Apple App Store ASO

Apple App Store ASO, or app store optimization, is the process of optimizing a mobile app’s App Store listing for maximum discovery and conversion from a targeted and relevant audience.

We want our app to be found, installed and used.

Here is what we know about how Apple indexes mobile apps for their app store search results.

Apple App Store Indexing

  • The app name and the app keywords fields are indexed
  • Quality of ratings impacts ranking
  • Reviews are indexed and have significant impact
  • The description is indexed but does not have the same significance as the app name or keywords field
  • Publisher name is indexed
  • Downloads and velocity of downloads impacts rankings and top charts
  • Category selection impacts keyword relevance

It is important to note that while app publishers, marketers and developers do control a lot, we cannot control everything that affects how Apple indexes and ranks a mobile app.

Of the above, only ratings, reviews and downloads are not part of an app listing – meaning somewhat out of our control.

An app can try to make it easier for users to review the app, or channel customer service issues to support instead of using Apple’s review system, but there is no direct control of receiving ratings and reviews.

App Store Optimization for Discovery

The elements in an app listing that impact how an app is indexed and ranked in order of importance are:

Go through each of the short guides to get a better understanding of how each element is viewed and our recommendations and best practices for each.

App Store Conversion Rates

Optimizing an app for discovery only positions an app for viewing in search results.  To acquire users from being well positioned in organic search traffic, apps need to be optimized for conversion.

A mobile app’s creative elements including the app icon and screenshots have the biggest impact on conversion.

Both metadata and creative elements should work together. Screenshots support targeted keywords, the icon and app name should align.

Click the links to learn more about creating and testing app icons, and what to show and how in app screenshots.

App marketing

Marketing Your App

Marketing your app via the new mobile channels

Just when most companies were figuring out Google Ads, and investing in a mix of SEO and PPC, social exploded.

Social provided new advertising channels and new ways to engage with the market – and social was fundamentally new.

The mass adoption of mobile, and the rapid move from fixed internet to mobile apps has created another new opportunity for connecting to your market.

Marketing your app requires more than submitting to the app store and checking downloads once in a while.

Since launching a mobile app is a slightly different topic, lets focus on the basic tools mobile app marketers have for marketing your app once live in the app stores.

Show it off!

The data shows people are spending more time in mobile apps, consuming more content in apps and increasingly performing purchasing research in apps.

And companies still bury links to their mobile app at the bottom of their website – as if it were just another white paper.

Acquiring a mobile user is more valuable than a website visit – as not only do you have an icon that lives on their device, but most consumers prefer notifications to email (and certainly popups).

Open rates of notifications, and specific actions taken far exceed open rates and actions taken for email, even if both are opened and viewed on a mobile device.

You want all of your current clients, prospects, website and social media visitors to download your app – so let’s start there.

Make sure your app is featured on your home page, at the end of content pieces and on your social media pages.

Tell everyone you know!

For the same reasons as above, you want to proudly announce your mobile app.

You have email lists – lists of clients and prospects and leads from the last conference and webinar attendees and Twitter followers.

Tell them.  Track your open rates for emails talking about your new mobile app, and then send the same email with a different subject to those that didn’t open the first email.

On emails that go out that have nothing to do with your mobile app or new features, there should be a “download our mobile app” link right next to the website url and the company Twitter handle.

Just like with emails – share on Twitter and whatever other social networks you are invested in.

Most social networks allow for pinning or making a sticky post. Encourage your followers and fans to download your app.

Your email lists and social media following has already expressed an interest in your services.

Strengthen the connection by regularly reminding them of your mobile app investments.

Go guerilla

A press release is cool, and recommended at launch at least. Know what’s cooler (and harder)?  Reaching out to relevant press contacts?  Getting them interested.

The current press coverage model is bottom-up.

The biggest sites get their topics from sites dedicated to a specific vertical or horizontal.  These sites find stories from smaller/topical sites, who in turn find stories from niche sites or sites that serve a very specific audience.

Since digital is not limited like print, more stories = more pageviews = more revenue.  Journalists, reviewers, bloggers want more stories.

