App Store Optimization

Can Pokemon GO’s New Update Survive Without ASO?

After the wild year Pokémon GO had in 2016, from its release to eventual fall from grace, it’s back once again trying reclaim its place on the Top Charts of the App Store. The hit game that took players of all generations and the world by storm last June suffered a major drop, most likely because it’s original release and most current updates do not utilize common ASO standards.

Despite Pokémon GO’s quick success, the initial fall came as no surprise due to poor marketing strategies, weak keyword rankings and Niantic (publisher) relying solely on the long-standing brand name. The app launched at number one in the Top Free Downloads chart and the Top Grossing chart, but it’s lack of ASO standards lead to the app’s eventual fall in the rankings.

While Pokémon GO is currently ranked at number fifteen on the Top Grossing chart in the App Store, it suffers from not utilizing ASO strategies. Apple gives developers 50 characters for titles. Including high volume keywords in the title. The app’s title acts as an additional keyword field, lending itself to build additional phrases with the terms used in the app’s keyword bank. With this additional reach, Pokémon Go could rank for even more relevant phrases that users may be using to search. Even though the app does rank number one for “Pokémon,” a high-volume key word, many of its other high-volume keywords rank lower compared to its competitors. The App Store is still the largest channel for mobile app searches, and Pokémon GO struggles to outrank its competitors in high volume search terms.

The Pokémon GO update in December did not help its optimization and led to low conversation rates for the once wildly talked about app. Once again, Pokémon GO gets a fresh update that adds over 80 new Pokémon for end users to catch. Despite Niantic promising new features, this update seems to be just as useful in not utilizing ASO standards as the one in December. Instead of focusing on how to better market the app and rank higher in keywords, Niantic is adding features like new avatar customization instead of improving the app page listing.

Pokémon GO can’t seem to hold onto the number one spot on the Top Charts because it doesn’t draw users in with its poorly designed app page. Apps need strong app pages to draw users in. This concept is one ASO wildly addresses, and for Pokémon GO, which has now gone through several updates, it suffers from having the same app page with outdated screenshots.

Users want to know what the app’s features are and what’s been added. Through the screenshots, they can see how to catch Pokémon but if the screenshots had some text it would can entice new users to download. Users want to see the new generation two Pokémon like Cyndaquil and Totodile instead of seeing screenshots of first generation Pokémon such as Squirtle and Charmander. Generation two Pokémon were highlighted in the App Store’s featured banner section, but the screenshots do not reflect the major update. Without updating the screenshots, Pokémon GO does not achieve a point stressed by ASO and loses out on getting more end users to download.

Pokémon GO will go down in mobile app history as one of the most popular games of 2016, but in 2017, it will be noted as continuing to suffer for not using ASO strategies. Niantic should begin utilizing common ASO practices such as focusing on high-volume keywords or updating the app page to help conversion results and generate more downloads from new users. But for now, Pokémon GO’s discoverability and conversion rates in the App Store will most likely rise and fall like it has done in the past.

App Review

Apple iOS 10.3 Adds Review Replies for Developers

It is the worst feeling when a new app crashes and there is no way to solve the issue. Many iOS users want to converse directly with app developers, but could not do so until now.

Apple has been making many improvements recently, including App Store Search Ads that target popular terms that developers can now bid on, similar to Google’s Ad Words platform. The biggest news, however, is the recent announcement of Apple’s newest software update iOS 10.3, which finally allows app developers to respond to user reviews.

To create more interactive storefronts, developers can now reply to any posted app review, making the response visible for all other users in the App Store to see. Users will get an alert when their review receives a response and can update the review if they choose. Moreover, with the addition of the SKStoreReviewController API, users will be able to review an app without sending them back to the App Store.

iOS users can look forward to getting fast responses and feeling more support when there is an issue. Developers replying to reviews will create a better user experience and improve their app’s rating. By delivering great responses that assist users, developers will be able to fix issues faster, improve user engagement and see increases in conversion rates.

While iOS users will get the satisfaction of hearing back from developers, Android users have first-hand experience in receiving responses from app developers. Replying to reviews has effectively solved confusion or issues and has led to higher conversion rates. Google Play is the first to create a dialogue that in turn brought more popularity to apps. It has also been incredibly informative to users on what to look forward to next in upcoming app updates.

iOS developers need to learn from what Android developers have done to effectively respond to app reviews. Thankfully, Apple strongly encourages developers to take advantage of the new update and start responding to all reviews, regardless of star-rating. There are some tips on how Google Play developers should respond and what kinds of reviews to reply to. Apple, however, has a list as well to help developers get a good handle on how to reply to app reviews.

