App Store Optimization (ASO) 101

App Store Optimization (ASO) 101
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As of November 2015, there are more than 1.8 million apps in the Google Play Store, with more being released every day, reports Statista. In fact, the number of apps in the Google Play store now surpasses Apple's App Store, with a 50 percent growth increase over the last year, according to Mashable. That's great news for Android users, but not necessarily the best news for Android developers, since a more crowded app store means it's increasingly difficult to stand out.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is a must for any Android developer who wants to get noticed in the crowded Google Play Store marketplace. Just like SEO for websites, ASO is an essential process for optimizing your mobile app to rank higher in the app store's search results. The higher the rank, the more visibility your app will get- translating into more downloads and more traffic.

Like SEO, ASO requires a clear understanding of your target customer, including which keywords your customer is using to search for apps similar to yours. Forrester Research estimates that 63 percent of apps are discovered through app store searches. This means that customers don't have a clear plan for the specific app that they want to download. They're looking for an app about the weather, a new word game app, or a dating app. For the average app, AdWeek reports Ankit Jain saying at Google I/O, "Search makes up the vast majority of installs." That's great news for developers who have a fantastic app but no big name branding behind the app (yet). Optimize your app effectively for search, and you'll get found, even if you're not the next Snapchat or Periscope.

Follow these ASO basics to get started:

1. Pick the right keywords. Just like with website SEO, keyword selection can have a huge impact on your app store search ranking. To better track keywords against your competition, I recommend a service like Tune, a leader in the mobile marketing space. Tune helps analyze your mobile keywords and also provides competitor keyword updates.

2. Put your keyword in the app title.According to Kissmetrics, your top keyword(s) need to be in the title. Doing so leads to a 10.3 percent higher ranking when compared with apps that do not have the keyword in their title. The app "Free Local Dating Chat & Flirt" took this advice literally, making this popular keyword search phrase the app's entire title. Spend time researching your keywords and then pick the most relevant one for your title. Kissmetrics warns against repeatedly changing your title, and I certainly agree. Changing your title can confuse users and make it more difficult to build viral buzz around your app. Do your research, know your key terms, select a specific keyword or keyword phrase, and build your optimization strategy around this term.

3. Don't neglect your website. While the majority of new app downloads do start via an app store search, that's no reason to neglect traditional search. Already ranking highly in search results for a specific service? Put your app front and center on your website with links to direct downloads. For example, when you go to the website for the UK-dating app Cupid you can't miss the app. In addition to a quick form for easy, immediate sign-up, the app also has links to its Google PlayStore for instant downloads. See it, click it, download it. Other great app website examples with a definitive call-to-action download:

  • Weather app Dark Sky
  • Investing app Acorns
  • Shopping comparison app Scan Life
4. Reviews matter, but not as much as keywords.
Don't stress over a negative review. Yes, reviews are important, but not nearly as much as keywords. Additionally, most reviews about apps can be pretty negative, even for popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Users complain about updates being wonky or bugs. It's always a good idea to keep an eye on your reviews, of course, especially for performance enhancement and feedback. But don't worry if your reviews are a mix of good and bad. That's completely normal in the app world.

Bottom line:

Breaking into a crowded app marketplace can be really tough, even if your app is a clear improvement over the competition. In addition to optimizing your app for prime position in the Google Play store, don't discount the benefits of a supportive social media campaign to build buzz about your app.

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