App Store Optimization: A Huge Opportunity in 2017
by Blair Matsuura, Op-Ed Contributor, February 13, 2017
For around the past five years, the advertising industry has slowly moved from a desktop to a mobile-first world. As of 2016, two-thirds of all digital time is spent on mobile. About 85% of that time is spent in apps. And thanks to push notifications and ads for native, search, interstitial, and rewarded video apps, marketers have a new set of tools to drive users and new business through their app.
One crucial but often forgotten app strategy is App Store Optimization. App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing mobile app listings to rank higher organically in App Store search. According to Tune, 67% of apps are discovered and downloaded through App Store search. Yes, Apple’s new search ads have sent a ripple through the mobile ecosystem that has yet to be fully realized, but app store rankings and the app store experience should be a high priority for all app publishers.
On a high level, ASO strategy is broken into two groups: keyword strategy and asset strategy. Keyword strategy involves identifying and tracking search terms that an app should rank in. The Google Play and Apple App Store are relatively young, and the ranking algorithms are still changing. With that said, we know that the app title, keywords (iOS), and app description (for Play Store) are strong signals for the app store ranking.
A strong keyword strategy starts with extensive research. Understand your target users, what they search for, and how they search in the App Store. The Google Keyword Planner is a good place to start! Keep in mind that App Store search behavior is different than web search behavior; in general, app store searches are shorter and more direct (e.g. web search term “best flashlight app for iOS” vs. app store term “flashlight”).
ASO tools such as Sensor Tower, Gummicube, and App Annie can identify your competitor keywords and estimate volume and competition by search term. Just as with traditional SEO, the ideal keyword strategy balances relevancy, competition, and search volume and must be tested and monitored over time.
The other ASO strategy is asset strategy. Think of app store assets as the app’s home page; they are what potential users view to inform their decision to download the app. App Store elements should be optimized to improve click-through rate and install rate. (Note: wins here can benefit both organic and paid acquisition programs.)
The main visual elements are the app icon and screenshots carousel. Video assets are important for games. The Play Store has a feature graphic at the top of the app page; the App Store only has it for featured apps.
Google Play Store Experiments or vendors such as StoreMaven can be used to A/B test and optimize assets. Additionally, localizing assets by language can unlock growth internationally if your product is built for multiple markets.
ASO is an important strategy for all app publishers and has become increasingly valuable as more and more apps are added to the app store. Much search on the web, the app store is the number tool for app discovery so ASO strategy can help publishers find new customers and cut through the clutter.