With the new products, improvements, and enhancements in the various app stores, how has app store discoverability been affected?
What impact will these changes have on App Store Optimization (ASO)?
2015 has been an intense year for the app industry: new products, new improvements and major enhancements have surfaced. Apple and Google, the two dominant players, have both released considerable developments. Find below 7 key ASO takeaways from 2015.
Looking back at 2015, can we predict 2016 to keep up the pace, granting the app ecosystem a plethora of innovations and developments? Only time will tell, although it is most likely that this crazy mobile world will maintain its amplification. Or should we say, rather, “appification”?
2015’s novelties have certainly impacted the way we behave towards our mobile devices, especially with the recent technological improvements brought to apps. The user experience is getting more personalized and cross-functional. App developers, therefore, are confronted with a new type of user who is more demanding, with higher expectations.
Apps are today real experiences, answering questions, solving problems, entertaining their users and simplifying their lives.
To succeed in the app world today, a whole new set of elements are required. Not only should app developers emphasize the quality of their apps, but they also need to build a powerful app marketing strategy.
App Store Optimization (ASO) remains a major focus for app developers and marketers willing to optimize their acquisition campaigns. ASO is indeed a powerful weapon to increase app store visibility, discoverability and, ultimately, conversion.
Let’s review the 7 major novelties brought by Apple and Google in 2015 and how these affected App Store Optimization.
1. App Store Algorithm Update (November 3rd)
Given that 65% of apps are downloaded after a search made directly in the store and knowing that there are about 1.5 million of app in the Apple App store, app store discovery has become a major focus for app stores’ players.
The App Store is unfortunately characterized by a notable imbalance, where bigger publishers with higher marketing budgets can obviously be found much more easily than small studios or indie developers.
Consequently, smaller app players, baffled by this uneven competition, struggle every day to get their app noticed by users, and many of them fail.
Moreover, the App Store algorithm has shown certain flaws, especially for smaller apps, as it mostly relied on downloads and apps rankings.
Apple has recently made several moves attempting to help and encourage smaller actors. One of these is the adjustment of its App Store algorithm, which is now a lot smarter, especially regarding keywords rankings.
Since November 3rd, search results are now more relevant as a whole new set of variables have been implemented in the equations. Here are a few things to know:
- Competitors from the same sub-categories (automatically organized by Apple’s Ottocat system) now appear in the search results.
- Contextual keywords match apps that don’t necessarily target them. The algorithm now associates apps with keywords targeted by their competitors or with keywords from the same semantic field (words grouped by meaning). For example, if you rank well for “house”, you have high chances to rank for “home” as well.
- Keywords with similar spelling can also be associated. For example “slot” and “sloth” are likely to be coupled by the algorithm. In this case, this is not optimal as their meaning differs drastically, but it is a smart way to incorporate spelling mistakes into the equations (“friends” and “freinds” for instance).
- Apps with similar core functionality and on-page elements will be linked in a certain way. The point is to provide users with more accurate results and therefore with relevant apps that match the search but might not have specifically targeted the keywords in question.
It is actually the first time that Apple has ranked apps for keywords not in their app title or keyword field. This opens up new opportunities for app developers, as their apps will appear in more search results, which will be more relevant for App Store users.
- Choose the best categories for your apps.
- Don’t use your competitors’ app name in your keyword field as you already stand high chances to rank for them automatically.
- Optimize your app’s content and in-apps purchases with strong keywords.
- Place the most important keywords at the very beginning of your app title, even before your branding name. Focus on the first 55 characters.
- Use A/B testing to increase conversion rate.
- Use relevant keywords as search conversion is taken into account by the algorithm.
2. iOS9: Search API and Deep Linking
Another important milestone for Apple was the implementation of universal deep linking. Now, apps are all linked together with deep links so we can navigate between them.
This resonates with Apple’s new trend to offer a smarter, proactive and more personal experience to its users.
Also, a new search API has been integrated into the Search feature, displaying content from the web as well as from third-party apps, even from apps that aren’t installed on the device.
This was great news for app developers as their apps can now be found in a place other than than the App Store. At the same time, it helps to increase app retention.
- Build a powerful deep linking strategy. Don’t miss this great opportunity to show off your app.
- Carefully link app content with relevant and strong keywords.
3. Ad-Blocking Expansion
2015 is also the year that Apple allowed ad-blocking apps. Indeed, it was the first time that iOS users were able to block ads on their iOS browsers.
