When it comes to having a successful mobile app it’s extremely important to have a marketing plan to create awareness and get people using the app.
Obviously, the first step is to have an awesome app that provides value, offers utility and keeps users engaged.
But even if your app (or your clients) does all that and the marketing behind the app sucks…you’re gonna be in a tough spot.
Hugh, a content strategist and Mobile Mixed reader reached out and noticed that we haven’t talked much at all about app store optimization on the site. He works for Sensor Tower, an app marketing company and they work with 35,000 companies to optimize their apps to get better results.
In this guest post from Hugh, you’ll learn:
- 7 lessons that will make you an app store optimization expert for your clients
- What types of clients will be ideal for you to offer this to
- How to get started with your early clients.
Getting a potential client to commit to having you help them with their mobile strategy is usually a difficult task. If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you probably know that finding out if your client’s existing website visitors are already on mobile is the first step.
If a significant portion of their visitors are using a mobile device, then the next step is to set them up with a mobile-friendly website. This means installing a responsive website theme or using an independent mobile website solution.
But that just gets them to first base.
From there, you can help them implement a variety of different mobile marketing strategies, such as SEO, email, SMS and a mobile app.
However, each of those paths usually requires an other round of convincing and sign offs. Many times the issue isn’t really about the value of the strategy, but shifting the mindset of your client.
If one or more of these strategies are a good fit for your clients, then it is totally worth it. But wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to go through such a long and drawn out process to get a client?
In this post, I’m going to teach you a highly leveraged strategy that you can use to provide real value to a client, without having to create such a significant shift in mindset. The best part is that you can learn this marketing strategy in a few short days and start soliciting clients immediately thereafter.
The strategy that I’m talking about is App Store Optimization (ASO). Not many SMBs know much about ASO yet, so it is a great opportunity to establish yourself as an expert.
Your Ideal Client
The client you are targeting will already have the first few steps described above taken care of. They understand that their customers use mobile, they have a mobile-friendly website and most importantly…they already have a mobile app.
When a company spends the time and money to build a mobile app, there is usually a lot on the line. Not only has the company shelled out money to build the app, but whoever led the project certainly wants to see the app succeed.
With so much at stake, there is already motivation to find a solution. You aren’t convincing a company to try something totally new. They already know that mobile is the right direction to go in, but they just need some help steering the ship.
If you can convince the project manager that you can help him/her, then they can be your biggest advocate within the company.
Your ideal client is a company who has created a great app, but is getting very few downloads. It is important that the potential client has a quality app because no amount of marketing is going to help a bad app.
But before you start engaging potential clients, you will have to understand why ASO is important and how it works.
Why You’re Crazy To Ignore App Store Optimization
You have probably heard that App Store Optimization (ASO) is just like SEO. It shares some common characteristics, but for the most part, ASO is not the same.
The good news is that ASO is simpler than SEO. An important thing to remember however, is that ASO is not a magic bullet and you should not represent it to potential clients as such.
No marketing strategy is.
But it is a vital piece of the app marketing puzzle and a should be in the arsenal of every app marketer.
According to a Forrester study, 63% of all apps are discovered through App Store search and it was the largest app discovery method in the study. So if an app is not ranking well in App Store search, it is losing out on the primary driver of free organic downloads.
There are other ways of obtaining downloads, such as paid ads, but they are usually not as cost effective as ASO. If you look at what some app publishers are paying per app install it quickly becomes apparent that only companies with huge marketing budgets can play the ad game.
This is where you can step in and prevent your clients from wasting money on ads and help them get more organic downloads. Ads do work and once you can figure out how to get a positive ROI, it is scaleable.
But when it comes to SMBs, it is usually best to start with the lowest cost solution with a high potential return. This means building the foundation of their marketing with ASO.
Once that has been optimized, then you can explore other app marketing strategies.
Some of our customers have seen a 200% increase in downloads, or more, just by implementing ASO. Here is how it works…
Learn App Store Optimizations In 7 Simple Lessons
There are two primary components of ASO. First, there are keywords. Ranking well for terms that people are searching for is a great way to be discovered on the crowded app stores.
The other component is post-search elements. This includes things like your app description and graphics. They don’t contribute to search visibility, but they help to convince people to download an app once it is found in search.
In order to optimize an app for both components, follow these lessons. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can reference it later.
Lesson 1 – How Apps Are Ranked For Keywords
Nobody knows exactly how the app stores rank apps. That is a closely guarded secret. If everyone knew how the ranking algorithm worked, publishers could game the system.
