You’ve got a new mobile application all set to sell. The only trouble is that you’re competing against a million other apps. How do you get customers to notice yours?
The most common way that users discover apps is by searching the Apple or Google Play app store. People discover 63% of their applications by app store searches. Applications that people find in searches will get more views, so they have a better chance of getting downloads. The art of accomplishing this is called App Store Optimization, or ASO.
Title and keywords
Two main items affect ranking and are under your control.
The first is the title. A title with words that people will search for will help search results. This doesn’t mean you should fill it up with keywords, though; a short and catchy title is more memorable. One that’s stuffed with keywords will look spammy. The Apple App Store allows 50 characters in the title, but Google Play gives you only 30. The best approach is to use a short title and, if you’re using the Apple Store, a subtitle that will aid your search. Let’s say you’re building an app with our real estate template to help find office space in Schenectady. You could call it “Schenectady Office Finder” and use the subtitle “Real Estate Search Assistant” on the Apple Store.
Another piece of ASO is the keywords, although these aren’t part of the ASO equation for the App Store, only for Google. Google lets you specify a short description and a long one. Any of these are places where you can add keywords that people will search for. Be sure to include some long-tail keywords that will narrow down the search to specific interests. Using “real estate” for Schenectady Office Finder will leave it competing with thousands of other apps matching that phrase. Adding “upstate New York” or “Hudson valley” will help people looking for your geographic area to find the app.
Ratings and downloads affect your rank in the store. They aren’t under your direct control, but you can do things to affect them. Encourage people to rate your application, but do it the right way. Do it too early or often, and you’ll annoy users, who may give the application a bad rating just to spite you.
Try to focus on users who will give a high rating. A good way to do this is to hold off asking for a rating till people have used it several times. People who keep using the app probably like it. Don’t be pushy; anyone who hasn’t rated it after ten requests either won’t rate it or will eventually be goaded into giving it a one-star rating. People who rate apps without being pushed give better ratings.
According to some sources, the volume of ratings is more important than the level. You don’t want a huge number of one- and two-star ratings, of course, but a large number of ratings with a four-star average is better than a handful of five-stars.
Knowing that high download counts help ranking may seem like useless knowledge. To get downloads, you need a high search rank, but to get it, you need a lot of downloads. What it tells you, though, is that you need a good initial publicity campaign. An app that languishes for a month with a handful of downloads isn’t going to get much notice on the store.
Don’t try inflating the count with artificial downloads, though. The app stores know that game, and it’s more likely to penalize the app than to boost it. Let the numbers grow through publicity and word of mouth.
Get the downloads
Finally, remember that the object isn’t to get people to view your app’s description, but to get downloads. The page describing it needs to look attractive and give them a reason to download. It has to be well-written, with a good-looking icon and screen shots. It shouldn’t look as if you wrote it with ASO in mind, even though you did. In the end, you’re talking to people, not algorithms.
It’s worth having a graphic designer create your icon. One that looks professional will make a big difference. It should remind potential customers of what the app does, or of your brand identity.
Include as many screenshots as you’re allowed. The first one will get the most prominent position, so choose one that lets people see at a glance what your app does. All of them should give the viewer a clear idea of what they’re about, be readable, and not look blurry or cropped. Strike a happy medium between plain and busy.
If you can include a high-quality video preview, do it. It needs to be more than a raw video capture, though. Add a visual indication of where the user is touching, and back the video up with music that works for your target audience. Do all these things, and you’ll have a page on the store that will really stand out.
A first or second application has to fight for recognition, but if you use ASO intelligently, you’ll get more people to find and download it.