Want your app to have better visibility in the stores? To get more organic downloads? Maybe lower UA costs? Learn how to fully optimize your app or game and find the right ASO strategy. After reading this 2020 ASO Guide, you will know everything about App Store and Google Play rules and specificities and the best practices for each store. But before going into the details… Let’s start with the basics: what is ASO?

What is ASO?

ASO -as everyone in the App Marketing industry should know- is the acronym for App Store Optimization (AKA App Store SEO). It is the process of optimizing a mobile game or app with the following objectives:

  • Make the product more visible on the stores (Google Play Store & Apple App Store) both in Search and in Explore (when users are browsing the stores – Featured, Tops Charts & Similar / Related Apps)
  • Increase the traffic and downloads
  • Improve the conversion rate to download (CVR) & get the maximum volume of organic downloads

ASO is the base of every mobile growth strategy and it enables you to reduce User Acquisition (UA) costs and get more organic traffic to your listing in both stores.

To make it clear and simple, here is how we could sum it up:

ASO = traffic + conversion

In this post, we’ll explain to you all you need to know about both stores and their own specificities, but always keep in mind that they are constantly changing, and so is ASO.

How does ASO work?

App Store Optimization depends on various factors, that can be divided into two categories: the on-metadata factors and the off-metadata factors. Let’s see them in detail.

1. On-metadata factors

The on-metadata factors are the elements of a store listing/product page that can be directly and fully controlled and modified by the developer.

Here are the different on-metadata factors you can find on the App Store & Google Play:

  • App Name / Title
  • Subtitle / Short Description
  • Promotional Text (only on the App Store)
  • Description
  • Keywords field (only on the App Store)
  • Visual assets: icons, screenshots, and videos
  • Listing localization
  • Developer name (only on Google Play)
  • URL (Google Play, ⚠️  can’t be modified after the app is launched))
  • In-App Purchases names (App Store)

Optimizing them will enable you to get better keywords rankings and thus rank higher on Search & Explore, and also to improve your CR to download.

2. Off-metadata factors

The off-metadata factors are the ones that cannot be directly controlled by the developer, which means that they are external factors.

Within these elements you will find:

  • Downloads (volume and speed)
  • User Ratings & Reviews
  • Backlinks (only on Google Play) – the more backlinks, the more visibility on Google Play (and Google web)
  • User engagement

In other words, ASO = on-metadata factors + off-metadata factors.

Keep in mind that ASO is not a magic wand and cannot give you results from one day to another, it is a process that you need to work on with a long-term strategy.

ASO Strategies

Knowing that you have to work on App Store Optimization and optimize your listing/product page is one thing, but knowing how to do so is something else. Let’s see how to implement an effective strategy for your app to get more visibility and downloads.

1. Keyword research

Studying the right app keywords that you need to work on is the very first step to your ASO strategy. Ideally, the best is to try and work on keywords with:

  1. High relevance (that are in relation to the market of your app)
  2. High traffic (that has a high search volume by users in Search)
  3. Low difficulty (that few competitors are ranking for these keywords)

However, you need to take into account that your keyword research will be different according to your app. For example, if your app has just been launched, you should try and target mid / long-tail keywords and with low difficulty to begin with and start ranking easily, to them change and work with keywords getting more traffic and a bit more difficulty to compete with your competitors.

If you are having a hard time finding your keywords, you can use a keyword research tool such as TheTool.

💡 Don’t forget to localize your app, i.e. make your app available worldwide and optimize all languages in the listing.

2. Start optimizing!

Now that you have found the right keywords to work with, you can start focusing on increasing visibility and CVR.

Visibility

Add keywords to strategics fields for each store. On Apple App Store, you can (and should!) add them in the App Name (30 characters), in the Subtitle (30 characters) and in the keywords field (100 characters).

On Google Play Store, there is much more space available to add your keywords: the title (30 characters), the short description (80 characters) and the description (4.000 – ⚠️ don’t do keyword stuffing).

Working on selected keywords in these strategic fields for both stores will enable to increase your app’s visibility. But what about your conversion rate?

Conversion Rate

Visuals have a really high impact on CR. To know what to work with, you can do A / B testing to discover what works best for your app/game. On Google Play Store, you can proceed to A / B testing within its proper A / B testing tool in its Console, for every element of your listing (texts, visuals) but videos. Apple App Store, on the contrary, doesn’t have any tool to proceed to A / B testing, so you will have to do it with an external tool such as the great one from our friends at SplitMetrics.

💡 You can actually test one thing with Apple App Store called Creative Sets, but it is quite limited & you have to run Apple Search Ads (ASA) to do so, which means that you need to pay for it. When doing ASA, you can choose different orders you want your screenshots to appear, and you then get the result of which of the option is getting the best results.

