ASO for iOS The Complete Guide, ASO University Chapter 4

17 min read

As both of the app stores are very distinctive we decided to split the main ASO guides into two different chapters: Apple App Store Optimization & Google Play App Store Optimization. In this chapter, we will discover all of the details about Apple App Store Optimization.

1.iOS11: What Has Changed?

Just a while ago Apple launched iOS11 and the new App Store alongside with it. The new App Store changed a lot of things about Apple App Store Optimization. The very nature of the App Store changed, the app listing page got major updates and the search results page got a major overhaul.

ios 11 and apple app store optimization

The main point of these changes was to make navigating in the app store a more enjoyable experience. Every change was made by keeping in mind user experience. Obviously, these changes had a major impact on how apps were ranked and how Apple App Store Optimization was done in general. You can go to one of our other blogs to learn more about the changes to the App Store after the launch of iOS11. 

a.The New App Store

Probably the most remarkable change made to the App Store was the introduction of the Today page. The Today page will replace the Featured tab and will be much more lively than its predecessor.

The today tab will have a profound effect on Apple App Store Optimization

However, there will be much fewer apps appearing on the Today tab, however, the featured apps there will be handpicked more carefully. So, we can say that the new Today tab will make it much harder to get featured. However, getting featured will have a more profound effect than before.

One other feature that has been requested for a very long time is the separation of the Apps & Games. Historically, Games has been the most crowded category while also being the most competitive one. This made both navigating and ranking in the App Store quite difficult. By separating Games & Apps to two different stores, Apple has seemingly solved the problems.

With this change, Apps will have a better chance at competing while Games will still be quite competitive. Also, navigating the App Store will be much much easier as you can look at apps or games separately.

Moreover, getting Featured is a much more elaborate process. In addition to the Today tab, there will also be a Game of the Day & App of the Day. As that wasn’t enough, the Apple team will share unique developer stories. Furthermore, In-App Purchases, Short Term Sales, Seasonal Events, and Developers will be get featured as well. This gives app publishers a wide set of ways to get featured and deliver their stories to their audience.

b.The New Product Page

One other major update with iOS11 came to the Product Page of apps. With new stuff added and some other stuff moved around a bit the New Product Page is more lively than ever!

So, let’s have a look at what has changed with the New Product Page and how it affects your Apple App Store Optimization efforts:

Probably the most significant one is the new Subtitle field under the App Title. The Subtitle field was introduced with iOS11 and gives the developer another way of promoting their app in 30 characters. The Subtitle can be viewed as a compensation for the reduction of the App title from 50 characters to 30 characters.

But, it’s actually much better than having those characters in your title. By shortening the App Title and adding something such as Subtitles, Apple aims to get rid of lengthy and confusing app titles. Instead, having more concise and clear titles and an additional field to provide a basic summary of the app seems to be much more user-friendly.

the brand new product page presents new opportunities for your Apple App Store Optimization efforts.One other change made to the App Listing Page is the updates on the Preview Videos. Well, now you can have up to 3 of them! Furthermore, they will appear on the search results page and will be on autoplay with mute on. Preview Videos are most likely going to surpass the value  Screenshots have on your conversion rates as they are much more eye-catching and informative.

Furthermore, with iOS11, the first 170 characters of your Description is renamed as the Promotional Text. Unlike your Description, you can change your Promotional Text without having to push an update. That’s quite helpful as you can use this field to announce new events, promote short time deals, announce future updates and much much more. This field does not affect your ranking but it has a profound effect on your Conversion Rates.

People usually don’t bother to tap on the read more link to read the entire description. As the Promotional Text will be the visible part of your Description, it’s vital to promote your app and its core features in this part as it will be what most people will be only reading.

One addition made to the App Listing Page is the addition of In-App Purchases to the App Listing page. Users can see up to 20 of your In-App Purchases without downloading your app. This is a great way to show what you have in stores when the potential user is trying to decide if they will download your app or not.

Top Ten In-App Purchases

There are rumors that you might be ranking for keywords you use in your In-App Purchases, so there’s no harm in adding some keywords in between while making the In-App Purchase names clear.

c.The New Search Results Page

The purpose of remaking the Search Results Page was because of the same philosophy followed when remaking the App Store: User Experience. The new search results page now contains much more information about the app and is much more vivid than before.

As the new Search Results Page will have Preview Videos in addition to screenshots, they will take a bit more space. As the Search Results Page has more information about the apps, it’s much more competitive than before and requires more of your attention.

