The App Store Optimization Tips & Checklist (2020 ASO Guide for iOS & Google Play Apps)
Back in 2009, when Apple launched the App Store, there were less than a thousand apps in the store. It was the same for Google, it opened with just a handful of apps and was called “Android App market” in 2008.
A few years later, things looked different for the app store. People had now started discovering the power of smartphones. From the announcement Apple made four years later, in 2013, that it had surpassed 1 million apps in their App Store, it hasn’t looked back. The same has been true for Google Play Store after it’s announcement of hitting the 1 million apps mark.
However, great this might sound for the users and the app stores, it has actually complicated issues for developers and app marketers. Promoting apps is not easy when you are pitted against the - 2.2 million apps on App Store and 3.3 million apps on Play Store.
But then again, there has also been an exponential growth in the number of users, triggering increased app downloads as well as usage. As a result, app earning have picked up as opposed to the time when the app store was first launched. According to the latest stats, as of June 2018, iOS app developers have earned $100 billion cumulatively from the Apple App Store.
Imagine the amount you can earn in the coming years when the number of active apps shoots to 5 million.
How would you compete against these rising number of apps? The future looks really scary but, there's a way, all you need to do is start early. There are plenty of refined and effective tactics that you can deploy in your app marketing strategy to taste success at the app store. The best part is we have taken the time to critically assess present marketing strategies to help you understand exactly what you need to do. So without further ado, let me take you through different app store optimization tips.
Top App Store Optimization” (ASO) Tips
App Store Optimization (ASO) is the key part of mobile app marketing. It’s just like how you think of SEO when you have to bring traffic to your website. To make it easier for the potential users to discover you, optimize your app store listing page as much as you can so it ranks higher in the app stores. It is considered one of the most important steps of the pre-launch strategy. ASO is done exactly at the time you publish your app to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Regardless of how great your app might be, you have to follow these steps for success:
#ASO Tips - Optimizing Your App Store Title
It is the name that would appear on your app store listing page. It’s also the first thing that a user will see when they are searching for your app. It’s very important to get this right so your app store title should have the following features:
- It should clearly reflect your brand
- It should be simple
- Easy to spell
- It should be easier to remember it
- The name should tell what your app does
But, with thousands of app in the same category, it is very hard to come up with a name that has all these features. So, before you finalize on your app store title, spend some time in researching the existing apps in your category and names similar to what you have thought of. Otherwise, you may also end up sending traffic to some other app with the same name in a different category.
Previously, your app store title was supposed to have 50 characters but that’s not the case anymore, however, Apple recommends having 23 characters or less in your title for best results on every device, as long names will be truncated so users may not see all the characters.
#ASO Tips - App Icon Name
Once the user downloads the app onto his device, this is the name he would see under your app icon. The app icon name has a limit of 12 characters so you have to be very creative in picking up a name. Remember to keep it short and sweet.
#ASO Tips - App Store Description
While writing a description for your app, you might get carried away and add unnecessary keywords to improve your ASO but do not make that mistake. It could instead have a negative impact on the user’s experience. Instead of writing for the search engines, write the content for real people, the potential users who are going to download it. Make sure that the first few sentences grab their attention highlighting the app’s benefits, incentives, features, and functionalities. If your app has won any awards or accolades, it should be added at the end of the description as it doesn’t actually give the reasons about why they should download your app.
#ASO Tips - Choose the right category in the App Stores
One of the major aspects of getting your app discovered is to place it in the right category. Users often browse through the categories according to their interests to reach an app. When your app fits more than one category it might be difficult to decide, but weighing the pros and cons would help you find the best category. For example, your app might fall into the category of “social” as well as lifestyle”, but placing it under social and competing against Facebook and the likes is difficult so why not choose lifestyle, which could give you more exposure and less competition. However, you should always remember to pick a category that best describes the main purpose of your app. If you are unsure about the category, try searching for apps that serve a similar purpose and see where they are listed. This would help you clear your confusion.
