Elijah Masek-Kelly

App Store Optimization (ASO) can be a bit of a black box for some developers in the industry.

While many people are at least familiar with the term ASO, it's not always exactly clear what needs to be done in order to secure a top ranking in the app store. Part of the challenge to effective ASO is that the App Store and the Google Play Store actively keep their algorithm and ranking factors a secret.

This means that app publishers need to rely on marketers who actively investigate ranking factors and test their influence on ranking positions in order to drive more results from organic traffic. That said, there are a few known ranking factors that are important to note:

App Store Ranking Factors:

  • App Name
  • App URL
  • App Subtitle
  • Keyword Field
  • In-App Purchases
  • Ratings and Reviews
  • Update Cycle
  • Downloads and Engagement

Google Play Store Ranking Factors:

  • App Title
  • App Description
  • In-App Purchases
  • Ratings and Reviews
  • Update Cycle
  • Downloads and Engagement

As well-established as these ranking factors are, it is still unknown how much influence each factor has on the algorithm that suggests apps for organic discovery within these app stores. Furthermore, there are perhaps dozens more ranking factors that are still unknown or unproven.

In order to help app developers and app marketers discover a path to more successful ASO, Mobile Growth Association has connected with a few industry professionals to find out more about the secrets of effective ASO.

Here's what they had to say:

Conversion, Brand, and Emojis

Saheen C. Najeeb, Digital Marketing Analyst from Fingent, a multi-national IT firm, shared three smart ASO tactics that are commonly overlooked.

1. Optimize For Conversion — Not Keywords

While it's no secret that keywords are an important ranking factor, conversion rate optimization is often trumped by marketers who want to 'force' ASO rather than focus on another critical ranking factor: download rates.

"Optimize the short description for conversion by mentioning the social proof of the app rather than focusing on keywords. This can result in much better install rates," Najeeb says. "You also need to optimize the screenshots for conversions."

Ultimately, it doesn't matter if your app is easily discovered if it never gets downloaded. Further to this, a poor download to impression ratio could likely hurt your app's rankings more than a few missing keywords.

2. Build Your Brand By Creating A Connection Between Your App's Name And Active Search Terms

Optimizing for generic terms related to your app might seem appealing due to the search volume, but there will likely also be a ton of competition trying to rank for it. However, you can gain an advantage over the competition by encompassing important search terms and your app's name.

"This is a long term goal, but a key step in achieving this is by adding an ASO keyword that is most relevant / best describes your app to the app name," Najeeb says. "By doing this you’ll notice the number of people searching for your brand growing over time, but make sure to choose an ASO keyword, which has search volume that other apps aren’t ranking for."

3. Use Emojis To Stand Out!

There are literally millions of apps out there and it is more than likely that there are countless competitors for every great app concept. "Nowadays everyone knows all the optimization tricks in the book so you need to get creative," Najeeb says. "Use emojis to stand out and make your app more appealing."

Emojis are a great way to express more within a limited character count, but remember to use them with a focus on conversion rate optimization. It's important to use emojis to convince users that your app holds some potential value to them, not confuse them with vague symbols.

App Icons and Online Presence

Vlad Gachi, iOS Developer at Degree53, a mobile app development company, shared two strong points that are often underestimated when it considering ASO.

1. Optimize Your App Icon

If you want to get serious about ASO, then you need to consider every factor that can be influenced by your input. One item that typically doesn't get too much attention is the app icon.

"The app icon also plays a role in ASO - it needs to be clear and stand out," Gachi says. "For example, if it has the app's title in it, it needs to be clear and legible. If it's a graphic, it also shouldn't look cluttered. We recommend sticking to only a few colours and elements to create a minimalist design."

First impressions are critically important when it comes to conversion rates and your app icon very well may be the first thing that any user sees.

2. Online Presence

The first thing that most marketers think of when it comes to ASO is what can they influence within the app stores themselves. However, it's important to understand that organic traffic doesn't have to be built exclusively within the app stores.

"It also helps to build online presence around the app by creating social media accounts or sharing it on other relevant platforms," Gachi says. "Developers can create a community around it to involve their audiences as early on as possible, sharing development progress, ideas, new features, ask questions and feedback to find out what users would like to see from the product."

There are countless channels outside of the app stores that can drive audience attention and it's important build paths from your online presence that lead back to your app.

Build A Comprehensive Campaign

Foolishly, many marketers see ASO as a strategy limited to keywords and a few input fields provided by the app stores. However, for those who wish to truly maximize their ASO and ultimately, find sustainable success for their app, it's critical to build a comprehensive campaign that supports their marketing goals.

Kent Lewis, President and Founder of Anvil Media, one of the oldest search engine marketing firms in the Pacific Northwest, shared a few succinct steps that accurately reflect this endeavour. "Look beyond standard App Store Optimization (ASO) for maximum visibility and downloads. I recommend taking the following four steps to launch an app online," Lewis says.

Here are his 4 steps:

  1. Embrace App Store Optimization to cover the largest actionable audience at the bottom of the sales funnel
  2. Build and optimize an app website to maximize total reach and maximize control
  3. Create a targeted ad campaign in app stores, on Google, and relevant end-user sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, industry publications, etc.
  4. Develop a supporting PR campaign, including outreach to app/tech magazines/blogs, business trades, and industry vertical publications.

Successful app marketing is never siloed to any one strategy. Focus on a wide spectrum of tactics, understand the entire user journey, and optimize based on results to unlock the full potential of ASO.