2.Increasing Visibility With Apple App Store Optimization

As we have mentioned before, Apple App Store Optimization can be viewed as a two-step process. Increasing the visibility of your app in the App Store is one of the fundamental pillars of Apple App Store Optimization.

We highlighted in our chapter on Keyword Optimization, the importance of keywords and the process of finding the best possible keywords. In this chapter, we will go over where and how to use those keywords and how to add keywords to the relevant places for your app.

But, before going on to how to do those, it’s convenient to explore factors that affect your ranking in the App Store. Some of your ranking factors are independent of your Apple App Store Optimization efforts which makes the dependent ones much more important. 

a.Ranking Factors for Apple App Store Optimization

  • App Title: The 30 character long App Title is the most important asset of your app. Not only it has the highest impact on your ranking but it’s also one of the most important factors that affect your conversions. More importantly, aside from those listed above, it’s the name of the app so it will be what people are identifying your app with.

The App Name is one of the most important assets for your Apple App Store Optimization efforts.

  • Subtitle: With iOS11 Apple introduced the Subtitle field which appears below your App Title and is also 30 characters long. This field should be to tell the potential user more about your app such as the primary functions, features or just a call to action phrase. It’s not very clear yet on the impact the Subtitle has on your rankings. However, considering how Apple works it can be safe to assume that the keywords you have in your Subtitle will have the second greatest impact on your ranking.

While being added recently, the Subtitle plays a significant role in your Apple App Store Optimization strategy already.

  • Keyword List: The Keyword List is the field where you put the keywords you want Apple to rank you for. The Keyword List is limited to 100 characters. Therefore, you should make the most of it to be able to rank for as many keywords as possible. Do not forget that you do not have to add the keywords you have already used in your App Title & Subtitle. You will already be ranking for them regardless.

 

  • Download Numbers: Your download numbers are also one of the important factors that affect your rankings. There are not many ways to directly affect them other than having a visible and interesting app present. So if you have decent keywords and a good conversion rate your downloads will automatically go up which will allow you to rank higher.

A graph showing the download numbers of an app

  • Developer Name: Your app also ranks for your Developer Name but Apple doesn’t give you so much space here, so it doesn’t require you to take any additional action other than creating brand awareness by other marketing ways.

Developer Name

  • In-App Purchases: Historically, you would rank for the keywords mentioned in your In-App Purchases only for exact matched search queries. However, after the launch of iOS11 and the option to have up to 20 In-App Purchase listings with their own Title, Description & Screenshot you can now rank for broad matched search queries for the keywords on your In-App Purchase listing page.

In-App Purchases are expected to play some sort of role in your Apple App Store Optimization strategy.

b.Optimizing Your Ranking Factors with Apple App Store Optimization

Now that you know what assets of your listing page help your app rank it’s time to learn how to optimize those assets to ensure that your app is ranking as high as possible. Optimizing these factors is one of the most important practices in Apple App Store Optimization.

Optimizing Your App Title

The App Title is probably one of the single most important ranking factors for your app. As we have mentioned above, the keywords in your App Title have the greatest impact on your ranking. That’s why you should give extra care to optimizing your App Title.

A good example of a proper App Name as a result of a Apple App Store Optimization strategy.

After you have finished coming up with a list of keyword ideas. You should pick the top one or two of the highest priority keywords that are also descriptive and use them in your App Title.

One other option you have at this step is to go for Branding over Apple App Store Optimization. For example Clash of Clans doesn’t use any other keywords in their App Title other than their brand name. The same can be said for other giant apps such as Instagram, Hearthstone, Tinder, etc.

Example of an app going for branding over ASO.

However, the choice of going for Branding over Apple App Store Optimization shouldn’t be taken lightly. You see, the apps that go for Branding over Apple App Store Optimization, most of the time, are well-established apps that have a seemingly endless marketing budget.

As they become well-established brands they do not use to add any other keywords than their brand name as they will be searched directly by their brand name. The fact that their App Title is a plain one will further assist them with strengthening their brand identity.

Unless you have millions to invest in marketing and you are already well-known by your brand name you should always go for Apple App Store Optimization. Even if you are a well-established app still doing Apple App Store Optimization for your App Title can only help.

