A Simple Guide to App store optimization — ASO Basics in Play Store

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App store optimization (ASO) is your best bet to gain low-cost app exposure, resulting in boosted app downloads, a higher number of quality users, and increased revenue. To explain briefly and concisely: ASO is the process of increasing the visibility of a mobile app in an app store through various tactics. Considering the ranking algorithm in Play Store, I consider the following as the major ranking factors , categorized into 2 groups.

  1. Pre release ASO
  2. Post release ASO

Pre Release ASO

  • Logo
  • Screen shots
  • Category
  • Demo Video
  • Targeted keywords
  • Title and Description
  • Social Profiles
  • Localization

Post release ASO:

  • Number of ratings and Reviews
  • Quality of ratings ratings and Reviews
  • Number of installs & uninstalls
  • Download growth: last 30 days
  • App usage frequency
  • Back links : pages linking to your app page
  • Social Presence
  • App Website / Landing Page

In this post, I will look into the basics of app store optimization. The items mentioned above may not cover the entire list, but it is good enough to make a positive impact of the app in store. From my past experience, I can clearly say that getting the basics right is one of the most important step to get your app on top.

Everybody here may not agree with the fact that these are the major ranking factors. I am aware that the list is not 100% complete . But these are the major once which can affect the ranking in my personal experience . There are many more definitely , But I can say , these are just enough to make a positive change . I have implemented these practices in many of my own apps as well as customer apps and some of them are in the top charts in many counties now.

Each of these items has its importance in ranking your app . I will Explain the points in detail . Some simple changes in the process and dedicating some hours regularly for ASO can make your app stand out in the crowd.

Pre launch ASO

Logo:
Logo is the Face of your app . With more than 2 million apps on Google Play, users have less time to make the decision of downloading your app or not. When users browse or search the app stores, their first impression of your app is your app icon.

A good , catchy logo is a key to the success of your app. In short , your logo should stand out and convey the functionality of the app

Screen Shots :
Screen shots are actually marketing material for the app . Unfortunately most of the developers upload real ‘screenshots’ there .

Why we should care about app screenshots ?

  • Screenshots are the second impression your app gives your customer , after logo.
  • Localized (Translated ) screenshots open your app to entirely new and large customer base.
  • 50% + of Android users found their last app through keyword search in play store
  • Less than 10% of play store users actually open the full app description
  • A customer’s though about the quality of your app is primarily influenced by the quality of the app screenshots along with logo.
  • Customers are influenced faster through image based communication, than written communication
  • Great screenshots help reduce user acquisition (Advertising) costs because customers are attracted by the screenshots

What should be included in screen shots :

  • Make sure to use all 8 screenshots
  • Use a summary screenshot first (Specify the best feature of the app)
  • Specify 5 top features of the app in 5 screenshots
  • Keep it clean with 100% readable text and real screen shots
  • Show Testimonials / Social Proof , if any in a screen shot
  • Showcase some Exclusive Feature of your app (User should feel like they cannot get it from other apps )
  • Use a high end android device frame (Any Good Flagship mobile phone frames) in screen shots
  • Better if you can localize (translate) screenshot text for major languages .
  • It will be nice if you take Tablet sized screen shots (7 inch and 10 inch ) from actual size devices to create Tablet Screen shots (Most of the developers upload mobile phone size screen shots for tablets also as there are no size restrictions)

Category:
It is an important factor to choose best category for your app . Always choose best matching category . Also consider to place the app in one of the Top Categories (categories with most downloads) . But do not place a casual game in casino category only because it is a top category . The category you select should be appropriate (even though not 100%) for your app.

My Tips for selecting category :

Always choose matching category only.

Do not choose highly competitive categories.

Do not choose low download categories.

In fact, Choose a category with medium competition and medium downloads which is matching to your app.

Demo Video:
This is one of the most underestimated item in app publishing. Most of the developers think of a video as a luxury feature and they believe it is not at all necessary. But a simple demo video can make wonders in store . You can create a beautiful demo video using fiverr.com starting from $5 . Quality videos can cost upto $20. But it is worth the effort . Clearly showcase all major features of the app in the video. Customers can get a quick overview of the app from demo video before they decide on downloading the app . More ever , as per some experiments , google play ranks apps with a demo video better.

Targeted keywords:
You should identify and define our major targeted keywords well before app launch . The keywords are the key to our success . You can do keyword research in tools like sensortower.com . You should always try to choose High volume-Low competition keywords which is relevant to the features of our app . Sometimes you may not get high volume keywords in our app niche , which is fine . Still you should ensure that there are a minimum level of demand / search volume for the preferred keyword . Targeting high competition keywords are also feasible if you have some marketing budget . Otherwise it will be tough.

Title and Description:
Title and Description is the most important features we should consider for keyword ranking. Title means the app name in store . Google Play has a character limit of 30 for App Names and it is not unique (We are allowed use the same name even if it is already existing ) . App title should have our most targeted keyword /Keywords. Try to use maximum allowed characters(30) so that we can include maximum keywords. Keep in mind that it Should be meaningful. My suggestion is to make a combination of Unique Name and keywords (Unique name is useful for branding purpose)

Google Play has a short description field (which is displayed in mobile play store only . It is hidden field in web version ) and has a character limit of 80. Use all the space for a meaningful short sentence which is catchy and keyword rich.

