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App Store Deployment & App Store Optimisation

An app is not like a website – it needs to be deployed to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for users to download it, and the deployment needs to be optimized so the user can easily find and download the app.

The process can be cumbersome for businesses with no prior experience, as it is not intuitive, and the optimization aspect of the app does not correlate directly with how SEO works for websites.

Empirical Works can assist your business with app store deployment, and setting up your business and brand’s app store account, and provide support and advice on the App Store Optimisation so your business’s app has visibility to your potential users.

Understanding the App Store & App Store Optimisation

The secret behind Apple’s success with its iPhone and iPad has always been the App Store. Through the work of developers, Apple’s devices have (quite literally) a million different functions, and that number is growing by the day.

There are over 1,000 apps submitted to the App Store every day, with the total number of active apps sitting at around 1.7 million. This shows the depth of content options that are available to iPhone and iPad owners, and most of it comes cheap – 73% of all apps are free (or have post-download optional purchases within the app), and of those apps that do carry an upfront cost, the average price of them is just $1.27. It’s no surprise then, that there have been over 75 billion app downloads since Apple launched the service in 2008.

And, with such a library of available apps, it’s also unsurprising that people tend to have a short attention span when using them. While people download a lot of apps, it is often only for short periods of time. Apps that focus on social networks tend to be launched the most times (25.1 times on average per month), but the average time spent on them is only 2.5 minutes. Even those apps that hold users’ attention the most, music apps, only do so for 8.9 minutes – that’s less than three music tracks per session (and at 16.3 sessions per month, that works out at less than 50 songs per month, per user for a music app).

How do these statistics compare to other app stores? Quite well, from Apple’s perspective. Its chief rival, Google’s Android platform, only has 1.5 million apps available for download. That sounds very close to Apple’s own number, but it’s worth remembering that Android powers a very large range of devices, and individual apps might not be compatible with any given device. So, while there might be 1.5 million total apps, from the user’s perspective the number will be significantly lower, unless they own multiple devices. The Microsoft’s Windows Phone store only boasts 340,000 apps – an indication of how far ahead the two major platforms are from their nearest third-place rival.

One of the reasons Apple’s store has been so successful is its strict quality control. They vet apps before they are allowed into the store, and keep a tight rein on their operating system.

As such, the mobile app market is highly competitive; with around 1.5m apps in Google Play and 1.7m apps in the Apple App Store, you’re going to need a serious marketing strategy to make sure your app gets cut through. But while external marketing is certainly important, most organic traffic to your app page will be the result of a search within the app store. In fact, 63 percent of iPhone users and 58 percent of Android users discover new apps while browsing in an app store — more than any other method. Therefore, you need to make sure your app ranks highly in the search results so as many users can find it as possible.

App Store Optimisation

App Store Optimisation, or ASO, is the way you increase the chances of your app being found on an app store. Similar to how you might try to affect your Google ranking with SEO, app optimisation makes your app rank higher in the search results, making it easier for potential customers to find and ultimately download your app. So just like SEO, understanding keyword search terms and app store algorithms is very important.

But it’s also important to think beyond keyword searches. Just as SEO has changed over time, moving away from keyword jammed content that doesn’t make any sense to well-written content users will read and share, ASO has also changed. In addition to keyword searches, there are a number of other factors that affect the human interaction with your app, such as your logo, your description, your screen grabs, which ultimately affect your search ranking.

First things first – to reach the largest number of users possible you need to make sure you’ve got apps for both Google Play and Apple’s App Store. ABI Research from 2013 shows that Google’s Android OS made up for 58% of all app downloads, followed by Apple iOS at 33%. Other operating systems, such as Windows and BlackBerry may be something you want to consider, but your two key players are Apple and Google. And when it comes to ASO, each have slightly different rules to consider so it’s important to tailor your strategies to each individual store.

Factors that affect ASO

There are a number of factors that affect ASO; some of which you have control over, such as keyword search terms and your app title. Others you have less control over, such as how many times your app has been downloaded, how frequently it’s used and how often your app has been deleted. Keeping this in mind, it’s important that your app is attracting the right users; those who’ll not only download your app, but will use it and use it frequently.

How do you do this? Well, it’s not an exact science, but we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ways you can increase your app store ranking, taking both algorithms and user behaviour into consideration.

Just remember that in order to continually improve your rankings, you should be constantly reviewing your listing and making improvements. And as much as you perfect your ASO, nothing is going to make people download your app more than the app itself, so make sure your efforts are also spent improving the app so the product can sell itself.

Keywords

We already know that searches within the app store make up for most of the traffic, so getting your keywords right is one of the most important factors for ASO. To do this, you need to fully understand your target customer and how they’re likely to search within an app store; what they’re looking for and what language they’re using to find it.

One of the easiest ways you can do this is by using ASO keyword software – there are a number available on the market such as SensorTower, SearchMan and AppCod.es. Keyword software helps provide insights into the keywords your competitors use, keywords most commonly used in app reviews, and how competitive certain keywords are, to help you utilise the best keywords for your app.

When you’re developing keywords, don’t forget about localisation – get to know search terms in every language where your app can be found, including local spelling, phrases, slang and cultural references to ensure you’re mimicking your target audience’s search terms as accurately as possible.

Also, keep in mind the differences between Apple’s App Store and Google Play. For Apple, the keyword character limit is 100 characters. Make sure you use a comma to separate keywords and don’t use a space, so that you can utilise as many characters as possible. In Google Play, there is no keyword field so the search is based on your description, much more like traditional website SEO.