Optimizing Your Subtitle

The Subtitle was introduced again with iOS11. It’s an additional 30 characters long field that appears below your App Name. This field is best used to summarize the key features or the primary function of your app. Additionally, it will affect your rankings so it’s advisable to add some relevant keywords here as well.

Subtitles are important for your Apple App Store Optimization efforts.

Obviously, don’t just blindly stuff keywords here. Instead, use keywords that describe your app in the best way while also have decent Search Scores & Chance Scores. That way you will both increase your Visibility and Conversion Rate.

Again, we can see that Apple’s strategy to make the App Store navigated easier has had a profound impact on how we do Apple App Store Optimization.

Optimizing Your Keyword List

This is the part that requires the greatest amount of effort. You have 100 characters to use. Every character should be viewed as an invaluable resource. Managing those resources will be critical to the success of your app.

You can have 100 characters in your keyword spot to ensure you are ranking for the proper keywords.

As the Keyword Field is limited to 100 characters, we advise you to use keywords that have a low competition (high Chance Score) are searched often and aren’t too long. The more well-performing keywords you can fit in there the better.

Important: When adding keywords that consist of more than one word such as keyword combinations like ‘photo editor plus’ it’s the best practice to add those keywords separated by a comma. So, if you add them as ‘photo, editor, plus’ your app will be ranking for all of the combinations of those keywords. Such as; photo editor, photo plus, editor plus, plus photo etc.

Optimizing Your In-App Purchases Page

The newly added In-App Purchases Page allows you to add up to 20 In-App Purchases to be showcased without opening or downloading the app. Opposite to what you might think, these will have little to no effect on the conversion rate of an app as they are on a separate tab which requires additional taps from users. And, we all know that users are often quite lazy.

However, the real value of the In-App Purchases is the fact that you will be ranking for the keywords used in them. Your In-App Purchases have their own names, screenshots, and short descriptions. So, using them to target a couple of keywords can help you increase the overall ground you cover in the App Store. Do not overlook this part as it can allow you to rank for many many more keywords.

Make sure that the descriptions of those In-App Purchases are accurate and make sense. Don’t blindly stuff keywords into them as they will also be appearing on the Today tab and Top Charts.

3.Increasing Conversions With Apple App Store Optimization

Now, we have come to the second pillar of Apple App Store Optimization, Conversions. Having a good Conversion Rate is as important as being highly visible in the App Store. Both of these pillars don’t mean anything without each other. If your app is not converting app page visits to downloads there’s no point in being visible. Or, if people are not finding your app easily there’s no point in being able to convert users as there will be so few page visits.

So, let’s have a look at all of the assets that influence your Conversion Rates and how to optimize them.

a.App Icon

The App Icon is probably the first thing that the potential user sees about your app. It appears in the search results, the app listing page and basically everywhere related to your app. Therefore, do not hesitate to pay a good designer to create an awesome App Icon for your app!

App Icon of Facebook
You have easily recognized which app this icon belongs, right?

Even if the App Icon can be viewed as a creative asset of your app there are a couple of points that are important to keep in mind when creating a good App Icon.

The App Icon should be a simple, easily recognized image that shouldn’t be too detailed. It should be something people can notice quickly and forget slowly so that your brand identity is strong.

Try to avoid having words in your App Icon. Make sure that when people see your App Title they will get an idea on what your app is about. Always test your App Icons, don’t stick to the first good version you find. Use social platforms such as Facebook to ask people for ideas for your App Icon.

b.App Title

The second most important factor affecting your Conversion Rates is the App Title. After people see the App Icon the next thing they see and read is your App Title. That’s why it’s crucial to have a clear and simple App Title.

Example of a good app name, which is optimized in accordance with an Apple App Store Optimization strategy.

Your App Title should be easy to read and should have your brand/app name on it (obviously). Also, it’s quite helpful if you can spare a couple of characters to tell a little more about your app.

You should pay very close attention to your App Title as it’s one of your most important assets. It both influences your Rankings & Conversion Rates. Furthermore, it’s one of the most important factors that affect both.

c.Subtitle

The newly introduced Subtitle also has a significant effect on your Conversion Rates as well. It will appear on your App Listing Page after people have tapped on your app in the search results.

Similar to the App Title, the Subtitle is also limited to 30 characters but it appears below your App Title and you should use this field to tell the visitors the primary functions of your app or the purpose of it. The goal here is to catch their attention and make sure that they understand what your app is about, what can it do or why is it helpful.

