A Crash Course on App Store Optimization

Want your app to be found in the app store? Here's an introduction to App Store Optimization, and how you can make your app easier to find.
Tyler Moore

Tyler helps spread the word about App Press, and helps new customers get started with our software.

How did you hear about the last app you downloaded? Odds are pretty good you found it by searching in the app store.

According to a 2014 survey by Tune, a marketing analytics company, 53% of Android users and 47% of iPhone users found their last app by searching in the app store. 

A personal recommendation was the next most common source for finding new apps, with 12% of Android users and 15% of iPhone users citing personal recommendations for their last app download.

So, what does this mean for your app? Your best chance of getting more people to download your app is by making it easier to find in app stores. That's where App Store Optimization comes in.

“App Store Optimization” (also known as ASO) is similar to “Search Engine Optimization” (also known as SEO) although it's much newer. App stores haven't been around nearly as long as the internet, but the process of making your app easier to find in app stores is very similar to making your website easier to find in search engines.

App Store Optimization can help people find your app when searching the app stores.

ASO is a complex topic that's constantly evolving. We'll take a look at the basics - a few things you should keep in mind when you publish your app to make it easier to attract new users.

Here's your crash course on App Store Optimization - some tips and resources to help you position your app for the best launch possible, and for continued growth for years to come.

Picking the Right Title for Your App

Choosing the right title for your app can be tough. You want something memorable, on brand, and easily understood. Your app title has to quickly tell people browsing the app store what your app does.

Imagining how someone would be interested in using your app might search for it is a good place to start. The phrase you enter when searching is called a “keyword”.

For example, look at Run Keeper - a fitness tracking app, or Weather Underground - a popular weather app. Both have a relevant keyword in their title, and both have short, memorable names. Someone searching for a fitness app to track their running progress will likely be able to find Run Keeper quickly, and someone looking for a weather tracking app would be able to find Weather Underground quickly, as well.

Apple gives you 255 characters for your app name, whereas Google gives you just 30 characters. However, Apple will truncate longer names, and recommends 23 characters or less for app titles.

Google doesn't offer specifics on character lengths, but longer titles are likely to be truncated.

Just because Apple and Google give you extra characters for your title doesn't mean you want to use up the entire space. If you want to be found in the app store, keep your app title short and sweet.

Writing a Description for Your App

You'll have different options for writing an app description depending on whether you're publishing to the App Store or Google Play, but a good description is important for every app.

When you sit down to write the description for your app, keep your user in mind. What will a potential user want to know about your app? What can they do with it? How will your app make their life better, easier, or more fun?

Don't worry about stuffing keywords into your app description. Using a keyword or two is a good idea, but not if it keeps you from talking about your app in a natural, conversational tone. In the long run, writing for people will pay off more than writing for app store search algorithms.

Draw people in with an eye catching opening paragraph, and then convince them to download your app by listing all the cool things your app can do.

Choose a Compelling Icon Design

Your app icon should accomplish two goals: stand out from the icons of similar apps, and quickly tell your users what your app does. It should be simple, minimal, and easy to understand without overly relying on text.

Check out the app icons for Quartz, Pocket, Flipboard, and Prisma. All feature simple, easy to understand designs that hint at what the app does. There are plenty of apps with great icon design to help guide your own design choices, and these are just a few of our favorites.

The App Store and Google Play have different size requirements depending on the type of app you're creating, but no matter where you're publishing, your app icon should communicate what your app does in a clear, easy to understand way.

Make sure you're including app icons at the sizes requested by either the iOS App Store, or Google Play.

Icon Sizes for iOS Apps

Icon Sizes for Android Apps

Don't Forget Screenshots and Preview Videos

We're visual creatures, and showing off what your app looks like and what it can do is a great way to encourage more downloads. Much like choosing a nice looking icon, you'll want to upload screenshots of your app, and a good preview video.

An app preview video can help people understand your app, and convince them to download it themselves. Both Apple and Google provide great resources on how to create, edit, and upload an app preview package when you publish your app.

Creating a great app preview for iOS

Graphic assets, screenshots, and videos for Android

Ask for Ratings and Reviews

There's a good reason so many apps prompt you to rate and review after you've been using the app for a while. High ratings and good reviews not only give a better first impression to people browsing the app store, but they also help apps rank higher in search results.

Push notifications are a great way to encourage active users of your app to rate and review your app. If someone loves your app, they'll be more than happy to leave you a good review, and help you find more happy users.

As I said earlier in this post, there's a ton more to learn about app store optimization. The good news is you don't have to become an expert to make your app more visible in app stores. These tips will give you a solid foundation, and as long as you're following Apple and Google's publishing guidelines, you'll continue to see organic improvement in your user base.

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