What is ASO? App Store Ranking Factors & Tips to Get Started
Are you new to app store optimization? In this guide you’ll find everything you need to know about ASO, app store ranking signals, and how ASO is different for the Apple App Store & Google Play and how to get started.
What is ASO (App Store Optimization)?
ASO or App Store Optimization is the process of improving an app’s visibility in the app stores with the objective to increase organic app downloads. Apps are more visible when they rank high on a wide variety of search terms, maintain a high position in the top charts, or get featured by the store.
ASO focusses mostly on two pillars: keyword optimization and conversion rate optimization. A solid keyword optimization strategy will result in higher ranking. Great conversion rate optimization tactics will make sure the increased visibility leads to more app downloads.
Why is ASO important?
There are more than 3 million apps in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Each day, another 3,000 new apps are released on average. One of the main methods for people to navigate this universe and discover new apps is “App Store Search”. According to Apple, over 65% of app downloads come from app store search, and nearly half of those searches were generic (not branded) searches.
What factors impact your app store rankings? ASO Ranking Signals:
To get started with ASO you need to understand the app store algorithms. Below we have described the main ASO ranking signals that have an impact on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store’s algorithm.
1. Keywords in Metadata
For the App Stores to decide whether or not to rank your app on a certain keyword, the algorithms look at the keywords provided in the metadata (title, subtitle (Apple), short description (Google), keyword field (Apple) or long description (Google)). If the keyword users searched for is added to your app’s metadata, your app has a chance to rank for that search term. The app store algorithm will further assign your app a higher rank if the keyword is contained in your app title or subtitle. As a general rule of thumb, keywords in the app title carry more weight than keywords in the subtitle (or short description), which in turn carry more weight than the iOS keyword field or long description.
2. App Download Volume & Velocity
The number of daily app downloads is one of the strongest ranking signals in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. A high number of daily downloads will help increase your ranks on a wide variety of terms.
3. Conversion Rate
The algorithms also take into account the conversion rate, or the share of people who download your app after seeing it in the search results. Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store want to provide users with a great user experience by showing the best apps in the search results. If your app has a stable conversion rate for a specific keyword, it signals to the store that users are satisfied with the apps the algorithm is showing.
4. Ratings & Reviews
Both the number of reviews and your star rating represent another major ranking factor. Having a lot of positive reviews signals to the algorithm that users tend to like your app. It is therefore important to encourage your users to leave reviews & ratings in order to increase your app’s weight on the algorithm.
5. Retention Rate
The stores do not solely rely on app downloads but also take into consideration an app’s retention rate. If many users uninstall your app shortly after it was downloaded, it signals to the algorithm that users were not happy with the app. Many argue that metrics such as session duration or the number of launches are also ranking signals.
6. App Performance
If your app is not well built and crashes often, or consumes a lot of battery on users’ phones, the algorithms (especially for Google Play Store) will rank your app below other apps.
The Google Play Store algorithm also looks at how many backlinks your app’s webpage has received. Similar to SEO, the more backlinks the higher your app’s authority. A high authority signals your app is widely known and will result in a higher rank.
How is ASO different for the Apple App Store & Google Play?
App pages have similar elements in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store including: app name, subtitle, long description, screenshots, video preview and ratings & reviews. There are however some major differences on how these elements should be used to optimize your app for the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Not only have Apple and Google developed their own algorithm, the UI is also very different. For example, on the Apple App Store (picture on the right), Apple shows the app icon, title, subtitle, ratings and screenshots in the search results. Google on the other hand only shows the icon, title, rating score and developer name.
- The app name is a strong ranking signal in both the Apple App Store & Google Play. But the app name is the only textual element that appears in the Google Play Search results, hence the app name plays a more important role in terms of conversion rate optimization on the Google Play Store than on the Apple App Store.
- The subtitle varies widely in length in the App Store vs Google Play (30 characters vs 80 characters) but also serves a different purpose. In the Apple App Store, the subtitle appears underneath the title in the search results, hence it should explain to users what your app is about. For Android apps, the short description appears only on the app listing and should focus on grabbing user’s attention while convincing them to download your app.
- Apple still relies on a 100-character keyword field to decide which keywords to rank your app for.
- The long description is an important ranking factor in the Google Play Store, but keywords used in the long description don’t rank in the Apple App Store.
- Screenshots only show up in the search results in the Apple App Store and play a major role to convince users to download your app. On the Google Play Store, screenshots only appear in the Search Results on branded keyword matches.
