A quick bit of history – Parse is a BaaS or Backend as a Service, making it easy for developers to build a database of assets for mobile apps, as well as add services like authentication and push to their mobile apps.
Facebook acquired Parse in April of 2013, and it looked like the future was bright. Parse had just released an Apple TV SDK and Apple Watch SDK, and updated their user interface and dashboard.
Per the announcement from Parse, Parse will start winding down, and will be shuttered as a paid service January 2017.
Parse is written in Node.js – so there are several migration paths available for database users, but no support for push notifications or analytics.
Parse Migrations Options
Since Parse is built on Node.js using the Express server framework, publishers can host the new Parse Server wherever they currently host Node.js. Two popular hosting services built specifically for hosting Node.js applications are Heroku and Digital Ocean.
The evolution from batch-and-blast messaging to personalized customer experiences.
Urban Airship is another company that has been an industry leader with their mobile engagement platform, with push and local notifications at the heart of their service.
Alternative Services for Analytics
While Parse offered both standard and event-driven analytics, offerings from Flurry for iOS, Google Analytics for Android and paid offerings from Localytics and Mixpanel have led this space since the inception of smartphones.
Facebook and Apple have added support for mobile analytics as well, and usually some combination of these services depending on goals is the best approach for most apps.
If you want to chase your fortunes in the mobile app stores, or connect with more customers on the medium they increasingly prefer, every aspect of your application must be polished.
The very first element of your app a potential user will see – whether when searching the stores or browsing – is the app name.
A great application name must:
– Avoid confusion
– Stay on brand
– Clearly communicate value
– Aim for Relevance
– Stand out on the global stage
Without a strong app name, your app will likely lose out to competitors even if their apps are not as good. Below are tips that will allow you to get the most out of your app’s name.
Having a sound-alike name can be useful if you are looking for a clone to pump out short-term cash, but creating something that confuses consumers is not useful over the long term.
There are plenty of apps on the store that have a name that is closely related to something more popular without being confusing to consumers or purposely misleading.
Tweetbot is a good example. Their app’s core functions are managing tweets and Twitter accounts – so they have “Twitter” in the name.
But the copycat app “Tweetbot” is named to purposely confuse consumers who mistakenly think they are buying the “Tweetbot 4 for Twitter” app.
Apple and Google will approve your app name/title as long as it is not a direct match with another app listed in their store. It is up to you the publisher to make sure your app name is not so similar to an existing app that consumers are confused about what they are getting.
Your mobile app name is an extension of your brand.
Take a look at the best-selling and most installed apps on the front page – they’re incredibly clear about the companies behind the product.
Some apps, like Facebook or Twitter, simply use the name of the company’s service. Other apps, like Microsoft’s SmartGlass or any of King’s various Match-3 games, follow a naming scheme that is closely related to the company’s other efforts.
Familiarity helps consumers remember your app, while anything that goes too far outside the norm will simply confuse them. Try to stay on-brand because that’s what consumers will expect from you.
Make it Easy
One of the worst things you can do with an app name is to attempt to be overly clever. Let the consumer know what your apps does and how it can benefit them – don’t try to confuse them.
For indexing and conversion – we recommend using specific features in your app name. It is important for ASO and it is important for conversion as users understand immediately what problems your app solves, or what to expect upon install.
Try to stay away from overly technical jargon and amusing plays on words in favor of simple names that help users find your app and understand what your app does.
If you look at the average number of words in the best selling apps on Apple’s App Store, you’ll find that the big winners tend to average somewhere between three and five words.
Much of this is due to many having very identifiable brands – but keeping the core name of the app (the app name before any mention of features) is generally advisable.
Understand the Difference Between the Apple and Google App Stores
Each store has it’s own requirements and tools (and name) for the App Name/App Title field.
Many of the best performing apps are those with global appeal.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to translate certain concepts into other languages. As such, it’s important to take a global view of your app name before putting it up for global sale.
Some of the greatest marketing blunders in history have come about because marketing departments weren’t doing their due diligence looking at the translation of certain product names into other languages – and it’s important that you don’t make the same mistakes.
Even if localizing your keywords, app listing or in-app content is not in your current plans – it is better to make an effort now than have to change something as major as the app name when you are ready for broadening your market base.
Check to make sure your app name doesn’t have unwanted connotations when it’s introduced into new markets and double-check to make sure someone else isn’t already dominating the market with a similar name.
The app name or app title is a unique app listing field in that is plays a big role in how your app is indexed, how well it converts app store views to users, and how well it retains users once the app is installed.
Use ASO best practices and the above tips for creating an app name that will serve your mobile app efforts for the long-term.
Companies of all kinds are entering the mobile app space as their customers have made it clear mobile and mobile apps are the preferred medium.
One of the main challenges facing mobile app publishers and marketers is the design considerations given the smaller form factor. These design challenges include both in-app UI/UX and maybe the most important graphical element of the app itself – the app icon.
The app icon is the first image a potential user sees in search results or when browsing the app stores, and is the graphic that resides on their device once installed.
