ASO is dead!
You see the same people that said app store optimization (ASO) no longer drove downloads were the same people flooding the App Store with poorly made reskins. They were relying on driving downloads through spamming their app names, but eventually the app stores caught on and started penalizing them for these tactics.
I’m not claiming to be innocent here. I also did the same thing.
I’m not proud of my reskins, but I was testing a few strategies and the apps were actually driving downloads and incremental revenues. However, once the app stores started changing their algorithm, I knew that quality was eventually going to win in the end.
So… as more people moved away from ASO, I started digging deeper. I made a commitment to double down on ASO as a viable strategy to drive downloads.
And it’s paying off…
We’ve been able to increase downloads for our clients by 20–100%. In fact, we had one client where we 5X downloads using nothing but ASO.
Here are seven of our advanced ASO strategies that you can use on your own and increase downloads. Be warned there are a few black hat strategies coming up.
1. Use Two ASO Platforms
First you want to compile a large list of keywords mixed with general head terms and long tail terms.
Here are a few of our favorite tools to do just that:
Next you want to get the traffic and competition scores for each keyword using two ASO platforms.
We use Sensor Tower and Mobile Action to gather our data. The reason I like using two is that different ASO tools have different ways of gathering data, so rather than just putting your complete trust in one, it’s always good to get data from two sources.
When looking at competition scores which show you how likely you will rank in the top 10 for a keyword, you can see that just using one tool isn’t always accurate. However, when both tools show that there is little competition for a keyword, you can see we generally rank high for that particular keyword.
2. Double Check Traffic Scores with Apple Search Ads
The sweet spot to increasing your downloads is finding keywords that have high traffic scores (above a 3) and low competition (less than 2). The key is to find keywords that have decent traffic scores otherwise ranking highly for them won’t generate any impact on downloads.
After we look at the data from the two ASO tools, we narrow our list to 3–5 relevant keywords that we want to target in the app name (the most weight for ASO).
While almost all the ASO tools have incorporated Apple Search scores into their traffic scores, we use Apple Search Ads to double check the traffic to make sure we are targeting keywords with the most traffic.
While Apple won’t reveal the actual scores, it’s good practice to double check the scores given by the ASO tools to make sure the keywords you are targeting actually have the traffic needed to drive downloads.
From our experience, both Mobile Action and Sensor Tower have had keywords where their traffic scores were dramatically different from Apple.
3. Double Your Keywords with Localization
This strategy is only relevant to Apple and one of the reasons why I love focusing our ASO efforts on iOS.
There is a 100 character limit on the App Store keywords field and 50 character limit on the App Store name, however, Apple indexes more than one set of localizations in each App Store territory.
For example, the U.S. App Store indexes the Spanish (Mexico) localization meaning that if someone searches in English for a keyword that you have in English but in your Spanish (Mexico) localization you will rank for that term.
If you look at the data below, you will see our clients are ranking for keywords that we only have in the Spanish (Mexico) localization.
When optimizing for the US App Store, we typically put low traffic, low competition keywords into the Spanish (Mexico) localization and the higher traffic keywords into the main US localization.
4. Apple Search Ads
Apple Search Ads is an efficient and easy way to help people discover your app on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. Currently it is only available in the United States.
The ads appear in the search results when a user searches for keyword in the App store.
According to Apple, 65% of app downloads come from app store search results which means there is a huge opportunity for developers looking to take advantage of this program while it’s still in its infancy.
Currently, Apple is giving away a free $100 credit for signing up and early reports from members of the App Masters Elite mastermind show that keyword rankings have increased due to running the ads.
5. Search Boost
A Search Boost campaign involves getting people to search for your target keyword and download your app.
This black hat strategy increases your ranking for that keyword since the App Store algorithm takes into account the relevancy of a keyword to the download. This is also why your keyword rankings increase when running Apple Search Ads.
We recommend using this strategy when your app ranks #5 to #20 for a given keyword, anything higher than 20 may be too difficult to get it to move.
For one of our apps, we went from ranking #18 to #1 for the keyword “paintball”.
There are two ways to run this campaign:
1) You can hire us to help you run it. Check out our indie packages.
2) Jason Van Buiten, creator of Review Command, suggests using Amazon mTurk. You can create a task where you get works to search for a keyword, ask them to download your app and then have them fill out a survey about the app.
Budget will depend on the country that you target. If you are targeting the U.S. you will get more workers but you will also have to pay each worker a bit more.
6. App Store Reviews
When people discover an app through search, they are comparing your app with the other results and one of the deciding factors to downloading an app is the number of reviews and the average star rating.
Having quality App Store reviews help you rank better for your target keywords and increases your conversion rate.
To encourage your current users to leave a review, Ian Small, CEO of Audiobooks.com suggests that “for every new app release, prompt your highly-engaged customers to review the app. They’re likely to provide positive feedback which will drive up your app’s rating, contributing to higher ranking in the app store (and therefore more downloads).”
If you want to venture into the world of Black Hat ASO, you can buy app store reviews where you get users to leave your target keywords in those reviews. We’ve seen dramatic increases in rankings by using this strategy.
We also have an indie package where we will write 30 high quality reviews and submit them into the app store. When running this strategy, make sure you don’t get too many reviews too quickly. Obtaining too many reviews will signal to the App Stores that something fishy is going on.
Localizing your app for different languages and countries can be hugely successful, but also very costly.
That’s why we recommend following a strategy that Jason Van Buiten shared on his podcast interview.
You can listen to it below:
He again recommends using Amazon mTurk to get workers from other countries to provide keywords in their native language.
In the task you explain your app in English and tell the workers to give 10 keywords in their own language that they would use to search for this app.
Jason tripled his downloads using this strategy and is one of the most cost effective strategies to localizing your app.
Now I run an app marketing agency where we’ve helped 8 clients get featured by Apple, 5X downloads with ASO, and get coverage on Techcrunch, Mashable, Venture Beat and other major publications. I also write about apps on The Next Web, Entrepreneur.com, and on my blog AppMasters.co.