Preparing Your App for a Successful Launch on iOS and Google Play

How are your acquisition costs looking?

Do you spend a significant portion of your marketing budget paying for installs?

Does your average CPI (cost per install) keep going up?

What if I told you that you could get 1,000’s of installs per week for free, from the exact users you want to reach. Would you believe me?

I hope so… But if not, let me change your mind and get you fired up about App Store Optimization (ASO).

Why ASO

Apple’s App Store is broken. We all know this, yet we work our butts off to beat the odds and stand out among 2 million apps, which grew at a rate of 41,000 new apps per month last year.

The Apple Store is Broken
If that’s not enough to have you break into a cold sweat, consider that the average smartphone user only uses 3 apps on their phone!

That home-screen is prime real estate and you need to get there in order to succeed.

And trust me, it’s hard to get there.

To beat the odds, not only do you need to have a killer app (buzzword alert), user onboarding, retention strategy, and ongoing growth, but you also need to make sure that the right users install your app to lower your CPI, insuring you get the most out of your marketing dollars.

By implementing a solid ASO strategy, you can make sure that your app is displayed to smartphone users who need your solution to their problem, increasing the likelihood that you’ll get installs from high quality users.
Still not convinced? Consider that these downloads are FREE!

I think that’s enough convincing for now, so let’s get started.

The Basics of ASO

In theory, ASO is simple.

You find the relevant keywords and phrases your target users would search to find apps that solve the problem you’re addressing.

Then you add the highest trafficked keywords to your title and App Store keywords field.

You then submit your app and wait for those sweet, sweet, app installs to flow.

However, in reality it’s not that easy.

You’re competing against hundreds, if not thousands of apps trying to grab the same search real estate using the keywords and terms you want to rank for.

One additional step you will need to implement is consistent monitoring and optimization.

You need to monitor your rankings for the keywords included in your title and keyword field, then experiment with replacing them periodically to see which keywords display your app within the top 10 results for the term (ideally, top 5).

Getting Started

To get started, we’ll need to find the relevant keywords you want to target, discover their approximate search volume and ranking difficulty, then we’ll need to plug them into your app store listing via iTunes Connect.

There are two ways which we can do this.

We can either manually search for keywords using our iPhones’ App Store app, looking for auto-suggest terms to discover what users may search.

Or we can use an ASO tool like Mobile Action:

Mobile Action

Mobile Action

We’re going to go with the latter method to build a base of keywords and pull in the ranking information we need to make an informed decision.

Then we’re going to plug these keywords into our app title and keyword field.

There is no shortage of ASO tools for mobile marketers. Since I have the most experience with Mobile Action, we’re going to go with that.

But I highly encourage you to check out some of the other products in the market like Sensor Tower, App Annie, and Search Man.

Let’s get started.

Keyword Research

Using either your phone or Mobile Action, you’re going to build a list of keywords you want to potentially rank for.

Keyword Suggestions

Keyword Suggestions

From within Mobile Action, click on ASO Intelligence > Keyword Suggestions:

Look up your potential competitors within the Competitor Keywords field to pull up keywords they may be trying to rank then add all of the relevant keywords to your list by clicking on the + keyword:

Keywords
Then, plug the most relevant keywords into the Related Keywords field and find additional keywords which may be relevant to your target users:
Related Keywords
Next, grab your iPhone and start searching for terms within the App Store.

You’ll want to build a list of 200 – 300 keywords, but once you feel you’re keywords are becoming less relevant, click on the Keyword Analysis section to pull up important data on your keywords that will help you decide which keywords you can rank for.
Ranking Keyword List
How do you know what keywords to choose?

The Keyword Analysis section looks at data across the list of keywords you compiled to show you the keyword search score, difficulty, number of apps ranking for that keyword, and your rank.

Using this information, start by first sorting your keywords by Chance %.

The higher the chance percentage, the more likely you will be able to rank for the keyword.

Then look at search score.

The higher the search score, the more traffic that keyword receives. We want to ignore anything with a search score < 32.

