Positioning Apps in Online Stores. 8 Things You Need to Know about App Store Optimization (ASO)

Client guide

App Store Optimization, or ASO, entails the process of maximising the visibility of an app across  app store search engines and increasing the amount of conversion as regards install rate. Root causes of a success on the market lie in crafting a well-designed app which satisfies user requirements. Yet, what comprises an equally fundamental task is to make sure users can find it.

ASO may be considered equivalent to SEO, Search Engine Optimization, the difference being that positioning here is done in mobile app stores, such as Google Play or the App Store. 

What Makes ASO so Important When Promoting Mobile Apps

Research shows that in 2018 there were nearly 4 million applications available for devices powered by Android; and over 2 million for iOS devices. What is more, the figures keep growing exponentially. With so high a level of competition on the mobile app market positioning in app stores is a crucially important part of every promotional strategy, as strong ASO generates organic downloads.  

According to a TechCrunch report over 80% of iOS applications are zombie apps. Zombie apps are applications that are not popular enough to get ranked among top 300 in their respective category, and thus, may only be found if you type in an exact search phrase, e.g. app name, in the App Store internal search engine. 

Owners of apps dedicated for the Android system, need not worry about becoming a zombie app owner, as Google Play operates on a slightly different basis than  the App Store; still, twice as many competitive apps might hinder reaching potential users significantly.

8 Essential Rules of App Store Optimization

App Store, optimization
App Store, optimization
Google Play, optimization
Google Play, optimization

1. Find a strong name

Name is one of the most important factors affecting app visibility in an app store.

To decide upon a name you should above all keep to the guidelines and mind the restrictions enforced by either Google Play or the App Store, such as character limit (50 characters for Android powered devices; 30 for iOS). Make sure the name is universal – if you intend to distribute your app via a variety of platforms, uniform naming is preferable. Hence, it is advised to comply with a more demanding restriction, for instance, create names shorter than 30 characters, even if Google Play allows 50-character long names.

Imagine what your would-be users will see browsing an app store: an icon and a name, a part of your description and two chosen screenshots. Choose these elements so that they best inform users about the purpose and functions of your application immediately. The name ought to be simple, easy to remember and pronounce, unique yet contain no special characters, such as !, @, #, $, %, ^, &, * etc.

2. Use relevant keywords 

The right choice of keywords and their use in app description in an app store can determine its popularity. In the App Store, you are able to manually input you top keywords to define an app and help users find it.

In contrast, the issue is slightly more complicated for Google Play. The store automatically generates the most prominent keywords based on your app description. It does not follow, though, that you are free to overindulge in your description, as Google has no problem in distinguishing synonyms, besides which, keyword stuffing usually muddles up the description and makes it less user-friendly. It is best to just write an honest, informative text stating app functionalities and its advantages.

To choose strong keywords, consider using SEO software and keyword research tools. Most used choices include tools by Moz (Moz Keyword Explorer), Ahref (Ahrefs Keyword Explorer) or Uber Suggest (at neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/), but the list is hardly exhaustive. Senuto is a well recommended alternative tool for keywords in Polish. 

3. Prepare app description for app stores

When writing your description follow a few simple rules.

  • State the benefits which the app provides early on

People browsing an app store will only see a few opening sentences of your description. It is a good idea to inform them right then and there that they have found what they were looking for.

  • Keep it factual, not promotional

Users search for reliable information on app functionalities, so a simple description of features will work much better that advertising promises.

  • Ensure clarity

Preferably, employ short and concise paragraphs, make use of bullet points and communicate clear messages to avoid ambiguity

4. Prepare an intriguing icon that stands out

Choosing the right icon is like choosing the right name. App branding is, however, a wider term, and may involve a holistic approach to your product visual identification system.

