What is ASO?

ASO Ranking Signals & How 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, 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 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 rankings (and thus a higher visibility). Great conversion rate optimization tactics will then make sure the increased visibility leads to more app downloads.

Why is ASO important?

There are more than 2 million apps in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Each day, another 6,000 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. This means that if you are not investing in ASO and optimizing your app’s visibility you are missing out on possibly 30% extra app downloads. That’s why ASO is so important!

What factors impact your app store rankings?
ASO Ranking Signals:

To get started with ASO you need to understand what elements play a role in ASO. Below we have described the main ASO ranking signals that have an impact on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store’s ranking algorithm.

  1. Keywords in metadata

    For the App Store to decide whether or not to rank your app on a certain keyword, the algorithm looks at the keywords provided in the metadata (title, subtitle (Apple), short description (Google), keyword field (Apple) or long description (Google)). If the keyword people 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 Downloads

    The number of app downloads is one of the strongest ranking signal in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Having many downloads will help increase your ranks on a wide variety of terms.

  3. Conversion Rate

    Besides the number of downloads, the algorithms will also look at the conversion rate on a certain keyword. 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 that specific keyword, it signals to the store that users are satisfied with the results the algorithm is returning.

  4. Rating & 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 don’t 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 where 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 built well and crashes often or consumes a lot of battery on users’ phones, the algorithms (especially the Google Play Store algorithm) will rank your app below other apps.

  7. Backlinks

    The Google Play Store algorithm also looks at how many backlinks your app’s webpage has received. Similar as with 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 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:

  1. App Title

    From an ASO perspective, the app title is a strong ranking signal in both the Apple App Store & the Google Play Store. That means that for both iOS or Android apps, you should always include your most important keywords in your app title.

    An app title should further explain to users what your app is about. This is very important, especially for android apps where the app title and app icon are the only visible elements in the Google Play Search Results. In the Apple App Store search results, on the other hand, the app icon, title, subtitle (probably truncated) and screenshots show.

  2. Subtitle (iOS) or Short Description (Android)

    For iOS apps, the subtitle (30 characters) appears underneath the app title in the search results, or underneath the screenshots on the app page. The app subtitle should contain strong keywords and explain to users what your app is about.

    For Android apps, the short description (80 characters) does not appear in the search results, but shows on the app listing above the fold (and above the screenshots). The app short description occupies a prime spot in an Android app listing and should grab people’s attention and explain why they should download the app.

  3. iOS keyword field

    Similar as in the old seo days, there is a 100-character keyword field for iOS apps. The keywords are a main ranking factor and helps Apple decide when to show your app in the search results. This keyword field is invisible to App Store users and should use single keywords separated with commas (and no space!).

    The Google Play Store algorithm is more complex and does not offer a keyword field. Instead the Google Play Store algorithm looks at the keywords used in your app title and subtitle and the keyword density in your long description.

  4. Long description

    Both iOS and Android apps, allow to add a long description (4,000 characters). The main difference is that the long description is not a ranking signal in the Apple App Store. That means that the keywords used in the long description of an iOS app do not rank. They are however a main ranking factor in the Google Play algorithm.

    For iOS apps, the first 3 lines of the long description (plus a “more button”) show underneath the screenshots. That means that people need to do some scrolling before they actually see the long description. That also means that those who are reading the long description are really interested to learn more about your app. Therefore it is important your long description explains in detail the main features and benefits of your app.

    For Android apps, the long description plays a big part in your app’s visibility as the keywords in the long description will index your app. The long description shows when people click on the ‘more’ button that appears next to the short description. Similar as for iOS apps, your long description should explain the main features and benefits of your app.

  5. Screenshots

    The Apple App Store allows to add up to 10 screenshots while the Google Play Store limits the number of screenshots to 8. This is however not the only difference.

    The first 3 screenshots show in the Apple App Store search results, but in the Google Play Store, they are hidden in the app listing, below the fold.

    That means that screenshots have a major impact on the conversion rate in the Apple App Store. So, make sure to use the screenshots in order to grab people’s attention. We have further seen that screenshots that are connected (or tell a story) have a stronger impact on your conversion rate than stand-alone screenshots.

    For Android apps, the screenshots are the last graphic asset people see in the app listing (behind the app icon and featured image or promo video). Even-though the screenshots are less visible in an Android app, they are still important and should show your app’s main features.

  6. App Previews (iOS) vs Promo Videos (Android)

    For iOS apps, the app preview video autoplays (alongside the first 2 screenshots) in the Apple App Store search results. As people like to consume video content, adding a preview video will definitely make your app stand out from competitors in the Apple App Store search results. The videos should be short and quickly explain how the app works.

    For Android apps, the promo video only appears on your app listing, in the featured image banner at the top. To show a promo video on your app store listing, you need to upload the video on youtube first. That means that the video needs to be shot in 16:9 (landscape) format.

  7. To learn more about how to optimize every single element of your app page or listing for ASO, check out our detailed ASO checklists:

    Apple App Store Checklist
    Google Play Store Checklist

How to get started with ASO

  1. Find relevant keywords

    Every ASO strategy starts with a lot of keyword research. First you want to find out which keywords you are currently ranking for and what keywords are currently driving downloads.

    Then, you should research which keywords people are using the most when searching the stores for your game, products or services.

    Discover our FREE auto-suggest tool
    Just type a few letters and you’ll get the app store auto-suggestions

    Next, optimize your metadata with these keywords. Add your most important keywords to the app title as it contains the most weight in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

  2. 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.

    Check out this blog for more tips on how to design screenshots that stand out

  3. Monitor your competitors

    Monitor your competitors. See what keywords they are using in their metadata and what keywords they are ranking for. Find those high volume keywords none of your competitors are ranking for and include them in your metadata.

    Make sure to monitor your competitor’s visibility on a regular basis. Keep track of what they are doing and make sure to review your keyword strategy when necessary.

  4. Localize your app

    The app store’s 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.

  5. 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 for a few times or when they have completed an action or event on your app.

    Tips to get more app reviews:
    Check out this blog for more tips on how to design screenshots that stand out

  6. 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.

    Check major app store algorithm updates that have had the biggest impact on app rankings with our free algorithm tracking tool

Ready to take your ASO to the next level?

Start a 7-day free trial now or schedule a demo to see how you can find the best keywords with AppTweak Keyword Tool!