Best Practices

8 Ground Rules of App Store Optimization: How to Improve Search Rank

Updated on
August 11, 2023
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After app release, you might have a feeling that the work is done. While in fact, that’s when all the fun begins.

Creating a great app is not enough to make it popular and profitable. You need to tell users about your creation and make them download it. That’s when it’s high time for App Store Optimization (ASO).

As Google research showed, 48% of users discover new apps by browsing app stores (mostly, these are Apple App Store and Google Play Store). The main goal of app store optimization is to let the user find, click and download your app from the entire catalogue of applications.

The key factors which influence app position in search results are the number of downloads and its dynamics, rating or user reviews, number of comments, dynamics of app deletes from a device, a number of app launches by users.

By looking at these factors, you may realize which areas to improve. For example, change keywords, ask users to leave reviews or comments. To optimize your app for app store, follow these rules:

1. Make the title creative and understandable.

You want users to remember the app name and at the same time, you want them to quickly figure out what it’s about. For example, you can name the app “Learn languages”, or “busuu”. Both variants aren’t good for a new app as the first one is too general while the second one doesn’t speak much about the purpose of the app. In this case, the most optimal name is “busuu — Learn languages”.

writing a creative title for aso

As you can see, other apps use this the same algorithm for the app name, but sometimes mix the keyword with other words or numbers. Like “learn 14 languages” instead “learn languages”. Of course, when your app gets popular and recognizable, you may leave only the creative part.

To make the title rank well, insert a highly popular keyword in it. This study shows, that keywords from title rank 2x times better than the keyword field. In June 2017, Apple limited the number of symbols you may use in the app title to 30, instead 50 like it was in 2016. It’s ironic that at the same time, Google Play Store increased the limit of characters from 30 to 50. Pay attention to the number of characters which are visible in search results: in Apple App Store it’s approximately 23 characters, in Play Store, it’s nearly 30 characters with spaces.

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2. Write a compelling keyword-rich description

Put the most important positive sides in the first three lines of the description as to see the rest users have to click the “read more” button (and not everyone will do that!). If there are any social proofs of your app, consider putting these quotes at the beginning of description. It can be a blog review or popular person’s quote. Take a look at the description of Facetune, one of top paid apps.

writing a compelling app update description

Even if visitors don’t read the full description, they will know that The NY Times endorsed the app. This quote proves the app is worth using.

First, write an appealing description, and then insert keywords where appropriate. Like with SEO, too many keywords in a description are bad as the search algorithm understands it and ranks your app lower. A SensorTower research showed that the optimal number of a keyword mentioned in the description is 5. Still, if it doesn’t fit in the sentence and sounds bad, it’s better to omit the word.

Don’t use more than 5 keywords in description ☝️

For most apps, the longer the description is, the better is app rank. Vice versa, for top 100 apps shorter descriptions mean higher ranks because these apps are already popular. They don’t need much text to tell user why they’re worth downloading.

Mention specific features in a form of a list, to make the description more clear and accurate. In the end, include a call to action, like “download this app to get fit in 30 days”. If you have other apps, don’t miss a chance to cross-promote them in this description.

Also, don’t ignore the text of app updates: it’s a great opportunity to encourage users to re-open your app. Check out how Memrise, a language learning app, describes their updates:

great app update text for aso

Every new update is a way to promote the app even more. Memrise handles this well by writing compelling update texts.

3. Fill in keywords

Think like your customers: which words would they type in search tab to find your app? Then write them in special Keyword fields. Apart from most popular keywords, use the ones you can’t put in a description. Check the app store rules and guidelines. For example, Apple gave recommendations what to do and not to do when selecting keywords. Make sure to update the keywords at least every two months.

Select the most relevant keywords which describe the app purpose and functionality. Choose long-tail relevant keywords: they will better convert users who are searching for exactly your app, and fewer competitors will use the word which will let you rank higher. There’s no need to use non-relevant keywords. People who will click on your app in search results won’t download it, as this app is not what they’ve been looking for. Therefore, app store will rank you lower for this keyword.

Check the keyword search volume, but don’t prioritize them according to this indicator. Relevancy is much more important. You can check search volume through Apple search ads function but it works only for the keywords in English. To find out search volume of keywords for Play Store, you may use Google Adwords Keyword Tool. The optimal strategy is to get a higher rank for keywords with lower search volume, rather than focusing on most popular keywords and staying on the bottom of search results.

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4. Work on ratings

The number and star rating of your reviews influence the app position in search results. App stores get profit from each download which means they show users only the apps they will most likely download. Users won’t download an app with bad reviews, so the more good ones your app has, the better it ranks. Plus, always get fresh reviews. This study shows that current reviews are almost 7 times more important than all-time reviews.

To prevent unhappy users from leaving bad reviews, include contact info in the description, or even add a contact tab in menu. Name the “leave a review” button in a positive way, for example, “Say how you like the app” or “Share your love”. Subconsciously, you tell the user to write something good and positive. Always read the messages and reviews people leave, answer them and fix whatever is wrong.

It’s important not to be too obsessive when asking users to leave a review. Otherwise, they will associate your app with something irritating and either stop using it or leave bad comments.

5. Create an appealing icon.

Nice icon encourages visitors to download an app, and the more people do that, the higher your rank will be. A good-looking interesting icon which reveals the purpose of the app and at the same time intrigues is a good way to get the user click on the app. Pay attention to the store requirements when designing the icon. Take a look at the recommendations for creating an icon from Apple and Google.

Keep the design simple and laconic and don’t use texts on the icon — you have titles for that. Also, make the icon scalable so it looks good on various devices. A study by Incipia shows that colorful icons with custom design rank better.

6. Add app screenshots and video.

Like with the app icon, screenshots influence the number of downloads. They help the user imagine what his experience will be like.

Include a keyword in one of the first screenshot captions, it may better search rank up to 2.4 times. Place at App Store Screenshots screenshots which show features and functions first, and then branded ones. Add a short video which shows how to use the app. Take a look at the appealing app video made by Grammarly.

7. Choose the right category.

If users are browsing categories to find an app, one mistake can cost too many downloads. You should choose the most relevant category. If you can’t decide between two or more, take a look at the number of competitors and choose the category with the least apps in it.

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8. Add foreign languages.

Don’t ignore the huge populations speaking languages, other than English. Translating texts into different languages can become your competitive advantage. Also, change all texts in images and videos.

When you add another language to the app, you may fill in another set of keywords. There’s a small trick: write English keywords in another language version and the app will rank higher. For instance, you may have the word “fitness” in English version, and the word “trainer” in German version, so the app will rank for the keyword “fitness trainer”.

Stick to these rules, track indicators, update app page and it will reach the top of app stores 🤩 Also, check out the 5 App Store Optimization myths on Kissmetrics blog.