Tag Archives: app descriptions

ASO for Beginners

Building, measuring and adjusting an app listing for the app stores is called app store optimization or ASO.

In this article we are going to introduce ASO for beginners, why ASO is important, the main topics and key considerations for an optimized mobile app.

Why ASO is important

App store search continues to be the largest channel for mobile app discovery and mobile app installs.

Despite Super Bowl spots, promotions in your Facebook feed or ads in other apps, mobile users respond that app store search is the channel used most often to find new apps.

Without an optimized app listing, you risk losing out on users searching for your app simply because they don’t see it.

How Apple and Google index apps

Both Google Play and Apple keep their indexing and search ranking algorithms private. By studying cause and effect, correlations and mining our own app store intelligence data – prominent indexing and ranking factors become clear.

Let’s start with Apple and their app store

An app listing in Apple’s App Store contains public elements like the icon, name, description and screenshots. Unique to Apple is a 100 character, “hidden” or private field for keywords – used to help Apple better understand what your app is, who it is for etc..

Apple uses the app’s name and keywords to determine which keywords and phrases are relevant to the app.

For example – consider the following fictional app:

App name:  Hotel Finder – best hotels at the best rates

Keywords:  deals,travel,motel,room

This app would likely be in the search results for “Hotel room deals”.

Notice a few things about how this works:

  • the example search used keywords found in both the app name and keywords field

While keywords used in the app name are weighted more heavily than those used in the “keywords” field, the combination of keywords used across these elements creates a sort of keyword matrix.

  • the formatting of the keywords field is keywords separated by commas and no spaces

Google Play app indexing

Google calls the app name element “App Title” and doesn’t use a private field like Apple’s keyword field, instead using the short and full descriptions to determine relevant keywords.

Where Apple provides 255 characters for the app name and 100 for the keywords field, Google limits the characters available and weighs constrained elements more heavily.

For example, an app title is limited to 30 characters, the short description to 80 and the full description 4,000.

It follows then that an app’s most important keywords/phrases be used in the title, next most important in the short description and then broad coverage for the full description.

Using the example Hotel Finder app above – the name we used for Apple’s app store is 44 characters – too long for Google Play.

If we really want to focus on “best rates” – the app title could be:

“Hotel Finder for best rates”

As you can see, 30 characters is not a lot to work with!

Determining which target keywords and phrases are most important have a huge impact on an app listing strategy – which brings us to creating the app listing.

How to create an app listing

To access organic app store traffic,  identifying keywords and phrases is critical for discovery alone.

With the limited space allotted to the app listing elements, keywords and phrases must be:

  • relevant to your target audience
  • relevant to your app
  • used by your audience when searching the app stores
  • work together to create broad coverage of a specific target

In a sentence: because space is limited, we need to identify keywords and phrases that our target audience uses to find apps like ours, that provides coverage of all ultra-relevant searches.

With limited space in Apple’s keywords field, using precious characters for “free, fun, fast, social, new” etc… unless these modifiers support a more specific, ultra-relevant phrase just doesn’t make sense.

Instead, focus on the features of your app that are either essential, differentiating or both.

Competitive market research, focus groups, app store intelligence software and  testing and adjusting should help you identify your best keyword targets.

Converting views into installs

A complete app store optimization strategy should also consider conversion.

The app name/title, keywords and descriptions all play a role, but conversion is largely affected by the icon, screenshots and ratings.

Creative elements should be tested with a focus group, polling or other means before being published as the difference between icon designs, screenshots designs, the order of the screenshots and even the features and calls to action on the screenshots have been shown to have a large impact on conversion rates.

Ratings and reviews are more complicated in that all of the other elements of an app listing are within your control as the publisher except for ratings.

You can learn more about acquiring ratings and reviews for your app here.

Things to avoid in ASO

When evaluating the potential of organic app store user acquisition, it is clear an optimized app is an extremely valuable asset.

The “shortcuts” to building this asset have mostly been shut down, but here are some common “gotchas” for ASO beginners:

  • Keyword Stuffing – creating an app name that makes no sense but uses every possible keyword in its name.