Out of your existing list of keywords, select 5-10 keywords you want to rank for based on this data. Your ideal keyword should have a search score > 32, high chance %, and low number of total apps.

Once you’re done creating a list of keywords to test, we’re going to plug these keywords into your app title and keyword field.

Implementing Your Keywords and Testing

Taking the keywords you just selected, modify your app title in such a way that the most important keywords are included in it.

One caveat – last November’s App Store updates lessened the impact of keywords in your title, but I have yet to see a valid counter argument to not including keywords in your title.

Next, take your remaining keywords and fit them into your Keywords field. Remember that this field can only contain a maximum of 100 characters so separate your keywords with commas, do not include spaces between words, do not repeat words, and start with your shortest keyword combination first to maximize the amount of words you can rank for.

Once your done, save and submit your build for review.

Reviewing and Optimizing Your Keywords

Depending on your velocity of downloads and reviews you’ll want to set a time frame to review your keywords and perform revisions.

I like to revisit my keywords every couple days, but no longer than 1 week.

Of course, a revision is going to depend on your app release schedule since you can only change your keywords by submitting a new build.

When you’re ready to review your keyword rankings, within Mobile Action dashboard, first take a look at your Download estimations and Visibility score.

Your score is a good indicator of how many tracked keywords you are able to rank for so ideally, this number (out of 100) continues to climb.

Your download estimations will show you how your download counts are tracking every day.

Then click over to ASO Intelligence > Keyword tracking and sort your Current Rank column by descending order.

Take note of the keywords ranked within 1 – 10 and more importantly, the keywords that you tried to rank which either don’t have a rank or have a number greater than 10.

For those that have not ranked, replace the keyword by picking a different keyword from your Keywords list.

For those that have a rank, based on how close they are to reaching the top 10, you can determine whether waiting another few days and/or increasing your review count and download count will help push it to rank within the top 10.

Pro tip: Mobile Action allows you to export your keywords as a CSV.

Keyword Rankings

To help you make better decisions, export your keywords and open in either Google Sheets or Excel.

Then use conditional formatting > color scales to help you make better keyword selection decisions.

ASO Keyword Spreadsheet

Notice how I color coded my keyword data with red being the most important number in the column and green being the least important.

With chance, the higher percentage chance we have, the easier it will be to rank for the number.

Total apps works in reverse. The fewer total apps that rank for the keyword, the easier it will be to rank for it. And finally, the higher the search score, the more lucrative the keyword is for our app.

Your best keywords will have red bars all the way across, horizontally.

ASO in Google Play

There are a few key differences between performing ASO in the App Store vs. Google Play Store:

  1. With Google Play, your title is limited to 30 characters (make them count).
  2. Your description area is crawled and read so use standard on-page SEO practices when attempting to rank for keywords.In fact, your first 165 characters are critical because they are used as your meta description and displayed in search results. Make sure to include your most important keywords there.
  3. There is no keyword field.
  4. You have a short description area, which is displayed in the Google Play store but is not crawled. Focus on messaging that converts viewers to installs – not keywords.
  5. And most importantly, you do not have to submit a new APK to make changes to your Play store listing. This is great for testing and for optimizing your keywords and other content more often. Take advantage of this and review / revise your keywords every 4 – 7 days.

That’s all there is to it!

Remember that mobile growth requires a comprehensive growth plan so diversify your channels and don’t become dependent on one.

Although ASO is just one channel in an ever growing app ecosystem. If implemented properly, it will become an important source of sustainable installs for your app that keep giving back.

I’d like to hear how you have implemented ASO for your mobile apps and if you’ve come across any neat tricks that have helped you with your mobile growth.

Reach out to me here or at sajad (at) hurdlr.com.

Sajad Ghanizada

Sajad Ghanizada

 

Sajad Ghanizada heads mobile growth at Hurdlr, a mobile finance app for marketers and other freelancers. He also runs a passion project with his team, providing tax deduction information at 99Deductions.com.