For conversion, for retention and for branding – it is important to get app icon design right!
App Icon Design
Icons play a vital role in the click through rate (CTR), of a mobile app as they give the first impression of the application in the app store.
With the massive amount of mobile applications, digital content and information present in most of our lives, visual elements are more effective at catching users’ attention than written content.
With visual content, the message is literally delivered faster.
That’s why search app store search results, app store listings and the app’s space on the device home screen are all predominantly made of visual elements.
Generally, there are three types of app store discovery use cases:
looking for an app in a specific category,
searching for a particular app,
typing specific keywords as they look for an app but do not have any specific app in mind
When browsing or searching the app stores, the first thing users see is the app icon.
App Icon Design Tips
Reflect on the Core Value of the Application
When it comes to designing a great mobile app icon, start by defining the core value or message you wish to communicate.
Even the color(s) used will play a role in how your app is perceived and received, and who it is for.
Since the icon and app listing should all focus on the core value of your app, app icon designs should align with the other graphical elements of the app (especially any screenshots used in the app store listing).
Keep it Simple
App icons should be extremely clear and simple to understand. Icons are small when viewed on a device – even smaller than many think when in the design phase. Smaller than a dime on most devices.
Avoid designing icons with lots of detail or nuance that make it hard for the user to see and understand. Potential users are looking for the easiest way to get what they want.
Creativity is great – but conversion is how you measure a great app icon design.
Do Not Include Text
These are not hard, fast rules – but rather suggestions based on the top performing apps over time. An app icon is not too far from a brand logo. And like most logos, app icons are usually better received when there is a lack of or a minimal use of text.
On the device home screen, in the search results and in the app listing, the app icon is always accompanied by the app name – your icon does not need text.
In 2015 China surpassed the US in the number of iPhones sold and in app downloads.
Japan generated more revenue on Google Play than the US or the UK.
For 2015, which of the below countries had more downloads on Google Play than the UK, Canada and Germany?:
Answer: All of them!
There’s users and revenue in them there hills.
App store localization
While localizing your entire app may make sense, there is a way to test the market before committing to a full localization – localizing only your app’s store listing metadata.
Even before localizing your app screenshots or icon, you can get an idea of the potential ROI of a complete app localization by starting with localizing and optimizing the keywords and phrases your app targets in the app metadata.
Since the descriptions and app title in Google Play and the app name and keywords field in Apple are built off of the phrases you are targeting – we’ll focus why and how to localize app keywords in this post.
When localizing, you may decide to keep the app name consistent but change the features or tagline that follows the app name using words the localized target market is using to find apps like yours.
OK – where do I start?
The Apple App Store distributes to over 150 countries in over 40 languages.
Looking at the downloads and app store revenue generated by each country can help us focus our efforts.
China, US, Japan, Australia, UK, Germany, Canada and France are the largest iOS app stores by volume and revenue. South Koreans and Asian app consumers in general tend to spend more per user than their western counterparts, especially on games – so adding South Korea to this list may make sense as well.
China has become too big to ignore. The US, UK, Canada and Australia are all English – which makes the localization effort a bit easier. French is represented in Canada and France.
With a little effort you can localize and optimize for 5 huge app stores (countries) in addition to the US.
Secondary features would then be used in the short description, and all target terms in the full description.
Hiring a writer to write a description using your targeted keywords and phrases for the full description is a much better approach than translating your English description.
Many services even provide a translation level that translates the meaning of the original and not the literal.
Spend a moment translating American idioms into Spanish to see how easy it is to communicate the wrong thing when translating literally.
The largest Google Play stores by revenue are the US, Japan, South Korea and Germany. Brazil, Russia, India and Mexico drive significant downloads.
Localization best practices
Avoid a straight translation from Google Translate.
The process of localizing an app listing for another country looks a lot like your ASO process in English.
How are users looking for your app or apps with similar or related features?
What keywords and phrases do Apple and Google see as relevant?
What are your app’s most important or distinguishing features?
What words and phrases work together to provide the largest, relevant app store search coverage?
The same questions should be answered for each app store you are targeting.
Aim for the meaning vs the literal translation
We have talked quite a bit on this blog about the difference between how users search the web and how users search the app stores.
Just like how it is not a good idea to use web search data for determining relevant app store search terms or traffic, building a list of target keywords and phrases in a new language should not just be a translation of your existing keywords field.
When you spend any significant amount of time in a foreign country – the amount of communication using colloquialisms or idioms becomes hilariously apparent.
This is as true for Americans visiting England as it is when visiting Colombia or Russia. Even San Diegans and folks from Montgomery, Alabama have completely different ways of communicating ideas.
Consider that the Apple App Store has 4 types of English (US, Canada, UK, Australia).
The approach of hiring a writer to translate your descriptions using your localized app keywords will cost a bit more but the alternative – hiring a writer to provide a literal translation – is probably not worth doing at all.
As with much of optimization – measure what works, improve what doesn’t and increase the investment in localization as the ROI becomes more clear.