Tips on Replying to Reviews

  1. Every app wants to be unique and stand out, and developers want to improve app ratings and conversion rates. Be timely and consistent with quick responses that give users fast feedback on how the issue is being resolved. By timing your responses, you are more likely to improve those ratings, downloads and conversion rates. Developers can also set up email alerts to see when user reviews have been edited based off the given feedback.
  2. Any bad experience needs immediate resolution in a way that satisfies both the user and the developer. Not every review can get a response, so try prioritizing reviews that mention distinct errors, bugs or technical issues. Provide specific, clear information to the user on how to correct the issue, but also ask questions to know exactly what went wrong. By replying to reviews that point out specific criticisms of the app, it creates dialogue between the developer and the user. Developers can fix many of their issues quickly and effectively when they communicate and prioritize reviews.
  3. Always let the user know  what steps have been taken to fix the issue. If giving users tips or FAQs is the best fix, at least the next step has been taken and the developer took the time to reach out. Developers can go back and address any older reviews to update the user and let them know about any new information in release notes. This will show previous users the problem is solved and reintroduce them to the app.
  4. Keep all responses on topic to encourage a positive interaction. Do not reply to a review solely to promote codes, services or in-app purchases. Also, developers should not try to incentivize users to change a review or rating because it violates the App Store’s review guidelines.

Keeping up with users’ reviews in the App Store will have huge effects on an app’s conversion rate. If users see negative reviews without action from a developer, they may be less likely to convert. Ultimately, users want to interact with developers when there is an issue, and Apple is strongly encouraging developers to go the extra step and start replying to reviews. iOS 10.3 finally gives developers the opportunity to create a dialogue in efforts to increase downloads and conversion rates.

Updated information regarding the new ratings and reviews features on iOS can be found first on Gummicube’s Twitter:

gdc 2017

What to Expect for Mobile From GDC 2017

The annual Game Developers Conference has become the premiere hub of knowledge for experienced and up-and-coming game developers. The expansion of the conference into the mainstream has coincided with the massive growth of mobile gaming on iOS and Android, making GDC the perfect place to top-up on mobile knowledge.

Last year’s GDC focused heavily on VR, with the announcement of the PlayStation VR device dominating the show. Even so, many impactful announcements were made for mobile, including the Indie Corner for Google Play, updates and figures for the Unity engine, and marketing insights from major figures at Spry Fox and EA.

GDC 2017 promises to be bigger than ever for mobile. Here are some major items to expect when the conference rolls into town this March.

  1. Revenue Forecasting Panel

Revenue forecasting is essential for any business. Without a proper forecast of how much your app could make at both the low and high ends, you won’t have an understanding of whether your app is worth developing in its current state. Mike Gordon from Iron Horse Games (hired developers on Tap Hero, Solitairica and more) will lead a panel on how to forecast revenue for your app. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, this is an essential first step in the development process.

  1. Eastern Expansion

China represents the world’s largest gaming market, with $99.6 billion in revenues last year. A whopping 37% of that money came from mobile games. ZPlay’s Randy Barenscott will lead a session discussing how to work better with developers in China. This includes how and when to work with Chinese publishers, how to improve monetization in Asia, and why Chinese companies want to work with companies in the west. If your company is interested in eastward expansion, this panel could be essential.

  1. Tons of Indie Stories

Independent gaming tends to rule the panels by sheer numbers at GDC, and this year will be no exception. If you are considering going into independent game development on mobile, there are a number of panels you may wish to attend. During multiple Indie Mobile Game Dev Stories panels, you will hear stories from indie studios like PikPok (Rival Stars), Taco Illuminati (Looty Dungeon) and more. Elsewhere, you’ll learn how independent studios can make their mobile games go viral with a limited budget.

  1. Focus on Retention

Mobile developers have long focused on acquiring users, but not as many are as concerned with retaining players. Retention will be a major topic for mobile at this year’s GDC, with Tamalaki Publishing (Shards of Memory) owner Martine Spaans leading a panel specifically focusing on retention tactics. Spaans intends to apply tactics from Tinder and Wish, among others, to the gaming industry. Outside of this panel, expect design workshops to begin emphasizing retention tactics a little more heavily.

As GDC approaches, it’s clear that there are numerous important topics for mobile developers to address. This year’s conference should be bigger than ever for mobile games, so if you’re a developer or considering entering the field, pay close attention.

Let us know if you’ll be headed to GDC this year!