The app store and play store are the most effective way to promote your app to new users. The more you rank in a specific query, the more users you will attract. The analytics company TUNE discovered that roughly 50% of an app user base come from app store searches. In our apps, it accounts for more than 70% of our user base. Furthermore, 23% of our users found us by browsing the categories.
Improving your app store ranking is crucial to your app's success. This is called App Store Optimization (ASO). While the ranking algorithm is not disclosed, we will review the key factors the marketplaces use to decide which app ranks best.
🖼 App Icon
What is the first thing you see when you search something in the app store? The App Icon. Your app icon must be eye-catching. Use vivid colors. It is important to differentiate your brand logo to the app icon. While you can use a text logo to represent your brand, you must tailor your app icon to the app store listing.
In that matter, try to design a logo that represents what your app is doing, unless of course your app has an established brand. (ie: Facebook)
To find inspiration, you can browse the apps in your category. Compare their logos and try to find a way to stand out.
Depending on the kind of app you are building, you will probably notice that most your competitors use the same kind of icon. In this case, uniqueness can be a way to attract the eye.
🆔 App Name
Should you include keywords in the app name? In short: Yes. It is not known whether marketplaces use it as a ranking factor. It seems however that they give a higher importance to names that match the search query. What we know for sure is that your potential new customers will read it.
A good format would be
Brand name - Feature 1, Feature 2.
You can use up to 200 characters in the app name, however, apple will reject most apps that use more than 100 characters. Keep it short and remember that only the first 25 characters will display in the listing. It is therefore important to add your most valuable keywords at the beginning.
In the AppStore the first 3 screenshots are crucial as they are displayed in the list when someone searches for your keywords.
You can use several media types to present your app: videos, connected, landscape or vertical screenshots. Each have its advantages and disadvantages.
App Preview Video
- let's you highlight multiple features;
- Users usually don't watch the video until the end;
- eye-catching ;
- allows you to put your app's essential future on the spotlight;
- although they look good together, if the user clicks on one of your screenshots to display it fullscreen, only half the content will display (especially on Android).
In the AppStore the distance between screenshots is 56px. Make sure you respect this when you design your connected screen.
- good for landscape games;
- can be used as a way to stand out when your competitors use vertical screenshots;
- lets you highlight the main feature of your app.
- can be confusing for apps that use a vertical interface.
- simple and common for users;
- harder to stand out from your competitors;
If your application has a vertical interface the best combination would be an App Preview Video + 2 connected screenshots or 2 connected screenshots +a vertical one.
Do not just upload screenshots. Add text on top of them to describe what you want to highlight. Describe briefly each functionality of your app using verbs.
For exemple: "Find the cheapest gas stations".
You need to add as much keywords as possible. First write down the list of keywords that come to your mind. Make sure to:
- only use one word per keyword, not sentences ;
- avoid prepositions ;
- fill the 100 characters available.
Lacking inspiration? There are a few techniques you can use to find new keywords. Open the app store and write your keywords in the search bar. You will notice the autocompletion will start to suggest what other word are associated to the query.
From the list above, you can find a few interesting keywords as well as the habits your potential customers have. Can someone use your app to track its groceries expenses ? Adding the "groceries" keyword can attract new customers.
While creating an ad campaign for one of my apps, I found a nice way to get a list of keywords from Apple itself. Go to Apple Search Ads and create a new campaign. Select your app and country and click "continue". You will see a section called "Keywords".
By clicking on the "Add Keywords to an Ad Group" button, you will notice that Apple automatically suggests a list of keywords. You can even see their popularity in the country you selected.
📝 App Description
Pay attention to the first 3 lines of your app description. This is what's displayed by default when someone selects your app. It is important to use them to briefly describe the main functionalities you offer. Keep in mind that most users will NOT read the full description.
Next, I usually add the reviews my app received from blogs and magazines. If you have a website, you can track them by using Google Search Console. This tool will give you a list of all the external links that reference your website. You can also use the free tool Neil Patel has built, which also estimates the domain score of all the websites that linked you.
Finally, I list all the features and highlight what makes us better than the competition.
Should you add keywords to the app description?
Yes. It seems that google indexes the app description. Also, you can add HTML to the play store app description, so keywords within a <h1> tag will rank better. The iOS store does not search for keywords. However, adding them in a natural way will help your potential new customers understand what your app is doing.
🌟 Ratings and Reviews
Both the app store and play store use the ratings and reviews as a ranking factor. We noticed that this is one of the most important metric they use to position the apps. It is thus important to ask for reviews at the right time.
Because your reviews need to be positive, do not ask your users to review your app as soon as they open it. It is best to ask them after a successful positive action (ie: after a sale).
On Android, you will have to redirect the user to the play store. On the iPhone, apple implemented a native window you can use to let the user rate your app without leaving it.
While this looks convenient, we decided to first ask our users if they enjoy our app before using the native prompt. If they don't, we redirect them to a screen where they can privately share feedback with us without adding a one-star review.
Still, a pop-up can be a source of frustration. You should always avoid breaking your user flow. A nice place to ask the question would be in a list view.
Are ratings the ultimate way to attract new customers to your app? No. While we can't deny that ratings are important, a few studies have shown that the rating does not have a huge impact in the first positions.