Since roughly 27% of Internet users block ads, it is not surprising that ad blocking apps encountered huge successes among App Store users. These new apps reached top charts right after the launch.
This was inevitably a game changer for publishers relying on ad revenue, which are now forced to find alternative revenue models like native-looking ads, branded articles or pay walls.
It also highlights once again that Apple wants to offer the best experience possible to its users and that an intrusive marketing strategy should not be the (only) way to go.
This game changer also means new opportunities. App developers need to find new revenue models and adjust their app marketing strategy. It also indicates that App Store Optimization remains the safest way to attract quality and organic users.
4. New Analytics
In addition to the existing data: downloads, revenues, regional popularity, product page views and time spent in-app, Apple’s new analytics now allows app developers to track their app technical performance (number of crashes per day for example) but also counts users based on Apple ID rather than on device type.
But that’s not all. Apple went deeper by letting app developers measure and compare their conversion rates, sales per paying or sessions per active device.
Once more, Apple wants to insist on quality. By offering more data, it helps app developers better understand their audience and their app’s performance, which encourages them to improve.
Conversion, retention and engagement have never been more important, as these metrics are definitely taken into account in the new algorithm.
- Build a great product that will make users come back again.
- Don’t forget to use push notifications cleverly.
- Focus on tweaking and iterating (A/B testing) your meta-data, as these can increase their conversion rate.
5. New Shopping Category
Apple launched a new “Shopping” category, which includes shopping apps that were previously listed in the App Store’s “Lifestyle” section.
The whole point behind this new classification is, once again, to offer a better user experience by simplifying users’ searches.
This has improved shopping apps’ discoverability, as the “Lifestyle” category offers a whole different set of applications and begun to be saturated.
This was great news for developers and marketers who saw their category rankings increase and therefore, their visibility and organic downloads boosted.
6. Apple Watch
2015 is also the year of the Apple Watch’s arrival. Although its launch was controversial, this new wearable device certainly offers new opportunities for both its users and app developers. App publishers now have a new playing field right on their users’ wrists.
As the amount of space available on the Watch is extremely small, and as users’ attention remains minimal, app developers need to focus on the essentials to provide users the best experience possible.
If done well, these apps could dramatically increase engagement and, therefore, app rankings, visibility and positive reviews.
If it’s possible and relevant, app developers should not hesitate to create a compatible version of their apps for the Apple Watch. Competition is still low, so there are more chances to get discovered. But it’s important to make sure that users get value out of these apps.
- Is your app worth being on a Watch? If so, make it compatible.
- Don’t forget to include the keyword “watch” in your keywords field.
- Try to find some interesting long-tail keywords combinations as well.
7. New App Indexing and App Streaming
If we take a look on the other side, 2015 was also a great year for Google. Along with Apple, Google seeks to improve users’ experience as much as possible. While mobile applications are slowly eating the web, new technologies have been tested (and will most likely be implemented) to provide better search results.
Google has recently announced two new test functionalities: app indexing and app streaming.
It’s been two years since Google started indexing app content. Today, we count over 100 billion deep links into apps in their index. Actually, 40% of Android searches show app content.
These new features will certainly give a huge boost to an app’s visibility. Plus, they allow users to benefit from great and relevant app content and even get a real experience of the app without downloading it. It’s all about making apps more accessible and discoverable.
- Optimize your app for app indexing with great keywords and content.
- Focus on users’ experience to maximize conversion.
What’s new (and huge) is that apps not matching any web content will also be indexed and shown in the results (“app-first” content).
Moreover, Google has implemented a “stream” option, which will allow users to experience some apps they don’t even have installed, right from Google Search.
With the advancements in app marketing analytics, 2015 has confirmed that retention and engagement are the key metrics to focus on. App developers and marketers will be increasingly able to analyze their users’ behaviors on key moments. This will lead to predictive marketing techniques, using much more personal and effective communications.
Deep linking and app-streaming show that mobile applications are now everywhere and very accessible.
App developers and marketers should focus on the quality of their apps and marketing efforts to offer the best experience to their users.
Nevertheless, user acquisition and conversion remain essential metrics as they’re right at the top of the funnel.
App Store Optimization is the most cost-effective technique to drive organic downloads. Keywords optimization is more than ever essential. Great and optimized visuals (app icon, screenshots, video) will help convert users, along with positive app reviews.
Succeeding in the app business is not a piece of cake. But a lot of new improvements, tools and technologies have surfaced to help app developers and marketers achieve their objectives.