ASO – 11 Ways To Increase You App Downloads

app store optimization

If you have an entrepreneurial mind (and if you’re reading this, the chances are that you do) you are probably able to see real-life problems that no one has solved yet. In a lot of cases, a solution can be provided in form of a mobile app – like these:

“I always forget what I have to do” – Wunderlist, there you go.

“I wish I could see where my friends are in real time” – Glimpse, five seconds.

“It’s a shame I don’t know how many miles I ran this morning” – Endomondo, now you know.

Developing a life-changing app is fairly easy, it just depends on one thing – money. There are multiple ways to get hold of that money, but I’m not going to discuss that now. Once your app is released, there is still one challenge that can stand in your way – distribution. Even though there are only a few markets to go for (iPhone, Android, Windows), your app listing can seem like it’s almost entirely out of your control. Or is it?

What is ASO?

App Store Optimization is very similar to SEO, except that it can have a more significant impact on an app listing than regular SEO does on Google result pages. ASO is the process of increasing the visibility of your app in the market. The higher the rank, the more users will find you app through organic searches. Once a user finds your app page, ASO also helps increase the chance that they will actually download it.

Why is this important?

The answer is quite simple. Most smartphone users discover new apps through app store searches. This means that people habitually browse Google Play or iTunes looking for cool, new apps to play with.

The overall app market is worth billions right now and is estimated to grow by 143 billion dollars over the next year and a half. This means that even a slight improvement in your app ranking will bring tangible results.

Okay, but how do you do it? Here are 11 ASO tactics that will help you claw your way up those rankings.

1. App Title

A good title is crucial. If you don’t optimize your title, you can forget about a good ranking on an app store. Unfortunately, there is so much confusing information about this around on the web, it can be hard to figure out what is good practice and what isn’t.

I can’t help you choose a name for your app, but here are some evergreen tactics for your title

  • 225 characters is the limit, but only 25 of them will show up in search result – make sure you put the essential words in that part.
  • Don’t use names that are already in use – it won’t win you more downloads if you use the name of a popular app, it will simply mean you get lost in the crowd.
  • Make sure your app name is short, easy to spell and easy to remember.
  • Try to reflect the nature of your app in its name – you don’t want users to get confused.

Add a description – there is plenty of space after the name for a description packed with relevant keywords. It’s a lot easier to rank well for keywords used in the title, but make sure it sounds like a natural sentence.

2. Description

A very important part of ASO. This is where you sell your app to potential users browsing the app market. It works a bit like the meta description tag for a website. It’s not searchable, so you don’t have to over-pack it with keywords. Treat it as a 3–4 sentence elevator pitch. Think about:

  • The default fold – put the most important information before it.
  • List benefits and features.
  • Include a call to action to make people feel they need to have it.
  • Include some social proof to help convince people how cool your app is (awards/reviews).

If want to see what your description will look like before your release your app to the store, use software like AppSnippetPreview. It does exactly what its title suggests.

app snippet preview

3. Keywords

This part of ASO applies to iOS only. In iTunes, you are given a field to include keywords you would like to rank for. You have only 100 characters of space, so you have to be smart about it. Here are a few tips:

  • Use single words rather than multiple-word phrases
  • Research your competitors’ keywords and go for ones that are untapped and less competitive.
  • Don’t repeat words used in the title.
  • Put the keywords in priority order.
  • Keep playing with your keywords – the ones that do not convert now, might convert in the future as your app becomes more popular.
  • Separate keywords with commas, don’t use spaces.

4. Icon

You only get one shot to make a great first impression. Your icon is the first thing that will draw users’ attention to your app – waste this chance and there’s a high risk users will just keep scrolling until they find something more interesting.

  • Think of something simple that represents your app.
  • Don’t use words – they won’t be visible on a tiny icon and they can make it look messy.
  • Make it consistent with your app design.
  • Keep trends in mind – you don’t have to follow them rigidly, but they are trends for a reason.
  • Don’t forget about details – users will see a small icon, but it also has to look great when scaled as well.
  • Remember it’s not just for an app store – if you’re thinking about making a brash design to get noticed, don’t forget it will also be displayed on your users’ phones. Give them something they will like to see there.

