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What is ASO and why should you care?

by AppLovin on Jun 21, 2019

ASO is an abbreviation for App Store Optimization, which is the act of optimizing mobile apps and games to rank higher in the App Store and Google Play. Think of ASO as the equivalent of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on the web, allowing publishers to attract more users by optimizing pages to make their content easier to find.

Why should I care about ASO?

The biggest reason you should care about ASO is that a majority of smartphone users say they find apps by searching in app stores. A study conducted by Tune found that 68% of users found their last app within app stores. Additionally, 40% of smartphone users browse for apps in app stores and one in four app users discover an app via search according to Google.

Put simply, search is one of the biggest discovery channels for your mobile app or game. By ignoring ASO, you could potentially be leaving money on the table by making your app hard to discover organically. The good news is that ASO doesn’t cost a dime.

What affects ASO?

There are many factors affecting how your app ranks in app stores but the biggest two are the title of your app and keywords. Additional factors like descriptions, visual assets, and others also play a part in ASO. Let’s dive into each factor.

Title and subtitle

The title of your app or game shouldn’t just be the name but should include the keyword with the highest search traffic. For example, Google Maps includes the words “Transit & Food” in its title. By putting keywords in the title, users (and the app stores) immediately know what the app is about.

In the App Store, there’s also a subtitle field where you can put additional keywords. Slotomania by Playtika is a good example of a game that uses high-impact keywords in its title and subtitle. In those two fields alone, Playtika squeezes in “vegas,” “casino,” “slots,” “777,” jackpot,” and “slot machine games.”

Keywords

The second biggest factor in ASO is keyword research. In order to appear higher in search results, you need to know what your target audience is searching for. What search terms are people using to find your app? What terms are they using to get to your competitor’s app?

There are many ways to do keyword research but the simplest method is seeing what the app stores recommend. Both Apple and Google auto-fill related keywords when you begin searching and the terms that show up are a good starting point. User reviews are also a good source for keywords so note which terms come up repeatedly. Last but certainly not least, both Apple and Google have keyword research tools called Apple Search Ads and Google Adwords respectively. Note: While Apple has a keyword field when uploading your app, Google doesn’t and instead relies on analyzing descriptions for keywords.

Description, icon, screenshots & video

With your keywords chosen, you can integrate them into your app or game’s description. The description is where potential users come to find out more about your app or game, so make sure to describe the most compelling features. Keywords should be used organically throughout but don’t try to stuff the description full of keywords as Apple and Google may reject your app and users will be turned off from downloading.

Visual assets like your icon, screenshots, and video trailer also impact ASO. A person’s first impression of your app will likely be the icon and screenshots so they need to be attention-grabbing. Screenshots should display core parts of the game or app. Having some short text overlaid on screenshots to describe core features helps too. If you have a video trailer, make sure to jump immediately into what makes your app or game compelling.

Episode by Pocket Gems is a good example of an App Store description done right. It clearly describes gameplay and key features in a fun voice. For more tips, check out our tips and best practices for ad creatives.

Secondary factors: ratings, reviews, downloads, and updates

Secondary factors can also affect ASO, but some cannot be directly influenced by you, unlike the primary factors above. While you can’t control ratings or reviews, you can incentivize users to rate and review your app or game.

Search algorithms are constantly looking for new content so make sure to update your app description once in a while, especially if your app or game has an update. It’s a good idea to put updates at the top of the description so users know what’s been added.

ASO: Worth your time

ASO may take time and effort but it’s worth it. By laying the ASO foundation, you will have a consistent channel of users viewing and hopefully, downloading your app or game. Remember, ASO, like SEO, will take time but it will pay off down the line.