The app ecosystem experiences new changes year-to-year, which causes app developers to formulate new strategies to make their app visible to users. Whether those changes include Apple reducing the character limit for app names or Google removing the feature graphic, developers must factor these into their App Store Optimization strategy.
In 2015, we looked at the 7 core steps for App Store Optimization, but has the app ecosystem changed to the point that these steps are no longer relevant? Are more developers leveraging ASO or is it an unused strategy?
App Store Optimization (ASO) is as an organic strategy to increase visibility, app store rankings, and conversion rates. When implemented correctly, developers can help their mobile app find their audience by increasing their app’s ability to be discovered. In order to do this, one must optimize their metadata and creatives on a regular basis in order to stay relevant to ever-changing user trends and algorithm changes in the app stores.
The Apple App Store and Google Play Store have seen major changes over the years that affect how developers create an ASO strategy. From Apple to completely redesigning their App Store to the increased amount of iOS screenshots to the death of the feature graphic. Each change, though it may seem small, ultimately affects how developers approach ASO in 2018.
Then vs. Now
Just three years ago, there were 1.75 million apps in the App Store and 2 million apps in the Google Play Store. Today, we’ve seen the amount of apps across both platforms rise to an overwhelming 5.8 million. Little do users know about all the hoops developers jump through just to get their apps in front of them.
Within just the last year, Google has removed the feature graphic from app listing pages and now allows any mix of landscape and horizontal screenshots and videos to be featured. iOS developers saw just as many changes throughout the years too. From app title characters decreasing from 50 to 30 characters and the addition of the Promotional Text (170 characters) and Subtitle (30 characters), developers are sure to always be on their toes. These constant modifications are what makes App Store Optimization all the more vital.
What are users searching for? In order to position your app for optimal discoverability, developers must first understand who their audience is and what they are searching for. Most would be surprised to find that what they think are core terms tied to their app might be very different from what users actually type into their search bars.
Developers can utilize proprietary data technology from companies like Gummicube Inc. to check their current rankings for specific keywords, as well as the popularity of the term. With this data, they can then target these terms in their metadata. Apple offers developers a keyword bank of 100 characters that they can directly target, while Google crawls an app’s metadata to find words that it should rank for. As it crawls from left to right, placement of the key terms is just as important as choosing them.
In an iOS listing, an app has a title of 30 characters, while Google allows 50 characters. In addition to the primary title, Apple also offers a subtitle (30 characters) and promotional text area (170 characters), which is displayed in the same area as the description. Similarly, Google leaves 80 characters for a short description area. The title is a key area to increase visibility as it is the first thing users read and communicates what the core function of the app is. For iOS in particular, developers can essentially consider this area as another keyword bank.
Both stores allow up to 4,000 characters for their descriptions, where developers can reinforce their keyword choices and describe what makes their app valuable to users. This area is key to driving conversions home for quality users who are carefully considering which app to download. However, Google crawls descriptions left to right, so make sure that keywords are positioned at the beginning of the sentence. Be sure to incorporate a mix of high and low volume keywords that your users are searching for. Additionally, if your keywords not fully relevant to your app, you will have a harder time indexing for them.
Creatives are not only important for aesthetics and hooking a user, they are what will set your app listing apart from competitors.
Users only spend 3-5 seconds on average looking at your app store listing, so the icon must instantly hook them while also communicating core features of the app. Study what colors and imagery work best in your industry or with your target demographic, shapes, etc.
In the Apple App Store, screenshots are a key factor in attracting prospective users, as they are included on the search page. On top of that, developers now even have the option of using 10 screenshots instead of the initial 5. With this extra space, use your screenshots to tell a story and communicate what makes your app different from your competitors. Utilize it to target important terms in your screenshots to increase rankings.
In the Google Play Store, however, screenshots only appear on the app listing’s page and will be key in final conversion. For that reason, Google Play developers should be sure to carefully communicate the core features of the app and let users know why they are more advantageous to their competitors.
No matter which store you are on, follow screenshot best practices to create stunning creatives that are sure to stand out to users scrolling past listings. We recommend:
- Incorporate brand colors to reinforce brand identity
- Be sure to optimize creatives according to the latest updates
- Use clear, high contrast images with visible text
- Include a call-to-action to increase conversion
- Highlight high volume targeted keywords on every screenshot
When Apple released iOS 11, they also increased the number of allowed preview videos per product page. Developers can upload up to three preview videos but must make sure that all follow Apple’s strict guidelines. Google developers, however, still only have one video, but the video guidelines are less restrictive. The video can be between thirty seconds and two minutes, and can be treated more like a promotional video.
The nature of the app stores is always going to be constantly evolving, which means that developers must always strategize their next move in app store optimization. Be sure to pay close attention to changes in trends and updates that come to the app stores, so you are always prepared to accommodate the user experience.