APP STORE OPTIMISATION FOR IOS AND ANDROID APPLICATIONS.
FIRST EDITION NOVEMBER 2016
RAHUL LAKHANEY CTO GLAM360, INVESTMENT PARTNER 971LAUNCHPAD SENIOR BUSINESS CONSULTANT CODE BREW LABS
With over 4 million apps in google play and app store, getting discovered is the single biggest hurdle that you will need to overcome in order to have any success with getting your app downloaded.
The bad news: app store discovery is not easy: on both Google Play and iTunes, with over 4 million plus apps clamouring for your attention.
Im Rahul Lakhaney and Ive spent the last 6 years launching, marketing and selling SaaS, Desktop, tvOS and Mobile Apps. In doing so Ive learnt what it takes for you app to show in search results and to get it downloaded onto peoples devices. For Web apps, SaaS and Desktop products the process is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). For Mobile Apps its called App Store Optimisation (ASO).
In this book I cover why ASO is important and walk through the major similarities and differences of the two major app stores and how they rank your app.
Well begin with the basics of ASO, you will be downloading an application for researching keywords, title and description for your app. Then well dive deeper into the world of ASO by reviewing deep links and how you can get your app ranked well on the App Store just like your website. Then, well have a look at the visual elements your app needs in order to drive downloads as well as a way to track and monitor your progress going forward.
You do not need to have any prior marketing experience to benefit from this course. Whether you are an indie developer who needs some marketing help, or a marketing manager at an organisation that is preparing to launch a new app or get more downloads of an existing one, you will benefit from this book.
ABOUT THE BOOK
What is App Store Optimisation?
App Store Optimisation or ASO is the process of improving the visibility of a mobile app in an app store for IOS, or Google Play for Android. Similar to SEO or Search Engine Optimisation for websites, ASO is relevant to mobile apps. ASO includes the process of ranking highly in an app store search results. The higher an app ranks, the more downloads it gets. There are several components and aspects that contribute to your apps ranking in Google Play and the App store.
These are the 5 key elements:
Keywords that describe your app
Number and quality of user ratings
Number of downloads
The name of your app should be as descriptive as possible, while maintaining a balance between having a concise brand-able title versus a spammy title that is completely filled with keywords. If you plan on releasing outside of your Native Country, localise the name and title of your app for each market.
Keep your best content above the fold. Don't make the reader click the read more button in order to understand what your app is about. Make sure you keep the description readable.
Keywords That Describe Your App
Keyword research is very important to the success of your ASO efforts, so be sure to do this research and include keywords relevant to the app in the app description.
Consider including keywords used by competitors, if they are relevant to your app. Newer apps should target keywords that are easier to rank for, while more established apps can target keywords with higher difficulty scores.
Number and Quality of User Ratings
The volume and quality of ratings is a strong ranking signal for both Google Play and the App Store. The ratings of your current version matter more than ratings of a previous version, so keep this in mind if your updating your app, and make sure you find a good way to ask users to review the current version of your app. A lot of times this can bother the users, so try asking them for rating once they have used one of the key propositions of your app. It is quite likely they would rate it.
Number of Downloads
The number and speed of downloads of your app, are likely the strongest signals to the App Stores as nothing says this is a popular App, as much as getting tens or hundreds of thousands of downloads within a few days of your App being released. An app that has a download volume that starts out high, and increases initially, and remains fairly high, will outrank similar apps that have fewer downloads, and whose download volume drops quickly.
Number of people who actively engage with and keep your app installed over a long period of time, has a direct impact on your app's ranking. The more your app is uninstalled, it sends a negative signal to the App Stores, that your app isn't being liked by people.
The App icon also helps your click through rate when it is displayed in search results. Do not overlook the importance of your app icons visual appeal.
Likewise, your app screenshots will help potential users quickly take a sneak peak at how well the app looks.
Social signals and backlinks are more specific towards Google Play Store. If your app has a lot of plus one's on Google Plus, that sends a good signal to Google to give your app more visibility. Further, backlinks to your app on Google Play, by sites with a strong reputation will send good vibes to Google. Each of these elements has a different impact on how well your app shows up in search results. If you get all of them right, they give your app the best chance to rank higher.
Optimising Google Play Store vs. App Store
If youve been paying attention to mobile at all, you already know the two main app store platforms: Google and Apple. App Store and Google Play store work a little differently from each other in terms of just how much importance each factor has on a ranking's search results.
