Introduction to App Store Optimization
With over 6 million apps available for download between the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, it can be tough to ensure that yours stands out from the crowd. The good news is, there is a process called (ASO), a critically important part of launching and maintaining your application, that will help make your product page the best it can be. works similarly to SEO for websites, in that creativity and smart use of technical elements are leveraged to increase visibility and improve rankings in search. The guidelines for app store submissions and listings changes frequently, so ASO will always be a work in progress, but it’s one that you can’t afford not to be keeping up with. Read on for tips on making the most of your app store presence.
Let’s begin with a quick overview of the product page. In the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the first view on the product page will look like this:
Apple App Store Listing Elements
Google Play Store Listing Elements
Importance of Keywords
Keywords are hugely important to ASO, and using them successfully will require a good understanding of your targeted customer base. Your app product page will be scanned for keywords and ranked accordingly, so consider this – there are keywords that are very general, concise and searched for the most, but apply to a large number of apps, making it hard for yours to climb the ranks and jump out. These are called short tail keywords. On the flipside, there are those that are very specific, typically a bit lengthier and searched for less frequently, but make it easier for your app to stand out when they are searched for. These are called mid or long tail keywords. The decision to use more of one or the other correlates to being a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond. When you’re just starting out, your chances of even being seen using only short tail keywords is minimal; therefor, it is advisable that you shoot for visibility using mid or long tail keywords. A match on long tail keywords makes it more probable that a user will find what he/she is looking for in your app, and will go ahead with a download. As your popularity (and thus visibility) grows, you can begin sprinkling in some short tail keywords to continue to boost your position amongst the competition.
When it comes to your app name/title, it is best to keep it short and simple. Include the most relevant keyword(s) you can think of without being too generic or similar to other apps. It lets your customer base know generally what your app does, and because their time and attention is limited, they’re more likely to click on your app because they have good reason to believe it’s related to what they’re looking for. This field is critical to catching users’ eyes.
- Apple App Store: App name can include up to 30 characters. May include keywords alongside your brand name to optimize the field.
- Google Play Store: App name can include up to 50 characters. May include keywords alongside your brand name to optimize the field.
These fields (subtitle in Apple App Store, short description in Google Play store) give a little bit more room to highlight the intended uses and most valuable features of your app in short hand – basically a continuation of your title field.
- Apple App Store: Subtitle field may contain up to 30 characters, and is intended to provide room for a concise and specific description of what your app does. Include keywords that are different from those used in the app name field.
- Google Play Store: Short description field may contain up to 80 characters, and is intended to be an intriguing foray into the full description. You can include emojis in your short description, and you should include keywords that are different from those used in the title field.
A simple yet striking icon will do wonders for your click-through rate (the percentage of users that click on your listing when it appears in a search list). If your logo is already known to users out in the world, be sure to use a version of that. If it isn’t, use a graphic that helps convey the purpose of your app without cluttering the image with additional text or too many visual elements. The quality of graphic matters a lot, so use a graphic artist to help you design an icon that looks sophisticated, clean and true to your brand. A graphic artist will also be able to ensure that your icon is high enough resolution to be legible no matter what size it appears in on each type of device.
Previews are short video clips that demonstrate to potential users what the functionality of your app is and what the user interface (UI) looks like. They should highlight the most visually compelling aspects of your app within the first few seconds to captivate viewers and encourage them to watch more. Be sure that the content of the video doesn’t preview any age-restricted content, as the listing is visible to users of any age.
- Apple App Store: May include up to three individual 30-second videos. Previews play automatically on mute, but may be unmuted by the viewer.
- Google Play Store: May include one video between 30 seconds and 2 minutes long. Will not play automatically.
Unique to Google Play Store product pages, the feature graphic is the main visual that you see when you click on an app. It may be a video, as referenced above, or it may be a still image. Make this feature graphic as striking as possible, and don’t load it up with text. Save your words for the text fields and instead use this space to captivate would-be users with the quality of your graphics.
Like the video previews, screenshots give viewers an idea of what your app’s UI looks like, along with highlighting what you consider to be the most valuable features. If your graphics aren’t eye-catching and/or don’t convey the value of your product, users will likely pass on downloading your app.
- Apple App Store: May include up to 10 screenshots, the first 1-3 of which may be visible to the viewer before scrolling.
- Google Play Store: May include up to 8 screenshots, which will not be visible to the viewer unless they scroll down on the page.
Unique to the Apple product page, there is a promotional text field that can be changed at any time to announce upcoming new features, showcase awards or disseminate other news, such as sales or promotions, that might be of interest to your users. This field allows for up to 170 characters. It does not affect keyword rank in search, so don’t worry about strategically placing any here.
This is where you’ll really get into the specifics of what your app does and how it provides value to your users. Use natural prose to connect with your potential customers and write in a way that stays true to the tone of your brand. Highlight the ways your app is unique, mention the accolades your app has received, and provide a distinct call-to-action to ensure that you drive downloads. Do not engage in keyword stuffing in this field – it should read naturally and easily and be a compelling pitch to users. Use as many characters as possible (after all, this is your chance to really communicate with potential users) but be sure to segment text appropriately into paragraphs or bulleted lists so as to be as clear as possible and avoid overwhelming readers. Keep in mind that the first sentence of your description should be the hook.