Now comes the bigger field , description with a character limit of 4000. I am not recommending to use it fully to write a too long description . Nobody is going to read it fully . Write the major features with major keywords below first 255 characters which is displayed by default . The remaining is displayed only when user clicks ‘read more’. I suggest to keep the full description below 2000 characters . Include all major features of the app . Include unique features, if any. Include social links (FB Page , Twitter Handle etc ) . And the most important is , include our primary keyword 3–4 times in the description. Never use more than 5 times . Google will consider it as spam and you may loss your deserved rank . Also include your secondary keywords 2–3 times in the description .

Social Profiles:
Always create pre launch buzz if you are making an unique app . Create Social profiles in all major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter , Pinterest etc

Invite your friends and others to like pages . Create discussions . Do regular posting related to the subject . Announce updates and launch date. In fact , create a fan base before launching your app . These people should be the initial users of the app . This approach can make to a good amount of initial users for your app without doing any paid advertisement .

Localization:
This is another underestimated things in app marketing. Most of the developers use app description and in app elements in English only . If we are targeting worldwide , localization is always recommended . This is bit expensive . So we can choose as per the budget . If your budget is low , localize app listing page only (Description , Keywords etc ) . If you can afford , a fully localized app is recommended . Means all the features , buttons , text etc in the app will be available in many languages as per location of the user. No need to translate / localize in all available languages. Only prefer top 5–10 languages .

Note : Localization is bit expensive feature and can increase the downloads dramatically . However you can skip it if your budget is limited . Or you can implement it at a later stage once your app started getting some revenues .

Post Launch ASO

Number of ratings and Reviews:
One of the most important features which determines the ranking of an app (Keyword Rank as well as category ranks ) . We should ensure regular reviews for our app. You can start with friends and family . Always ask your friends and family to download your app and give a positive rating in store . Another key is that we should always ask our regular / loyal users to review the app. You should not ask to review the app in first or second launch . Make sure they are loving it before you ask for a review. For example, a user opening the app more than 10 times can be considered as a regular user who loves the app. Simply display a pop up with review request for the 11th app launch. Another great way to get regular reviews are review exchange platforms . You can exchange genuine reviews with fellow developers in platforms like smoothreviews.com , appreviewdesk.com etc (Some developers think review exchange is not 100% white hat . The choice is yours. )

Quality of ratings ratings and Reviews
Not only the numbers , but also the quality of reviews also counted . Quality of review means , google should feel like the review is real and not a fake one . Otherwise they consider some reviews as spam and such reviews are not counted towards the review volume . Such reviews may get deleted too . So make sure to get genuine reviews from genuine users . Please understand that you can purchase reviews written by bots . I am not recommending it. It may definitely harm your app/ account.

Number of installs & uninstalls
One of the most important ranking factor. Download volume is the major key for the success of an app . Make sure to ensure maximum downloads in the first 30 days after release . It can be paid promotions if you have some budget . Otherwise concentrate on social promotions maximum within 30 days . In simple words , play store ranks apps in search result considering download volume as a key factor .

We should concentrate on retention . Number of uninstalls is a negative ranking factor . We should try to retain maximum users who downloaded the app . For initial months , try to avoid aggressive ads in the app which is considered as one of the major reasons for uninstall .

Download growth: last 30 days
Our download numbers should increase every month which is termed as download growth . For example if our app has 1000 downloads last month, we should try to get at least 10% increase this month , which means 1100 downloads. Last 30 days download growth is considered as a major ranking factor in play store .

App usage frequency
App usage frequency is another ranking factor. Our users should use our apps regularly . If the app is not used and is kept idle in the device , it may affect ranking negatively . We should bring back our users to the app . Push notification is a widely used method to bring back the users to the app . if our app is interesting and useful , it will automatically happen. Still there should be reason to come back and use it . We need to build features according to that . If the existing user base opens our app at least 2–3 times a week, you will definitely rank better in store

Back links : Pages linking to your app page
Similar to SEO, direct links to store pages helps in rank boost . The more links we have , the more authentic our app becomes . Always build links from related websites only . Use proper title tags (preferably our main keyword ) for back links . Social posts can also be considered as back links. Actively participate in related forums , discussions etc to build authentic links . It will definitely help you rank better.

Social Presence
Active social presence is a must for success of an app . Actively promote our app in Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest, G Plus etc . Make sure to make general posts related to the subject of our app along with app promotions. Social Presence having several advantages . some of them are

  • We will get direct downloads from these social media posts
  • We will get hundreds of unique back links from these networks
  • Social activities are considered as a ranking signal in play store especially G plus.

App Website / Landing Page
A dedicated website for an app is not a luxury, but a necessity. An app with a website / landing page definitely looks serious for a customer. Many people think that creating a website is too costly and it is not at all useful in app marketing, considering the efforts and money spent. But it is wrong. We don’t need to shell out $500 to develop a website. Do you believe you can set up an app website in $10/ year? Yes.. You read it right! You can create the website absolutely free and the $10 is for the domain name purchase. If you don’t need a custom domain, it is 100% Free!

How to create app website free?
There are many tools / services available to create landing pages for our apps. Here listed the major ones. I am listing it based on popularity .

https://launchkit.io/

http://appreviewdesk.com/

http://www.applandr.com/

My Personal choice is appreviewdesk.com , which is the cheapest and feature rich. You can compare all three and decide which one is apt for your needs. Any how , an app website helps you to make your app stand out.

Disclaimer:
The items/points listed above are my personal choices . I am basically a web developer since 2006 and entered into app business in 2012 . Since then, I have created and marketed several unique apps in play store and app store (My own apps as well as customer apps) . I have successfully generated millions of app downloads in both stores till date (of course, we do advertising and paid promotions also). I have written this article based on my experience in play store . Thanks for reading my post !

Note : This article is originally published by me here

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