#ASO Tips - Keywords Optimization
If you remember, in section 3, I mentioned that you shouldn’t use unnecessary keywords in your description, that’s because app stores have a dedicated section that allows you to add them. The keywords you choose will affect where your app will show up in search results. So, choose them carefully. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential user and think about the different combination of words they would use to try and find your app. For adding keywords, there is a limit of 100 characters with each word separated by a comma. Here are some of the things that Apple recommends you not to do while choosing keywords for your app:
- Avoid using both singular and plural form of a word (e.g. Don’t include “Dolls” if you have already added “Doll”)
- Do not add the names of the categories
- Trademark terms should not be used
- Do not use the word “app”
- There’s no need to duplicate words
- Do not include names of celebrities, word or phrases (e.g. Kim Kardashian in a lifestyle app)
- Irrelevant terms not related to the app
- Names of competitor apps
- Inappropriate or offensive words
#ASO Tips - App Icon
We are often told ‘never to judge a book by its cover’ but that doesn’t apply here. Your app is almost always judged by its icon. It is the first thing that a user sees and judging by its appearance he or she is going to be interested in opening or downloading it. To create a positive impression I strongly recommend working with a graphic designer to create a beautiful icon that clearly speaks of a high-quality product. It doesn’t mean you need to create something very complex to impress your users. Most often the best app icons are usually very simple but easily recognizable.
To test out the app icon you have, compare it against the apps that you have on your phone. Is it easily recognizable? Does it look beautiful? Does it reflect your brand?
Here are some of Apple’s guidelines for creating the best app icon:
- Go for simple designs instead of overly detailed ones
- Provide a single focus point that identifies your app
- Design an icon that’s easily recognizable
- Use a simple background and avoid transparency
- Use words only if they are essential to your logo
- Avoid using photos, screenshots or interface elements
- Do not try to copy existing icons by Apple
- Test your app icon against different wallpapers or backgrounds
#ASO Tips - App Screenshots
App screenshots help users get a better understanding of your app, which is why the app stores allow you to upload a few screenshots of your app. Taking screenshots is quite easy, all you have to do is take screenshots of your app using a mobile phone and upload them to the app store. Or, if you want you can also create great looking graphics to show different screens. The best way to get the maximum out of your screenshots is to take screenshots of your app that best display its use and features.
#ASO Tips - Setting Your App Download Price
If you want your app to get noticed in the app store, you must set the right pricing strategy. According to a survey, it was observed that 30% of the traffic comes from mobile devices. Since the launch of app stores, app pricing models have changed and currently, there are four different successful models that you can choose from.
Free apps are a great way to generate good revenue, especially on the Android platform. These apps help small businesses boost sales by encouraging customer loyalty or simply improving the buyer’s journey. If you want to make money from ads within the app, you can provide a freemium model that can be upgraded to an ad-free version for a small fee, whenever the user wants. Providing an app for free first and then offering them the chance to upgrade to an ad-free version helps you boost download. This kind of pricing model is best for business apps and social apps.
-FREE with an UPGRADE FOR ONE TIME FEE:
A modified version of the free apps, freemium is a lucrative pricing model that allows users to download the free version of the app with limited features and functions that can be upgraded to increased functionality with a onetime fee. This way users can have all the basic functions and purchase additional functionalities if they want for a fee. This kind of pricing model attracts the maximum amount of organic traffic that can be converted to upgraded versions. This model is best suited for fitness apps, utility apps, travel, and games.
As the name suggests, the users have to pay once for downloading and using the app. But, before setting a price for your app, do your research to learn what your competitors are charging for their app. Always remember that users gravitate more towards free app so, if you set an unreasonably high price for your app, they would never download your app unless you are offering them something that’s totally exclusive. Users don’t like to part so easily with their hard earned cash so be wise. This is best suited for high-end Games, utility apps, Photo apps, books etc.
#ASO Tips - Don’t Neglect the International Market
Mobiles offer a great chance to connect you to any part of the world. So, if you can make some simple changes to your app, it can also be marketed on an international level, expanding your reach. For example, if your app is about learning Chinese, you can also launch another language to appeal to more users.
When you have a product that serves a purpose, you have to promote it by using PR. There’s a story behind every app, so what’s yours? Share it with the world to attract users.
If you do not have a story, you can simply request some of the well-known tech journalists to use and review your app. Imagine the amount of exposure you would get for your app if a few of these agree to write about your app. However, it’s important to make sure all the communication goes smoothly, otherwise, even a small error in code or miscommunication will reflect in their written piece. Now, that’s something you want to avoid at all costs. To put your best foot forward, here are a few tips to reach out to the press the right way:
#ASO Tips - Create a Press Kit
If you want journalists to tell your story, you need to give them all the information required. So, you have to pre-package everything about your company, backgrounds, mugshots of the people involved, the company logo, a copy of the press release etc. Your press release should contain details of the problems your app promises to solve. Here are some tips to prepare a killer press kit for your app:
- Include a high-resolution copy of your app icon
- If you have a promotional video for your app, include it here
- High-quality screenshots of your app
- All the additional information about the app
- Include information about the team behind it and the company
#ASO Tips - Connect Personally With Local Press
While promoting your app you will have to connect personally with the local press and other journalists. Before you send mail to these people try to do a little research on them so you know them well. People who are already on good terms with you would be more willing to give your app a chance than someone who is a complete stranger to you.