- Apple App Store: Description field allows for 4,000 characters. It does not affect keyword rank in search, so keyword stuffing would be not only off-putting to users, but also pointless. That’s not to say that no keywords should be included, just that you should leave out any that are extraneous. This field cannot be edited apart from the submission of a new version of your app, so plan accordingly. Anything temporary or experimental can be placed in promotional text instead.
- Google Play Store: Description field allows for 4,000 characters. Keywords should be peppered into natural prose, as this section will affect keyword ranking in search, but you will be penalized by Google for keyword stuffing.
Another field unique to the Apple product page, the keyword field is exactly what it sounds like – a field dedicated entirely to listing out any relevant keywords that you’re aiming to rank for. Only up to 100 characters are allowed, so to make the most of your space here, list out your keywords separated by commas but no spaces. Spaces are unnecessary and eat up your character allowance. Avoid duplicates, plural versions of previously listed keywords, unauthorized terms such as trademarks, irrelevant terms, competitor names, and offensive terms.
On Apple product pages, you can showcase up to 20 available in-app purchases before a user has downloaded your app. They each have their own name, promotional image and description, and may help show users what additional content is available from your app and clarify what types of features are not included in the base version. Google Play Store listings tell you whether in-app purchases are available, but the specifics of what they are does not become visible until after a user has downloaded your app.
Apple product pages contain a section dedicated to communicating changes made to your app. This is a good spot for announcing new features, bug-fixes, improvements, etc. Users like to see that you take their feedback to heart and continuously work to improve your product, and this is where you can show them that you’re doing just that.
Ratings and Reviews
While ratings and reviews aren’t a factor that is exclusively within your control, there are aspects of them that you can affect to help boost your ranking and conversion rate. Perhaps most importantly, stay on top of responding to feedback as much as possible. An average rating will be shown at the top of the section, with individual ratings and reviews listed beneath it. Users like to see developers responding to their questions and concerns, so a history of prompt responses, visible on the individual reviews, may help drive downloads.
- Apple App Store: The average rating applies only to the territory a specific user is in. The rating may be reset when a new version of your app is launched, but that capability is a double-edged sword. If you look to start fresh due to improvements made to bugs or issues that were eliciting negative ratings, users may see that you don’t have many ratings at all and move on without downloading your app. Conversely, if you had a lot of negative ratings that were tied to an issue you fixed, you may show a lower rating than what applies to the current version and deter downloads that way. Our advice is to use the reset feature sparingly to make sure that your volume of ratings doesn’t suffer unless the average rating drops low enough to truly call for it.
- Google Play Store: The average rating applies globally. Keyword ranking in search is affected by keywords used in reviews, so users that write thoughtful reviews can often help your rank for the included search terms.
Choosing the proper category for your app is crucial, as this is where the bulk of your visibility will come from. Users will see your app when they browse the category you’ve selected or filter their search results for that category.
- Apple App Store: You can assign two categories to your app – a primary and a secondary.
- Google Play Store: You can assign only one category to your app.
If you’re going to publish your app in multiple countries, you should seriously consider localizing your app listing for each one. This means choosing the most suitable graphics for the culture, having a native speaker help you write your listing in conversational language, choosing keywords that are appropriate for that particular market, etc. Basically, it means putting time and care into making the listing look as if this was the original market for your app rather than a blind translation into another language. Doing so will certainly help drive downloads in those other markets.
Improving Your Listing & A/B Testing
Just because you’ve chosen keywords and put them into place doesn’t mean that you can now sit back and leave your app page untouched for long periods of time. You’ll want to closely monitor your ranking in the stores and use data analytics and keyword tracking to make sure that you are keeping or improving your place amongst the competition. This may involve changing out or adjusting graphics, language, and keywords on an ongoing basis with each new release (or more frequently in the case of fields that allow changes between releases). How do you know which combination of things is driving the most downloads? Do A/B Testing. A/B testing pits two or more versions of your app store listing against each other to see which one has a better conversion rate.
- Apple App Store: Apple doesn’t have their own A/B testing tool built in, so you’ll have to hire an agency to create realistic looking landing pages and advertise them to users as if they were real store pages. The users’ behavior with regards to your simulated listings is tracked and that’s how you’ll know which is preferable.
- Google Play Store: Google has an A/B testing tool built right into the Play Console that allows you to set up a test. Send different versions of your listing to a percentage of consumers and it will track the conversion rate of each one for you. Once the experiment is complete, you’ll know which version to go with.
Mobile app marketing takes significant time and resources. If you don’t employ app store optimization, a lot of that effort can go to waste on an app that’s never even seen. When there are thousands of other similar apps competing for the top spot in the app stores, ASO gives you the best chance of standing out. AppIt Ventures designs our ASO strategy to help users discover your app, engage with it and download it, which increases your visibility on the app stores. Watch your number of installs grow as we work on optimizing your content, bringing you closer to your download, usage and monetization goals.
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