You launched your app, but you’re not getting many installs. Or you are getting some traction, but not nearly enough. This happens to most people who launch apps without a huge marketing budget or a large social media following. It can be difficult to get people to download your app, especially in the beginning.
When you are starting out, ASO is your biggest weapon. Well-executed ASO will bring you tons of free users – organically. People will look up keywords relevant to your app, discover you in the Search Results Page and download. The app-discover process is simple:
Keyword – Search Results Page – App Store Page – Download
The rest of ASO is supposed to assist this process. You need to have a good icon, screenshots, videos, descriptions, etc. The whole point of ASO is to make you visible in the app-discovery process.
Metrics effecting your keyword ranking
Before we dive into the tactics of increasing your rank for specific keywords, you need to understand what are the variables that effect your rank. The quality of your app is the single most important variable that impacts how you rank for keywords. No amount of growth hacks, tactics or marketing strategies is going to help you, if the app is not good enough.
I can not overstate the last point. This is also a good advice when it gets to all marketing activities. First and foremost, you need to have an amazing product that people love. If people don’t love the app, you’re going to waste a lot of time and money. Instead of pouring resources into ASO and marketing, you should be focusing on building a better product.
The App Store algorithm is a black box. We don’t know what’s the actual algorithm, but from doing thousands of tests, the ASO community has figured out what metrics impact your keyword rank. In no particular order:
– This one is obvious. The better overall reviews you have, the more likely you’re to rank for a keyword
– The more reviews, the better. You can’t just get two or three 5-star reviews and call it a day.
Overall download number
– Total number of downloads over the lifetime of the app. This one favors big apps that have been around for a while.
– Number of recent downloads you’re getting, not just total. This one helps small apps that are not huge yet, but growing fast.
Click through rate on search page (conversion with specific keyword)
– When people type in “paleo recipe” for example, how many of those people click on your app when they see it as they scroll through the Search Results Page? This ratio is important for specific-keyword ranking.
Download conversion rate
– Once visitors land on your App Store Page, how many of those actually download the app? Make sure you have strong screenshots, videos that explain what the app does. If they come to your App Store page, they are interested, they have the intent. Now you just have to nudge them.
– If people install the app but it’s not good enough or it’s not what they expected, they’ll un-install. This will hurt your keyword rank.
– What percentage of people keep using the app after they install?
– How frequently do you update the app? This shows Apple and Google that you are constantly working on the app, improving it and hopefully providing a better user experience over time.
– The worst user experience is a crash. Too many and it will hurt your keyword rank.
– Finally, both Google and Apple are businesses. If you make money, they make money so they will help you even more. (Same with getting featured. If you make lots of revenue you are more likely to be featured because the platforms will also make more money).
As you can see, most of these metrics are in-app behavior metrics. They measure the quality of your product and can’t be “hacked”. You can’t fool the algorithm with growth hacks if people don’t love the app.
Not all keywords placements are equal. A keyword in your title will have different weight on the algorithm than a keyword in your description. Here are the placements in order of priority:
- Keyword field (iOS only)
- Short description (Android only)
Promotional text (iOS only) is not indexed by the algorithm contrary to what some people say. Keywords in the promotional text will not help you rank.
Each placement differes in importance. We don’t know how much exactly, but it appears that Title keywords are about twice as important as keywords in the Description.
It’s a good idea to pick your 2 – 3 most important keywords and put them in the Title & Subtitle as these placements are the most influential.
Finding your keywords
Step 1. Identify all relevant keywords and list them in a sheet. This part is all about quantity so write down as many keywords as you can think of. Check your competitions’ App Stores and take all keywords and phrases that are relevant to your app as well.
Step 2. Using SensorTower (or any other ASO tool), find the traffic and difficulty of each keyword. Most tools will have a similar rating. Traffic refers to the amount of people looking up that keyword and difficulty refers to the number and quality of others apps that are already indexed for that keyword.
Step 3. Finally, prioritize your list. Find the keywords with highest traffic and lowest competition. It will take you some trial and error to figure out what is the exact traffic and competition level of keywords that you are able to compete for. At the beginning, if you have just launched, you will probably aim for long-tail keywords. Keywords that are pretty low in traffic but even lower in competition. That’s okay.
Step 4. Implement the selected keywords. Refer to the previous chapter on placements. Put your most important keywords in the title and subtitle.
Step 5. Update your keywords. As you start to get more installs and start to rank organically for certain keywords, you can scale up and start competing for keywords with more traffic and higher difficulty. Track your current rank and include new, better keywords when possible.
Pro tip: In the example above, I’m using entire key-phrases, not just keywords. Instead of using keywords “diet” and “recipe” I used the key-phrase “diet recipe”. Key-phrases will have lower traffic and lower competition.
That being said, the App Store algorithm will create combinations of keywords from the keyword field and rank you for those phrases. If you put in “business”, “card”, “scanner” you’ll be ranked for “business card scanner”, “card scanner business”, “card business scanner”, etc.
Some people say you’re loosing out if you put in entire phrases into the keyword field, while others suggest that targeting more direct key-phrases improves your rank. I’d suggest to experiment and notice if you see any differences in ranking.
Quick tip: All apps are automatically ranked for the keyword “app” so you don’t have to inlaced that in your keywords.
Do I need to include plural and singular form of a keyword to increase the rank?
No. The algorithms should be taking into considering both forms, only based on the singular. If you write “car”, the algorithm should also index you for “cars”.
Does it help to include the same keyword in multiple placements?
Yes. If you mention the keyword more than once, you are going to increase your chances of ranking higher, but there are big diminishing returns. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. time you mention a keyword it becomes much less effective.
What about keyword in other languages? You will rank for keywords in your base language. If you don’t localize your app to let’s say Spanish, you will be ranking in the English keywords. If you want to rank specifically for Spanish keywords, localize your App Stores into Spanish. Be aware that if users discover your App Store page in Spanish, they are likely to expect your app to also be in Spanish. Your App Stores will show you data on which countries are downloading your app. If you see traction in a foreign country, it might be a good idea to localize to that language. Play Store has a paid built-in feature for direct (human) translation. On the Play Store, you might have to use a service like Fiverr or find freelancers to translate your App Store manually.