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New App Store (iOS 11): Why ASO is more important than ever

by ,  Chief Revenue Officer at AppTweak App Market Insights

Missed the WWDC17? Wondering how iOS 11 and the new Apple App Store will impact App Store Optimization (ASO)? Don’t worry, we are going to tell you everything you need to know! Discover all the changes that will affect ASO. Let’s get started!

iOS11 New App Store: Biggest Overhaul in 9 years

Since 2008, Apple holds every year the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in California. The event is used to showcase and introduce an array of the company’s new software, hardware and technology.

Watch or rewatch all the WWDC17 videos.

This year, one of the most important announcements was the arrival of iOS 11 and the release of the new App Store, seeing its biggest overhaul in 9 years.

If Apple has always sought to innovate and improve, it has never given such a focus on the redesign of its App Store. iOS 11 will be released by September 2017 but it is already available for developers who have a developer account.

The App Store Shifts Towards a Curated-Content Ecosystem

Analyzing all the different updates and improvements, it looks like Apple seeks to purge its App Store from poor quality apps, while boosting useful, content-based and smarter apps at the same time.

The algorithm will remain the leading source to rank apps, but more and more hand-picked content and apps will be highlighted.

Needless to say that the App Store Team will be reinforced. With the daily-stories (curated by daily themes) and the new “How to’s - tips & tricks”, Apple shows its will to “humanize” the App Store and increase the overall quality of the apps it features, showcases and hosts.

The App Store’s general look and feel has been almost entirely re-thought, looking much like Apple Music and Apple News. The fonts, images, icons, illustrations and screenshots all look bigger. This certainly brings consistency to Apple’s suite of various softwares and services.

As an ASO company and tool, we really wanted to give you an overview of how these updates will affect your ASO and your app’s visibility on the store. There’s a lot to cover so let’s get started!

Let’s review the major changes that will have the biggest impact on App Store Optimization (ASO) and app discovery.

1. App Store Reorganization

The first and most important set of changes is the complete reorganization of the App Store ecosystem, including new App Store tabs and some various removals/repositionings.

Apple has also entirely redesigned the way apps are displayed, using a “cards-type” layout.

- Cards Layout and daily apps

Every day, Apple will highlight a new app (and a new game). It will be displayed almost full-screen, looking like a big card. Below, the top of the second app’s card will appear.

Before this update, the App Store’s first screen showcased about 8 featured apps and 1 hero banner.

These top daily apps will be displayed under the “Today” tab, now replacing the “Featured” tab.

Image Source: Apple

How does this update affect app discoverability?

This clearly opens up new opportunities for new and upcoming developers to showcase their apps, as being featured will enhance more visibility than ever before.

- “Games” and “Apps” are now separate tabs

Two distinct tabs on the menu will now enable users to focus their search on “Games” alone, or on all the rest of the available “Apps”.

This shift is not surprising, as the “Games” category is the biggest revenue driver in the App Store. It is also the most popular, and therefore, the most competitive category of the App Store.

Image Source: Apple

How does this update affect app discoverability?

This focus on “Games” will give a boost to app discoverability in this specific category. It will most likely encourage App Store users to download even more games. The risk is to make the “Games” category even more competitive in the future.

- Top Charts and Top Grossing

Apple has decided to remove the “Top Grossing” chart, while moving the “Top Charts” tab in the “Apps” or “Games” tabs. It therefore now requires App Store users to make an additional tap to be able to view the Top Apps.

The top downloaded charts will also be displayed differently. It will showcase 3 apps per group of apps (“Top Paid” and “Top Free”). Users need to click on “See All” to view the whole list.

How does this update affect app discoverability?

It looks like it will be less easy for users to browse the “Top Charts”, as it will require more taps than before.

This new update probably seeks to give less importance to “Top apps” (= the most popular and most downloaded apps), which will give more opportunities and visibility to less popular/new apps or hand-picked apps by Apple’s team.

- “Updates” switching places with “Search” tab

The “Search” and the “Updates” tabs have exchanged positions. “Search” is now placed on the extreme right of the menu.

Image Source: Apple

How does this update affect app discoverability?

Although it looks like a minor change, having the “Search” tab on the top right makes it easier for App Store users to find it and to actually tap on it. It most likely highlights Apple’s desire to emphasize keywords search.

