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Are you using App Store Optimization to increase downloads?

Are you looking for simple strategies that you can use to increase your app’s exposure and downloads?

In this post, you will discover a few elements of App Store Optimization that most app developers overlook, but can have a huge impact on your app downloads.

While the common strategy is to focus on the app name, keywords and the App Store description, there are some other components of App Store Optimization that can have a major impact on downloads.

1. Retention

During my interview with Matt Hall, co-creator of Crossy Road, something definitely stuck out to me. He said that while developing the game, he really focused on the game’s retention.

He knew that he could always test different monetization channels, but if he didn’t get retention right, then nothing else would matter.


Apple and Google tend to agree, as both companies have started to factor the app’s retention rate into how well the app should rank for a certain keyword.

While the focus of most app developers is to use different ASO hacks in order to increase exposure, I still believe that retention is one of the most overlooked components and can have a real impact on your app’s monetization potential.

Forgetting about retention is like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

In fact, big companies generally soft launch their apps in Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and other countries not named United States in order to make sure their retention mechanics are just right, so when they are ready to make a big splash and launch in the U.S. they have all the holes plugged.

2. An Engaging App Icon

If Steve Jobs can obsess over rounded corners while running a multi-billion dollar company, then you can spend a little time creating and testing an app icon that attracts users.

Too often, I come across a poorly designed app icon, even though the graphics of the actual game are incredible.

Running Facebook Ads, using a service like Split Metrics, or simply posting your app icon options to the App Entrepreneurs Facebook group will help you design and create an engaging app icon.


In fact, Google now allows you to A/B test app icons and screenshots in real-time. Genera Games reports that they increased downloads by 200% by simply testing different app icons. And the founder of Distant Sun reports that he saw an 8x increase in downloads after changing his app icon.

3. Marketing Screenshots

While Apple and Google call these assets “screenshots,” you, as an app developer, should think of them as marketing banners. The goal of these screenshots should be to convince the user that your app is worth the download.

The app icon and screenshot takes up the most screen real estate when you are doing a search within the App Store, so it’s important to make sure you are attracting the user to want to learn more about the app.


Use your screenshots to highlight your app’s benefits not features.

Use the AIDA formula of copywriting and incorporate it into your screenshots.

  • Attention: Whether it’s social proof, a unique selling point, or incredible graphics, the first screenshot should grab the user’s attention.
  • Interest: What makes your app different? Think about the problem you are solving.
  • Desire: Use social proof to make the user want to download the app. Having a good PR campaign can really help with this.
  • Action: Whether it’s a coupon code or a bonus for downloading the app, give users an incentive to download the app.

If you want to learn more about creating screenshots using this AIDA strategy, I wrote an in-depth guest post on the Tune blog that includes example screenshots.

4. Relevant Keywords as In-App Purchases

Did you know that the App Store indexes the keywords you use in your in-app purchases? It’s another opportunity to make sure you have relevant, search-friendly keywords as your in-app purchases.

I cringe anytime I see words like “premium” or “full access” as the name of the in-app purchases. It’s a wasted opportunity to use more search friendly keywords such as “unlimited workouts” or “offline recipes.”


App developers spend a lot of time trying to stuff their app names with keywords, but not enough time focusing on the keywords in their in-app purchases.

5. App Store Reviews

Another element that is indexed by the App Stores are the app’s reviews. Let me repeat that so you understand what I’m saying.

The keywords that users leave in their review for your app are indexed by the App Store.

This means App Store reviews can have a huge impact on your exposure and ultimately your downloads. While it’s common practice to use a pop-up to ask for a review, the better strategy is to guide the user towards your ultimate goal – a 5-star review.

While this topic can be blog post on its own, I’ll highlight two strategies to help you get more qualified App Store reviews.

One strategy is to ask the user how they are liking the app. If the user selects one to three stars then you take the user to a feedback form. If the user selects four or five stars then you ask them to leave a review on the App Store.  There’s a great free tool called SARate on Github that allows you to utilize this strategy.

Another strategy that is working really well for app developers is to time the review prompt when users are really excited or happy within your app. For example, game developers can prompt users for a review when they have just finished a level or championship. Another example would be when a productivity app asks for a review after a streak of using the app for 7 days.

I love this second strategy, because you are prompting the user during a natural break in the app and when he or she is enjoying your app the most.

To learn more about App Store reviews, I wrote a guest blog post on kissmetrics about 5 clever ways to increase App Store reviews.

You can also read my post on the quick and dirty way to get App store reviews.

6. Localization

It would be naive for us to assume that everyone in the world speaks English. And American English at that. While you don’t have to localize everything about your app, you should translate your app name and keywords.

A simple way to increase downloads is to localize your app name and keywords.

My friends at eTips, the number one publisher of travel apps, have seen increases of 200% in downloads just by localizing their app. Since localization can get expensive, eTips co-founder Gonzalo Juarez suggests that you translate the app name and keywords first.

Secondly, after you start seeing traction in a given language, you should then localize the marketing text on your screenshots and App Store description. Finally, the last thing you should do is localize the content within the app.

Another ninja tip is to hire two native speakers, one to do the initial translation and another to edit.

If you want to learn more about this strategy, there’s a great episode I recorded where one founder saw 10x downloads after localizing the app.


Focusing on your app name, keyword field, and app description for App Store Optimization is a good starting point for increased downloads. However, when you start optimizing the elements covered in the post above, you will have an even greater impact on your app’s downloads.

One Comment

  • Daniel Vasquez says:

    I’m digging the screenshot tip, now I understand what it means to use this as a marketing opportunity. I really like the acronym you used too. I also didn’t know about the keywords in In-App Purchases either. Thanks again for the value bombs.

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