There’s a new term Internet marketers need to become familiar with: ASO, or App Store Optimization. As apps have ushered in a new era of business on the Web, ASO will soon take its place alongside SEO as a key component of online success.
Consumers are quickly realizing that apps are increasingly abundant, providing solutions to problems, and conveniences never before seen. But as the number of apps increases at a rapid pace consumers need a little help finding what they need. That’s where ASO steps in. And, just like SEO, ASO takes up-front planning to achieve top
rankings in the app stores.
Plan before you build
It pays to do your research. Apps are neither easy nor cheap to build — so it is critical that just as much care is given to ensure its adoption and help turn that app into a solid business investment. What’s more, under-developed apps can incur the wrath of poor user reviews, all but dooming its future. It’s easy to dream up the next great app but far more
difficult to fulfill an actual consumer need. Study the market.
• What do the top 100 ranking apps in your category have in common?
• What features do the top apps overall have in common?
• What are consumers searching for (services or features) that could give your app an edge?
Try to identify what users are searching for and use those keywords when developing and promoting your app; starting with the title and description and possibly even using the developer name. Words like “easy,” “fun,” “fast,” and “exciting” are highly searched and enticing to the consumer. Your mission is to build app that has mass appeal and easy-to-understand benefits.
The name of the app must feature a strong keyword. This will have a major impact on your app store ranking and, of course, helps consumers discover your app through search. Take care in researching keywords that are appropriate to the app and its functions before settling on a name.
When it comes to app descriptions, clearly outline the benefits but be strong and concise — enough to grab the consumer’s attention and convince them why they should install your app. Avoid using special characters in your title as this will have a negative effect on how the name appears in the app’s URL. Also, include “Free” or “Lite”, if appropriate. Another strategy is to build your app dependent on a popular platform such as Facebook, and use that name in your copy. If building on a third party platform, however, engineer a user notification when that third party has an outage so that your app does not get blamed and slapped with a low rating. Remember that every good piece of copywriting includes a strong call to action.
Included in the research phase of app planning is pricing. App prices will vary but should stay in line with similar apps or functionalities. Price an app too high and it will quickly fall out of favor — meaning lost ratings and reviews and the possibility that cheaper alternatives dominate the app stores. Pricing too low can add a “cheap” feel to the app and also result in being overlooked.
More than 80 percent of the traffic in the Apple App Store is directed to free apps. So, one pricing strategy is to use the “freemium” model — that is, offering a free version of the app while outlining the benefits of the paid model both in descriptions and in the app itself. Review your options, such as inapp purchasing to monetize on engaged users. Half of the top-grossing App Store apps are now free with in-app purchasing, and this percentage has been increasing rapidly. Paid apps should stay under the $4.99 price point, as consumers still expect to pay very little even for high-quality apps.
Should you decide to charge for your app consider using price promotions. For example, offering a $4.99 app for $.99 for a limited time can create a sense of urgency on the part of consumers and garner media attention.
Create High Quality Images
Create quality images to showcase your app and its benefits and label the images with strong keywords. The app’s icon must also be of high quality, and make sure it “pops” off of the page.
Plan the Preview
Search for an app and you will quickly see app store page results. Many times, the iTunes Web Preview is listed higher
than your app’s home page as they are very search engine friendly. These preview pages are critical to building organic traffic and attracting links — these pages must be optimized.
Use keywords and be sure to maximize the use of copy before the “More…” button, seen on Apple App Store previews, for example. You are limited to three lines here; each made up of 120 characters before word-wrapping. The URL, page title, meta description, meta keywords and the H1 tag should all be loaded with the app name and keywords. Currently, the iTunes preview page use a “no follow” attribute for links to the app’s home page so there is no benefit to the developer. Again, do your research — it will pay off with more downloads and higher rankings in the App Store.
Before officially launching an app, it is important to build some buzz. • Launch a website for your app. • Promote the app on social sites, and start networking with app review sites and other online communities, like LinkedIn Groups.
• Leverage your social network by integrating Facebook Connect into your app and request user ratings.
• Create a video featuring the “value” the app offers the user. Consider creating a professional screencast in high definition to demonstrate the quality of your app. Post on YouTube and use the links in press releases and requests to app reviewers.
• Demo the app at mobile industry shows — you never know when someone from Apple is watching (or reading) and it
could land the elusive App Store featured app.
Most Web marketers are familiar with display ads and, therefore, attempt to buy mobile display ads first. The problem is that mobile display ads are not very effective at growing traffic. Most marketers of free apps report that it costs between $1.50 and $3.00 (or more) to acquire an installation using mobile display ads, and that mobile display ad campaigns do not scale very well. Since it now requires approximately 50,000 U.S. installs in a single day to place in the top 25 in the U.S. App Store free rankings, explore lower cost alternatives such as “cost per install” networks, which provide cost per
install campaigns below $1.00 and at the high volumes required to break into the top of the App Store rankings.
Apps that rank in the top of app stores and retain that position do not achieve that status by sheer luck. It takes planning and careful execution to land in the Top 25. But the effort will be handsomely rewarded with higher revenue and user engagement.