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ASO & Beyond: Increasing Discoverability in the App Store
// Eric Haar - April 18, 2016

So you developed an app. You started with a kernel of an idea and developed, tested, refined, and tested again to get to this point: a living, breathing application available worldwide in the app store. And kudos for the entrepreneurial success! It is not an easy journey.

But what good is your app unless potential users can find it? That’s where App Store Optimization comes into play. In short, ASO is the process of optimizing your app’s placement in the app store to rank higher in search results. This is a tale of our successes at Pinsight. From developing our own app portfolio - including 1Weather, one of the most popular and highest-rated weather apps on Android and iOS - we’ve learned a few things about driving discoverability.

The top two factors that determine your placement in app store search results are title and keywords. Title is fairly self-explanatory: what is your app? Keep your title short, creative, and unique. It doesn’t hurt to include a keyword or two either (more on that in a moment).

Determining what keywords to use can be a bit trickier, and the number of keywords differs between the Google Play and iTunes App Store. An effective way to determining your best keywords is to brainstorm with your team; share words and phrases that first come to mind. Experiment using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, it can be an essential tool when defining keywords and related phrases. Take a look at the competition. What keywords are highly ranked apps in your category or apps with similar mechanics using?

Do your research and know the game in each app store. The iTunes App Store only provides you with 100 characters for your keywords. For this reason, including keywords in your title can help increase your search ranking significantly in iOS. Google Play doesn’t have dedicated keywords, they are instead drawn from your app description. When naming 1Weather, rather than just using the basic “1Weather,” we included pertinent keywords in the title. For the Google Play Store we used “1Weather: Widget, Forecast, Radar,” and similarly “1Weather: Forecast, Radar, Widgets & Alerts” in the iTunes App Store. Continuous testing and tweaking can reveal the right mix that will get your app found.

The other major factors in ASO are number of downloads and ratings and reviews. This probably comes as no surprise — multiple studies, including those performed by Apptentive and Kissmetrics show that apps with higher downloads and ratings rank first in search results. Easy enough to understand, but how do you get initial downloads and ratings?

ASO Accelerator Presentation 3-29-16 (dragged)

First, let users know you’re there to help. Provide easy access to contact information or self-serve resources so customers know they can get help when they need it. Next, invite them to engage with you on social media. Monitoring these channels allows you to have a dialogue with your users, respond quickly, and fix problems. Finally, don’t forget to ask Google Play and the iTunes App Store for feedback during app development and submissions. Establish a good relationship from the get-go as their feedback and resources can be vital.

Ratings are important but they alone won’t make your app thrive. So how do you drive downloads? A few tips:

  1. Your app store page is you - understand where your audience originates
  2. Optimize your desktop website to rank higher for app-related keywords
  3. On mobile, automatically transfer visitors to your app’s download page
  4. Try your app in multiple categories - make the description short and punchy
  5. Ensure your app icon is eye-catching yet simple
  6. Keep your screenshots current, showcase the best of your app

ASO is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a trial and error process; by no means are these the be-all, end-all guidelines on succeeding in the app store. Do your research and use keywords wisely. Monitor how Google Play and the iTunes App Store change search and rating algorithms. Tracking ASO trends and updating accordingly will help you remain discoverable in the app store.