Nothing’s more seductive to a hip business owner than the next “big thing” in marketing (remember QR codes?) and lately, everyone’s been abuzz over app store Optimization (ASO). However, it’s pretty clear that ASO is more than just a pretty face. With over 700,000 apps in both Google Play and the Apple App Store, luck and hope are no longer enough to get your app found. While studies find that word of mouth and being “featured” are still the top ways apps get discovered, 63 percent of Android and iOS users have found apps by “organic search” within the app store.

The tricky part of ASO, like with any good marketing campaign, is that getting results requires playing both artist and scientist.

Here are the five little-known arts of app store optimization.

Know your app stores

App Store Optimization is not one size fits all. While iTunes and Google Play are dominating the apps scene, others are strong outside the US, like AppChina. Most notably, Amazon’s appstore for Android devices and Kindle is growing quickly.

If you have limited resources, focus on the giants, and take advantage of their key differences:

iTunes: The keyword field allows you to associate your app with certain terms. Make sure not to stuff or repeat too many variations of the same word which might trigger spammy signals.

(Many thanks to Jigl for this image)

Google Play: This apps tore has the benefit of the largest search engine algorithm in the world, which means efforts reap quick results. Optimizing the app name (see below) is especially important here.

Amazon: Unlike the other app stores, Amazon invites you to apply to get featured on their “storefront,” which means lots of views with little effort. The application can be found here.

Your app name is everything!

If you’re going to do only one thing, optimize your app name. Much like a page title for SEO, the app name serves as a relevancy signal to the app store “algorithms”, and it’s a strong one.

First, make sure your app name is actually in the title. Remember you want to have a strong presence as a brand, so people need to know your name, not just what your app does!

Next, describe your app properly. Moovit, a transit tracker includes ‘transit’ in its name and ranks third for the term.

Which means you need to…

Conduct some kick -ass keyword research

Though ASO tools are still pretty limited in comparison to the vast resources  available to SEOs, you can conduct your own tests. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Which words describe your app?
  • Brainstorm and then evaluate, do they support your brand narrative? Which of these words are most relevant?
  • Get an objective feel for relevancy by searching for your keywords in the app store and seeing who is ranking for these terms.
  • Which words are your competitors using?
  • Be inspired but don’t be a copycat. Being unique will help you get traffic your competitors aren’t getting.
  • Are there any related terms (and estimated volume) in Google Adwords?

The Google Adwords Keyword Tool won’t give you exact search volume within the appstore, but you can get an idea of term popularity by looking at stats for searches.

Choose your category, change your category

Choosing a category may not be very easy when your app has several utilities since it may fall into more than one.

Analyze your competitive landscape and make an informed decision regarding whether you want to take your competitors head on by being in the same list or if you want to maximize potential by going after a less crowded category.

Which brings me to my final point.

Don’t be afraid

Don’t be afraid to experiment. While iTunes only lets you change your page every time you release and upload an update to the app file, Google Play and Amazon allow you to continually edit your titles, descriptions, and categories. Take advantage of this and track your changes and their effects. Find your sweet spot and invite your customers to find you.

Denisse Dubrovsky has worked in the mobile space in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors for several years. Her experience ranges from research and support for a national government app development contest to helping great brands increase their audience and conversions within the app store through creative and forward thinking ASO. Denisse is currently an SEO Associate at Kahena Digital and specializes in ASO. You can follow her on Twitter @Deni_ssita.

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