How to Optimize Organic Search on the App Store

Jenna Rodrigues
August 26, 2020

A central determinant of whether or not an app succeeds is the extent to which the app is well marketed. As an entrepreneur investing in the development of a new app, it is important to begin thinking about how you will reach your target demographic. One important marketing channel to leverage and invest in mastering when managing an app-based business is App Store organic search optimization (ASO).

What is ASO?

App Store optimization (ASO) is a strategy through which you are able to position your app to rise to the top of search rankings within a selected category on the App Store. Devising a successful ASO strategy will require you to understand who your customers are, what keywords they use to search for apps, and how you can position your content and imagery to give your app the best chance of moving to the top of search results.

Why You Should Invest in App Store Search Optimization

Strategically focusing on App Store optimization as part of your marketing mix will help you to increase app downloads, yield more positive reviews and ratings over time, and increase audience engagement through time spent on the app and enhanced word of mouth marketing. Approximately 63% of mobile apps are discovered through searches on the App Store, making up the majority of app installs. It is critical that individuals are able to quickly find your app when searching organically on the App Store; if this is not the case, your app will fall within the set of apps that remain unused and undiscovered.

It is important you ensure your app rises to the top of the App Store search results and you have full control over how your app appears within the search results. Effective ASO makes it easier for new users to discover your app and for you to maintain a consistent brand image. Through investing in optimizing search, it will improve your brand reach over time and eventually drive more traffic to your app’s page. Once users visit your app page, they will be more likely to download your app and begin using it.

Research to Conduct in Advance of Managing Search Optimization

Prior to investing in optimizing search, it is important to ensure that you have a clear understanding as to who is included in your target customer base. Having a clear understanding of your target consumer is crucial, as your ASO strategy will be catered specifically to the search patterns and needs of the demographic you are targeting. In order to understand what type of individuals fall into your target demographic, consider running a small focus group or pushing out a consumer survey to see which types of individuals express intent to use the app post launch and buy into the value proposition.

Once you have the profile of your target consumer in mind, it is important that you begin to think about what problems they encounter on a daily basis, what other competitive apps they use, and what search terms they typically utilize when seeking apps like yours as the solution to their problem. This research will help you become an expert on the type of language to use when targeting your consumer audience and the best strategies for motivating them to download your app.

Factors that Influence App Store Optimization

ASO is a long-term marketing strategy, and is similar to search engine optimization for traditional websites in several regards. Mastering your ASO strategy takes time, and you will need to continuously monitor your search ranking and make iterations accordingly. While investing in building out an ASO strategy pre-launch is critical, it will take time before you begin seeing your app rise to the top of search results within your focal category.

Name of the Application

The name of the app is critical to long term marketability and keywords in the app name carry the heaviest ranking weight in the app store algorithm. It takes time to think of the perfect name for your app, so begin the process of brainstorming a name early on in the development process. You should work to target an app name that is memorable yet differentiated from names of current apps on the market. A catchy and memorable app name is essential for brand recognition, so you should invest in critical user testing to clearly understand how your customer feels and what they think of when they see your app name and logo. While the name of your app could include popular key terms it’s important to consider the long term success of your app.

Subtitle for the Application

The subtitle ranks second in terms of keyword ranking weight in the app store algorithm. Visually, the subtitle follows the direct app name and supports the branding of the app. To be effective keep the subtitle brief and focused on the mobile application’s value. You will want to work in the relevant key terms you discovered during the research phase.

Selecting Keywords

It is critical to include keywords throughout all content sections on your app, such as your name, subtitle, description, and internal content sections. Based upon the current algorithm, keywords utilized within the name and subtitle are particularly critical in determining which apps get pulled into different search queries. When deciding on your app’s name and subtitle, focus on including the most relevant keywords as opposed to worrying too much about keyword difficulty. You ideally want to include keywords that are relevant to your value proposition but also specific-enough to your app that they are not tied to too many additional apps that makes it hard to differentiate. On average, apps with keywords in the title rank approximately 10.3% higher than those without a keyword in the title.

Correct Categorization

When publishing your app, make sure that you correctly categorize your app on the App Store. This categorization helps users to filter search results to make it easier to find what they are looking for. If users do not know the exact name of the application they are looking to download, they can start with a list of the categories, click into a category of interest, and then see a list of the apps that fall within that category. Making sure your app is categorized correctly is an important way to ensure that you can reach new users who are open to exploration of new apps within the category.

Improve Ratings and Reviews

In order to optimize App Store search, you should aim to increase your total number of ratings. However, you want to carefully target where and when to ask for reviews in order to try to position yourself to end up with primarily positive ratings and reviews. While you ultimately want to hear all user feedback so that you can leverage this feedback to improve the overall app experience, you should try to structure feedback acquisition as two separate channels such that individuals with constructive criticism will speak directly with the developer and individuals who have had a very positive experience on the app will rate the app and leave a positive review. In order to try to filter criticism towards a separate communication channel, include a clear message that alerts users as to how to get in direct contact with the developer or leadership team member. Clearly list the given contact information and make it easy for them to provide constructive criticism and suggested areas for improvement.

Through focusing on improving the overall app quality, this will help to generate additional positive ratings and reviews over time. It is just as important to select the right time to ask users to provide reviews as it is to make sure that you ask the right people for reviews. Prior to asking for reviews, make sure that there are no major bugs and that the app is fully functional. It is typically a good idea to wait until after users have enjoyed a specific number of sessions and have completed a given action within the app experience to ask them for a review so that you are able to influence the quality of ratings and reviews.

Frequent App Improvements and Updates

In order to ensure that your app maintains high search rankings in the long run, it is important to push out fairly frequent improvements via app updates to make users feel as if you are committed to providing them with the best possible user experience. In addition to executing your strategic roadmap, you should leverage the internal feedback that you are receiving from team members and app users to make improvements and build out additional features. Additionally, be sure to update the technology itself as necessary to make sure the app is fully functional and loads quickly. Focusing on building the best possible user experience and pushing out frequent updates can improve search rankings indirectly through increasing the quantity of positive user reviews.

Increase Number of Downloads

Increasing the number of downloads can ultimately help to improve search rankings, which is a chicken-egg problem. In order to work towards increasing app downloads, leverage all of your selected marketing channels to improve brand recognition. Make sure that your app description is clear and includes targeted keywords. Include polished, on-brand and eye-catching images, work on increasing and improving ratings/reviews, and make sure that you maintain a strong social media and email marketing presence to increase brand reach.

Conclusion

Understanding the nuances of App Store organic search optimization is a crucial marketing channel for app success that many app-based business owners overlook. It is not enough just to build and launch a mobile app and assume that users will find your app, download it, and remain committed to using the app on a daily basis. You must strategically position each component of your app to make sure that users who could benefit from your app’s value proposition are able to find your app via App Store search results and are then intrigued enough to download the app based upon the name, subtitle, image and description that they see.

You cannot solely think about the components associated with App Store optimization at the time of launch. You must make frequent iterations to make sure that your imagery, app content, and strategic approach is up to date. In addition to tracking your own App Store search ranking, you should track the performance of competitors to see how they are comparably performing and what types of keywords they are using to reach their given performance threshold.

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