If you know them personally or at least have a good idea about their interests and work, you can establish a personal connection. It also shows that you have taken out some time to know the person and he is not just another means to get your app some publicity. Once you have build a relationship with them it’s very easy to get some free publicity.
#ASO Tips - Offer an Exclusive Interview
An exclusive story is something that every journalist wants to get his hands on. If you have something exclusive to share with the audience, entice journalists by offering them an exclusive piece on the release of your app. It could be anything, the innovative idea behind the app, the background story or even the incident that led to the development of the app. Whatever, the exclusive story maybe, just make sure that it’s not all filled with technical jargons but with emotions. Human interest stories are more interesting to read than technical ones.
Once you have your story ready, start pitching it to the journalists. The likelihood of your story getting covered is more if it has an emotional connect.
#ASO Tips - The Earlier The Better
Time is of the essence here, so give the journalists an ample amount of time to prepare themselves for the interviews or reviews. Approach them at least 3-4 weeks before your planned launch date to create a buzz around your app.
Connect with bloggers and journalists who write about apps to find out if they would be interested in reviewing or giving a feedback on it.
#ASO Tips - Leverage Local Press
Never underestimate the power of the local press because very often they provide the stepping stone to get noticed by the bigger publications. To highlight the important features of your app you can even sponsor relevant TV and radio programs. Prepare a list of media agencies and press in your local area and once the launch date is near, send them a press kit about the launch of your app.
Also look for newspapers and magazines that cover news related to the category your app falls into. Say, you have a Fitness app, find out if there’s a local Sports and Fitness magazine who would love to talk about your app.
When contacting publications, it’s important to get in touch with the most relevant editor, the one who handles news related to your category. If you don’t hear back from them in a day or two, send them a friendly reminder asking if they have received your mail. You should also contact radio stations if they have a good reach in your area.
If you fail at first to garner any attention from the local press before launch, you can always approach them once more after your launch with testimonials from customers, download statistics or any other positive coverage.
#ASO Tips - Engage With Online Communities
Let me begin with the story of Spotify. Just when the company was starting out in the U.S., it was accessible to others only by invitation. A sense of exclusivity helped create a buzz, when you first saw your invitation, you felt a sense of pride and joy. Then you sent an invitation to your friends or families and a chain of reaction followed. This word-of-mouth promotion helped Spotify occupy a position that was strongly held by Rhapsody, a long time player in its industry.
Now, you won’t always get a similar opportunity but what you can do is promote yourself among online forums and groups that are likely to be interested in your app. For example, if you are going to launch a fitness app, join online groups and forums that talk about fitness.
However, when you join these forums or communities don’t just start promoting yourself straightaway. Take some time out and study the previous discussions and note down active members and anything that might help you in communicating here. Be sure to introduce yourself - just yourself and not the product to the community. Ease yourself in, laugh at someone’s joke, share your thoughts on discussions, praise them for their work. Once you have gained a foothold, you can start talking about your own app and ask people what they think of it. Believe me when they think of you as a part of the group they would promote your app without any coaxing or return. But, it’s always great to give them a reward if they go out of the way to help you out, it could be anything free coupons, 50% discount for purchasing your app.
Even though these tactics may seem time-consuming, they are essential for word of mouth referrals and definitely an effort worth investing in.
Optimize Your Online Channels
As important as it is to promote your app to the external media, it is equally important to promote it across all of your online channels. You should ensure that your app is included everywhere for an overall brand experience.
Synchronize all your blog posts, banners, landing pages and PR to give maximum exposure to your app. It would also bring in the much-needed attention prior to launching the app. Additionally, the whole synchronization gives out a consistent message across your important online channels.
#ASO Tips - Update Your Website
Now you already know that you need to optimize your online channels, but where do you begin from? The answer’s your website. Create a banner for your homepage and link it to your app’s own landing page with all the details.
Give your app an important place on your homepage with a strong CTA (call-to-action) and incentives to attract your present customers to download it. Adding details about your app on your brand’s homepage emphasizes its value and sending out a clear message that it is an imperative element of your business.