Acquiring users for your mobile app organically starts with being ranked in the app stores for relevant search terms.
Rankings are established by the app store listing, as well as by several app performance metrics.
For example, an app listing that is optimized for travel deals might have great search term coverage, but the icon and screenshots are bad or confusing leading to low conversions. Of these low conversions, users don’t rate or review the app, or open it once and forget about it or delete it. Not good for rankings.
Organic users are acquired in the app stores by addressing the following:
app store visibility
conversion from app store view to install
engagement and retention
ratings and reviews
Let’s take a look at 8 ASO tools that help us address each of these areas.
App Store Visibility
All of the elements for ranking in the app stores and acquiring users work together, but app store visibly starts with app listing metadata and the words and phrases that are targeted.
Relevance is better than a “wide net”, modifiers can be helpful (free, new) but the key is tapping into and understanding how your target market is searching the app store for your app.
The two main tools for understanding how your target market searches for your app or similar apps are app store intelligence software like Datacube from Gummicube and focus groups.
Datacube is the software we use to collect and analyze proprietary app store data, and build app store optimization plans for our clients.
The main thing to look for when evaluating app store intelligence software or services is where the data comes from. Many tools use Google’s web search API as a proxy for app store search. The way people search the web is very different than how they search the app stores – so use a tool that is built on actual app store data like Datacube from Gummicube.
Focus groups are a tool that provides very specific feedback from a defined, target audience as to how they would search for an app given a set of features or benefits.
Using a focus group at the start of an optimization campaign to uncover terms and phrases used by your target audience can pay dividends in relevant search term coverage that your competitors are missing.
App Store Conversion
Your app has good, relevant search coverage but if it doesn’t convert at a rate expected for its ranking – your app’s ranking for that specific term will drop.
Alternatively, if your app converts better than expected given the ranking – it signals to the app stores that searchers find your app as a relevant and attractive result for that term- lifting your app up the results list
Design elements make up most of an app listing in search results. The icon and screenshots and even order of the screenshots have shown to have a huge impact on conversion rates.
For that reason, the tools we recommend for maximizing app conversion rates are focused on getting qualitative and quantitative feedback on the app listing’s graphics.
Different designs, screenshot order, icons and videos can be tested on a portion of live traffic by geo, until a statistically significant winner is reached. Even improvements on conversions of only 5% a month can lead to an almost doubling of installs after 12 months.
When first marketing an app, and before publishing in the app stores, learning from your target audience what they think about a design or their impressions beyond just the data provides insights and a direction that can then be tested on live app store traffic.
Engagement and Retention
There are several ways to measure engagement and retention. Number of sessions, session length, do users keep the app installed etc..
The primary focus of optimizing engagement and retention should be on maximizing lifetime value (LTV) however you decide to measure that. An increase in any of the above metrics will likely help your app store ranking.
Two of the best tools outside of app design, gamification and other elements of the app itself are notifications and deep linking or app indexing.
Notifications are sometimes referred to as push or local, depending on where the notification is triggered – but the impact is largely the same. Apps like Farmville and Candy Crush set the standard with notifications triggered by the end of a loop (the carrots are ready to be picked) or when you had “earned” new lives to continue playing.
Opened at a rate more than twice that of emails, notifications are a great tool for reminding users to come back to your app, in a short format they can immediately take action on or ignore.
App indexing and deep linking are closely related but the most relevant for this post is the indexing on in-app content for web search, Google Now and Apple Spotlight search.
App indexing allows app publishers to both tag web content that also is available in their mobile app, and add metadata to in-app content for visibility in Google Now and Spotlight.
A simple example is your recipe app has been installed, a user then uses Spotlight/Google Now/ Safari/Google for a taco recipe, your taco recipe is at the top of the list with a “link” directly to the content within your app.
Ratings and Reviews
The process for acquiring ratings and users from users is not great. App publishers cannot incentivize reviews in any way, and any request for a review means taking a user away from your app into the app store.
A report from Soomla showed across apps they tracked, the review rate for apps was consistent across geos – and it was consistently terrible – with roughly .5% of users globally taking the time to rate or review an app.
A general rule of thumb has traditionally been 1 in 1000 – so I guess things are looking up?
Hopefully Apple and Google will continue to put a greater emphasis on the actions users take (engagement and retention above) with apps vs some very small percent who take the time to submit a review.
That said, there are a few tools to help app publishers minimize bad reviews and prompt users to take the time to rate and review.
Apptentive is a complete in-app feedback system, with a primary feature being user rating and review prompts. One of the best ways to acquire user ratings is 1) to ask for them 2) at the right time 3) and funnel customer service issues away from the app store review system and to your service team.
Crashlytics is a crash and bug reporting tool acquired by Twitter and integrated into their Fabric app development suite. The best way to avoid bad reviews is to have app that doesn’t crash!
There you have it, 8 tools to help with your app store optimization and mobile app promotion.
The on-going use of these tools to impact visibility, conversion, retention and ratings will have a positive impact on rankings and ultimately on installs and organically acquired users.