3. Monitor your KPIs

There are a lot of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you should monitor on a regular basis (at least once a week, more often if you can) if you want to keep track of how your app and your ASO strategy are doing.

Among these KPIs, you will find:

  • Keyword rankings

Keyword Rankings Distribution for Mario Kart Tour in TheTool

  • Volume of installs (per country, organic & non-organic)
  • Organic uplift (relation between organic & non-organic downloads)
  • Top Charts visibility (overall & categories)
  • Conversion Rate to download
  • Revenue from organic installs (In-App Purchases, ads)
  • Featured
  • Similar Apps visibility (on Google Play) – SVRank and Referring apps (evolution, changes)

Also, do not forget to always have an eye on your competitors, their updates, the changes in their app and their listing, to always be up to date.

💡 An insight on Similar Apps: 

When scrolling down in a Google Play Store listing, the Similar Apps Cards tab shows “related” apps. This is a way of gaining visibility through Explore. According to our experience, these are the factors that impact Similar Apps visibility: 

  • Topic: natural language recognition (on-metadata optimization: Title, Description, Short description, keywords on user reviews…) by Google Brain (machine learning)
  • Topic: image recognition (shapes, colors, and style of the icon + screenshots) by Google Brain (machine learning)
  • Rating volume and average rating
  • Category
  • Android vitals
  • Downloads volume

Call of Duty Mobile SVRank evolution in the US – TheTool

Call of Duty Mobile Referring Apps in the US – TheTool

Now you know what to do to optimize your listing/product page, we’re going to share with you some tips on how to make your app stand out from the competition and reach the top! 🚀

ASO best practices

1. Choose a great App Name / Title

The title, together with the icon, is the first thing that the users will see when discovering your app in the stores. The name should depict the app’s purpose/use, be clear and catchy. You can also add a few keywords to it, to improve app rankings and make users understand better the use of the app. You can follow this structure:

Brand name + keyword 1 + keyword 2

Keywords in the App Name / Title are granted a big weight from the stores, so you should make the most out of it!

2. Work on a remarkable icon

As for the App Name / Title, having an optimized icon is very important. Make your icon clear and explanatory for users to understand what the app is about. You could decide to go for a very distinctive logo, with the aim to differentiate you from the competition. You could also decide to work on a similar logo with the idea that the app could appear in the similar app section of its competitors.

Having said that, you might wonder: what should I do then? A / B testing! What we advise you to do is to try different options and see how they work to find out which one of them will bring you more traffic + downloads.

💡 For the Apple App Store, keep in mind the new iOS 13 dark mode and what it implies for app product pages. The visual (logo + screenshots) can be perfectly visible in light mode, but go completely unnoticed in dark mode.

3. A / B test everything you can

As we just mentioned for the icon, you should also A / B test every element possible for you to know exactly what works best. Before proceeding to a change in the listing/product page of your app, you should use an A / B test tool to know what to go for. To obtain the best insights possible, test each change separately.

4. Keyword research for the win

Keyword research is more than important to your ASO strategy. Start working on it at the earliest stage possible, before even launching the app/game if it’s possible for everything to be optimized and ready for when you release it. Try to find as many keywords and keyword combinations in relation to your app, its market, its functionalities and what users would type when looking for it.

5. Localize your listing/product page

If your app is available in different countries, you should not only translate the original content but adapt it to every country it will be available in. Each country has its own culture, its own habits, and its own behavior, so do not forget to adapt the content of the listing/product page every time you open the app to another country such as texts and screenshots.

6. Pay attention to your app’s weight

You should not make it weigh more than 100MB as if users want to try and download your app without having a WiFi connection, they will most likely not be able to download it if it weighs too much. And in that case, there is a low probability that the users come back afterward to download it.

7. Don’t forget about the quality of the app/game itself

Even though it might seem obvious, it might be one of the most important tips to keep in mind. Focusing on ASO, you might forget to keep your app updated and to pay attention to potential bugs.

However, you could have the best ASO strategy possible, if your app does not work properly, you won’t beneficiate from it. Thus, you always need to work hard on providing your users with the best app possible. Also, provide your users with a separate page to report bugs so that users do not leave negative reviews and low ratings.

8. Keep an eye on your competitors and be reactive

ASO is ever-changing, as are the store listing of your competitors, so keep in mind to monitor them on a regular basis, as well as any news on both stores, not to miss anything. Be reactive and do not hesitate to update your listing.

Conclusion

In the end, ASO as a whole is a combination of many aspects and you need to work on every single one for your strategy to be effective. Keep the guidelines of each store and the best practices in mind when implementing your strategy and above all, don’t be afraid to try! Happy optimizing and if you like the article, feel free to share 😉

Maud Panier

Content & Social Media Manager at TheTool
Maud Panier is Content & Social Media Manager at TheTool. She enjoys sports, traveling and is always willing to discover new things and to face new challenges.

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