#ASO Tips - Create A Promotion Landing Page
Shaping your app’s identity begins with creating a landing page for it. In doing so you give the app a web presence, help potential users discover your app, generate leads, a platform to build promotional activities around your app and so much more. Use screenshots to show off unique user experiences. Produce an interesting video to show the audience how your app can solve their problem.
Be innovative in whatever you do, the landing page of your app is a blank canvas that you can fill any way you like. Just remember to do it wisely though.
#ASO Tips - Capitalise on Mobile Visits to Your Website
Last year we saw a significant surge in mobile searches. It even overtook desktop, which proves the importance of having your website optimized for mobile. One way to increase downloads is to promote visits to your website via mobile to download the app. This can be done using a mobile smart app banner that can increase app downloads by 33%.
#ASO Tips - Optimise Your Social Media Channels
Over the years it has become a known fact that social media interaction and peer to peer recommendations boost conversions. If you have an account for your company on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram use the space to promote your app. You can even create a separate page for your app on these social media platforms to track conversions, build a fanbase, gather user-generated content and lots more. Promoting your app on the social media is the most inexpensive medium to effectively promote your app.
Go through these points to find out for yourself if you are using your social media channels effectively:
- Is it clearly stated in your social media accounts that you have an app?
- Just by looking can the audience comprehend the purpose of the app?
- If a user wants to download the app, is there a download link on the page in plain sight?
#ASO Tips - Email Marketing
Many have come to believe that email is on the verge of collapsing due to the coming of social media. However, this is far from the truth. It is still the most widely used tool in marketing and has the best ROI. To add value to your mobile app marketing you must gather the email details from people who want to hear from you. For an established brand, it’s not that tough, you are most likely to have this database ready at your hand, but if you are just starting out you can build a database through pre-launch app promotions. Remember the app landing page, it’s a good place to ask potential users to sign up for newsletters, offers, and other news. Add a signup form on this page using some of the well-known and trusted free email-marketing tools like MailChimp and SumoMe.
An important point to remember while email marketing is to make sure that your email doesn’t hit the spam folder. Hundreds of emails are sent to users every day so you have to be careful in attracting one’s attention. Try to personalize your mail to notify them of the app launch and don’t forget to add relevant links and emotive CTA.
Other than ads and paid promotions you can also promote your app via viral marketing. There are different ways such as giveaways and competitions through which you can entice users. Encourage viral sharing by offering a prize for sharing a post, signing up for the newsletter, liking a page or re-tweeting.
1. Posters, Flyers and Stickers
To get your message across to the target audience, you can place promotional posters and flyers about your app in your store. Use your app store page to shout out about your app. Other than that you can also use your business cards for a subtle promotion of the app. Just add QR codes with a direct link to download the app on your business card so they can download it anytime they wish.
2. Create A Give Away Promotion
Use your social media pages to ask people to share about your app, subscribe to all the social media channels and download your app to boost awareness. Give them a prize for doing all the things asked and announce their name in the public to keep them engaged.
3. Request Referrals
At the very beginning, your friends, family, and acquaintances can share your app or any news related to the app to get the ball rolling. You can also politely request your customers to share the news about your app. As these recommendations and referrals are based on real people and real-time experiences, you are likely to get more downloads. Reward them with small incentives to encourage other customers to do the same for you.
4. Incentivise Your App Downloads
Before proceeding further, let’s just give this a thought. You are approached by a complete stranger to download an app, he gives you the download link and then goes. What do you do? Would you be willing to download or recommend it to others? If you are busy, you might even forget about it.
Now, imagine you are approached by a complete stranger, he requests you to download his app, explains to you how you can benefit from the app and even gives you a discount for using it the first time. Would you be tempted to check the app out at least once? Most likely you would and if you have a good experience, you may also be willing to share the news with others.
It’s easier to see why you would be more motivated to take action in the second scenario because you are motivated by the incentive attached to it. Giving incentives to customers for using or referring to your app would always be appreciated by them. Consumers love to earn coupons and discount codes, and if your app gives them a way to earn those, they would be happy to oblige. This is why incentives are of great importance to mobile apps.
Social Media Promotion
Promoting your app on social media is great but there needs to be a steady promotional policy in place to yield the maximum result. For this, you need to plan different ways to push your app to the followers. Try using a mix of videos, images, promotional offers, user-generated content, testimonials or special chat shows to keep your customers engaged. Share milestones with them, fun behind the scenes of making the app or any other innovative material you can think of.