By clearly stating those you can make sure that people don’t get puzzled with your apps’ function. Overall, it can be said that Subtitle is a great way to draw some high quality installs to your app.

d.Reviews & Ratings

Both your Reviews & Ratings play a significant role in your Conversion Rates. Having good reviews is something you cannot directly control. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do anything in your power to get good reviews.

Your early ratings are particularly important as most of them will appear at the top. So, a bad review from 2 years ago might still be a thorn in your side. To avoid bad reviews, you should always address the needs of your users. If they are unhappy of something, make sure to fix that and let them know about it by responding to a few bad reviews stating how you fixed their problems.

You can analyze your reviews and ratings on various tools such as Mobile Action.

It’s also quite important to have a decent rating as well. A rating below 3.5 usually means that your app should be something avoided. In some cases, having no ratings can be better than having an average rating.

Average review ratings

Probably one of the biggest improvements to the App Store for developers is the fact that you get the chance to choose when an update will reset your ratings. Previously, each update would reset your rating and users would only see the current rating of your app. This punished app developers that were creating regular content through updates while it rewarded lazy developers who didn’t update their apps at all.

Now that you can select when to reset your rating, it also helps you to avoid being judged for a past mistake.

e.Preview Video

Having good preview videos is vital for your Apple App Store Optimization strategy after the launch of iOS11. Moving forward, app preview videos will be shown before screenshots and they will always be on autoplay with mute. This development gives a clear advantage to apps that are using a decent preview video to showcase their app.

Imagine a scenario where you search for a keyword and you are looking for an app that suits your needs. When you go through the apps that are listed suddenly you realize there’s a video playing. Even if you don’t want to watch it or are not interested you most probably see the first 5-8 seconds of it.

That’s why having a Preview Video is one of the best ways to get the attention of people who are searching for an app like yours. What is worth noting here is that the first 10 seconds or so are incredibly important as those seconds are the parts that the users usually watch.

Make sure that your video is in compliance with the Apple App Store guidelines as a Video violating them can get your App rejected.

When preparing a Preview Video for your app, take into consideration these points:

  • Have a good poster frame for your video
  • Videos will be muted and on autoplay in most cases, that’s why your video has to be optimized.
  • Make sure the video displays the content properly and moves at a good pace. Make sure that It’s not too fast where people cannot understand what’s going on and it’s not too slow where the users can get bored easily.
  • Make sure that your video is clear from copyright infringement.
  • If applicable, don’t forget to Localize your Preview Videos as with iOS11, localizing them is now possible.
  • Remember that you can have up to 3 Preview Videos on your App Listing Page. Therefore, if you will upload all three still make sure that the correct one is displaying on devices that don’t have iOS11.

Overall, having a well optimized Preview Video will have a profound effect on your Conversion Rates as you will be drawing most of the attention in the search results while also showing the functionality of your app in a much much descriptive way than screenshots.

f.Promotional Text

The introduction of the Promotional Text with iOS11 is a great opportunity for app marketers.

The Promotional Text is the first 170 characters of your Description. This field is provided to you to better describe what your app does and also announce limited time offers, new features, new events, news and information about your app.

As changing the Description requires an update, the Promotional Text becomes even more important. That’s mainly because you do not need to push an update to change your Promotional Text. You can tweak it whenever you want to without pushing an update. This opens up so many different ways to use this field and that’s why it shouldn’t be overlooked at.

g.Screenshots

The Screenshots of your app were historically in the top 3 factors that affected your conversion rates. But, with so many new stuff joining the fray such as Subtitles, Preview Videos, Promotional Text, it seems that Screenshots have lost their prominence.

The most important one is the changes made to Preview Videos. As they are always on mute & autoplay and are much more lively and interesting than Screenshots, most app marketers have opted into using Preview Videos for their apps. These changes have diminished the value of Screenshots.

Screenshots are quite important for Apple App Store Optimization as they increase your conversion rates

However, you should have a good set of screenshots on your Listing Page as people still can view them and if your videos aren’t displayed for a reason, your screenshots will be shown in their place.