Apple provides 255 characters for the app name, but rarely approves those longer than 100 characters, and staying under 60 is even a safer bet.

Plus – who wants to download an app like “Cowboy Command – the fast, free, amazing, fun, cowboys and indians, horses, wild west, shootout, first person shooter, where you invite Facebook friends and create a clan to crush the competition“.

No one – that’s who.

  • Using web data instead of app store data – not a hack or against the rules, just user intent is so different, keywords used in web search do not mirror or even proxy those used in app store search.  Just do a search on Google then in Google Play and note the differences in results.

Feeling good about your crash course in ASO for Beginners?  Why don’t you check out our whitepaper on ASO, or take a look at our app store specific guides – for Apple and Google Play.

App Store Optimization Tools

Building and optimizing your app listing to tap into the massive organic traffic searching the app stores daily takes the right app store optimization tools.

Below we will cover some of the very best ASO tools, from getting ratings and reviews, to designing descriptions and screenshots that convert with your target audience and more.

While this list is not in any particular order, a good place to start is with working with your target audience.

Focus Groups

Screenshots, the app name, the icon, even the description all have a huge impact on how your target market perceives your app.

Google Play provides tools for A/B testing all of the above app listing elements in their “experiments” module, but working with focus groups provides a few significant advantages.

1 – test and receive feedback on a wider range of variations

Small changes to the color of an icon can have a big impact on conversions (from app listing views to installs), but focus groups allow you to test big differences – with one design direction failing to resonate while another shows great promise.

Mobile app publishers and designers can get an idea of what resonates with their audience by looking at competing apps, but outside of that guidance, there is no way to really know what will drive your target audience to install your app without asking them.

2 – feedback is quantitative and qualitative

As with most A/B testing platforms and in Google Play experiments, you will be able to see which design, description, screenshot order, icon etc.. converted best and whether the results were statistically significant, but you won’t know why.

Focus groups provide an opportunity to experiment boldly and then garner qualitative feedback from the test subjects.

Why did they pick icon design #2 over 1, 3 and 4?  Why was the app name confusing or misleading? Which screenshots best explained the most important features of the app to them and why?

While focus groups are unique in the quality of potential feedback, running ads to a poll, or polling your existing lists (email or social media) are two other ways to test listing elements prior to publishing.

Ratings and Review SDK

Ratings and reviews have an impact on app store rankings in both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Even bad ratings seem to be better than no ratings – which appears to be some broken measure of engagement.

While there does not appear to be some magical minimum number of ratings required for top rankings, more ratings is generally accepted as better for app store positioning.

Rating apps is not easy for users. It takes multiple taps and leaving the app to rate or review an app – a tall order even if you (the user) love the app.

Because the best indicator of user satisfaction tends to be retention, engagement or lifetime value (or some mix of the 3), if it were not for the impact on rankings, many app publishers would not prioritize app store review prompts.

But alas, while ratings matter, publishers are encouraged to find ways to request ratings with the least impact on the user experience.

Publishers can set up ratings and review prompts with a custom implementation or use a proven model for customer support and ratings acquisition by partnering with services like that offered by Apptentive.

While ratings and reviews are important for app store rankings and app optimization, prompting for reviews should always account for the impact on the user experience to ensure you are not chasing ratings at the expense of revenue.

Review Mining

Similar to the above, review mining is actually a tool for competitive research.

What features or functions are your competitors’ app users complaining about, requesting or commenting on that your app does better?

Review mining helps guide app listing strategies from which keywords and phrases to target to which features to highlight in screenshots.

Consider a top ranked photo app that allows for adding text to user photos.  The reviews complain that posting to Tumblr does not work well or at all.  Your photo app works great with Tumblr.

You may have thought this was your 12th most exciting feature, but it could well be your app’s top differentiating feature and worth prioritizing in the app listing.

App Store Data / Intelligence

As the saying goes, “where there is mystery – there is margin” and there is a ton of mystery in the app stores.

App store data and intelligence services span topics from monetization models and estimated lifetime values of competitive apps, to which SDKs apps are using to estimates on what specific apps are paying for new users by geo.