- Google Play takes backlinks into account in their algorithm. Apples does not.
Expert Tip: On iOS it is recommended to avoid repeating keywords in your metadata. Repeating keywords won’t add a higher weight to the keyword and is instead a waste of space. For Google Play on the other hand, increasing the density of your keyword by repeating it in your metadata does help Google understand better what your app is about and might result in a higher rank. Keep in mind to avoid keyword stuffing though!
How to get started with App Store Optimization
1. Identify your competitors
As a first step in your ASO strategy you have to know which apps you are competing with and understand their strategy. When identifying your competitors you should not only consider your direct competitors but also apps or games that compete for the same keywords in the app stores.
With AppTweak’s Live Search Results feature you can very easily spot which apps or games are ranking for your target keywords. The image above displays the Live Search results for ‘workout’, ‘match 3’ and ‘casino slots’ in the US Apple Store.
2. Analyze your competitor’s ASO strategy
Before you start digging into keyword research, let’s take a step back and have a look at what your competitors are doing in terms of ASO. Not only can you learn a lot from this exercise, it will also help you define realistic benchmarks or KPIs for your own strategy.
With AppTweak’s Timeline feature you can spot when competitor made an update to their metadata and see a before/after view of the update. In this example, GardenScapes updated its icon in the US Apple Store on February 23rd.
3. Find relevant keywords
Now let’s start with keyword research. To maximize your app’s visibility in the app stores it is important you understand which keywords users use when searching in the app stores for your product or service.
AppTweak has a variety of tools that can help you build keyword lists:
- Ranked Keywords: Find out which keywords your app is ranking on
- Opportunity Keywords: See which keywords your competitors are ranking on and your app is not
- Download Keywords: Understand which keywords drive the most downloads to your app or your competitors
- Search Ads Reco: Find out which keywords Apple is suggesting for Apple Search Ads
- Auto-Suggest: Discover Apple and Google’s auto-suggestions
- Category Top Keywords: Find out which keywords are used the most in your category
- Top Growth: Discover which keywords have been trending in the past 30 days
Example of AppTweak’s Keyword Research and Suggestion Tools
4. Update your metadata
Once you have built a list with keywords that are relevant to your app and describe your product or service you need to decide which keywords you need to add to your metadata.
Keep the following tips in mind when selecting keywords:
- Choose keywords that are most relevant to your app and provide an answer to a user query
- Choose keywords with a medium or high volume
- Choose keywords with a high Chance Score, keywords for which your app has the highest chance to rank based on its current App Power.
- Make sure to add your most important keywords to the app title as it contains the most weight in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.
5. Optimize your visual elements
Throughout this article we have explained how important your visual elements are when it comes to conversion rate optimization. Take the time to design well-thought screenshots and make sure to add a preview video in the Apple App Store.
7. Localize your app
The app stores reach a global audience, and to really increase your app’s visibility around the world it is very important you localize your app. App localization is the process of adapting your app (including the metadata, keyword field and screenshots) to all the different languages and cultures you want to target. Localization goes beyond just translating your app’s metadata and graphic assets. People in other countries might search differently, which means that to be effective, you need to properly research which keywords people are using in your target country and optimize your metadata accordingly. Keep in mind there might also be local competitors you need to monitor to spot additional opportunities.
8. Get more user reviews
Ratings and reviews are a major ASO ranking signal and they should be a key part of your ASO strategy. Start by asking friends and family to review your apps. Then consider adding a pop-up asking people to review your app. However, keep in mind, when asking for a review, timing is really important. Only ask people to review your app after they have used it a few times or when they have completed an action or event on your app.
9. Monitor rankings and visibility
It is vital to monitor your app rankings and visibility on a regular basis: not only do the app stores update their algorithm regularly, there is constantly new competition being launched on the app stores, and also user search behaviour changes over time. Make sure to spot trends early and adjust your keyword strategy when necessary.
AppTweak has a full stack of keyword ranking and movements to help you monitor your visibility. The screenshot above shows Booking.com’s visibility in comparison with its competitors. The app’s visibility increased in February as Booking.com gained rankings on the keyword ‘travel deals’
Are you ready to get started with ASO? AppTweak is the easiest and most effective tool to grow app businesses of all sizes. Our suite of tools include:
- 10+ Keyword Suggestion Tools
- Ranked Keywords & History
- Organic Downloads per Keyword
- Visibility and Keyword Impact Analysis
- Featured Apps & Stories
- Similar Apps
- Ratings & Reviews
- Competition Monitoring
- And much more
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