2. App Product Page Redesign

This is probably the most interesting part for you, ASO lovers.

Apple has completely reviewed the presentation of the app product page. What’s more, with the introduction of new metadata fields, the algorithm and the various App Store ranking factors will inevitably be updated.

As Apple states, “Every element of your App Store product page has the power to drive downloads of your app or game. And with iOS 11, product pages offer more opportunities to showcase your work with additional app previews, localization, and new text fields. […]”

Let’s review all the elements of your app’s product page and see their impact on your app rankings.

- App Title & (NEW) Subtitle: 30 characters each

Remember that before September 2016, app names could be 255 characters long? Since then, the app title had been reduced to 50 characters only.

Apple clearly sought to avoid keyword stuffing in order to improve discoverability and the overall App Store experience. The point was to remove poor quality apps willing to benefit from keywords popularity to emerge in the searches, causing a giant mess in the results and frustrating users.

Big news : your iOS app title now has a 30-character limit!

Note: While Apple has shortened its app name limit, Google has just raised this limit to 50 characters (while before it was 30) - Kudos Thomasbcn for spotting it.

At the same time, Apple has introduced the “Subtitle”, which is also a 30-character field that will be visible to the users. It will be located below the app title and above the screenshots.

Image Source: Apple

How does this update affect app discoverability?

By reducing the app name’s length and with the introduction of the “subtitle”, Apple wants to insist on the importance of branding in the app name, while descriptive and relevant keywords would be rather used in the Subtitle. A bit like Google Play’s title and short description.

Indeed, this brand-new subtitle will be taken into account by the algorithm to index your app.

The best practice would therefore to use your brand name with 1 or 2 very strong keywords in your app title, while using a catchy descriptive short sentence for your app subtitle.

Obviously, no real tests could have yet been made on the various weights the app title and subtitle might have, but we can presume that both the app name and the subtitle will have a heavier weight on the algorithm than other metadata fields.

This update is some great news as it gives room for 10 additional characters (30+30=60) rather than the 50 existing on the app title.

- The app description: towards app indexing?

In terms of app description and app indexing, Apple remains quite mysterious. However, it looks like Apple is slowly moving towards a SEO kind of approach (like Google), with the appearance of more content in the store.

Plus, now that the description field is only mutable while making an app update (such as the Keyword Field), it is quite possible that its keywords could potentially affect the search results.

However Apple clearly states: “Don’t add unnecessary keywords to your description in an attempt to improve search results.”

Image Source: Apple

- Promotional Text (NEW)

Here’s another new text space: the promotional text. This 170 characters field has been created for you to let your app users know about the latest news about your app and/or special offers or features. It will appear at the top of your app description. How does this update affect app discoverability?

Although the Promo Text will probably not be indexed, it is always important to fill in every text space carefully and to use relevant keywords. Here again, nothing has been tested nor proven. However, remember that your app’s web page is indexed on Search Engines. Having a great SEO is a nice bonus for your app discoverability.

You’ll be able to update your Promo Text at anytime, without having to submit a new version of your app. You can therefore be very creative and flexible regarding what you’re going to share with your users.

- Other text fields remain the same

  • The 100-character iTunes Connect Keyword field (invisible to the users) remains as it is. Its weight will likely also stay the same regarding app keywords indexing.
  • The primary and secondary category name will also remain indexed.
  • Same goes for the app publisher name.
  • The “What’s New” section also stays the same. It will be displayed below your app name and icon on the “Updates” tab. Don’t hesitate to include some relevant keywords in there, we know that they might get indexed…

- App Videos: 3 previews per app!

You are now able to publish up to 3 app previews (only 1 available previously), which will be displayed before your screenshots.

The particularity of these videos is that they will automatically play as the user lands on the app’s page. These will be muted by default, but the sound can be turned on manually (exactly how videos work on your Facebook news feed).

Just like before, they can’t be longer than 30 seconds but great news : they can now be localized!

Apple highlights the importance of visuals and rich content on its Store. It is important to cease this opportunity by using all available video (and screenshots) slots.

Image Source: Apple

How does this update affect app discoverability?

