It takes great efforts to build a killer app, but it often does not get translated into app downloads and reviews. This is where App Store Optimization (ASO) comes into the picture.

Who should do ASO? Well, the straight answer is ‘someone from marketing’. However, it can be done by anyone who has a good understanding of the app that has to be optimized. Before starting the ASO process, one must have a deep understanding of the app’s users (customers), its benefits and its features

Where to Start? With all the advice and guides floating around, it can become overwhelming and confusing and pretty soon starts to seem like a daunting task.

We would like to make it simpler for you by structuring it into 7 key stages. These stages are applicable to ASO in general and can be used to optimize an app to make it more visible on Apple App Store as well as on Android Play Store.

ASO Stage #1: Keyword Research

Aim of the keyword research process is to create a small list of (8-10) profitable keywords for your app. There are two steps in an effective Keyword Research:

Step 1: Create an exhaustive list of keywords

Step 2: Filter the list to find out 8-10 golden keywords which are profitable.

Here are some brainstorming ideas to create your big list of keywords:

  • Think like your customers. Wear their shoes and walk a mile in them. The result should be a list of keywords they might use to find similar apps on the app store you are targeting.
  • Ask everyone in your team to create a similar list
  • Ask your friends to explain how they search for a service / product app related to your domain
  • Look at the titles and descriptions of similar / competing apps
  • Search Google for the base terms and check the ‘related searches’ section at the bottom of the page.

Now you need to filter out the golden keywords from this big list.

App stores don’t have a tool like Adword’s keyword planner, but there are some popular third-party tools like Searchman, App Annie, Sensor Tower, App Tweak, and  Keyword Tool.

The following factors can be used to assess a keyword:

  1. Relevance: Try to find keywords that are most relevant. Getting ranked for less or broadly relevant keywords will not yield much result. For example: If you have an Audio Books app, it would be better if your app ranks #1 for the keyword ‘Audio Books’ than for the keyword ‘Books’.
  2. Competition: Some keywords have more apps competing for them than others. Don’t target keywords that have huge competition. A keyword is not worth targeting if you can’t get your app displayed on first page of the search results.
  3. Searches: Search volume is a factor which can tell us about the potential of a particular keyword. Try to find a keyword that has good search volume and less competition.

Based on the above factors, your ideal list of profitable keywords will include 8-10 keywords with High relevancy, Low competition and High search volume.

ASO Stage #2: Choose the Right App Title

Along with a memorable app name, it is important to have a descriptive title for the app. Adding keywords in the title improves the app’s ranking for those keywords.

Apple app store allows you to have 255 characters in the title and Google Play Store has a limit of 30 characters.

While using keywords in the title is useful, keyword spamming should strictly be avoided. App stores reject apps if they find too many / irrelevant keywords.

Tip: A title should sound natural, meaningful and relevant. Use of adjectives and superlatives like beautiful, amazing, best is allowed.

iOS 11 update: The character limit of the app title in iOS is now reduced to 30 from 50. To compensate this, Apple now lets publishers add a subtitle in 30 characters under the app name. Publishers can make use of the subtitle feature to add targeted keywords.

There are improvements in the in-app purchases section also. Publishers can now customize the in-app purchases by adding title, description and icon for each. We can add up to 20 in-app purchases on our app page.

ASO Stage #3: Write a Compelling App Description

The initial lines of the description should articulate the unique benefits of the app and give a compelling reason to download it.

You can also add features that are in the pipeline and will be released soon. Remember to add more details to the updates section whenever there is a new update released.

Social proof can persuade users to install the app. Social proof in the form of testimonials can be added at the beginning or at the end of the description. Test what works for your app.

iOS 11 update: App store now has a promotional text field. It is positioned above the description and has a character limit of 170. Though, Apple doesn’t index the promotional text, it can be used to highlight new updates or offers to improve the conversion. One more advantage of promotional text is that you can update it any time without submitting a new version of your app.

ASO Stage #4: Be creative with icon

Icon is the first thing used by a user to evaluate your app. Creating an icon which stands out in the crowd is important for conversion rate (impressions to clicks). Example: Allo

Adding too many elements takes away the aesthetic relief from a visual design. So keep it simple and creative. Leverage ‘Contrast Effect’ to gain a visual and cognitive advantage over your competing apps.

