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App Development
9 minutes read

App Store Optimization Guide 2021

by Mario Tatis
App Development
9 minutes read

If you are wondering what app store optimization is and how it can help your app perform better in the App Store and Play Store, our app store optimization guide can help you get started. App store optimization is tasked with optimizing your mobile app so that it ranks higher in app store search results and increases your app conversion rate. The higher your app ranks in store search results, the more visible you are to users. This makes it more likely that your mobile app will be viewed and downloaded. 

Downloads and purchases are two major metrics of success for mobile app development projects. If you want to get the most out of your app development time and resources, you need to take the time and effort to work on app store optimization. We’ll tell you why app store optimization is important, what key ranking factors you need to optimize, and finally, what the long-term benefits of app store optimization are. 

What is the Importance of App Store Optimization?

There are millions of mobile apps on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. That is a lot of competition for your mobile app. While featured listings, top charts, and word-of-mouth are all contributors to how people find and connect with mobile apps, app store searches are still the primary way users find and download new mobile apps. If you’re not taking the time to optimize your app for search, you could be missing out on users and revenue. 

Think about when you search for a new mobile app. Do you often scroll past the first four or five results? Or are you downloading and using the mobile apps that appear near the top of the search results page? Most people don’t scroll down past the first four or five results. Often, they find what they are looking for near or at the top of the results page. If you can optimize your mobile app so that it appears near the top of the search results, you will be able to increase your user base and drive revenue. Don’t squander the great work you do in app development by not taking the time to focus on app store optimization. 

Key Ranking Factors for App Store Optimization 

Before you can begin optimizing your app, you need to understand which factors affect your search ranking. When it comes to app store optimization, there are a few crucial factors that you really need to pay attention to. The important app store ranking factors you need to consider include:

  • Keywords
  • Title/App name 
  • Description 
  • Subtitle 
  • Ratings/Reviews
  • Number of Downloads

Let’s take a closer look at each of these ranking factors and explore different ways you can optimize them to improve your app store search ranking. 

Keywords

Any solid app store optimization strategy will begin with keywords. If you want to improve your search ranking, you need to understand which keywords are relevant to your mobile app and being used by your target audience and competition.  Who are your top competitors? Monitor their performance. See what keywords they are ranking for, and use this information as part of your app store optimization strategy. You can’t begin to make the right optimizations until you know what keywords are important to your app’s success in the search rankings. 

Now is a good time to mention that the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store handle and index keywords a little differently. The Play Store follows the same basic principles of the Google Search algorithm. This means that Google considers all the various textual elements when indexing keywords for your mobile app. If you are already familiar with SEO, keyword optimization on the Play Store is very straightforward. 

The Apple App Store doesn’t index keywords in the same way. Apple provides app developers with a field that allows them to enter their keywords when editing or submitting their app to the store. Apple may even pull keyword information from your categories and competitors too. When optimizing your app for keywords in Google’s Play Store, it is helpful to use your keywords naturally in key areas, but with Apple’s App Store, you will not want to repeat keywords outside of your keywords field. Still, choosing the right keywords is essential for any app store optimization strategy. 

Title/App Name 

An app’s name is often the first impression it will make on users. Ideally, you want to use your title or app name to include your primary keyword. However, you don’t want to stuff keywords into your app name. Users will find this practice spammy, and it will make your app look less reliable. 

iOS mobile apps are given thirty characters for their name. This is not a lot of space to work with, which means you have to be smart about how you approach optimizing your app name. You want your app name/brand to be front and center, but if you can work in a keyword or two, that will also be a big help. Take a look at the example of Soundcloud. Their app name/title is Soundcloud: Music & Audio. This is great. They have the brand/app front and center, but they are also able to work in two great keywords as well. 

On the Google Play Store, mobile apps are given more space for their name at fifty characters. However, you don’t want to keyword stuff. It looks bad, and it will drive users away. Be smart with your app name, and remember, sometimes less is more.

Description 

Your app description is another key meta field that can help you rank for keywords and pitch users on the benefits of using your mobile app. If you are working on an iOS app development project, know right now that the Apple App Store does not index keywords in the app description. However, this does not mean this field is not important. Your app description is your best chance to pitch your mobile app to users browsing through the App Store. You can use this space to entice users to download your app and even leave ratings and reviews. While keywords may not be indexed by Apple, this is still a valuable space to take advantage of. 

In the Play Store, the app description is the main place where keywords are found to index your mobile app in the search results. Once again, if you are familiar with traditional search engine optimization (SEO) practices, you can follow them here. Don’t keyword stuff your app description. Try to use your keywords in natural sentences, and utilize the app description space to explain your app to users and entice them to download and use it. 

Subtitle 

The Apple App Store gives app developers an additional meta field to play with on their store listings with subtitles. The subtitle is the small piece of text underneath the app name. This field is also restricted to a thirty-character maximum, but it is a good opportunity to add keywords to your store listing. In the example of Soundcloud, they use their subtitle on the Apple App Store to include more relevant keywords and tell users what their app is about. The Soundcloud subtitle looks like this, “Songs, playlists & podcasts.” 

What is really cool about the subtitle field is that it can be customized based on the location. Take the example of Airbnb. In the U.S. Apple App Store, their subtitle reads, “Vacation rentals & Experiences.” In the U.K. Apple App Store, Airbnb’s subtitle reads “Holiday rentals & Experiences.” Do you see the difference? Europeans use the term holiday more frequently than vacation. Optimizing for this semantic shift based on location helps the app stay relevant in search results done with more locally relevant keywords. 

The Play Store doesn’t offer a subtitle field, but Google already indexes keywords from all of the other content surrounding apps, so it doesn’t really matter all that much. 

Ratings/Reviews

Ratings and reviews are a big ranking factor by both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Neither Apple nor Google has come out and said exactly how they use this information in terms of ranking, but there is a clear correlation between high-ranking apps and apps with a lot of positive ratings and reviews. You need to focus on getting a lot of positive reviews and ratings. This means you need a space to allow users to vent, ask questions, and get help for their issues. If users have no place to get help, they are likely to leave you a negative review.

Taking the time to reply to reviews and ratings is also a positive step because it shows users that you care about their input and are actively engaged with improving the mobile app. Mobile app users read reviews. They are a big part of both app stores in terms of how users interact with apps and how apps are ranked in search results. 

Number of Downloads

At the end of the day, what all app store optimization efforts are building towards are app downloads. Interestingly, Google and Apple both take into account the number of times an app has been downloaded as a ranking factor. The more downloads, the higher the ranking. Both stores want to offer their users the most relevant search results, and the amount of app downloads is a key indicator of relevance. 

The Benefits of App Store Optimization 

Now that you understand how to optimize your app for search, you’re likely wondering what the benefits are. Obviously, a higher search ranking leads to more downloads and more revenue for the business, but there are additional benefits to app store optimization as well; they include:

  • Increased visibility 
  • More engaged users
  • Reduce acquisition costs

If you really want to succeed with your mobile app, you need to take the time to focus on app store optimization. Following the simple optimization tips we shared above can have a big impact on your conversion rates and overall success in the various app stores. There is a ton of mobile app competition out there. If you need help getting started, speak with an app development partner who can help you figure out what your app is and how to position it on the App Store and Play Store.

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