More than 80% of applications in the marketplace fail to generate 500 downloads.
How do you ensure that your application avoids falling victim to this so-called “zombie app” population? The answer is simple: through App Store Optimization.
How does the App Store algorithm work?
Classification algorithms take into account 3 principal criterion:
- The number of downloads in a 24-72 hour period
- Retention (number of times the application is opened and session duration)
- Average rating assigned by the application’s users and the number of reviews
Focusing on these 3 factors is vital for success:
- Number of Downloads: the more downloads you accumulate, the more visible the app will become in the rankings, and the more free ‘organic’ downloads will come from users who see the application in their chosen marketplace. This can be a virtuous cycle (or a vicious one, depending on available marketing resources…) for successful applications as download volume snowballs over time.
- App Retention: the more a user utilizes the application, the better it is ranked in the marketplace. Ensuring that the app performs well is therefore a core concern for developers. As Apple and Google place more significance on retention for determining rankings, it is evident that applications that are inherently easy to use consistently top the charts: Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Youtube, etc. This is, of course, to the detriment of more complicated apps.
- User Ratings: while app performance dictates a user’s rating, it is possible to influence and encourage user scores through smart placement of rating suggestion messages at the heart of the user experience. Developers play a key role in this process.
How do you improve ASO (App Store Optimization) performance?
Studies show that roughly 50% of all app downloads stem from keyword searches. The first crucial task is optimizing keywords that are associated with your application. On Apple’s App Store, there is a 100-character field dedicated to keywords for each language: be sure to not leave spaces between words in this field and to only use singular words. On Google Play, there is no dedicated keyword field: Google takes into account all words and word frequencies for keywords in your application’s title, short description, and long description. Be sure to prioritize word placement in your title and short description; repeat keywords 5-6 times in your long description.
How should you choose keywords? In theory, your objective is to rank #1 in search results for each keyword that you consider to be critical to the application. If you rank too low (below the top 5-6 results for a given keyword), users will not see your application. That’s why focusing on App Store Optimization is crucial.
Review rankings for your chosen keywords with tools such as Searchman or Sensor Tower. Identify keywords for which your application does not rank well enough and abandon them. Brainstorm to create a list of potential keywords, taking into account your competitors’ selections. Compare your keywords in terms of their characteristics: relevance (is there a strong link with your application?), barriers to entry (is this keyword already used by too many of your competitors?), and traffic (volume of user searches for a given keyword).
First, reject all keywords that are not relevant for your application: a user typing the word “beach” will probably not be interested in your strategy game titled “War Beach,” regardless of whether it matches a competitor’s keyword! Prioritize keywords that pair strong traffic with low barriers to entry. Success lies in your capacity to find “niche” keywords that do not have strong competition but maintain high traffic levels. It is essentially useless to employ innovative keywords if no users would consider typing them into the search bar in an app marketplace.
After keyword optimization, what else can you do to encourage users to download your application once they arrive on the app description page?
Keyword optimization is the first step in ASO. Once you have directed users to the application description page, you must maximize your “App Store page” download conversion rate. Be sure to include a distinct, distinguishable icon, colorful and relevant screenshots, a video overview of the app’s functionality, and a description of important features.
Your icon should be representative of the application and what it does, and must be related to the app’s title. If the title + icon duo does not allow a user to immediately grasp the concept of the app, why would they even consider downloading it? It is, therefore, crucial to reflect on how the icon represents the concept of the application.
With respect to the description and screenshots: Keep in mind that few users will make the effort to carefully examine in detail all screenshots and the entire description. Most users make up their mind about an app in seconds, often based exclusively on screenshots (usually the first). Good App Store Optimization best practices advise that you must highlight the app’s major selling points in the first screenshots (1-3) and in the first couple of lines in the description (the first 5 lines that appear on the screen).
Once you have optimized the App Store description page (and therefore its ASO), can you expect better rankings and more downloads?
App marketplaces determine application rankings based on this optimization process, but this is not simply enough to guarantee results. Along with the App Store Optimization factors listed above, App Stores account for download numbers in their algorithms, as they are a clear indicator of success and reputation which in turn generate long-term interest.
It is, therefore, important to attain significant download numbers in order to kickstart the life of an application. This will allow for short term acquisition of mass downloads. It will also ensure positive long term rankings in your specific categories and preferred keyword searches, generating additional “free” organic downloads in the long term. Without an initial download boost, the application is far less likely to take off and will most likely stay grounded forever.
Two principal App Store Optimization strategies may be utilized:
- The first is to obtain an advance listing from the app marketplaces (Apple, Google, and Amazon): for 7 days, the app will be featured as a “best new app” on the “Selection” page in their app store. This can lead to a significant download volume and a successful launch for an application. The downside to this approach is that selection is not guaranteed, and you must have a truly great app that suits the marketplaces in order to be featured. Very few apps are featured in this manner.
- The other approach is to undertake a mobile marketing/User Acquisition campaign in order to promote the application through as many mobile resources as possible, maximizing download volume through low costs. Tools such as Mobile Addict or Fiksu can help new applications to generate downloads through multiple simultaneous sources, in an efficient and profitable manner. This strategy can be costly, but these campaigns can lead to future organic downloads in both the short and long term. This is especially true if the campaigns are correctly managed to target users that will ultimately become active users of the application after downloading it.Happy optimizing!