The app name is the most important component of how your app is discovered in both stores. Keywords are very important and influence how your app can be surfaced in the App Store and Google Play. However, Apple has a dedicated keyword field, so it's important that you use it for the App Store. Google on the other hand leverages their large search expertise and index your entire app description so your keywords are surfaced there as opposed to a dedicated keyword field.
The quality of the ratings and reviews your app receives affects how well it ranks. Hence it is really important for the developer to make sure that you are building the highest quality app you can and providing the user with the best experience possible. For marketers, to figure out the best way to ask for users to leave an app review in the App Store.
Picture credit: AppLift
Creating the Ideal App Title
Let the consumer know what your app does and how it can benefit them. Try not to confuse them. For both indexing and conversion consider using specific features in your app name.
It is important for ASO and it is important for conversion as users understand immediately what problems your app solves or what to expect upon install.
Try to stay away from overly technical words instead of simple names that help users find your app and understand what your app does.
Choosing Right Keywords for your App
You should be revise and update your keyword list on a regular basis. After all, you can modify your description and add or remove keywords at any time after your app is available, so take this seriously, and be diligent about it.
If you're just starting out, consider picking keywords that you can rank in the top 10 for regardless of search volume. That way you can build some momentum and get users downloading your app. You want to make sure the keywords you choose are relevant, so choose keywords that match the intent of your target audience.
Keywords with high search volume are inherently difficult to rank for. Ranking even as high as number 30 for a highly competitive keyword with a high monthly search volume won't make a difference because people won't look past the top 10 search results. You're better off finding lower competition keywords and trying to rank in the top 10 for those search terms first. Your keyword research will be the foundation for the choices you make on your title and description, so be sure to put the time in now and select the best keywords for your app.
How to Find Keywords
A great place to get Keyword Suggestions is to go to Google and take advantage of Google's Autocomplete Predictions feature. It is based on a number of factors, including how often past users have searched for a term. It uses the terms you're typing and then makes a suggestion based on what other people are searching for, including trending searches.
But this approach is very time consuming and limited in results.
A great alternative to Google Autocomplete Predictions is keyword.io. Type in a keyword, and you'll get up to 750 keyword suggestions for free. It is based on Google's Autocomplete functionality, and will help you streamline the keyword generation process and save you a lot of time.
keyword.io also has a paid version that gives you even more keywords and functionality that may be useful in your keyword research.
Writing Your App Description
App Store description is not only important for ranking and search, but it also serves as a way to compel users to download your app once they find it. So it is worth it to spend some time focusing on the description.
What does you app do? What problem does your app solve? What is unique about your app? Why should someone download your app versus a competitor?
Once you've written what makes your app unique be sure to look at your competition's descriptions. Now ask yourself these questions
Things you think that could be done better? Do they make too many assumptions about their audience? What could be more clear about the way they describe their app?
Now leverage the keyword research you have done in preparation for your app description. Don't make the user go to the second or third paragraph to tell them what's so amazing about your app.
The most Important thing to begin your description with is always your key value proposition. Follow the newspaper style of writing, provide the most compelling and important features first and then finish up with the least important features last.
A lot of times I see typos and poor grammar in App Store descriptions. If your description has errors in it, you're not setting a good first example about the attention to detail you've placed throughout your app. Take a few seconds and run a spell check. Use grammarly plugin for chrome for any kind of grammatical or spelling mistakes.
Then read the description out loud to make sure it sounds and reads correctly. While English may be widely spoken throughout the world, surveys show that people outside of the United States would prefer an app that was in their native language over another that was in English only.
To reach these people, consider localising at least the description of your app. Then look at localising key navigational elements in the user interface. Do not rely 100% on free localisation tools. These tools rarely take into consideration local language nuances. Finally, keep your store description current. Update your description often. As you find new key words, modify your description and continue to optimise it to help you rank higher.
When you add new features to your app, you're showing potential customers that you're actively involved and that you care about them. Last but not least, optimize and experiment with new keywords or content.
Using Firebase for App Indexing
In order to get your app to show up in Google search results in a desktop, or more importantly, a mobile web browser, Google provides Firebase app indexing. Firebase app indexing is a system that allows people to click from listings in Google search results, into apps on their Android and iOS devices.