5. Screenshots

Screenshots are as important in the visual description of your app as the icon. Unless your app is featured, it’s the screenshot that your user will look at first after finding you in search results. The decision whether to click on your app or not is dependant on a good first screenshot, but it doesn’t mean that the other four don’t matter. They are your way of making users interested enough to download your app.

  • Show the ‘inside’ of your app, forget about splash screens.
  • Add explanations, arrows, tips etc. Keep it clear, but show what user can do inside your app.
  • Highlight your most popular and most needed features.
  • Convince users that your app is exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Localize your screenshots.

6. App Category

Category choice may be less important than your title or description, but that doesn’t mean you can overlook it. First of all, you need to remember that Apple will review if the category you choose really matches your app – if not, it will be rejected.

Sometimes the choice isn’t very obvious, so you can add your app to two categories.

  • Go through all the categories and choose the one that really fits your app. Here’s a nice list shared by Sensor Tower
  • If you’re choosing two categories, compare the apps that are in the top 5 of both of them and choose the group that’s less competitive as your primary category.

7. Reviews

Reviews are the social proof that can convince new users to download your app. A lack of reviews not only looks bad, there’s no way you can beat your competitors if you have no reviews at all. Writing reviews yourself from multiple accounts is not the best idea, but there are some ways to get your first reviews, and a chance for a good start:

  • Ask friends to use your app and give you good review.
  • Use tools like Appsfire and Appirater to boost your reviews.
  • Encourage users to write long reviews. It doesn’t really affect your ranking, but it can convince new users to download your app.
  • Read reviews of your competitors’ apps to find new keywords you can use yourself.
  • Listen to your users and answer their requests via updates to show that you care what they have to say.

8. Ratings

Adding ratings in App Store in synced with reviews, so pretty much the same rules apply here. It is another social proof for new users, and the one seen in search results. If your rating is low, the road to success is going to be really bumpy. You can’t force your users to rate your app, but it can’t hurt to ask them.

  • Display a popup asking for a review from people who use your app often. Just make sure you’re not being too annoying.
  • Ask your friends for few five-stars review to get started.
  • Make it easy for unhappy users to contact you before they leave negative ratings or reviews.
  • Offer upgrades and promo codes for five-star reviews.

9. Localization

So far, I’ve talked about optimizing your app listing for the English-language, international market. However, multiple case studies show that focusing on specific locations can drive huge growth. Localization means simply translating all of your app elements into whichever languages you decide to target. There can be some other, non-language elements to translate, such as measurement systems or other cultural aspects. First of all, you need to translate the metadata – app title, description and keywords. Your app will also need a little bit of reworking as well – instructions, notifications or any other text included. Localization can open the way to whole new markets where your English version won’t perform as well as a translated one (especially markets with different alphabets, like Chinese).

10. Pricing

Choosing the right pricing model plays a big part in app success. There are various models – completely free, free with ads, paid or freemium. The last (free with in-app purchases) is said to be the most profitable. Either way, you should keep playing with prices to discover what works best.

  • Do market research on apps in your category to discover the best pricing practices.
  • Consider temporary price cuts to boost downloads.
  • Schedule any price changes to coordinate with your own promotion activities or special dates (holidays etc.).

11. Traditional online marketing

Don’t forget to think outside the box (or outside the app market). Utilize traditional, online marketing channels to push downloads of your app. Some of your downloads will come from organic searches, but you can get more from your web-version landing page. That’s why one of the first things you should do is create a webpage dedicated to your app, with a clear CTA directing user to your app download. Once you have this, the possibilities for promotion are almost endless. To name just a few:

  • Press coverage on relevant blogs and in magazines.
  • App directory sites.
  • Reddit type sites.
  • Email marketing.
  • PPC
  • Content marketing

app landing page

As you can see, the performance of your app in an app store can be controlled and boosted using many different levers. This field is quite new, and good specialists are hard to find. However, there are already quite a few tools you can use to get ASO right. Do you know or use any? Tell us about them in the comments!