A solution employed often enough is to utilise a company logo or a part of it, e.g. an emblem or its variation as an application icon. This particular solution works well with well-known brands and is basically obligatory for online businesses. Examples are far and many, for instance, have a look at the application for the x-kom online store. 

x-kom icon
x-kom icon

When it comes to press applications, icons loosely based of the logo are preferred, with WIRED, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal being the best examples. These represent elegant icons, which explicitly suggest their content, and yet they directly reference their source logo at the same time.

magazines app icons
magazines app icons

5. Use graphics to illustrate your description

Photos and screenshots complement app functionality description perfectly. A few rules to remember follow below.

  • Stay up-to-date

It is particularly important for applications which require frequent updating. App store graphics have to display their latest version. 

  • Communicate benefits in customers’ language

Bear in mind that benefits which are not directly connected with the main functionality, for instance, a possibility to track price fluctuations, could be communicated via a screenshot. 

  • Ensure photos are ordered accordingly

Both Google Play and the App Store allow app owners to upload more pictures that a user sees when they enter an app’s product detail website. When they do, what they initially see are only the first two or three pictures. It is thus essential to choose such graphics that will encourage further exploration. Appealing looks also influence the number of times an app is downloaded.x-kom screen

  • Maintain graphic coherence, but do foster diversity in display

The pictures should represent a possibly wide range of functions available through the app; keep in mind, though, to uphold a coherent character of the materials provided. Even though each picture is an independent graphic, they will appear next to each other in app stores by default. This makes users perceive them as a whole. Make sure you present a seamless arrangement, at least concept-centred, if not compositionally smooth.

Alternatively, you might use preview videos and recordings presenting the main functionalities. Carefully avoid lengthy and countless presentations, though, with an obvious exception of entertainment applications, where the more, the better.

6. Update regularly

Replying to user comments and informing them about the latest bug fixes positively influences user assessment and ultimately improves in-store ratings. This does not entail a continuous need to add new functions or to reorganise the app itself, although app support is always welcome if only to fix bugs which were found by the users.

7. Ask for rating and reviews

Many applications request users to rate an app in app stores. And for a good reason, too, as user ratings directly translate into app visibility in search results and app store listings. Still, many app owners make a mistake in pestering users with annoying pop-up requests to evaluate the app, while these request should be subtle and hinder no in-app functionality. It seems the most effective way to ask for comments is to wait for an opportune moment, e.g. right after a purchase or a comment on the m-store transaction flow.

Naturally, what also matters is the rating itself. It is particularly the latest comments that carry the impact. A 2017 research report by Incipia shows that fresh reviews are seven times more likely to affect a user’s decision to install an app than an overall average rating received since its launch. If recent user ratings tend to diverge from your expectations, it is high time the problem was identified and fixed.

Additionally, user reviews and ratings constitute an important source of information on the possible directions of product development. Bear in mind, though, that an app store is only one of the many possible places where Internet users may leave a comment on your app. It seems to be a good idea to monitor the Internet and the social media key to your target group, as well as review aggregator websites.

8. Localise your app

If a mobile app is meant for the international market, it is a recommended practice to localise your application product detail page, i.e. to create an independent language version for foreign users. Spanish and Chinese, as well as other popular European languages such as French, German or Russian, may significantly increase the number of installs among non-English speakers. Do remember that mobile devices are used world wide, whereas English, while dominant, is not used communicatively all over the world. 

To translate your application product detail site well, it is worth complying with the translation guidelines advocated by Google: avoid word-for-word translation in favour of localising, in other words, use contextual translation. It could make a difference as foreign language speakers may search for your application in a variety of ways using phrases alien to your native tongue. 

Positioning Mobile Applications ASO – A Summary

Mobile application market is growing dynamically. Appearance and store functions also undergo modifications, for instance, the App Store is modified once or twice a year on average (a most recent announcement regarding its reconstruction was released this year at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference). And Google Play keeps changing just as regularly, albeit the changes are more subtle (pertaining, for example, to algorithms). Tasks regarding the App Store Optimization change as a consequence. Therefore, appropriate ASO includes in its main part keeping up with the implemented changes in order to react accordingly by means of well-thought-out updates for your app product detail site… or the app itself. After all, it is the application that matters the most.