App Store Optimization Basics with The ASO Project

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aso-logo-768x538With millions of apps available, getting your app to rank higher in relevant app store searches is about as easy as making a decent Batman movie. All joking aside, if your app can’t be found quickly in app stores (or at all), you’re losing out on a key revenue source.

So, how you can improve your rankings in the App Store, Google Play, and other stores? Having a massive marketing budget and a proven track record helps. Unless you’re Rovio though, those circumstances probably don’t apply to you. To gain better visibility in app stores, it’s going to take a little bit of elbow grease and a process known as App Store Optimization (ASO).

We reached out to ASO expert Todd Dunham of The ASO Project in order to get some of the basics of ASO, learn a few app-ranking strategies, and see what tips he has to help apps like yours achieve higher app store rankings.

Here’s what Todd had to say about ASO…

What is ASO?
TD: Simply, it’s SEO for apps! The goal of ASO is to improve an app’s rankings in its respective app store.

Why is ASO so crucial to an app’s success?
TD: It’s beyond important to capitalize on organic users! With the cost of paid acquisition rising, it’s becoming more and more crucial for apps to get creative in their user acquisition methods. Small developers that can’t afford the cost of a paid strategy can gain installs from ASO for free! Even the largest developers should focus on ASO! Running a lot of paid acquisition goes hand-in-hand with ASO. Working on your conversions from an ASO standpoint can help develop stronger ad conversions, and also can help in designing creative elements for ads.

What are some methods to rank higher in app stores?
TD: There’s a few “common” ways to accomplish this. Everyone knows that modifying keywords, title and description will provide search visibility improvements. However, there are a few things that are often overlooked, including conversions, retention and uninstall rate.

When it comes to conversions, it’s crucial to have an attractive icon and screenshots that convert highly. Apps are getting more and more creative on how to make the most out of screenshots, including adding text, superimposing the screen onto a device, etc. Split testing is a great way to collect data about what converts highly. Something important to note, test one thing at a time! Don’t run a split test on your icon and screenshots at the same time.

Retention and uninstalls are interesting concepts when it comes to ASO. With the introduction of App Analytics, it’s obvious that Apple is paying more attention to both of these factors. Google, being as complex as they are, is definitely looking at an app’s user retention and abandon rate. Now, obviously, these things are out of the scope of a typical ASO approach, and have more to do with the quality and build of the app.

Overall, ASO starts with the quality of the app, and extends to the exact keywords you choose to enter into your app’s text-based elements.

Do you have any tips to improve ASO through keywords?
TD: Adding keywords to your title can provide a lot of benefit (especially in the App Store). When it comes to the 100 character keyword list, remove spaces, and make sure there are no duplicates between the title and keywords. Do some keyword research! Look up what apps are showing up for specific searches, look at the autocomplete text in the stores. The best keywords are highly searched terms with the lowest competition.

Which practices kill most ASO efforts?
TD: Bugs and crashes! Users will inevitably leave a one-star review for a buggy app that crashes on them. It’s extremely important to test your app and ensure you’re putting out a quality product. Negative reviews will crush your ASO and make it hard to recover.

Where do you see the future of ASO headed?
TD: As app analytics get more advanced, so will store search algorithms. Developers will need to be even more in tune with current trends and their competition. Something that is gaining traction already is link building! Just like SEO, classic link building is gaining importance, and definitely will become more important in the future. ASO is always evolving. Something that converts well today, might not convert well in six months. It’s important to constantly test and stay in tune with new apps and your competition.

What is The ASO Project and how does your company help app developers?
TD: The ASO Project is a full service, performance-based app store optimization agency. We work with premium apps in the App Store, Google Play and Amazon Appstore, providing services that cover all the aspects of ASO that I’ve previously mentioned. We developed our own proprietary technology that lets us score and rank keywords based on search volume and competition. We’re able to analyze your app based on current rankings, daily installs, reviews and potential opportunity. Some of our current clients came to us in the top grossing lists in the app stores with enormous organic (and paid) install totals, yet there was STILL opportunity! We were able to increase overall organic positioning and installs, along with conversions. It goes to show that there’s always opportunity when it comes to ASO.

Where can developers get more information on The ASO Project?
TD: Our website is a great start: www.theasoproject.com. Also, readers can absolutely email me directly to learn more about our services and methods at: todd@theasoproject.com.

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Tony Cohn is a marketing manager with Adscend Media, a leading rewards-based advertising ad platform for mobile apps and games. When not at work, Tony enjoys watching New York Mets baseball, smoking cigars, and running. Originally from the Bay Area, Tony currently resides in Sacramento, CA.

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