This update might not directly affect app discoverability, but it will certainly increase app conversion. And as conversion increases, the app gets a boost from the algorithm in the search results. Therefore, app previews remain a very important aspect of ASO.

Plus, the fact that you can now localize their content will increase app conversion even more.

Feel free to reach out to our partner Sylvain, founder of Apptamin (app videos agency) if you need help creating a converting app preview.

- In-App Purchases, displayed and sold directly on your product page

Another notable update is the fact that in-app purchases will now be displayed on your product page (up to 20 per app). Same goes for subscriptions.

What’s more, users will be able to make a direct purchase on any IAP from the app’s page (outside the app).

Image Source: Apple

How does this update affect app discoverability?

You’ll be able to give a name, promotional image and a description to each of your items. It is of course also crucial to optimize each of these carefully in order to maximize your sales.

Remember that your in-app titles are indexed by the algorithm, so make sure to use relevant and popular keywords to name them. IAP can appear in search results and actually be featured on the “Today”, “Games” and “Apps” tabs.

This is another great boost from Apple to help increase store general revenue.

- Highlights on Reviews & Ratings

A few important changes have been made to the way the App Store displays and handles Reviews and Ratings, which are given more space and importance.

Below the icon and the app name, you will now see:

  • The average rating and ratings for all versions (previously, only the current app version rating was displayed). Great news here: you can set all your ratings to zero when you submit a new version of your app.
  • The app ranking in its primary category.
  • The age rating.

Image Source: Apple

Apple has totally revamped the Reviews and Ratings section. Replies (App Store Editor’s notes), which can be updated at any time, will be displayed on the same page and directly below the review in question.

Moreover, users owning an app (or who used to own the app) have another view enabling them to instantly rate the app from the store listing (now 1 “tap to rate” instead of 3 before).

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Image Source: Apple

How does this update affect app discoverability?

Here again, it won’t have a direct impact on app discovery but definitely on your app conversion, which consequently will impact your store authority and thus visibility.

Apple is clearly trying to improve the quality of the App Store by boosting great apps. This is why an important highlight is given to store reviews and ratings, as they reflect the app’s quality.

Plus, the number of your Reviews and Ratings, as well as your average Rating, are powerful indicators taken into account by the algorithm to rank your app.

In a nutshell: your ASO is more important than ever

As you see, iOS 11 will bring a lot of novelties to the Apple App Store. All these updates will have huge implications on the way users browse the store and download apps.

The new cards layout definitely improves the global aesthetic of the store, which will probably encourage App Store users to discover new content and more apps.

Apple is clearly introducing a new way of experiencing the app store by providing more curated-content & editorial resources, while increasing hand-picked featured apps. Discover all the steps to be featured by Apple.

However, it looks like it will get even more difficult to get featured but the effects will be intensified.

Although the algorithm might see its influence on app rankings decrease a little in some cases, it will remain the main source of app classification and indexing.

With the new metadata fields and the potential introduction to A/B testing, Apple is emphasizing the importance of App Store Optimization.

Moreover, Apple is now giving concrete tips, tricks and guidelines on optimizing for App Store Search in order to drive more impressions, conversions and installs.

The New App Store is already available for iOS developers today and will be publicly launched late this fall. If you have a Developer Account, don’t wait any longer and start getting familiar with all these changes.

It is crucial to adapt and adjust your ASO according to the new updates. Be ready for this fall!

Final Word: AppTweak will adapt its tools, data and algorithms!

These changes will not only have an impact on app developers, marketers or App Store users. They will also impact App Marketing, App Market Intelligence and App Store Optimization tools/companies like AppTweak.

We wanted to reassure everyone: we are already working hard on adjusting our tool according to the new App Store structure, algorithm and new metadata fields :-)

We would be very happy to answer all your questions and to help you adapt your ASO. Feel free to reach out to us at any time! If you’re still not doing any App Store Optimization on your app(s), it’s time to get started! You can start a 7-day free trial on AppTweak and start improving your app rankings and keywords rankings.

So, what do you think of all these updates? Did you notice anything else?

If you want to know more, check out these resources Apple’s updates:

by ,  Chief Revenue Officer at AppTweak

Laurie is CRO at AppTweak and joined the company in its early stages. She's passionate about new technologies and mobile marketing. Oh, and also about sushi.