Type into search your app’s main features or benefits – who is talking about apps like yours?

What is your app’s story – and how can you pitch that to these folks who can drive net-new installs? 

Ask for ratings, reviews and shares

Neither Apple or Google have published their app store ranking algorithm.  And because app store data is closed (unlike the web), it is not a simple task to reverse engineer the weight of various ranking factors.

It is clear, however, the number and velocity of your mobile app’s ratings and reviews impacts rankings.

Not only do ratings and reviews impact where your app is displayed in search results, but low ratings will negatively impact conversion rates of a view to an install, just as high ratings will increase conversion rates.

Ask your users to rate your mobile app, and to share it with others who they think will find it useful.

Don’t neglect your ASO

Optimizing your app store listing is Marketing Your App 101 – maximizing the discovery of your app in relevant search results, and converting views to installs is not “set and forget”.

Optimization means continually testing, improving, and adapting to changes in the app stores.

What features are your target audience searching for?

What words and phrases are they using to describe the features?

Are there any new trends – keywords, competitor apps, related apps – that suggest a change in keywords, screenshots, app title or the description is needed?

Marketing your app is not an activity reserved for launch day, but an on-going effort to connect your mobile app with your audience.

Showing, sharing, promoting and optimizing your mobile app for your audience are some of the oft-forgotten basics of mobile app marketing – and some of the most impactful and highest ROI actions you can take.

Mobile App Discovery

Mobile App Discovery Challenges

Apple recently announced there are 1.5 million apps in their app store, Google Play has 1.4 million. Mobile app discovery continues to be a hot topic among mobile app marketers and publishers. From the broad perspective of all search, discovery and marketing , to specific discovery challenges in the app stores – standing out in the app store is becoming more challenging. Recent changes to Apple’s App Store make it even harder for apps to gain an initial traction previously found with a listing on the “new to the app store” section.

Get Used to Buying Traffic?

Benedict Evans of a16z suggests that the two “organic” options for discovery (of anything from mobile apps to books to furniture) are machine learning “If you bought this, you will like this” and curation. He is not bullish on either, stating machine learning can’t provide relevant enough recommendations, and curation ends up being too shallow. His conclusion:  get used to advertising (spending for traffic).

Tools Coming?

Mobile discovery specifically has some coming tools that may aid app discovery – namely deep linking or App Links. These tools partly enable apps to communicate with each other and direct link, and also “unlock” the content in mobile apps for indexation by Apple and Google. Presumably, adoption of deep linking would enable the app stores, Siri, Spotlight and Google searches to return relevant app results impacting discovery tremendously. Eric Seufert of Mobile Dev Memo and VP of User Engagement at Rovio isn’t as optimistic saying:

Deep linking is a marketing tool, not a quality proxy.

While deep linking is not mobile’s version of PageRank, it can be a tool for relevance if not quality.

Top of the Charts

Even if landing at the top of the app charts is extremely impactful, those spots are taken by portfolio apps (Facebook and Facebook Messenger) and apps who have made huge investments in buying installs (Clash of Clans, Candy Crush). Most apps are not competing with Facebook.  Most apps have a core audience and a feature set that differentiates their app and solves a problem for their audience. Connecting to that audience is the key.

Are we really competing with abandoned apps?

Consider 83% of apps in Apple’s App Store are “zombie” apps, or apps that do not appear on any top list (free, paid, grossing) for any category or sub-category for more than 20 days of the month being measured. At the time of the last report (before Apple’s recent app store changes), there were 23 categories and 18 subcategories each with free, paid and grossing top 300 lists. The number of apps, the top of the charts, even the vanity metric of “downloads” distracts us from our primary goal -to identify and connect with our audience. This starts with an app listing that utilizes modern app store optimization strategy, and continues to optimize metadata and creative elements for a changing marketplace. Your audience is frustrated with app discovery as well. By identifying the way your audience searches the app stores, you can rise above the noise and be exactly where they are looking in their app store search results.

How Mobile is Changing Everything

In 2011, Marc Andreessen released an essay in the Wall Street Journal proclaiming “Software is eating the world“.