It is hard to say how accurate many of these tools are, but many services are popping up to carve out a niche and provide just a little more insight to help their clients improve their results in the app stores.

When it comes to tools specifically for app store optimization, features publishers should look for include:

  • mobile app store search terms – data on the keywords and phrases the market is using when searching the mobile app stores.
  • evaluation of how the app name and keywords or description fields work together for broad coverage of relevant search terms (the “keyword matrix”).
  • suggested keyword and phrase targets by category, trending, current traction and competition.

In previous posts, we have explained why app store data and web data are very different. It may not be obvious but several app store optimization tools use the free Google keyword planner built using web search as a proxy for app store search volume and related phrases.

If you would like to see how Gummicube approaches ASO and the proprietary tools we have built for optimizing app listing for organic app store search, you can request a demo here.

Updated Google Play Description Guidelines

Over the last several months, Google Play has been making several changes to Google Play app promotion, the requirements for app listings and the approval process.

Working with our clients on writing optimized descriptions, we discovered another restriction for the Google Play description:

Your app description should avoid excessive detail and references to your other apps or products.

For example, you should not list all of the details of content included in the app or its various components, as shown in the example below.

Also, the description should not include any references to other apps that you’ve published. – support.google.com

Breaking this restriction into two parts:

Do not attempt to keyword stuff your description by detailing all of the content

excessive detail

Do not reference other apps in your portfolio

Listing Apps

The focus of the recent changes in Google Play seems to be combatting “keyword stuffing” in app descriptions.

The back and forth between aggressive mobile app publishers and Google continues.

First, Google Play description guidelines were updated to reject descriptions that referred to other apps.

The idea being, if a publisher wanted to show up in Google Play search results for “Candy Crush” – the publisher would add:

If you liked Candy Crush – you will love this game!

Then publishers started “hiding” the references to other apps in reviews for the description:

“If you liked Candy Crush – you will love this game!” – Sally

Google was quick to address this and continues to find and restrict more of these types of hacky description writing.

The approach at Gummicube has always been to write descriptions that position your app for maximum discovery in the app stores, without being spammy or turning potential users away.

Take a look at how Gummicube can position your app portfolio for long term success or contact us at info@gummicube.com.

Apple ASO in 9 Steps

You have an amazing mobile app or mobile game, and you’re main challenge now is  getting in front of your target market.

What delivers a better ROI than a user acquisition advertising campaign?

App Store Optimization.

Here are our suggested 9 steps to Apple ASO.

Let’s Talk About Your App

1 – Identify your target audience

Sometimes called creating your avatar, who is the ideal or target user of your app? Starting with basic demographic data is great – but don’t be afraid to push towards being extremely specific. Examples of demographic data include:

  • what is the age range of an intended user?
  • is the app gender specific?
  • is the ideal user a mom, dad, salesperson, musician, movie buff or comic book reader?
  • what language does your target user speak?
  • what social networks does your target user frequent?

Defining an avatar takes this exercise to the next level and can really help marketers define their messaging, target keywords, screenshots and icons. An example of an avatar for a “comic book cataloging” app could be:

James is a 42 year old, married man with 2 kids. James collected comic books in his youth, and now wants to share his hobby and collection with his two children.

Whether you create an avatar (or 3), or just focus on the broader demographics – record the answers and then move to the next step.

2 – Define your app’s core features or Unique Value Proposition

What makes your app special, unique, different, better or cool? In a game, it may be the characters or gameplay. In a non-game, it should be some set of features and benefits. What problems does the app solve? Record the features that make your app stand out from your competition. Mobile users primarily search features and brands in the app stores. By clearly identifying the features of your app – we can focus in on how the market is searching for mobile apps like yours.

What are your Competitors Doing?

3 – Review competitor app store ratings and reviews

What are these users saying?  Which features are they asking for? Complaining about? Because so much of app store optimization is finding and reaching your audience in the Apple App Store and Google Play, we focus a lot on defining your audience and defining features users will find relevant and useful in your app. One way to establish a unique position for your apps is to look at reviews of similar or competitive mobile apps.  Researching reviews for insight into desired features, essential features, user problems and even keywords is called review mining. Listen to the language they are using and gather keywords the users are repeating in reviews.

