APP Magazine conducted a localization experiment. In his experiment, he only localized the app name, the keywords, and sometimes the top line in the app description. After this simple localization, his app received a massive 767% increase in downloads. Before localization, the downloads were mainly from within the US. After localization, his downloads looked like this:

ASO App Store Optimization Keyword Localization Keyword Translation
Image courtesy of MAKE APP Magazine

According to OneSky, only 31% of the world’s total app revenue came from the U.S., while 41% came from Asia, and 23% came from Europe. In particular, China has already surpassed the U.S. by both iOS app download and revenue. If your app only has an English version for the U.S. market, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.

App Store Optimization Tips:

App Localization
Localize your app listing first to see how well your app performs in different countries. You can then decide if you should perform full localization of the whole app for the best performing countries.

Predict Your Next Successful Markets
This app analytics tool predicts where your next successful markets are based on LTV (Lifetime User Value), ARPU (Average Revenue Per User), Conversion Rates, and more. With this information, you can proactively localize your app to grasp the market opportunities.

h) Conversion Rates

Track the number of impressions of your app preview, the number of app page visitors, and app installs. Identify the step where the most people leave. For example, are there more than 90% users who didn’t make it to the app page after seeing the app preview? Are there more than 50% users who didn’t install your app after seeing the app page? Once you have identified the step where people leave, make appropriate changes and see if there are any conversion improvements.

App Store Optimization Tips: 

Benchmark Your Conversion Rate
Use this App Store Optimization tool to benchmark your app’s conversion rate (CR). It compares your download CR with your app category’s median and best CR, and tells you what you should do.

More about Conversion Rates
Find out how to improve your conversion rates in this post The One Secret To Effective App Store Optimization.

Putting it all together

Here is a cool infographic produced by Y Media Labs. It sums up the most important points about app store optimization.

app store optimization tips strategies increase visibility

Also, if you wonder what are the differences between Apple’s App Store and Google Play on app store optimization, here is a great summary:

app store optimization tips apple vs google

After you have published the changes, keep an eye on the keyword rankings. The rankings change right after you published the new version. Target to make your app rank within top 10 of all keywords. If your new keywords are too hard to rank, you might have to replace them with your old keywords.

Repeat the three steps every three weeks or four because that is when big trends of keywords change. Don’t give up if the results of first few optimizations are not turning out well. App marketing takes time and app store optimization needs many observations to master.

Good luck in your journey!

Here’s what to do next…

Congratulations!

You’ve read to the end of this mega post (4,000+ words).

Give yourself a BIG hand!

But did you know you DON’T NEED to do all these app store optimization tasks by yourself?

app store seo increase app downloads what

Yes, just use this App Store SEO Grader!

In less than 30 seconds, the tool will automate the tedious app store optimization checking for your app.

It will also generate an App Store Optimization Report for your app, and tell you how to get more app downloads.

And it’s free!

app store optimization report

 


Sources:

  1. 10 Killer App Store Marketing Tips. StoreMaven
  2. 13 steps to perfecting your app store optimization. Moburst
  3. 14 Compelling Statistics About the Importance of Localization. OneSky
  4. 25 Top iOS Apps And Their Version Update Frequencies. Sensor Tower
  5. 3 Reasons Why You Should Launch Your Mobile App & Game In China Now. Meatti
  6. 7 Ways to Find New Keyword Idea. Smart App Marketer
  7. App Marketing Tools For Developers. Apptamin
  8. App Store Optimization – 11 Strategies To Make Your App Visible. Y Media Labs
  9. Extensive Guide to App Store Optimization (ASO). Trademob
  10. Google discloses how search for Google Play works for the first time. SocialTimes
  11. Have an App? The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing It Free. Neil Patel
  12. How many downloads per day does one need to be a Top 10 Free iPhone app? Quora
  13. How Often Should I Update My App? Businesses Should Consider The Benefits Of Frequent App Updates. Business Insider
  14. How to Market Your Small Business Mobile App. Bizness Apps
  15. How to Gain Visibility Using ASO. Ryan Clutter on SEJ
  16. How to Select Name for Your Mobile Application. AppsDevPro
  17. Increasing The Number Of Keywords In App Store Optimization By Localization. Moritz Daan on Mobile Growth Stack
  18. iPhone App Localization: 7x More Downloads By Localizing App Keywords. MAKE APP Magazine
  19. More Than 25% of Top iOS Apps Will Soon Need to Change Their Names. Sensor Tower
  20. Optimize Your Google Play Store App Details Page. Apptamin
  21. Quit my full time corporate job. Built an iOS game. It became #1 in the App Store. Reddit
  22. Ratings Prompts. Apptentive
  23. Search Ads – App Store – Apple Developer. Apple
  24. The App Store Optimization Checklist: Top 10 Tips. Apptentive
  25. The Beginner’s Guide to App Store Optimization. John Rampton on Forbes
  26. The One Secret To Effective App Store Optimization. Meatti
  27. The Ultimate Guide to App Store Optimization. BuildFire
  28. The Ultimate Guide To App Store Optimization In 2015. AppFreak
  29. What’s a Good App Store Page Conversion Rate? SplitMetrics
  30. Winning Mobile: First, You Have To Win App Store And Google Play Search. John Koetsier on Forbes
  31. Your Guide to App Store Optimization [Infographic]. Optimizely

Tech entrepreneur & father of 3 daughters.
Marcus is the founder of Meatti. He helps mobile app developers with app marketing and app store optimization services. Marcus also helps app developers overcome the business challenges of entering the China’s app market.

9 thoughts on “App Store Optimization Tips & Checklist (2017 Guide for iOS & Android Apps)

    1. Hey Kerri, thanks for the compliments.
      I shared your post because it has so many awesome statistics! They give people lots of insights about the importance of localization. Keep up the good work!

  1. Interesting article. In my opinion, the app icon plays an important role in the App store optimization. Always include your logo as your app icon, so that people can quickly recognize your app. It will help to increase your downloads and will also improve reviews and ratings.

  2. Very effective article the App Store Optimization very helpful to improve the keywords rank in App Store as well as in Play Store also. It also Re-Engage your app users using different-different strategies like App Name, Title, Description, Keywords, Video.

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