However, some ranking factors are well known. Total number of downloads, download velocity (how many times your app is downloaded in the past three days) and ratings all play a big part in determining how apps are ranked.
You don’t actually have to know the exact ranking algorithm to be successful at ASO. All you need to know is that more established apps with a lot of downloads and good ratings are going to have an easier time ranking well for their keywords. Apps that are just starting out or don’t have a lot of downloads and positive ratings are going to have a tougher time ranking well.
The number of apps that are competing for a keyword can be an indicator of how competitive a keyword is to rank for, but the factors mentioned above are much more influential.
We will get into how to measure ranking difficulty later in this post. For now, just understand that there is more to ranking than just the number of competing apps.
Lesson 2 – The Differences Between Google Play and The Apple App Store
Now we turn our attention to how Google Play and the Apple App Store are different. They are the biggest app stores and most of your potential clients will probably have an app in one or both of these stores.
Most of the ASO concepts in these two stores are the same, but there are two key distinctions.
Keyword Entry: The Apple App store uses a keyword entry field in iTunes Connect (where you upload your app) to determine your keywords. Theses keywords are chosen by the publisher. This field is only 100 characters long.
On the other hand, Google Play gets the keywords for an app from the app description. This field has 4,000 characters, so there is plenty of room to add your keywords.
App Names: Keywords in the name of an app usually allow apps to rank higher for those keywords in both stores. However, Apple allows 255 characters in the app name and Google only allows 30 characters. Therefore, you really need to choose the app name wisely in the Google Play store.
Lesson 3 – How To Choose Keywords
A common mistake that app marketers make is to target keywords that get the most searches. While we can certainly see why publishers would do this, these keywords are often also the most competitive.
Elite apps can compete for these keywords, but a majority of your potential clients probably won’t be able to. Therefore you have to be smarter about keyword selection.
The correct way to choose keyword is to base your selection on:
- Difficulty Score
- Traffic Score
Every keyword must be relevant to your app. Not only that, but it must be a “download” keyword.
Think about what people would type in to download an app like yours. Another common keyword selection mistake is to choose keywords that are too generic.
For example, if you have an app that helps people find the best doctors in their area, just using keywords like “doctor” or “hospital” are not specific enough. Keywords like “md reviews” or “hospital finder” would be better keywords because people would actually search for those keywords to find an app that helps them find the best local doctors.
Searching for the broad term “doctor” could bring up results for anything from a game where doctors are the main characters, to apps that help diagnose medical conditions. Be more specific and you will attract more of the right users to your client’s app.
Next, research each of the relevant keywords that you have selected and find out the Difficulty Score of each keyword. Difficulty is Sensor Tower’s estimation of ranking difficulty.
Different platforms measure this in different ways. So regardless of which platform you use, examine ranking difficulty as your second selection criteria.
Difficulty Score is measured on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most difficult keywords to rank for. It is actually more important than traffic.
Your goal should be to get an app in the top 10 for all of its keywords. Being in the top 10 for a keyword with a decent number of searches will usually get many more downloads than ranking #2,392 for a keyword with millions of searches a month. Nobody is going to scroll enough to find you at #2,392.
However, you should make sure that the keyword is getting at least a little bit of traffic. Ranking #1 for a keyword that nobody is searching for doesn’t make sense either.
That is where Traffic Score comes in…
Sensor Tower’s Traffic Score is also measured on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the most searched keywords. Again, this will be different on other platforms, so use whichever one you are comfortable with. You want to be sure that any keyword you select has a Traffic Score above zero.
The only other time that you will look at Traffic Score is when you are trying to decide between multiple keywords that have the same relevance and Difficulty Scores. Only then would you would select the keywords with the highest Traffic Score.
Brand New Apps
If your client’s app hasn’t been around for long or they don’t have any keywords in the top 10, then you are at a disadvantage.
Not to worry however. Simply target keywords that have a difficulty score of 3.0 or lower.
This will not guarantee results, but it will give you a great starting point. Once you see how your first batch of keywords rank, you can adjust accordingly.
If you cannot find single-word keywords that have a difficulty score that is less than 3.0, then examine multi-word keywords.
For example, if your client has a car racing game, a keyword that they may want to target is “ferrari”. When we do the research on this keyword, the Difficulty Scores are higher than 3.0 for both iPad and iPhone.
However, if you target the multi-word keyword “custom ferrari”, the Difficulty Score is much lower. Since the Traffic Score is still above zero, this might be a great keyword for a new racing game to target. Provided there is actually Ferrari customization in the the game.
This same process applies to researching Google Play keywords. Remember to select keywords based on: relevance, Difficulty Score, then Traffic Score.
