Table of contents
Mobile application lifecycle
A mobile application like any product subject to marketing has their market life cycle. In very simple terms, it can be assumed that it has three phases:
- Market acquisition
Each stage has its own specifics, to which marketing elements are adapted. For example, during the implementation of an application, one builds its analytical specifications, and implements tools or plans tactics for user acquisition. During the launch, PR activities, content marketing, or outreach campaigns will be important. When conquering the market, performance, smart bidding, creative optimization or constant analysis of funnels matter most.
Optimization in app stores (ASO) is a natural part of the implementation phase and the market capture phase. It can be said that the success of an app, in terms of its organic downloads, depends mainly on the use of ASO.
According to a Google study titled “How users discover, use and stay engaged with apps” Google Research”, as many as 48% of respondents said that the source of app downloads was simply searching app stores! So it’s worth maximizing visibility in storas to get traffic from ASOs and stay ahead of the competition.
Differences in ASO between Google Play and App Store
It is important to remember that the optimization process in stores differs significantly for each operating system. When planning activities during app deployment, it is worth being aware of the mobile app approval process. In the case of Apple, it can take much longer, hence the time from the application submission to its publication in the store can take several days. Often, even for minor issues, the app can be rejected and you will be forced to go through moderation all over again. Because of this, it is important to keep an adequate reserve when planning the launch of an app on the market. In the case of Google Play, the time should not exceed 48 hours, plus the regulations are not as restrictive as for iOS.
The indexing algorithm in Google Play is very similar to the traditional SEO algorithm. Many analogies can be found here, for example, Google indexes any textual resource, including comments. In the case of Apple, the content of the comments will not matter at all, but in the case of Google, it does. Analyzing Google Play, you can also see that links (hyperlinks, backlinks) leading to stores with relevant text (keyword, anchor) will matter. As with SEO, the more quality links pointing to a story/app, the better rankings it will get. One can guess that many elements of the ASO algorithm are simply taken from SEO!
The Google Play indexing algorithm is very similar to the traditional SEO algorithm. You can find many analogies here, for example, Google indexes any textual resource, including comments. In the case of Apple, the content of the comments will not matter at all, but in the case of Google, it does. Analyzing Google Play, you can also see that links (hyperlinks, backlinks) leading to stores with relevant text (keyword, anchor) will matter. As with SEO, the more quality links pointing to a story/app, the better rankings it will get. One can guess that many elements of the ASO algorithm are simply taken from SEO!
For iOS, the algorithm is simple and takes into account only basic factors. When adding an app to the App Store, you can set up keywords by writing them out after the comma (up to a maximum of 100 characters). These phrases, of course, should correspond to those for which you want to get the best ranking. In the case of Google Play, there is no way to configure keywords (probably due to too much room for manipulation), but there remains room for a short and long description of the app. A full app description is as much as 4,000 characters, use it well (and to the maximum) to accurately describe the app using keywords of your choice and importance. You can use many market tools like AppTweak or AppRadar for analysis. They will help you in the process of keyword analysis, potential analysis, monitoring competition, algorithm changes, etc. Google Play frequently updates its algorithm, in recent years repeatedly adding machine learning elements, and improving resistance to manipulation – such as keyword stuffing, automatic reviews, or generating a large number of fake installs in a short period of time. In the long term, Google Play will appreciate elements such as frequent updates, responding to comments, the trend in average rating, updates to content and graphics and video in the stock, engagement, and retention, as well as technical quality parameters (e.g., number of critical bugs, app suspensions, speed of operation, etc.).
The most important tasks in ASO
App Store Optimization guide in video
Do a thorough keyword analysis
You will need keywords in many dimensions:
- For the name and subtitle
- For description and keyword fields in the App Store
- For link acquisition as anchor text
- For inclusion in replies to comments
In the process, you can help yourself with tools such as AppTweak. You can use them in several ways to optimize the keyword research process:
- Ranked Keywords: you will quickly get an answer to what keywords your application is already ranking for, so you can, for example, further optimize your position
- Opportunity Keywords: you will get the keywords on which your competitors are ranking and your application is not
- Download Keywords: you will get to know the keywords that generate the most downloads for your competitors
- Search Ads Reco: generate auto-suggestions straight from Apple’s algorithm
- Auto-Suggest: you will generate auto-suggestions from Google
- Category Top Keywords: check which keywords are the most popular in the selected category
- Top Growth: you will get the most growing keywords in the last 30 days
The keyword analysis process is the most important part of ASO, so prepare it as thoroughly as possible: divide the words into thematic categories, research the potentials, analyze the competition carefully, gather as much data as possible from auto-suggestions, mix the most popular words with long-tail, and most importantly, return to the analysis regularly, in a month’s time there may be new words in the category or growing phrases. It’s easy this way, for example, to capitalize on some short-term buzz in the market by optimizing for a particular keyword.
