Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

6 Tips to Get You Started With App Store Optimization

4 min read

Launching your app? Learn the best app store optimizations to improve visibility and increase downloads.

The moment has come, you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into building your app, and you’re ready to launch. Once it finally launches, there is nothing worse than all your hard work translating to disappointing performance. Downloads are stagnant, and what you thought would be a huge success is quickly fizzling out. What happened? Why do some apps take off quickly while others fail?

The answer is simple: It doesn’t matter how great your app is if customers can’t find it. The majority of apps, 63 percent, are discovered through app store searches, according to Forrester. With more than 1.5 million apps available, if you aren’t found through basic searches, you are missing out on a core segment of your audience. Rising to the top of search results, however, is made easier through app store optimization.

What Is App Store Optimization?

For years, developers have used search engine optimization (SEO) to drive more traffic to websites. ASO is similar in strategy; however, instead of driving traffic to a website, it’s focused on driving traffic to your app through increase rankings in app store search results. You can think of ASO as app store SEO.

The primary goal of ASO is to increase the visibility of your app. Once you start driving more traffic to your app page, downloads will naturally start to increase, which will provide additional traction for getting found in search results. But to accomplish this, you must understand the language potential buyers are using to find your app, and then carefully integrate those keywords into your app promotion.

Getting Started With ASO

Getting started with ASO requires you to stop thinking like a developer and start thinking like your customers. Really think about who you expect, or want, to download your app. And moreover, understand the words they will use when searching for your app. Once you have a grasp on this, it’s important to integrate that information into the right places. Here are a few app store optimization tips to consider:

Title. Keywords should be used in the title. In fact, apps that use keywords in the title rank 10.2 percent higher than those that don’t. But you might be wondering about keywords. Should you just use your best guess, or is there a more exact way to find them? One approach is to use a keyword tool, such as Sensor Tower and App Annie.

Description. When uploading your app, you can include descriptive content about your app. This is very important and serves two purposes: helping people find your app through using the right keywords, and encouraging people to fully commit download your app. Pepper keywords into the description, but also ensure that the content is engaging, informative, and provides enough information about your app to get users to download it.

Category. Apple recently broke its app store into subcategories, which allows apps to rank higher in search results for specific areas. Since you can select only one category, it’s important to select carefully. Look for categories less saturated with competitors that fit your niche market.

Getting Found: A Few Other Considerations

There are typical on-screen criteria for ranking high in search results, such as title and description. But other criteria can also weigh heavily on your visibility. For example, how many times has your app been downloaded? At first, this number will be low. But over time, as you get more downloads and that number rises, so will your rankings in search results.

Another important factor is ratings. When people download your app, what do they think of it? Are they giving your app a good rating? If so, this will also help you get found. One way to influence ratings is through the use of a plug-in that prompts users to review your app after using it. If your app has a solid user experience you should see some positive results!

Tips for Getting More Downloads

Downloads affect visibility, but how can you encourage more people to download your app? One strategy is creating a more engaging experience than your competitors’. Here are a few considerations:

Create an app video. Many people are visual. They want to understand the look and feel of your app before downloading it. Developing a quick trailer can move the sales process along. Be sure and showcase the usability and key features users will get when they download.

Provide a screenshot of your app. At a minimum, you should screenshot your app so people can quickly see what it looks like. From the buyers’ perspective, the less mystery about what they’re downloading, the better. Buyers want to be educated.

Create a demo. If your app is not free this is a key step. People want to play with your app before paying a fee to purchase. Create this experience through a demo, which will ultimately increase downloads — and rankings.

Upload an app icon. This will create a consistent brand experience for the user as they quickly recognize your app. This becomes increasingly important as you gain word of mouth traction and people begin to seek out your app.

The Next Steps

When thinking about ASO, it’s important to realize that it’s not a perfect science. You may not get it right the first time, and that’s okay. Using this strategy takes time and a lot of experimentation as you figure out which keywords your audience is searching for, and how best to enhance your app’s performance.

But the time you invest is worth it, because as you monitor and tweak over time, you’ll achieve the right balance. As a result, you’ll significantly enhance your app’s ability to get found in searches.

Key Takeaways

  • Be patient. Successful ASO requires experimentation, and trial and error.
  • Be willing to invest time. You likely spent a lot of time developing your app, and by investing time in ASO, you will solidify the long-term success of your app.
  • Make ASO an ongoing process. Continue to tweak the keywords that you’re using and see what performs best.
  • Keep tabs on the competition. What keywords are other people using in your niche? Could you borrow some? Or can you differentiate and use completely different keywords to get found?
  • Focus on a high-quality experience in everything you do. This will lead to more positive reviews and downloads, and help you rise to the top of search results organically.

As you launch your app consider all of the suggestions and refer back to this handy app store optimization guide to be sure you have all your bases covered.

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Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.