We start with a summary of the section dedicated to ASO since optimization for mobile apps is a compliment and a professional opportunity for those who are dedicated or want to train in SEO.
What is ASO?
The market for mobile applications is growing at a spectacular rate. This is good news for the creators of Apps, although the increase in demand brings a counterpart: there is more and more competition.
In 2016, 2 million apps (1) were reached on Google Play and the Apple App Store, the leading mobile app stores in this sector. With these numbers, it is difficult to highlight an application in its rankings or search results for users to see it and have options to be downloaded.
Note 1: June 2016, source statista.com (half a million in Windows Store and Amazon Pasture)
Despite this difficulty, we can use a series of techniques and recommendations that help to position an App. Something similar to a positioning strategy for Web pages in search engines, but in this case focused on mobile applications and the stores that distribute them.
What is the ASO trying to achieve?
The objective of ASO is to help improve the visibility of an application in mobile app stores, applying techniques that optimize a series of elements of that application.
With them we try to improve its positioning, that is, to increase the chances of it being found in the store, and its attractiveness, that is, to awaken the interest of users so that they decide to download it compared to the rest of the apps shown.
Based on what we have described before, we can identify the three sections where ASO actions are focused:
- Optimize elements that influence the search results of the App stores.
- Optimize factors that affect the lists or rankings of those stores.
- Optimize aspects that improve conversions in downloads and installations
Next, we are going to see what factors or elements come into play when talking about mobile Apps, and we will give some recommendations that we must take into account in order to achieve the aforementioned objectives. They are elements directly related to the information that appears about the application in Google Play (Android apps) or Apple Store (iOS apps).
ASO elements / factors
The ASO elements or factors could be divided into two groups, on-metadata, and off-metadata. For those of you who have SEO training, it will remind you of the on-page and off-page categories in the web environment, with which they bear a certain similarity, at least in general philosophy.
ASO on-metadata elements
It is information that we can control directly since it is metadata related to the App that we define.
Within this set, we could in turn differentiate two groups. The first one influences the search results, while the second group can influence the user’s choice between the apps that appear in their search.
Information influencing the search
The metadata that we associate with the application and influence the search results in the two main App stores are (we include in parentheses in which store each field would apply):
- App name (App Store): recently shortened to 50 characters, previously the limit was 255
- Title (Google Play): 30 characters
- Description (both. In the App Store this text does not influence the positioning for now, but it should be treated in case it did in the near future): 4000 characters, although only the first lines are shown to the user who has to click if he wants to see more. It is therefore a long description of what the application does, what it is for, what outstanding features it has, information about it that we want to highlight, etc.
- Short description (Google Play): 80 characters. As its name indicates, we must condense the fundamentals that characterize our application
- Keywords (App Store): that is, keywords. Supports a maximum of 100 characters
- Category (both): we must locate our App in one of the categories or themes provided by each store
We extract from the course content a summary of recommendations to achieve a good optimization in this group of information fields:
- Careful selection of keywords, thinking about whether we are interested in competing in those that have a lot of popularity and competition or in more specific and less consulted, in a very similar way to the long-tail strategy that we explain in the SEO course.
We should also analyze the ‘competition’ (which keywords are used by apps similar to ours) or by what terms users search. For this, we have keyword search and analysis tools such as Google Keyword Planner or specific for mobile Apps such as the ones we referenced in the course.
- For using these keywords, we take into account, inter alia, the character limits of each ‘field’, the avoid the repetition excessive or infringing copyrights to avoid penalties, or location, i.e. the translation / adaptation different languages if we go to international markets.
- The name / title of the App should be meaningful, differentiating and attractive to the user, including the most significant keywords. If we are not a very well-known brand, we should not try to include our name at all costs. It may be more convenient to focus on keywords than branding
- We must write a clear description of the App, which ‘sells’ and is informative (the first lines, remember, are essential, because they are the ones that are seen by default), highlighting, for example, what it offers the user or its differential value. We must use the keywords that we have selected in a natural way in the writing.
- The choice of category is very important, with several factors to take into account: suitability, by which category users would look for an App like ours, and competition (whether or not to search for less popular categories where our App can fit and increase our chances of being higher in the ranking).
Information that influences conversions
There would be a second set that does not influence the positioning directly but more in the degree of conversion of visits to downloads, whether free or paid. These are main elements that, due to their design and visual impact, can attract the attention of the user:
- Icon: the image that identifies our application
- Screenshots, that is, screenshots of the application
- Demonstration or promotional video of the application
- Developer details and app updates
In the course documentation, we give you various recommendations on these elements. It should be noted that although the first three seem accessory elements, they are often decisive for the user to choose between the options that are presented in the searches.
As for the fourth, it is clear that it offers more ‘confidence’ a more complete profile and an active update history. Not knowing who is behind an App that stopped updating 3 years ago is not a good claim for a user.
ASO off-metadata elements
They are elements or factors that perhaps we can influence something, but are beyond our control, such as:
- Number of downloads: as the name suggests, the volume of downloads the app has, whether they are free or paid
- Rating: the rating that the application gets as rated or voted by users
- Comments: the number and content of the comments (* reviews *) made by users
- The speed of the downloads: in how long the total of downloads has been achieved. For example, if it is not a very high volume, but it has been in a short time and recently, it seems to indicate that it is a new app that has gained popularity as soon as it is known, which attracts users even more.
The recommendations that we make in the course in this section focus both on the preliminary app design and development phase of the application, as well as on the capacity and quality of response that we can give to the users who install it.
Search engines in App stores are less sophisticated than those we can have on the web where more content is indexed. We must also take into account the particularities of each store and its search results and ranking algorithms, especially Google Play if it is for Android, or the App Store if it is for iOS.
As in SEO, it is much more effective if a plan is developed continuously over time, measuring, analyzing the results, and modifying or adapting according to this monitoring that we do.
The analysis of our application is essential because it will give us the keys to optimize all the metadata that we have presented, from there, enter this cycle of continuous improvement. In the course, we will comment on some aspects to consider in this section.
Black Hat ASO
As we explained in SEO, there is also a fraudulent practice that can in some cases give temporary results. The problem is that as they are attempts to deceive the stores, they can detect it and seriously penalize those Apps, ultimately causing more damage than the supposed benefit that could be achieved. We give some examples of these techniques in the course.
Complementary strategies to ASO
To these sections we would add at least three more digital channels if it is about getting traffic and sales/downloads from our apps:
An SEO plan to attract visits from web searches, since Google continues to be one of the fundamental sources of traffic for downloading Apps.
We recommend promoting with a website (depending on the size of the project, it may require a website for each App that we distribute) that links to the App stores, (or even with direct download).
Also, depending on the type of application, implement Firebase (formerly Google App Indexing) for direct indexing of the contents of the app in Google.
A plan in social networks, which achieves diffusion, attracts traffic, and helps with Web positioning.
Promotion: mainly online channels and can include SEM, SMM, and specialized mobile ad networks, which we reference in the course. Sometimes a well-designed ad campaign will get us a one-off increase in the volume of the application’s installations, raising its position in the rankings and improving the results of the rest of the strategies.