Design graphics and video content. Familiarize yourself with store restrictions on the material.
Graphics or video material is the first element users see when browsing app stores. So you need to ensure the quality, clarity, and effectiveness of these elements. First of all, start by familiarizing yourself with the specifications and guidelines of the stores – they differ significantly, especially the App Store takes a very strict approach to imported graphics. Below you will find a brief starter specification for both stores – keep in mind that the guidelines may change and you will find the most up-to-date information on the stores’ official websites:
- From 2 to 8 graphics png or jpg.
- At least 320px in height and width but no more than 3840 px.
- Proportions should be 16:9 or 9:16
- Recommended formats (you should decide on one for consistency):
- 1080×1920 (vertical)
- 1920x1080px (horizontal)
You can also use the 1242×220 px format – it will meet the 16:9 and 9:16 aspect ratio, then one format for iOS and Android (with the understanding that different phones should show up in these versions).
Each screenshot can have a maximum of 8MB.
- Only one shows before screenshots.
- From 15 to 30s lengths of material
- Always widescreen format
- Format: link to YouTube video
- As an analogy, to match the iOS format, you can prepare a 1920x1080px format
Clip for video/promo photo:
- 1024x500px, maximum 1MB weight, PNG or jpeg file
The most important dimensions apply to two groups of devices (iPhone 12 Pro Max/ iPhone 11 Pro Max/iPhone 11/iPhone XS Max/iPhone XR – 6.5″ and iPhone 8 Plus/iPhone 7 Plus/iPhone 6s Plus – 5.5″) and are respectively:
- 1242×2688 px (for iPhone 11)
- 1242×2208 px (for iPhone 8 Plus)
And reversed for horizontal graphics.
When previewed on the store page, the horizontal graphics display one at a time, the vertical graphics display 3 at a time – despite the small size, it is worth taking into account that you will only see the rest of the screenshots when you click on the application.
App Store will accept up to 10 graphics.
Additional notes and best practices:
- graphics should be uploaded without modification – the rounded corners visible in the store will be automatically imposed upon import
- when adding text, it should not be placed in the corners to avoid clipping
- if the home button is visible on the application screen, it should be left unedited
- From 15s to 30s in .mov, m4v or mp4 formats
- Required presentation of functionality or gameplay, otherwise may be rejected in moderation.
- Acceptable in both formats – portrait and panoramic. Up to 3 videos can be added. For a 5.5″ screen it should be 1080x1920px, and for 6.5″ 886×1920 px (or vice versa for panoramas).
- The file size should not exceed 500MB.
- Functions that are paid for should be properly marked in the video – for example, by the text “available for subscription/subscription”
Recently, Apple has also allowed you to create so-called app variants in the App Store, which you can, for example, use for testing within Apple Search Ads. This will allow you to design an experiment in which you compare conversion rates for different creatives. In the case of Google Play, the testing process is part of the Google Play console – all you need to do is set up the experiment, and add variables for testing (e.g. graphics, text), and the traffic split will take place automatically. In the console, you will see the current test results, so you can easily compare multiple variants at the same time. In addition, you will see benchmarks for other applications in the category.
There is no way to design the perfect, best-converting creatives right from the app launch. Even if you carefully analyze the competition, work out a communication strategy, and derive visual elements – you won’t build the perfect creatives for storage right away. You need to run tests using different approaches, copy, color schemes, etc. Sometimes it is enough to completely change the color scheme using contrasting colors vs. competitor’s applications and already the conversion wsp. can increase!
You can also use tools to prepare experiments e.g. SplitMetrics.
Monitor opinions in-stores, respond contextually
Reports are one of the elements of ASO. You can say the higher the average opinion, the higher the chance of a better ranking, but also consider:
- Trend counts, so recently acquired reviews have more value than those from several years ago
- Google understands that sometimes releasing a “patch” improves an application, so it is relatively easy to clean up any technical problems
- The App Store is very closed when it comes to feedback – each one is reviewed/moderated manually and sometimes takes a few days before it appears
- Activity and responses to comments is important – if you leave them out, you won’t build quality
You should plan the entire process of managing and asking for feedback. If you don’t, you will receive mostly negative feedback, requests for support, or frequently repeated questions. You can choose so-called “sweet moments” in the app and ask them to add feedback. Sweet moments are moments during the use of the app, in the course of which there is a high probability that the user is satisfied. In the case of a store, it can be confirmation of an order (the process went ok) or receipt of a shipment (everything worked correctly), in the case of other applications, for example, high activity in the game, regularity of use, reaching a key place, inviting a friend, etc. With such events you should set up notifications, asking the user to leave feedback. In addition, of course, you can use a whole host of non-app tools such as mailing or SMS to ask for feedback using various kinds of bonuses, incentives, contests at promotions.