App store’s standard required size for an icon is 1024 by 1024 pixels, whereas for Google Play, it is 512 by 512 pixels.

To harmonize your icon with the app, use the official style guide of your app. If you don’t have a style guide, you can create one easily.

ASO Stage #5: Captivate with Screenshots

Your ‘Screenshots’ is your sales pitch. Be it a game or an app, they give you an opportunity to show the app experience your users are about to witness.

Apple App Store allows you up to 5 screenshots and Google Play store allows up to 8.

For better engagement, use screenshots with best/unique app features in the first 3 images, as they are the ones that are displayed on page load of an app.

Keep your screenshots as real as possible. Creating great graphics / elements that are not present in the app will disappoint users. This may also lead to negative reviews. Likewise, avoid using filters on your screenshots.

Always use high quality PNG or JPG images that don’t get pixelated. The screenshots you upload should meet the minimum size requirements of app stores.

Screenshot sizes for iOS app store:

‘iTunes connect’ asks you to upload screenshots in 4 different sizes, according to the available iPhone screen sizes. If your app is compatible with iPad, it’s better to include screenshots in that size too.

The following are the dimensions along with their corresponding iPhone sizes:

640 x 920 pixels for 3.5 Inch iPhone 3
640 x 1136 pixels for 4 Inch iPhone 4 & 5
750 x 1334 pixels for 4.7 Inch iPhone 6
1242 x 2208 for 5.5 Inch iPhone 6 Plus
1536 x 2048 All iPads

 

Screenshot sizes for Google play store:

There are a huge number of Android devices with different screen sizes and aspect ratios. So, Google Play store does not require screenshots in specific sizes. However, screenshots should comply with the following requirements.

  • Minimum dimension: 320px
  • Maximum dimension: 3840px

NOTE: The maximum dimension of your screenshot can’t be more than twice as long as the minimum dimension.

If you use Photoshop, you can use a free script available on Github to create screenshots in all sizes for both App store and Play store.

You can download the script from Github here.

iOS 11 update: In iOS 11, the search results in the app store can now show up to 3 screenshots or videos, compared to 2 in the previous versions. This gives the app makers an opportunity to show one more feature / benefit through the extra screenshot in the search results page. The screenshots are now squeezed to accommodate 3 in the place of 2. That means, it is now important to show simple designs with preferably bigger text.

 

ASO Stage #6: Action Plan to get more Reviews

Better ratings and reviews result in more downloads, and consequently put your app in a better position in the search results.

When and How to request for an App review?

There are no specific answers to this question. However, there are a few general DO’s and DON’Ts, which can be considered to get more users to rate / review your app.

DO’s:

  • Give your app users enough time to use the app
  • Generally the right moment to ask for a review is after a peak user experience
  • Give your users a way out or option to do it later

DON’Ts:

  • Don’t ask for a review by interrupting user experience.
  • Don’t ask when someone loses a game or if her task couldn’t be finished successfully.

Leverage the concept of ‘Reciprocity’ to get more users to rate and review your app. Reciprocate by providing incentive like access to premium features, app currency etc.

What to do with bad reviews?

Don’t ignore bad reviews and try to resolve reported bugs before your app gets a lot of negative reviews. Always reply to users’ comments, be it clarifying their doubts, apologizing or even thanking them.

iOS 11 update: App store has disabled custom review prompts. Publishers can integrate the API released by Apple to enable customers to submit a review from within the app. The number of review prompts a customer can receive is limited to 3 per year. So, it is important for publishers to time them properly.

 

ASO Stage #7: Test, Analyze, Change and Repeat

Doing App Store Optimization differs from category to category and app to app. What works for your app can be found only after analysing the performance of the app with various combinations. Test your app with different keywords, titles, descriptions and screenshots. Remember, App Store Optimization is not a one-time process.

Create a micro-site for your app to be discoverable by potential users on the web. This can open up floodgates of traffic to your app page. Help users by giving link to your app on various app stores.

With over 5.7 million apps1 competing in the various app stores, it would become difficult to retain a position for a good keyword, and only an effective ASO strategy and consistent efforts can make and keep your app visible in the ever buzzing market of apps.

Also see our guide for optimizing your website

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