Indexing displays and promotes your app results on Google search, including showing your app icon when it's installed.
App indexing also associates your app and website, so your app install card displays next to your website card.
The Android app indexing API lets your users see app pages they have visited as suggested results on the Google app.
Use Google search preview tool to verify that your app indexing implementation is operating as expected.
Measure if the links that are showing up in search our driving referral traffic.
The Google Search Console will help you monitor the performance of your app indexing. Check in on this daily, or at least weekly, and follow the suggestions for improvement.
Deep linking is a methodology for using a uniform resource identifier to take users to a specific location within a mobile app, rather than simply opening the app to the home screen. Above, you can see a reference to a popular restaurant app zomato. You see a particular restaurant with ratings etc on google, when you tap on it you are redirected to that restaurants page on zomato app.
Deep links are important because they help with both user acquisition and existing user engagement and retention by getting them directly to the content within your app that they are interested in.
So how do you do this deep linking to your app from a search result? It's easier than you might think. To get this basic level of deep linking, you have to add some simple code to your website so that the correct URL is used when a reader taps on the link on their phone. This is done with the link rel alternate attribute.
In practice the link looks like this
Deferred Deep Linking
What if the person who clicks your link does not have your app installed? Wouldn't it be great if that link would then take the person to the App Store, or Google Play to install the app, and then open the specific page or screen within your app.
With Deferred deep linking, when the link is clicked, if the app is not installed on the mobile device, the user is directed to the App Store first to install the app, and then to the desired content within your app. After the user installs the app, the app then opens up to the page or screen within your app that you intended them to go to in the first place. From a user experience perspective, this is fantastic, because even if the user didn't have your app installed to begin with, they still end up in the right place.
In order to get that database with the deferred deep links in them, you can either write your own solution and maintain the server, database and the creation and management of the deferred deep links with campaign attribution, or you can go with a third party solution that handles all that for you once you integrate their SDK into your app.
I personally prefer using TapStream for the deferred deep linking in my apps, it is quite easy to use and they have comprehensive documentation and fantastic support as well. Branch is another great alternative, allowing you to increase mobile conversion, retention, and engagement through deep linking, user routing, and personalised app experiences.
You'll want to do some additional research into each of these services to determine which one is best for you.
You have a mobile app and you want visitors to your site to not only know this, but you want them to download your app, as well. A mobile smart banner appears at the top of the screen when someone browses to your website from a smartphone. It consumes a fraction of a screen on a mobile device and aims to convince users to click to open the native app if they have it or install it if they dont.
On iOS, when someone visits your site using Mobile Safari the smart banner will appear. If the app isn't installed, the banner will display your app information and with a call to action a view which will take the user to the App Store to download your app. If the app is already installed on the device, the banner called Action will be displayed as OPEN and tapping on the banner launches the app. Implementing a smart app banner for iOS Mobile Safari is incredibly easy. Simply add a metatag to your site that looks like this.
You will need to replace myAppStoreID with your actual App Store ID. If you don't know your App Store ID, simply visit linkmaker.itunes.apple.com.
Because of the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, no standard method for an Android banner has been released.
The smart app banner project on github is a lightweight smart app banner without any jQuery requirements. In fact, it doesn't rely on any other frameworks at all, which makes it a popular choice among app developers. It supports smart banners for both iOS and Android. Or you could simply use a service such as branch.io as I mentioned earlier.
Importance of Your App Icon
The first thing you see when you go to Google Play or the iOS App Store are icons. While your app icon is not something that can be indexed to help your app rank higher, it is a key element, that when designed right will help your app stand out in a list of app search results, so users click through.
Avoid putting words into your app icon KISS - Keep it simple silly Differentiate from the competition You use your app icon to support your overall visual brand Your app icon needs to communicate what it does or represents at a glance
Unless you're one of those rare individuals who possesses the skills to code or market an app, plus the ability to come up with a great icon design, I highly recommend you to hire a designer who specialises in icon design.
Importance of your App Screenshots
Even the app stores think the screenshots are important in getting people to download your app. In both Google Play and the App Store, an app's screenshots appear above the description, and are more prominent than the reviews. Because visual communication is faster than written communication, focusing on your app's design and creating screenshots that are visually appealing should be high on your app launch prep list. When designing your screenshots, you should focus on two things.