Here you can also use tools such as AppRadar. You will automate the process of responding, receiving notifications, categorizing the feedback – so, for example, you can create a list of new features, that users have asked for.
There is also the possibility of using the AppRadar.
You should make sure to constantly monitor your visibility and competitors. This will give you a deeper analysis of ranking factors. You will also learn about any changes made by competitors, including:
- Application version changes
- Changes in content
- Implementation of new graphics
- Implementation of video materials
- Modifying their visibility in stores
- Changes in terms of acquired traffic
Tools such as AppFollow. can also help in this process.
Take care of user-growths-and-maintenance-indicators
Some of the metrics analyzed are growth rate (including daily), retention rates, and uninstall rates, and all of these metrics compared to the category benchmark. The value here, as in SEO, can be built up over months or years.
You should also use Google Play Console and Apple Connect to monitor basic metrics and compare yourself to competitors. These tools have little strictly analytical value (they are not tools implemented into apps), while they show other data. For example, with Google Play you can export a full list of keywords that generate downloads. This way you know which words you should improve your rankings for. On the other hand, App Store Connect will tell you what percentage of users agree to be tracked, which is very important with tracking restrictions since iOS version 14.5.
“User happiness” also includes number of bugs, crashes, long response times, app freezes, etc. You can observe these indicators in consoles, but also in tools like Firebase.
ASO is not just a search engine, but additional areas for user acquisition
Increased presence in several places (categories, recommended, related, etc.) means not only more downloads but also better internal linking, higher conversion rates, and ultimately higher positions in search results.
Presence in these additional listings is built on several components, primarily:
- Trend (how many new users I acquired in a short period of time)
- Relationships (what apps my app is linked to and how strongly)
- Quality (do the ratings, retention, and crash rates allow trust from stores)
SVRank as a complement to similarity monitoring in ASO
TheTool app has developed its algorithm to help optimize for hints. In other words, what to do to hit the list of similar apps in storach. This can be a very big bonus because an app getting there acquires a lot of organic traffic in a short time.
In short, this tool will show, how much visibility my app has in Similar Apps:
- how many other apps link to mine (i.e., whether I am appropriately thematically linked to another app)
- what kind of apps they are (which will give me a preview of how the algorithm understands my app)
- what is the position of my application in the list (how high I am in the prompts vs. other similar applications)
The mobile app visibility optimization (ASO) process is changing strongly when it comes to excluding black hat techniques (which can be compared to black hat techniques in SEO or the deposition process) Actions that can end up blocking apps from stores include:
- Misleading comments
- Generation of mass installations
- Changing paid applications to free and generating refunds
- Impersonating other applications
- Keyword stuffing
- Manipulating search trends
Google Play’s algorithm makes many more changes using machine learning, including implementing the so-called skim-gram model, which predicts the keywords that will be typed after a given phrase. Another example would be the detection of nuances with user needs, e.g. I install a fitness app for exercise, so in a short time I will receive recommendations of an app with recipes (healthy diet), instead of another 5 apps about exercise.
How do I find myself in these changes?
✓ Use synonyms, related words, and thematically related phrases (build so-called topical authority)
✓ New installations always with a simultaneous focus on indicators (downloads/retention + ratings)
✓ Don’t focus on keyword stuffing, choose them judiciously for context and user need
✓ Set up constant monitoring, use the tools indicated in the article
✓ Always downloads and the number of downloads = feed a good ASO
✓ Watch Crashlytics, Android Vitals, and App Crash Reports to build quality and trust in apps
✓ Use experiments and test multiple variants of graphics, descriptions, or videos
Summary. How to achieve the best results in ASO (App Store Optimization)
App store optimization (ASO) visibility gives you the chance to significantly increase organic downloads, stay ahead of the competition, and acquire users beyond paid campaigns. This is a different process for Google Play and the App Store, these stores have algorithms, specifications, and limitations for managing apps.
Common elements working for success will be careful analysis of keywords, preparation of engaging creatives, inclusion of video, optimized phrases, and descriptions, as well as attention to quality and user experience, understood not only as fulfilling a need within the application but especially technical parameters: retention, uninstallations, number of crashes, average rating, trend of downloads – all of this also in relation to the competition in the category.
It is worthwhile to take care of the right tools like AppTweak, AppFollow, or TheTool when ASO. They will allow you to speed up many processes, and constantly monitor, and facilitate analysis and observation of the market. In addition, you need to watch the market, especially since the Google Play algorithm is evolving strongly, and the direction seems clear: less manipulation, more qualitative elements, machine learning, and delivering value to users!
If you need support in ASO or app marketing contact App&More – our brand specializes in mobile app promotion!
CEO and managing partner at Up&More. He is responsible for the development of the agency and coordinates the work of the SEM/SEO and paid social departments. He oversees the introduction of new products and advertising tools in the company and the automation of processes.