App Store Optimization (ASO)

The app may be available on the App Store, but there’s still marketing work to be done. Your app store profile is the online equivalent of a retail location. Have you walked through a mall lately? Stores don’t just put the product on the shelf. They design the store from top-to-bottom and wall-to-wall to reinforce their brand message. They carefully stock their products based on what sells and why it sells. They visually push their value statement as much as they push their product.

Your app store profile (and your website) is your storefront.You need to plan out how your product will be displayed. You also need to optimize your profile so potential customers can find you easily and quickly in a search. The best-developed app in the world doesn’t mean anything if no one can find it. Recently, we wrote an in-depth article on a complete App Store Optimization Guide For iOS 11.

Your app store profile consists of several components:

  • App Name
  • Icon
  • Keywords
  • Description
  • Screenshots

These components serve two purposes. First, they help your potential customer decide to purchase. Informative screenshots, well-written descriptions, and five-star ratings can be very persuasive. More importantly, though, these App Store components help potential customers find your app in the first place. Apple uses an algorithm to scan your app’s name, keywords, and description. The algorithm decides where to place your app in search results. According to Business Insider, sixty-three percent of iPhone shoppers purchase apps as a result of searching a specific keyword. The importance of proper keyword placement within your App Store profile can’t be overstated.

We already discussed your app’s name and icon. Now we’ll discuss the other components – keywords, description, and screenshots.

Finding and Using the Right Keywords

Keyword placement only works if you use the correct keywords. You want to find the keywords that your potential customers are most likely to use to search for apps like yours. You also want to use keywords that are relevant to your app and can fit seamlessly into your app description.

Google's keyword tool can help you find what terms people use to search most often.

Google’s keyword tool can help you find what terms people use to search most often

Fortunately, there are a number of tools available to help with the search. While we skipped over the concept of Organic Search Value when discussing internet marketing, the same basic ideas apply and we will cover a few basics here.

Google’s Adwords keywords tool is an excellent resource for building a keyword list. It’s a free service that allows you to search for relevant keywords based on word or phrase, a website, or a general industry or category.

Let’s assume that you developed an app similar to RunKeeper. It’s a mobile log for runners to keep track of their times, mileage, heart rate, calories, and any other pertinent information. You want to find keywords to use in your name, description, and keyword list.

Go to Google’s Keyword Tool.There are three options: word or phrase, website, and category. Let’s start with a simple phrase describing what are app does – “running log.” If you type that phrase into the “Word or Phrase” box, you’ll get the following results:The keyword tool displays terms, and related terms, by search popularity

The tool brings up a list of related keywords. When it first brings up the list, the keywords will be in random order. You can click on the phrase “Global Monthly Searches” to list the keywords in descending order from most searched keyword to least searched phrase. Competition is exactly what it sounds like; it tells you how many websites are competing for this keyword. Global Monthly Searches tells you how many people search the particular keyword on a monthly basis around the world. Local Monthly Searches tells you how many people search the keyword monthly within your locality, which, in this case, is the United States.

A fairly obvious keyword – “running” – sits atop this list. That word would probably be used for any running based app. There are some others on the list that may be a surprise. The phrase “route planner” ranks fairly high. If your app included some kind of route planning function, this would make a great keyword. A lot of variations of “marathon” and “marathon training” appear, which makes sense because marathon runners have to be disciplined in their record keeping and preparation.

This keyword data comes from Google searches, not app searches, so it doesn’t have a direct correlation with the app store. However, it does give you a good general idea of which phrases or keywords are on the minds of consumers. It’s a good tool for finding keywords you may not have considered. It is also a valuable tool for Organic and Inorganic internet marketing for your website.

App Store Rankings

App Store Rankings ( is another helpful and free tool to generate keyword ideas. App Store Rankings provides the keywords for an app available on iPhone or Android. The site also offers paid services, starting at $39 per month, to provide and optimize keywords for your app.

The best way to use the free version of App Store Rankings is to search for the keywords of your most popular competitors. Going back to our running app example, the biggest competitor would be RunKeeper. If we type RunKeeper into App Store Rankings, here is the result…

The AppStore Rankings tool can also help you refine keyword use

The AppStoreRankings tool can also help you refine keyword use

Cross-reference the keywords from your competitors against the keywords from Google’s tool. List and prioritize your keywords based on which terms appear on both lists and which terms get the most traffic. When you set up your app on iTunes Connect, you’ll have the ability to submit keywords for your app. You can use up to 100 characters for keywords. Try to use all of them. Also, don’t use phrases, complete sentences, or repeated words. Simply list the keywords and separate them by commas. Finally, keep the keywords handy because you’ll need them when you write your app’s description.

Create an Effective, Reader-Friendly Description

Keywords will get eyes on your app. Your app name and icon will get potential users’ intrigued. A solid description will help the prospect with the buy or no-buy decision. The app description is your opportunity to expand on your brand. This is the place to list everything your app can do; features, value and any positive reviews. Anything positive about your app should be expressed here.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

If you are not a strong copywriter, consider hiring a pro to do this. A poorly written description will convey an amateur quality. A strongly written description will express professionalism.

App Store shoppers will only see the first three or four lines of your description and will then be given the option to view the rest by clicking a “More” button. Make the most of those first few lines. Be upfront with your value statement, then add intrigue by promising even greater features that they can see after they click “More.”

Remember that the description is indexed and searched for keywords, so try to use those words when appropriate. However, don’t cram so many keywords as to make your description ridiculous and confusing. The first job of your description is to explain your app’s value. Using keywords is the second job.

Include positive quotes and snippets from any third-party reviews you’ve received. When you first launch, you won’t have any reviews. Including your outside reviews will help lend credibility. If the quote from the review is strong enough, include it in the first three or four lines of the description.

Use the Right Screenshots

In iOS 11, screenshots are more important than ever because your first screenshot will actually show up in the search results. That means potential buyers will be filtering their search results on four criteria: price, ratings, brand (icon/name) quality, and screenshot quality. When you launch, you won’t have any ratings, so it’s of even greater importance that you get the other three criteria right.

There are some general do’s and don’ts of using screenshots. The first do is basic: use all five screenshot spaces. Apple allows you to submit up to five screenshots. For some reason, many developers choose to use less than five slots. These slots are your best opportunity to show off your hard work. Take advantage of all five of them.

Use screenshots to convey information about the function and the look and feel of your app.

Another rule in screenshot selection is to make sure your screenshots accurately convey your app’s value. It may be tempting to try to be creative and do something outside the box. Again, clarity is more important than creativity. This is your last chance to tell your potential buyers why they should buy your app, so you want to put your best foot forward. You can also supplement your screenshots with a well-written copy to further press your point. The pregnancy app My Pregnancy Today is a great example of an app with clear, informational screenshots.

Most screenshots are taken within the app, but it may be a good idea to provide an overview of how one uses the app. For example, here’s a

Screenshots can also convey how to use the app

                                        Screenshots can also convey how to use the app

series of screenshots from the app Clear that show exactly how the app is operated. Notice how the background is blurred so your eye focuses on the app and nothing else.

In the quest to convey your app’s value, it’s easy to veer into information overload. Don’t include so much information that you undermine the power of your screenshots. If your screenshots require extensive notes or copy, then you have probably chosen the wrong screenshots.

Information overload will not help sell the app

Information overload will not help sell the app

Potential buyers should be able to recognize your app’s value immediately. Here is an example of a cluttered screenshot from the music app, NoteDown. Notice how all the notes and extraneous information hide the actual screenshot.

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