App store optimization (ASO), the magic bullet for attracting more mobile users

“If you build it, they will come” might work for baseball fields in Iowa, but you need to be much more proactive in the highly competitive mobile app market. App store optimization (ASO) is a crucial step to get your app out of the shadows and into the light where users will find it.

Yes, ASO is a real thing now

Web pages optimized for search attract more traffic. This isn’t idle tinkering with minimal impact. Research has found that results displayed on the first page of Google search garner 92% of all traffic. After that, click-through rates plummet. Just as you’d want your website to show up as high as possible on the first page of search results, you want your app to be among the first seen by potential users when they browse an app store.

App store optimization (ASO) bears some similarity to search engine optimization (SEO) in that it’s all about helping users find your app via search and browsing. If you can grab users’ attention early in their store visit, you’re more likely to keep it. A successfully optimized app ranks higher in app store search results and connects more immediately with users, ultimately driving more downloads.

Opportunities to optimize

When you’re competing with so many apps in so many stores, ASO is a must. Here’s a quick rundown of the main areas you’ll want to optimize:

  • App name: Your app’s title or name is the single most influential factor when it comes to store rankings and search results. It should read naturally and include relevant keywords that make sense to users. For example, if your app helps users count calories, you may want “calorie counter” in the name.
  • Description: Think of it as your app’s homepage. You have a make-or-break opportunity to show value and convert users. App descriptions should be concise, clear and engaging, motivating users to learn more. It should also set expectations with accurate, complete information about your app’s capabilities.
  • Keywords: When researching keywords, focus on relevance and search volume. A good place to start is with your competitors’ keywords. Make sure to separate keywords with commas (no spaces), stick with single words rather than phrases, and don’t repeat keywords already in your title. For our calorie counter example, you might use “diet” and “tool” as keywords but not “diet tool.”
  • Logo: Your logo or app icon is the first visual to catch the user’s eye when browsing through a list of apps. It should be attractive and clean with a connection to the app’s function or purpose. Avoid tiny text that’s hard to read—it’ll only serve as visual clutter.
  • Screenshots: Here’s where you get to show your app in action, so think carefully about which screens best convey what your app does. Customize your screenshots with sample user data so people see the app’s full potential. For example, populate your calorie counter with a sample food diary that’s representative of actual information the user would enter.

As you refine these areas, watch your app store analytics and test different names and keywords to see what gives you an increase in traffic. If you’re getting a lift in views without a commensurate lift in conversion, you probably have more work to do. Perhaps try different screenshots or revise your description to add clarity.

Ratings and reviews matter, too

The items above, you can control and test. App store ratings also factor in, and are more dependent on your app’s user experience. Three things you can do to gain traction in this area:

  1. Build an amazing user-friendly app that earns positive ratings and reviews.
  2. Take user feedback seriously and be open to suggestions.
  3. Provide in-app connections to social networks. They’re essential for raising awareness and keeping the community informed of upgrades, new features and other enhancements.

ASO isn’t something you do once and then forget. It’s a continuous cycle of measuring performance and finding opportunities for improvement. After you’ve spent so much time and effort building your perfect app, don’t leave its ultimate success to fate.

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