How can app store optimisation help your business?

Forget search engine optimisation, the process of giving your website the best rankings in Google. With mobile content, it’s all about app store optimisation (ASO).

© Cristiano Betta (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

© Cristiano Betta (CC BY 2.0). Cropped.

ASO is based on ways in which marketing and media managers can optimise their business app to make it more popular in the app store, encourage more downloads, and ultimately, more sales. If you are not thinking about ASO then you could be missing out.

As of June 2014 there were approximately 1.2 million apps on both the Apple Store and its Android counterpart, with around 30,000 quality apps launched every month. In order to make sure your app gets seen, you need to stand out.

A Forrester and European Technographics study into consumer technology from 2012 concluded that for 63 per cent of iOS users and 58 per cent of Android users general browsing in an app store is the top way of discovering new apps, followed by speaking with family or friends (50 per cent iOS, 41 per cent Android) and then browsing the top rated and most popular lists in the store (34 per cent iOS and 25 per cent Android). The goal of ASO is to drive more people to see your app, download it, and use it.

Words: Your app title, description and keywords

The most important selling point will be your app’s name. Bear in mind that if your customer is using an iPhone, they will only see the first 33 characters of the name, and Apple give you just 99 characters to define your keywords – you must be quick and succinct to grab their attention. Don’t use spaces either, just commas to divide keywords and save characters.

Research by MobileDevHQ found that placing a keyword based on your app’s function in your title can increase the ranking by up to 10 per cent, which shows that simplicity works. Think ‘Spotify Music’, or ‘Gmail – email from Google’, which both use this formula to great success.

“Use keywords that are heavily searched for in your title,” said Brett Dixon, director of digital marketing agency DPOM. “Use an array of different words a potential user may opt for. There’s no harm in looking at your competition for ideas.”

© Alvaro Ibanez (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

© Alvaro Ibanez (CC BY 2.0). Cropped.

On the other hand, other people believe it’s better to be in the top 20 searches of a niche word, compared with the top 100 searches of a popular word, it may also be a good idea to steer clear from overused keywords, as put together in this handy list by Appsfire.

Don’t try and steal someone else’s name just because it’s popular. This can lead to Apple removing the app because of an infringement of copyright, not to mention confusing anyone who is trying to download your app.

Category: your app type, and most relevant use

You need to find out what the most popular keyword for people finding similar apps is. Spend time researching, including tests to find your app, and finding the best way of accessing something similar. Make sure you put your app in the most relevant category too, as people sometimes head straight for the category instead of searching a term.

Images: your icon, screenshots, and video demo

It goes to say that making sure you have aesthetically pleasing, simple images and colours will work wonders – your screenshots and icons need to be in tune with your marketing, and give the reader a taste of your product.

© PhotoAtelier (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

© PhotoAtelier. (CC BY 2.0) Cropped.

“Ensure you have a quality icon that encourages users to click through,” said Mark McDermott, creative director at digital media agency Codegent. “It’s important to have screenshots that show off your best features, including imagery designed specifically to sell your app rather than literal screen grabs.”

A video lets you show customers what your app does in seconds, without them having to spend time and money downloading it first.

Sylvain Gauchet is co-founder of Apptamin, a company which builds demo videos for mobile applications to use in the app store, websites, or for pitching presentations.

“A video can be a great tool,” he says. ”It’s dynamic, engaging and can help you show what’s magic about it.”

User content: ratings, reviews, downloads and other links

Apps that are rated higher and have more downloads rank higher in searches. Downloads and user ratings are harder to control, but you can incentivise people to rate and review your app.

“Ask your family and friends for the first few reviews,” said Hugh Kimura, content strategist at app marketing firm Sensor Tower. “Then use third-party tools to ask people for reviews.” He recommends using tools such as Appirater, iRate and Appsfire, all which prompt the user to leave feedback on the app store after they use it regularly, or when they rate the app as positive.

“Wait until they have showed a decent amount of interaction, such as opening the app several times, or performed value-adding functions before you ask,” said Mr McDermott. “Be careful to stay respectful and not get too annoying.”

Gary Turner, managing director at cloud accountancy software firm Xero UK, disagreed with ‘nagging’ customers to write reviews.

© Intel Free Press (CC BY SA 2.0) Cropped

© Intel Free Press (CC BY SA 2.0). Cropped.

“We reply on organic reviews, not just by prompting people constantly to do so,” he said. “To get people to download our app we detect when they’re using our site on a mobile and let them know the app is there too with a pop-up box.”

Looking beyond the app store for downloads

“People who love it are more likely to talk about it on social media too,” Mr Turner continued. “When people tweet about doing their accounts on the bus or in a coffee shop and mention us, it’s more credible.”

Another way of getting some PR would be to contact app reviewers and technology bloggers and ask them to review the app. However, they could be brutally honest if they don’t like it, so beware.

Duncan Barrett, director of operations at mGage, suggests other ways of increasing your downloads, including using a button to direct users to download the app on your business’s website which takes them straight to the app store, or using SMS to drive downloads through links. However, the download is just the tip of the iceberg – getting people to use it can also be hard to measure.

“Our tracking technology means that it is possible to find out whether the user goes on to open the application and can be used to send follow-up messages to those who don’t to drive engagement,” he said. “Getting the user to download is only the first challenge!”

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. The key to working out app store optimisation is to test and re-test, seeing which brings in the results and try to analyse why. “Revisit and optimise your listings every couple of weeks,” recommended Mr Dixon. “Trial and error and minor adjustments should be made regularly to meet the demands of this growing market.”

The Mobile Content Summit 2014 will see experts, managers and innovation leaders come together to discuss the future of mobile content and how you can stay ahead. Register for the event here.

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