There are a lot of apps out there. Like, a lot. Apple says that the app store is on pace to have more than 5 million apps by 2020. So what does that mean when you’re launching your new app? It means that your app will be one of 5 million apps vying for users’ attention. It means that it’s just going to get harder and harder for your app to be found, let alone downloaded. And it means that if you’re not up to date on app store optimization (ASO) practices, it’s definitely time that you start!

By now we’re all familiar with the importance of SEO for websites, but we’ve often found there’s still a bit of a knowledge gap when it comes to ASO. Getting the app built and submitted to the app store is a process and an investment, but surprisingly, ASO is often forgotten or neglected when it can have such an impact on users finding it. Or a minimal effort goes into ASO with a “set it and forget it” attitude best reserved for infomercial rotisseries.

Well no more! We’re going to give you the rundown on everything you should consider for ASO to help you rank better and get more downloads.

Naming Your App

Everyone wants their app name to be perfect in every way: clever, descriptive, memorable, and unique. Well, here’s a couple more things you might want to consider. Your app name should be phonetic and try to avoid any weird characters or symbols. The reasoning for this is pretty straightforward: if someone is raving about how awesome your app is to a friend, the last thing you want is for said friend to not be able to find it because of the name’s obscure spelling with silent letters and symbols. If you have a unique name, it’s much safer to spell it like it sounds.

Selecting App Store Categories

Apple allows developers to select both primary and secondary categories for their app. When you’re selecting the primary category for your app, it is important that you categorize the app based on the primary feature. We like to think of the primary feature as what your app is at its core. What are the very first words that you would use to describe what the app does? Let’s look at Instagram as an example: Instagram is very much a social media app, but it is primarily a photo and video app. If you are not interested in photos and videos, you may not like Instagram. 

We know it can be difficult to put your app in a box, but it’s a crucial part of making sure it gets found by the right people. If you struggle with this, don’t worry too much. You can also select a secondary category as well as subcategories, broadening the scope of how you categorize your app.

Keywords

If there’s one thing that has become synonymous with the idea of optimization, it’s keywords. There are a couple of places where keywords are important when it comes to app store optimization. First, you should include keywords in your app’s name as a sort of subtitle. Take Google Maps as an example: the official app store name is “Google Maps – GPS Navigation”. Next, including keywords in your app name can significantly boost your ranking in for those keywords. When it’s literally in the name, Apple thinks it’s a safe bet that it does what the user is looking for.  

Apple allows you to include 100 keywords in the iTunes Connect Keyword Field. Given the limitation here,  you’ll want to choose your keywords wisely. Don’t include any keywords included in your app name, and don’t worry about slight variants of keywords or the spelling of your app name; Apple has you covered on those. However, there is one crucial thing to remember when it comes to listing long tail keywords: if you put spaces in your long tail keywords, Apple will only recognize exact matches, but if you put commas between the words, any combination will be recognized.

Description

Your app description is where you’ll get your chance to let people know what to expect from your app. While you can opt to write a lengthy, robust description, it’s important that you put special care into crafting the first 5-6 lines of text since that is what will be displayed before having to click “more” to view the rest. In addition to providing users with an idea of what to expect from your app, it’s common practice for your description to include the details of your latest update.

Screenshot Selection

Think of it as window shopping, you want screenshots for the app store to be both beautiful and a good representation of what to expect from your app. This is where your team’s eye for design really starts to pay off. You should also prioritize your screenshots, displaying the most impactful or visually exciting screens first so that the user doesn’t have to swipe to see them.

Encourage Reviews

User reviews are important for app store optimization and very helpful in convincing people to download your app in the first place. The more five star reviews your app is able to rack up, the more likely it is that sheeple people will give it a shot. But how do you go about getting more reviews? Well, the most common way is to ask for them.

When it comes to asking users for app reviews timing is everything. Firstly avoid asking them to review your app right after it’s launched. It’s a common practice and it’s flawed. If someone is just opening your app to use it, that doesn’t really seem like the best time to ask them to give a review – sort of like a waiter asking if you’re enjoying your dish and you haven’t even had a bite. A better option is to ask for a review after the user has completed the desired task within your app. Let’s use a fitness app scenario: after a user has successfully logged a training session in the app, prompt the user by asking if the app worked well for them. If the user selects yes, the app then asks for a review. If the user says no, it sends them to a form where they can share their feedback about the experience. This strategic approach gets you more genuine reviews from users truly trying out the app and provides a separate outlet for users that would potentially leave a negative review.

Update Your App Regularly

By now we’re all familiar with Apple’s iPhone release schedule: there are at least two models of the iPhone announced in September and released to consumers shortly thereafter. Apple loves it when developers update their apps to utilize the latest technology and fit the newest screen size. You’ll also want to make sure that your app is updated to take advantage of the latest iOS release as well.

Apart from making sure that your app is compatible with Apple’s latest hardware and software releases, you can also improve ASO by releasing smaller updates for your app. In fact, releasing regular updates with minor improvements and bug fixes is not only great for app store optimization, but it’s also great for user retention.

Localize

If your app is available in more than one country, it is essential that you localize your ASO for each country by taking a look at local competitors and keywords. It’s also important that you work with someone that knows the local language to help you translate rather than relying on Google Translate or another online translation tool. Your app will lose significant credibility if you incorrectly translate something in your app, and it may not even be given a chance if the error is in your description.

In addition to translations, you’ll also want to pay attention to cultural norms of the markets your app is offered in. Perhaps the visuals and screenshots you use in one market may not be appealing in another, or perhaps calls to action such as requesting reviews may need to be adjusted to be more or less assertive. The key takeaway here is that what works in one market may not work in another, and your ranking in the app store may depend on different factors in different places.

Run Search Ads

There are a couple of situations when it may be worth your while to run search ads in the app store. If you’re launching a brand new app,  you may want to run ads to help get a boost in visibility while acquiring those first users. Ideally, these users will help spread the word about how much they love your app and leaving positive reviews (or give you feedback about possible improvements), helping to form the ASO foundation for you to build upon.

The other situation when you may want to run search ads in the app store is if you’ve tried absolutely everything to rank higher in your category, but you just can’t seem to get a leg up on the competition. Just like with Google’s AdWords, Apple’s search ads show paid results at the very top of the search results and they are labelled as an ad. It’s a good tactic to boost visibility and to create a correlation between your app and the top listed apps for the query.

If your app hasn’t been ranking as high in the app store as you would like, perhaps this is the time to start thinking about app store optimization. We’ve been focusing on building great apps for a while now and we’ve always utilized ASO to help get them found. If you have any questions or you’d like to book a consultation to talk about your app or app store optimization, we’d love to hear from you!