Lesson 4 – Why Graphics Are Important
Keywords will help people find an app, but the graphics are what will usually convince them to download it. Therefore, the graphics should be beautiful and instantly communicate what the app is about.
There are three graphic elements that you need to be concerned with:
App Icons: Make sure that your app icons are simple and communicate what your app is about instantly. Refrain from using words and complicated graphics because you want the icon to be readable, even on small screens. Here are some examples of icons that may be a little hard to read on smaller devices.
Icons that are clean and contain only one central focus make it much easier to determine what the app is about. This will make it more likely that a potential user will understand what your app is about and download it.
Screenshots: Instead of using screenshots directly from the app, consider adding words to the screenshots to emphasize what that screenshot is trying to communicate. Be sure to use all of the available screenshot slots and only point out one benefit per screenshot.
Demo Video: The demo video should show potential users exactly what is exciting or useful about an app, as quickly as possible. Apple requires that the video be primarily made up of footage from the app. Google Play allows a lot more freedom in terms of what publishers can create.
To find good examples of app graphics, take a look at the top charts in your category. See which graphics stand out and why. Figure out how you can adapt the concepts that these graphics use and apply them to your app.
Lesson 5 – App Descriptions
Now we turn our attention to the app descriptions. Like I mentioned in Lesson 1, Google uses the app description to find the keywords for an app, so be sure to include your keywords in the description. You should add your keywords 5 times, throughout the description.
Here is an example from the hit game Candy Crush Saga. Notice how the keyword “sweet” appears exactly five times in the description.
But don’t just spam the description with keywords. It has to sound natural and part of a well written text.
The App Store description doesn’t play a major role in keyword optimization, but it could be the final thing that makes a person decide to download an app. So make sure that your description tells a potential user exactly why they should download the app.
Just like with app graphics, browse app descriptions of the top apps in your category. Figure out what seems to be working and how you can apply the basic concepts to your client’s app.
Lesson 6 – Track, Test And Optimize
This is the most important lesson, so don’t skip it.
The key to ASO success is continual tracking and optimization. It is a process, not a one-shot deal.
This is good news for consultants because this can give you more consistent work, provided you are demonstrating positive results.
The first step is to track your results. Be sure to having your client sign up for an ASO platform. You could sign up for it yourself, but that is an added cost on your end. So if possible, get them to pay for it.
Once you have signed up for a platform, start tracking all of the keywords that have been chosen for the app. Our platform makes it easy to do this.
Simply add the app, then add all the keywords. We will give you a ranking for each keyword, as well as the Difficulty Score, Traffic Score and number of competing apps.
We also provide a keyword ranking history so you can show your client your improvement.
Then continually test and improve all aspects of the app’s ASO. Whenever possible, only test one thing at a time to see the exact effect that a change had on downloads and revenue.
Lesson 7 – Localization
Finally, not all of your clients will need this, but localization can multiply the number of downloads that an app gets. Localization is the process of translating the components of an app so that can be used in other countries.
Some app publishers have reported that localization as increased their downloads by over 700%.
However, a complete localization can be expensive and time consuming. There is also no guarantee that an app will do well in another country.
One way to test your app in another country before doing a complete localization is to only translate the app’s metadata. If the app gets a lot of downloads, then you can consider doing a complete translation.
The downside to this strategy is that you will probably get negative reviews. You can reduce the impact that this has by only testing for a limited period of time.
What To do Right Now
Once you understand how ASO works, you are now ready to find your first client. If you don’t have your own app to practice on, then see if you have a friend that would be willing to let you do their ASO.
If you still can’t find anyone, then consider taking on your first couple of clients for a reduced rate or even free. Be honest with them about your experience. Also approach your existing clients, if they have a quality app.
This will help you get some hands-on experience. Once you feel confident that you can provide a ton of value in the area of ASO, you can start soliciting clients at your full rate.
If you want to get more information about ASO, you can also read our blog to get the latest tips.
So I hope that you found this guide useful. Just like with any other marketing strategy, there are nuances that you can only learn in time.
However, this post has taught you the majority of what you need to know about ASO. The best part about offering App Store Optimization services is that it provides a simple way for you to get your foot in the door and possibly implement other mobile marketing strategies that a company is missing.
So take the time to get educated about ASO and go find more clients.
Do you have any questions about App Store Optimization? Ask them in the comments below.
About the author: Hugh Kimura enjoys travel, surfing and marketing. He is the Content Strategist at Sensor Tower, a tool that helps mobile app developers do App Store Optimization (ASO) for the Apple App Store and Google Play.