When optimizing your Screenshots:

  • Use text banners so people can actually understand what you are trying to show them.
  • Always highlight the most important feature as it will be the first thing people will be seeing.
  • The order of your Screenshots should be based on importance. It’s imperative to put the more important ones at the start so they are the first ones to be exposed to the potential user.
  • Use every spot.
  • Try new things and never forget to test different versions!

h.Description

The Description, just like Screenshots has lost its importance in terms of its impact on Conversion Rates with the launch of iOS11 and all that followed it. In this case, the Promotional Text is the reason behind the downfall of the Description. As changing the Description requires an update while changing the Promotional Text doesn’t while also keeping in mind the fact that the Promotional Text is much more visible than the Description, the Promotional Text will have a much stronger impact over your conversion rates. That’s why you should put most of your effort into the first 170 characters of your description.

The description is important for conversion rates which is a central pillar of Apple App Store Optimization

But, that doesn’t mean that you should neglect your description and leave it empty. Make sure that you have a well-optimized Description that clearly illustrates the use cases of your app while also showcasing all the features it has. Basically, those 4000 characters you will put in your Description should tell ‘everything’ about your app in an understandable setting.

An ideal description should have; clear and simple sentences that explain the point right away, bullet points instead of long paragraphs as you are not telling a story or writing an essay, a clear organization so it’s easier to navigate and read, all of the features and points about your app so if someone takes their time and reads it, they know everything about your app.

i.Developer Name

There’s not much to say about the Developer Name other than, if you are a well-known developer who is trusted by many people your Developer Name can help you secure some downloads because of the credibility of your developer name.

j.In-App Purchases

The option to list 20 of your In-App Purchases has excited many. However, despite the instinctive hype, the ability to list your In-App Purchases will have little to no effect on your Conversion Rates.

This is mainly caused by the fact that your In-App Purchases are listed on a separate page and requires additional taps to be made to access them. It’s very unlikely that a new page visitor to go there. The ones who visit the In-App Purchases page will most likely already have reviewed every aspect of the app page and will be searching for additional information. As people usually make their final decision early when doing shopping, there aren’t too many In-App Purchases can help you with.

4.Getting Featured in the App Store

There’s one particular factor that has an unbelievable effect on the Conversion Rates and rankings of an app. You probably guessed it right! Getting Featured is viewed as the lottery of the app market and is the dream of every app developer.

Getting featured is something that only happens to a handful of developers. However, the ones that are lucky enough get huge benefits from it. The effects of getting featured are usually not very long lasting. However, if you have a strong Apple App Store Optimization strategy, the effects of getting featured will be much longer.

Getting featured is vital for your Apple App Store Optimization efforts.

The most obvious outcome of getting featured is the sudden boost in downloads once your app is featured. The best part is that those downloads will also create a surge in your rankings as well which will translate into more downloads.

Secondly, getting featured also helps you create a strong brand identity with a proper marketing strategy. If you can announce it properly, getting featured will make your company a credible one. This can translate into a brand identity and will help all of your apps in the future.

Lastly, getting featured makes it easier to get featured in the future. So, once you manage to convince the editors at Apple, the next time will be much easier than the first one.

But, is getting featured only good luck?

While you do need to be lucky to some extent, getting featured requires some other stuff than luck. If you have an app that’s worth of getting featured and you have taken every step needed to make sure that the editors are aware of your app, only then it becomes about luck.Lottery balls signifying the luck factor of getting featured in the app store

So, let’s have a look at the steps you should take to get a shot at getting featured in the app store.

First and foremost, you need to have a high-quality app that will impress the folks at Apple. Using the latest technology that Apple provides is a good way to catch their attention.

Secondly, your app needs uniqueness. There should be something special about your app so that Apple finds it worth sharing with their users.

This is not mentioned everywhere, but simplicity is an important value for Apple. This applies to the App Store and the editorial team as well. Having an app that draws its beauty from simplicity and is quite simple to use yet still being extremely useful, will most certainly be a plus for you.

Before pitching Apple about your App, make sure that there are no bugs, crashes or infringements of the Apple App Store guidelines. Make sure that your app is in its best form before reaching out to Apple. Even poorly arranged screenshots can get you rejected. So, pay attention to every detail.

The way you reach out to Apple also plays a role in increasing your chance of getting picked. Remember that these guys are getting hundreds of emails every day. They probably don’t have the time and energy to read long and complicated emails. Make your emails brief and crystal clear so that you have a chance of getting your email read by the editors.

Finding the emails of the editors might also help you get some attention. But be careful about this, as you are not asking a favor. Use it to get their attention to your original application.

In this chapter, we have, hopefully, covered every single detail you should know about Apple App Store Optimization. Now we shall move on with our chapter dedicated to ASO for the Google Play Store.

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