The first is selecting screenshots that visually communicate what problem your app solves. In order to keep someone's attention, your screenshots need to communicate that they are in the right place and that your app will solve their problem.
The second thing your screenshot should focus on is distinguishing your app from the competition. It's highly unlikely that your app is the only app out of the millions of available apps that solve a specific problem. I have been using and still use launchkit.io for the same but since they have disabled new signups you can use service such as theapplaunchpad.com or davinciapps.com which is slightly more customisable.
Find the most compelling screenshot and put it up front before the other images. For example, when you open the LinkedIn app, it shows you the home screen. But they have chosen to use the screenshot that shows searching for someone from the Me screen. This demonstrates their key value proposition.
Whether you have a team who can create screenshots for you, or if you build them yourself using the services i mentioned above, your app screenshots are critical to getting users who come to your app store page to download your app.
Importance of App Marketing Video
An app preview video demonstrates the features, functionality, and user interface of your app. On the App Store, preview videos are between 15 and 30 seconds long. On Google Play, they could be as long as two minutes. Even though try keeping them under 30 seconds as users generally dont want to go through it for a duration longer than 30 - 45 seconds at most.
Develop an outline or storyboard Plan out the scenes youll need Tell a cohesive story Prepare demo content
There's a saying that the most important part about a video is the audio, so it makes sense that picking the right music can make all the difference in the world. Spend some time finding the right music for your preview video.
Tools for Tracking ASO Performance
Once your app is live in its respective app store, it's important that you monitor how well it is performing so you can make any necessary adjustments to improve your ranking. I'd like to show you the three tools that I've used and how I've used each one of them.
Lets start with Apptopia. This is the tool I've been using the longest to measure my app store optimisation. After login, I go to the App Analytics dashboard and in the dashboard I can get a high level overview of how my app is performing in terms of downloads, revenue, I can also see it by country, by platform.
A lot of people also prefer using AppAnnie. But personally I prefer Apptopia over it. Here is a detailed comparison which might help you decide which one is more suitable for you.
Download & Revenue estimations = BOTH AppAnnie & Apptopia. Country by Country Breakdown = BOTH AppAnnie & Apptopia. SDK Data = JUST Apptopia (They provide SDK analysis & recognition for the
top 450,000 free apps). Rank Data = BOTH AppAnnie & Apptopia. App Usage Data = JUST App Annie. Predictive Analytics (i.e. predicting top apps) = JUST Apptopia
Both AppAnnie & Apptopia provide estimations based off of real data. Estimations which are typically very close, but never perfect (that is a very important distinction).
Both of their data is based off of real performance data we have access to. (as of this post) Apptopia has access to ~150,000 apps worth of data, and AppAnnie
has access to closer to 600,000. So AA has more data in terms of sheer volume (note more data does not = more accuracy).
Hands down, as far as pricing is concerned Apptopia wins as per my personal opinion, Their pricing is way more flexible compared to App Annie as the latter is more focussed around enterprise clients. Apptopia is built for app developers. Their price points are: $199 / $499 / $999 a month. All of their plans can be paid monthly, or annually. If you pay annually they offer a 16% discount and prices look more like $167 / $420 / $840 a month.
Apptopias product is built for "humans" in the sense that, they have built tools to try and make the data simpler and easier to consume. As such, their data is quicker to get value from, but less customisable. Where as AppAnnie's data is available in Tableau Software and often consumed by analysts at larger companies who have custom built tools / algorithms.
Next let's talk about AppTweak. AppTweak will look at how well you're doing for each of the items in their checklist.
What I do like about AppTweak the most is I can come in here and see my app and I can add a competitor and within the app description, I can click on their icon and see what their description is.
In a crowded marketplace containing dozens of competitors, app store optimisation is critical for the long term success of your app. You now have the fundamentals to set your app up for success. But remember, ASO is not a one-time set it and forget it type of task. As long as you want your app to get downloads you will have to focus on ASO. And keep an eye on and track your app's progress. If needed, modify your descriptions, title, keywords, screenshots, and video. Use deep links and meta tags to give Google a clear understanding of the relationship between your site and your app.
As we head further and further into an app-based mobile world, ASO is more than just a good idea. Its an absolute requirement for brands serious about moving their mobile needle. Follow the insights above, and youll be off to a good start in standing out in an ever-bigger, ever noisier crowd. Good luck!