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to expand your customer base. If the users have reached a certain milestone by using your app, do not shy away from sharing about it with others on your social media channels.
Besides promoting your app through their own social media page you can also integrate your app into your overall page branding. Highlight the features of your app so the potential users are instantly aware of your app’s function.
1. Paid Facebook Ads
Facebook App Install Ads work wonders for acquiring a number of downloads, but you need to have a huge budget in place for running paid Facebook ads. Through Facebook ads, you can target a specific group of users with customized ads for each of them. It’s also good to design various ads and have different content so you can test which CTA, app description or headline works best. If you have the budget you can definitely use Facebook ads to expand your brand awareness through organic campaigns.
2. Sponsored Twitter Posts
Just like you can target customers through ads on Facebook, you can also use Twitter to boost your outreach. Sponsored app installs are a good option on Twitter, just make sure that profile your target audience first. You obviously would not want to promote a lingerie app to men in their 50s.
The advantage of promoting your app on Twitter is that most of its users are active on mobile, so they are just two steps away from downloading your app.
3. Join Facebook Groups
Facebook groups serve as a natural home for promoting businesses. With billions of users, there is no shortage of groups where you can promote your app. Start with joining Facebook Groups that belong to your niche, participate in discussions, talk about your app, highlight the benefits of using and downloading your app. These groups are packed with people who could be your potential users because they have joined the group of their own accord and are looking to benefit from it. So, your app could be what they are looking for to solve their problem. For example, a person who has joined a mutual funds group on Facebook would be greatly interested in downloading your money managing app than any other group.
4. Create a Video
Videos have become very popular these days. Use the medium the best possible way to visually communicate with your audience about the uses of your app. There’s no need to have Grammy-level directorial skills, a simple video can do the job, although there’s no harm in being imaginative. Work with some good content taking the users through the functionalities of the app and explaining why it’s worth a download. You can use this video to promote on various channels like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Check out the video below. The Amazon app launch video clearly shows you what purpose it serves in such a simple way. Using videos like these in your campaigns is a sure fire way to increase engagement and downloads.
Getting your mobile app noticed in the increasingly crowded app market is not easy. But, with dedicated users, it wouldn’t be that difficult. Focus on building a community around your app. Think of different ways you can gain their loyalty because it’s much easier to advertise to existing clients than acquiring new customers. A loyal fanbase would also be more happy to recommend about your app to others than a new customer.
However, instilling a sense of loyalty among your customers is not that easy. The more you communicate with them, the better the chances of them become loyal to you. You need to be very careful in developing ways to retain the loyalty of such customers.
1. Ask Customers for Feedback
The apps with high ratings and positive feedback on the app store have a much better chance of being downloaded than apps with lower ratings and negative feedbacks. This is why it’s very important to encourage your happy customers to leave reviews on the app store. To do this you need to keep a track of who is talking positive about your app and then either contact the user through email, in person or sending an automated message within the app.
Integrate SDKs like Appsfire in your app to allow users to send feedback. This would help you in contacting unhappy customers to resolve their issues so you can convert them into happy customers.
2. Promote Retention
Promoting the app might have seen the most difficult task until now, but retention is the most difficult stage. Initially, mobile app marketers focused on attracting as many new customers as they could but today the focus has shifted on retention. Once you have build a fanbase you need to work on retaining them.
To keep your user engaged and remind users of your brand you can use push notifications or in-app messaging. Be careful while sending these messages and try not be too aggressive otherwise the user may also be forced to delete the app or mute future notifications from your app.
3. App Updates and New Features
App updates and addition of new features is a great way to keep your users engaged. As it holds true for most of the things, don’t pack all the awesome features at once, release them slowly over a period of time so that the excitement never fades.
Every month, release new updates to attract their attention. Many times if a user has forgotten about your app it resurfaces in his mind during the update. However, refrain from bringing about any major change in your app within 15 days of its release. If your app is about to undergo a major change, then slowly prepare your users for the upcoming changes with teasers, press releases, and contests. Use it wisely to keep your users glued to the app for a longer time.
The strategies we have discussed so far are not just meant for gaining users during app launch period but even retaining them for longer durations. The key to using these strategies is not to deploy them all together but to understand your target audience first and then deploy these at various stages of your app development. Always remember that there is no hard and fast rule to succeed in the market, you have to try different things on your own and learn from your mistakes.
Always remember that the success of your app doesn’t depend on the number of downloads, screen view or active users. The real indication of success is how your app is helping users solve their problem.