The “internet bubble” had occurred 10 years prior and Andreessen was trying point out that the market hadn’t recovered emotionally as many tech stocks were widely undervalued.

Andreessen is one of only 6 people in the World Wide Web Hall of Fame, the creator of the first widely used web browser (Mosaic), Netscape, Opsware (sold to HP for $1.6b) and co-founder of VC firm Andreessen-Horowitz (a16z).  He also sits on the boards of Facebook, eBay and HP among others.

Enter Benedict Evans – avid Tweeter, and an a16z analyst since early 2014.

Benedict follows mobile and consumer trends, and shares truly unique insights with the audiences of his blog, newsletter and a16z principals and investors.

Before landing at a16z, Benedict was giving a presentation titled “Mobile is Eating the World”.

Not only borrowing, but one-upping his future boss’ most famous line.

The latest update to his “Mobile is Eating the World” presentation is available here and is just full of interesting and amazing nuggets.

I really encourage you to review the deck yourself – but here are some highlights:

  • 4 billion people buying phones every 2 years instead of 1.6 billion buying PCs every 5 years
  • Mobile ads make up 68% of Facebook’s revenue – $7.8bn in 2014
  • Global SMS = 20bn messages/daily, Whatsapp = 30bn daily (one of several messaging apps)
  • TV only makes up 24% of video player install base

The stats alone are worth the read – but starting on slide 41, looking at tech historically (railroads were tech 150 years ago) creates some fascinating looks at what (and who) are the winners in the coming years.

Where trucks and highways were the tech that enabled McDonalds and Walmart – we would never think of either as tech companies.

Yet we absolutely think of Amazon as a tech company, despite being a retailer enabled by the internet.

The implied challenge is – how is this different?

Are we not far from the “tech” of today (mobile and software) being so ubiquitous that it disappears?

When Amazon is just a retailer, no different than Sears and Walmart.

And of course, when mobile answers the question of “who’s next?”.

Mobile Ad Spend

The Coming Mobile Ad Spend Tsunami

When we see mobile ad spend charts like this from the annual Internet Trends report from Kleiner-Perkins:

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 10.29.18 AM

The data is clear – digital consumption has caught up with traditional media.

Mobile and “internet” or desktop are about even with 24% of the consumption share – adding up to 48% of media share.

And while the desktop internet advertising spend almost matches what would be expected based on usage, print is way over represented and mobile is extremely underrepresented.

Why aren’t more ad budgets being allocated to mobile?

Well, mobile ad spend in 2015 doubled from last year – and is still not keeping pace with mobile usage.

Check out last year’s Internet Trends report.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 10.41.27 AMDigital media consumption grew overall from 2013, from 45% share to 48%, but mobile actually took share from desktop internet.

In 2013, mobile ad spend was around $7 billion, or 4% of total ad spend.

In 2014, mobile ad spend doubled to $13 billion, or 8% of total ad spend, while mobile accounted for 4% more share of media consumption.

The ad spend doubles and still can’t keep up with the demand.

Part of the gap between ad spend and where audiences are spending their time can be explained by how fast this is happening.

Here is facebook’s revenues by source:

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 12.09.08 PM

3 years ago, almost no revenue came from mobile.

Now 68% of Facebook’s revenue comes from mobile ads.  Virtually all of its growth is investment in mobile.

Which bring us to forecasts.

We recognize and understand the opportunity – mobile ad spend is extremely under-represented compared to mobile usage.

eMarketer predicts $100 billion in ad spend in 2016.


Note the predictions for % of total media ad spend.

Growing from roughly 4% and 8% (similar data in the above KPCB report), to 12% and almost a quarter of total ad spend by 2018.

That’s $120 billion in advertising spending that is expected to shift from print, radio, TV and even desktop internet to mobile.

These trends make it clear the need for an increased investment in:

  • app store optimization and organic user acquisition
  • monetization using ad networks with a large advertiser base (Facebook’s Audience Network for example)
  • mobile app marketing, engagement and retention

App Store Optimization (ASO) Blog | Mobile App Marketing