4 – Research competitor branding, positioning, keywords and category

Let’s start with identifying which categories your competitor apps are listed in. Simple enough. Now let’s review which keywords and phrases competitor apps are ranking in the top 10 for. Add these keywords and phrases to your list of potential keywords. You should be able to get a good feel for what is working for them and what is not. We do not want to blindly follow our competitors strategies – but we do want to see what is working for them and why.

Note:  This is a tough step without good software, as this step is both very manual and requires guessing if you don’t have access to app store data and relevant and trending keywords and phrases.

App Creatives that Convert

5 – Optimize your icon with a focus group

How many users will find your app and decide to download another app with a better icon and screenshots? You only have one chance to make sure users are choosing your app. Improve Click Through Rates by using focus groups, polling your existing customer base, and/or your social media networks to help select which icons and screenshots are more interesting and more likely to drive action.

6 – Optimize your screenshots

Clearly communicate and highlight the key features and hooks of your product to your demographic. Screenshots are a great way to reinforce features and highlight the key phrases your target audience is using when searching for apps. We have compiled some tips for submitting screenshots here.

Your App’s Metadata – Keywords, Title and Descriptions

7 – Optimize your App’s title

We suggest putting your brand name first, followed by 3-5 words which describe the purpose of the app. For the best results in search, include the most important keywords in your title. The goal for the app title should not only be to optimize for rankings or search results, but also to convert potential users to your app. Does the title define your app and its best features to your target demo?

8 – Identify and finalize your keywords

Which keywords are relevant and trending in your category? How many keywords can be built around your core “seed” keywords which will make as many 2-3 keyword phrases as possible?

  • What are your app’s key features? We made a list of features in Step 2. Now use Datacube to determine if those features have search weight.
  • What phrases and features continually surfaced in our review mining exercise in Step 3?
  • What keywords are your competitors targeting? In Step 4 we made a list of competitor’s keywords. Using Datacube we can determine if those keywords are a good use of the limited space.
  • How does your demo usually search for these terms? In Step 1 we made a note of our target user group. By communicating with our beta group we can learn the language they use.

9 – Optimize your description to support your positioning

In Apple’s App Store, the app description should be used to highlight core features, and reinforce expectations set by the icon, title and screenshots.

NOTE:  The description is read by someone at Apple who is reviewing your app to determine if the keywords match the description.

If the keywords are irrelevant or use brand names they will be removed from the title and keywords field.

No More Reviews in Google Play App Descriptions

Google recently updated their Google Play guidelines with one notable change:  the use of user app reviews in the Google Play app description field is now prohibited.

After a potential user views an app’s title and short description in Google Play, is some cherry-picked testimonial really going to sway them into installing an app?

Does anyone reading an app’s full description really care about what Roto619SD4Life said about the app?

Probably not – but here is what is going on.

Google has clear rules for keyword stuffing and the use of irrelevant keywords, brands or references in the Title, Short and Full Description fields.

For example (from Google) – this is not ok:

 just like Candy this game is sweet and you’ll have a crush on the game in no time

One way mobile app publishers were getting around the “irrelevant” or keyword spamming rules was by adding keyword-stuffed user testimonials.

Google did a pretty good job of both explaining what and why this is unacceptable and adding some humor to show just how over the top some publishers have been with this:

User Reviews in Google Play

Google didn’t list all of the irrelevant and stuffed keywords in this – but here is a start:

Gems with Friends, Candy Crush Saga, Shipwrecked, Cut the Rope: Time Trave, 4 Pics 1 wrong, etc……

So obviously spammy.

Since Google Play does not utilize a hidden keywords field like Apple does for its App Store, more emphasis is placed on the App Title, Short and Full descriptions, all of which are public.

We certainly do not encourage our clients to attempt these or any other short-term hacks.

Our best practices for Google Play include:

  • an App Title formatted as “Brand” + 2-3 words on function,
  • a Short Description focused on converting viewers to users, and
  • a Full Description that is formatted for easy reading and uses features-focused keywords and phrases 3-5x in the 4,00 character allotment.