In an age where mobile browsing is dominating desktop, SEO for mobile websites has never been more important. Since the initial Mobile-Friendly algorithm update (dubbed “Mobilegeddon”) was launched in April 2015, Google have been continually emphasising the importance of mobile-friendly websites and the benefit these have on the browsing experience.
With more recent updates including the Mobile-First Index Roll-Out (from March 2018) and Mobile Speed Update (July 2018), and as a consequence mobile-responsiveness now contributing as a ranking factor in the mobile SERPs, many eCommerce businesses have gone one step further and created their own app to simplify the purchase process.
So how can your business encourage app downloads and increase user experience and the likelihood of conversions?
App Store Optimisation (ASO) is the process of optimising your app in the stores that it will be listed in, such as Google Play Store & App Store. In some ways similar to SEO, ASO allows companies to log into their app store accounts and make a range of enhancements in order to increase their app’s visibility, engagement levels and in turn, downloads and purchases.
Resource required for ASO
With SEO, there are instances where the intervention of a developer is required to implement technical changes within website code. However, with ASO, you do not need to rely on technical teams to make valuable optimisations to your app pages. All you need is a (relatively) IT savvy individual to explore the Google Play Console and App Store Connect to find the predetermined fields to implement optimisations. This alleviates the need for this resource and the potential costs of a developer.
Key considerations before conducting ASO
Before starting the ASO process, it is important that the app which you are optimising in the app store listings is sound from a technical and user experience perspective. If you look to optimise an app which provides poor UX, you are laying the foundations for a high amount of uninstalls and a (potentially) tainted brand reputation.
In June 2018, after a year of experimentation, there was a Google Play Algorithm Update which changed the way in which app rankings are calculated. In order to improve the quality and relevance of Play Store searches, app quality and user engagement were made ranking factors. This means that is more important than ever that any issues with functionality, look and feel are ironed out before the App Store Optimisation process is commenced.
When ready to optimise an app, it is also important to consider a couple of major user types; researchers and decision makers. Ultimately, the app page within the relevant App Store is the opportunity to captivate both of these key user types, so it is important high quality on-page content is available for those who’ll be exploring all options on the app stores before clicking ‘Install’.
ASO Ranking Factors
Both the Apple and Google Play* stores have different criteria and priorities from an App Store Optimisation perspective. However, I’ve provided a top level breakdown of the ranking factors by influence…
If best practices are followed, optimising apps can lead to an increase in organic downloads over time. And with preliminary data from App Annie reporting that global app downloads across both iOS and Google devices in 2018 surpassed 113 billion (a 10% uplift from 2017), it is more crucial than ever to invest time in optimising presence in the app stores.
Enhancing Keyword Visibility
Where enhancing titles and descriptions has minimal impact for optimising within the App Store, there are a couple of keyword-related methods which will help to improve an app’s keyword visibility on the App Store, some of which crossover with Google Play…
App Store only
Adding longer-tail keywords to maximise the combination of searches which the app will show for:
- As long as these are not too repetitive and relevant, this should help increase the visibility of your app in the App Store
Adding competitor names into the ‘keywords’ section:
- A practice not advised in the case of many traffic mediums, in the instance of ASO latching onto competitor keywords could help you to show as an alternative to larger industry competitors. As long as your app looks good and functions well, this is a worthwhile action to take when optimising your app pages.
Google Play & App Store
Optimising the title tags and subtitles:
- Similar to optimising a landing page on a website, ensure that you are utilising the full character count when creating your Title Tags and Subtitles. In the case of Google Play, it is also vital to incorporate your main target keywords into these fields.
- It is also important to incorporate key messaging in these elements to instantly grab the attention of users to scroll down and discover more.
Optimise the description:
- Similarly with the title tags and subtitles, it is important that the on page description of the app is reflective of its purpose, includes insights about the app’s key functionalities, and the Google Play Store page content includes relevant target keywords. The description also provides a key opportunity for including USPs about your brand, but the highest priority in this area is to include optimised, relevant content about the app itself.
With title tags, subtitles and descriptions, it is also advised that all available characters are utilised.
ASO done well: Amazon
An eCommerce business who are nailing App Store Optimisation (ASO) are Amazon. As well as the app itself providing a great user experience, the app pages which they created for both iOS and Android devices deliver the key messaging early in the user journey, provide consumers with relevant and informative information, and finally, both marketplace pages also showcase their vast amount of positive ratings and reviews.
Powerful creative is also essential to Amazon’s success. With simple and effective app screenshots accompanied by key messaging about Amazon as a brand and the functionalities within the app – such as voice search for viewing order history and reordering – they are visually drawing users in, aiding consumer download decisions.
Measuring ASO Success
Depending on the approach taken during the app building process, there are different options available to you in terms of measuring success of your optimisation efforts. Both the Google Play & App Stores provide performance metrics of their own, and in Google Analytics you can set up a Mobile App Sources report to understand and consolidate data about how users who have downloaded your app have interacted with its content.
For those who have created bespoke mobile apps, App Annie is a great platform for competitor monitoring. This provides data and functionalities to aid the complete app lifecycle, including helping to identify opportunities to increase downloads and providing key insights into how to maintain good app retention levels.
Some third party app builders may offer their own analytics and intelligence stats as part of their platform.
Approaching the App Store Optimisation process
In conclusion, ASO is a really beneficial way to optimise your app in the mobile marketplaces. The optimisation process should be strategically planned from both a content and timing perspective before being implemented via Apple Store Connect and Google Play Console.
Key ASO takeaways:
- The purpose of ASO is to improve mobile app visibility, user engagement and downloads
- Ensure your app offers a good experience vs. the competition, or there is little point in proceeding with ASO. Fix any known issues with the functionality or design, make changes as per consumer feedback and when your app is sound, then start working on your ASO strategy.
- The inclusion of innovative and bespoke features vs. competitor offerings will naturally help your app to become desirable to consumers.
- The different app stores take into account different factors for ranking, so it is important that you take this into consideration when planning your approach to optimisation and produce different approaches for different marketplaces.
- Like SEO, ASO is an ongoing task. Therefore, keeping up to date with what your competitors are doing in the app world is very important.
- In order to optimise and share your app on Google Play Store and Apple App Store, all you need is a content and tech-savvy person to manage the process, as well as a Google Play Console and Apple Store Connect account.
- It is important to remember that app pages were created to advertise apps and not your brand. Some key branding elements can be incorporated, but do not go into the app optimisation process with the idea that you are going to use it as a brand showcase page. The information on these pages should be relevant to the app and its functionalities.
- You can measure the success of your app using the performance data in Google Play Console and Apple Store Connect. You can also look at creating a Google Analytics report to consolidate mobile app performance data.
- If your app was created on a third party tool, you may already have access to app (and competitor app) performance data and . If not, there are tools which you can pay for (such as App Annie) which can provide you with these in-depth insights.