Description

Keywords are important when talking to algorithms, but you need to remember that your description is ultimately for a human. Confusing descriptions stuffed full of keywords won’t make sense and will turn users away. Your app’s description needs to be engaging, interesting and encourage people to download it – if you can get the keywords you need in there (particularly for Google Play) great! But do keep in mind that your ultimate goal is downloads, so you need your description to be as compelling as possible. Plus, even the app store will stop listening after you mention keywords too many times.

For Google Play you have a 4,000-character limit for your description. There’s no limit for Apple but concise, punchy copy is always more effective than a long drawn out essay, so pay particular attention to getting this right. Plus, users will only see around 255 characters before they need to press the ‘more’ link to read the extended description – so use this ‘above the fold’ description wisely.

As an example, you can see below how eatkeep uses a simple description above the fold on the app store that clearly explains what it does ‘The fastest and simplest way to record what you eat’, while also using facts to show its popularity – ‘#1 on the App Store in Finland for Lifestyle’.

Name

Choosing the right name for your app can be the hardest part. It needs to encapsulate what your app does in just a few words. It also needs to be catchy enough to grab people’s attention as they’re browsing through the thousands of apps available – and this is no easy feat. If that wasn’t hard enough, your app title is also considered a keyword, so what you choose for a name will also affect your search rankings. Avoid overused words like HD, Lite and Free, which provide little value. Game, Map, and News offer much more insight to search engines. Also avoid using special characters in your app name, as the name is used to create the URL for your app in the app store.

Make sure you do your research and see what some of the most popular apps are called. Chances are they’re concise and informative. Yes, your title is counted as a keyword search but don’t make the mistake of creating a long keyword-filled title as that’s not going to be very appealing. Don’t forget, users looking for apps are mostly doing so from mobile devices; chances are they’ll only see the first few words anyway, so keep the title as short as possible.

Type and category

It sounds simple, but choosing the correct type (i.e. application or game) and category (i.e. entertainment, music, weather, etc.) when you list your app can make a big difference to how easily your app is found by users, so choose carefully. On Google Play you can only choose one category, even if it could technically fall into more than one. Apple will give you an option for a second category.

Icon

Think about Instagram’s camera icon or Facebook’s signature ‘f’; these icons are beautifully simple while encapsulating the essence of the brand in a small, yet very powerful square. When users are browsing through an app store, your icon is likely to be one of the first – if not only – things they notice so you need to make sure it not only stands out but also provides an accurate representation of what your app is about. Do not try to use words in your app icon, as it will be hard to read. Do use a border, as this can help your app stand out and some argue, provide higher click through rates.

Screenshots

A picture tells a thousand words and screenshots for your app listing are no exception. If your catchy name and flashy logo hasn’t yet convinced someone to download, get them over the line with a few high quality screenshots that showcase the best features of your app. Only the first two screenshots will appear on the front page of your app store listing, so make sure these are the best ones. Use them like a poster advertisement of your app, with clear explanations of what the app does and real images of what the app looks like on the inside.

Just remember to localise your screen shots for different countries, using the relevant local language. Also take the opportunity to upload fresh screenshots every time the app is updated.

The below first two screenshots from PicCollage clearly show what the app does, stand out with the background used and include relevant information like ‘This is the #1 collage app’ to help convince users to download.

On the Google Play store they’ve taken the opportunity to upload a video, and you can also see more of the screenshots on the front page.

Reviews and ratings

Reviews and ratings contribute to ASO – the more you can get, and the better they are, the higher you will rank in searches. Plus, when a user is trying to decide between two very similar apps, sometimes a half star rating will make all the difference. Apps with high ratings and positive reviews are naturally going to be more appealing and therefore attract more downloads. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to write fake reviews for your own app – you won’t fool anyone and will just come across as unprofessional.

Instead, there are tools you can use to prompt users to leave reviews and ratings, such as Apptentive. You can also provide rewards for users to encourage them to leave a review. It is best to use these prompts for users who are engaged with the app and using it frequently – as they will be your biggest advocates.

Make sure you include a usable support URL on your app page, so that people can get in contact if they have a problem rather than leaving a review. If you do receive negative reviews on your app, be thankful – that criticism may just help you create the best app possible. Take all feedback on board and respond promptly to any negative comments to ensure you come across as a brand that’s appreciative of user reviews and willing to make improvements.

Downloads

The number of downloads your app has had also contributes to your ranking in the app store. This requires marketing your brand and app to improve recognition, awareness, and appeal – which can include other parts of ASO such as description, images, and ratings/reviews, as well as social media presence. And it should form a virtuous cycle – as you receive more downloads, you rank more highly, and then even more people begin to download your app.

Link building

Since Google Play is, after all, a Google store, there is a strong chance that just like in SEO, Google uses links from authority websites as a way of determining the quality of your app, and therefore its position in the store. Try to get your app publicised and reviewed on good quality websites, and endeavour to acquire links from authoritative sites.

Updates

You should constantly be updating your app pages as you improve your app and make changes. In regular SEO, Google is constantly scanning web pages, and similarly, static, outdated apps and app descriptions will not remain top of search rankings. It’s not in the best interest of the App Store and Google Play to promote apps that haven’t been modified since new operating system updates were released. Updating your app also gives you space to inform users about new features and how they will help your audience.

Social shares

Along with reviews and ratings, app stores look to social sharing to determine how much users are enjoying your app. On the App Store, Facebook likes and on the Google Play store, Google+ can be used to demonstrate the popularity of an app to the bots. In particular for Google Play, including a Google+ plugin with your app is a crucial step; the more +’s that your app gets, the more visible it will be.