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ASO, short for app store optimization, and the best thing ever for long-term value, means making sure your mobile app ranks as high as possible in app store search results. That’s a great outcome in any scenario, but in today’s app store environment, it’s literally do-or-dead app. Why?

“Oh, man, because there’s close to a billion apps just in iTunes alone?” says Trey Stout, CTO and Co-founder of ScribbleChat and Handwriting.io, and a self-taught nerd from back in the day when the Apple II was cutting edge.

Supply and demand in the app store

So Stout has seen some things, from the dawn of app proliferation until nowadays, when the prospects for a new app can be grim. Less than fifty percent of smartphone users actually installed apps in the last year, Stout says.

There’s not only a massive oversupply problem, but demand for new and exciting specialized apps is actually shrinking as the big platforms start to load up on features and take back ground they’ve lost. Within Facebook Messenger alone, you can take pictures and pretty them up, schedule events with your friends, buy concert tickets, find movie showtimes, and so on and so on.

“A lot of things that used to be single-purpose apps have just sort of been consumed by these ever-expanding social platforms,” Stout explains, “So the demand has shifted away, I think, from just cruising the store looking for cool stuff, to where it’s basically just noise. And so I think because you’ve got this oversupply and a shrinking advantage, it becomes more important than ever to stand out in the crowd.”

Leave the gimmicks behind

That means you need a solid ASO strategy that doesn’t rely on tricks and schemes like keyword stuffing, but instead is fueled by an solid understanding of the context apps are being sold in, and what customers are actually interested in and need.

Apple especially is coming down hard on the gimmicky ASO techniques. For instance, shrinking the title character limit all the way down to 30 words, as well as explicitly banning terms or descriptions that are not actually the name of the app, along with a friendly warning that they’ll modify (or delete) any excessive keyword spamming at any time. That means no more “XYZ app, [value proposition]” any more.

Experiment and steal

“You have to have the willingness to experiment, and you have to try lots of different things,” Stout says. “I’ve seen great results just by playing with things that may not seem that obvious, or you don’t even really have a concrete reason to act on – I’ve even seen a boost from just changing the order of the app screen shots.”

It’s also valuable to keep an eye on how your category is doing, to understand the dips and the rises for your particular app, he adds, in much the same way as when you’re ready to buy a house, you want to know the activity surrounding other homes that have sold or are on the market.

“So for instance, we watch most other social media apps and most other chat platforms to really see if there’s a winning trend in the way they present themselves or the way they talk about their features,” he explains. “Anecdotal stuff like, Hey Facebook changed this and it seems like their installs went up by five percent; maybe we should do it too?”

The three must-do ASO techniques

1. Be literal

“I’ve actually seen a lot of benefit to being very literal about your value prop in the app store – just going down the feature list seems to work better than trying to sell somebody some kind of marketing spiel, ” says Stout. “If you start with waxing poetic that tends to not work as well, even if it’s a more powerful message.”

In other words, don’t use big fancy words, he says. Don’t try and convince people that their behavior needs to change. Tell them how your app aids something they already want to do.

2. Good screenshots are gold

“Before you even mess with the page content itself, take the time to make good screen shots,” he urges. “You should take advantage of the fact that Apple doesn’t require that they be actual screenshots of your app; you can doctor them up to point out certain things.”

He points to how video game screenshots have never been able to effectively communicate what the game is actually like. And most people aren’t going to take the time to analyze a screenshot for 30 seconds to figure out what’s actually happening there.

“People are visual creatures — they get a visceral reaction from the first thing they see,” he says. “So I would take the time to make sure your screenshots are painting the picture you want the user to see, and not just literal screenshots of your app.”

3. Max out paid impressions

“Keyword advertising is ridiculously cheap and highly effective,” he adds. “I just wish I could get more search impressions. I would flood way more cash into paid search in iTunes if I could get more impressions. But we’re basically maxed out on impressions and it costs 20 bucks a day.”

For more ASO techniques, VB Insight report highlights, key best practices and can’t-miss ASO insights from super-analyst Stewart Rogers, register now for our latest interactive VB Live event.


Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.


In this VB Live event, you’ll:

  • Learn why ASO is fundamental to the success of any app
  • Familiarize yourself with the pillars of solid ASO strategy
  • Leverage technology to increase your lifetime user value
  • Think beyond keywords for your search strategies

Speakers:

  • Trey Stout, CTO and Co-founder, ScribbleChat and Handwriting.io
  • Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology, VentureBeat
  • Peggy Anne Salz, Chief Analyst, MobileGroove
  • Wendy Schuchart, Moderator, VentureBeat