Keywords are essential for getting noticed in the App Store and Google Play Store – not just the keywords with the highest search volumes or a few you’ve picked out, but all of them. In order to reach users, you need to show up in searches. If you want to improve your visibility in search, you need to understand the total scope of your app’s visibility. Understanding the keywords you rank for is one of the cornerstones of App Store Optimization, so let’s take a look at why it’s important.Continue reading
Google announced this week that they would be cracking down on apps that try to fake their way into the Play Store’s top charts. Through the use of a new detection and filtering method, Google will remove apps that utilize fake or incentivized user ratings and installs to get a boost, and will even remove apps outright from the Play Store.
This isn’t anything new for Google – the company made a similar pledge to remove fraudulent top apps a little over a year ago – but what has changed is the method of detection. Google has introduced a method of detection which will supposedly “detect and filter” apps that utilize suspect methods of ascent. Apps that are found to be utilizing these means will be removed from the top charts in an effort to “make Google Play the best platform for enjoying and discovering the most innovative and trustworthy apps”.
The big news for many developers is that Google will actually remove apps from the store for violating this principle. Google warned in a blog post that “developers who continue to exhibit such behaviors could have their apps taken down from Google Play”. It’s not as wide-spanning a threat as Apple’s recent title limit change, but the removal of a popular app (even one that only became popular through suspect means) could still shake up the Google Play store.
Google promises than in most cases, no action will be required on the case of the developer. They also ask that should developers request marketing assistance from an outside source, they make sure the means of the marketing are legitimate.
A strong Google Play campaign doesn’t necessarily need to utilize fraudulent reviews or downloads to boost onto the charts. The strongest method of discoverability is and has always been search; most app downloads come from searches, not from the top downloads charts. Similarly, the primary determinants of your app’s keyword rankings are its title, short description and long description. A solid marketing agency will take these elements into account instead of suggesting burst campaigns or fraudulent downloads.
Shakespeare once inquired: “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
When it comes to mobile apps, however, names matter a great deal.
There are many factors that impact app store rankings and user installs – from how the app is indexed to which searches Apple and Google deam an app a relevant result, and then conversion of search result views into installs and users.
An app’s name impacts all of these factors and often serves as the anchor for the rest of an optimized app store listing.
Looking at the top apps in the store, not only overall but by category or niche and a few trends for naming appear:
- the stronger the brand, the less emphasis put on using target search phrases (keywords) in the app name/title
- many top apps include a very specific search phrase as the tagline
Where You Want to Be
Ultimately, you want to be in a space that is automatically self-descriptive with your audience and needs no further expansion or explanation.
Facebook or Starbucks would be good examples of this state of wide public awareness. There may well have been a time when it was necessary to explain that Starbucks sold coffee, but it is no longer the case. People hear “Starbucks” and they are fully aware of all the necessary connotations. The brand has victoriously engulfed the product it represents.
Lofty goal right? A growing trend in the SEO space is to create your own keywords and then own them.
Starbucks and Facebook are ubiquitous, but your app only needs to carve out a space in the niche you are targeting.
Consider EasyUp. Easy to remember, easy to tell a friend, easy to spell, and broadly describes the function – without requiring searching for “upload images from camera roll to snapchat”.
How Your App Marketing Strategy Gets You There
Some app marketers are clearly working to establish iconic status for their clients, so that they can gain the coveted position of being simply a name.
Others are supporting a brand with a tagline that helps them to be discovered in search – which we strongly recommend!
Looking at some recently touted music apps by way of example, TIDAL has elected to go with a strictly branded approach as its format.
While competitors such as Spotify and Pandora have both chosen to more-directly categorize themselves by making sure that the customer knows these are music apps.
What TIDAL may gain in having a ultra-simple app name, they lose loads of potential organic traffic that instead is split among the music app optimized for music-related search.
Not All Apps are Marketed Equally
While music app marketers have a wholesale product to sell—music created by all sorts of other people—game developers have a retail product of their own creation to bring to market.
This results in campaigns that are designed to make a more specific pitch to the public.
Mobile games like Boom Beach or Mobile Strike are almost completely self-descriptive in a way that serves as an overt campaign for its potential audience.
The intent here is not to establish the creator/publisher as a brand but for the creation to be able to stand on its own.
It is highly likely that most players of the various mobile game apps are rather unfamiliar with the entities which created those games.
Compare that approach with King – the makers of the Candy Crush series of apps. Candy Crush achieved iconic status, and the creators quickly sprung into action to offer a series of follow-up apps that are tightly bound to the original tentpole entry.
Everyone Can Play the Game
Of course, imitation has always been part of the marketing world.
Not only does an Angry Birds spawn Angrier Birds, but it also midwives a host of emulators that will take every possible detour off the now-established brand name.
An app that aims to confuse or misrepresent itself using another’s brand name will get denied and may even impact the publisher account – but apps that supplement or complement other popular services would do well to mention them by name in the app name/title.
In summary, there are basically three common approaches to naming an app:
- Establish an iconic identity that supersedes the actual product on offer.
- Buttress an intended iconic identity with succinct descriptive commentary.
- Play off of another iconic identity in hopes of capitalizing upon the reflected glow of success.
When considering app store optimization, the second and third options have the biggest impact on indexing and ranking, but it can be helpful to step back and see what other apps are doing with success in the app stores.
With so many companies offering app marketing services, evaluating not only the providers but the service can be overwhelming and even subject to circumstance and debate.
There are; however, several common services that marketing agencies should offer and demonstrate strength with as they are crucial to mobile app ROI.
Marketing Strategy Development
App developers can expect just about any app marketing service to offer assistance with marketing strategy development.
Some companies offer initial marketing strategy development and ongoing strategy development as two separate services while others combine the two; however, successful app marketing starts with a jointly built strategy.
Marketing strategy development is not something that an app marketing service does in a vacuum, but works collaboratively with the marketing, design and development teams or project management staff.
After the marketing plan has been created, quarterly reviews (at least) with the marketing agency should be scheduled to re-evaluate and adapt the plan to market changes and customer feedback.
App Store Optimization
The way in which an app is listed differs depending on which platform it is sold on.
Google Play has different rules than Apple’s app store; however, both stores offer opportunities for creators to optimize an app’s title and description so that the app will be highly visible both in the app store and on Google’s search engine.
Given that the app stores are the main way users discover and search for mobile apps – ASO should not just be an offering but a primary strength.
Of course Gummicube leads with enterprise-level app store optimization and also partners with some of the world’s largest marketing agencies to provide ASO research, tools and data to compliment and extend their offerings.
Other Forms of Optimization
As mobile apps have taken over how we interact with almost every facet of our lives, the path to apps and the content in apps have started to grow as well.
Partnering with thought-leaders in your niche, building new channels for acquisition and engagement outside of the mobile app, and even traditional SEO efforts are starting to become a bigger part of mobile app marketing plans.
Increasingly, the same forms of marketing that are employed to sell other goods and/or services online are used to create awareness of mobile apps as well.
Many of these “off-app” efforts can have a positive impact on ASO as well, as Google uses social signals (“backlinks”) in their Google Play ranking algorithm.
The partnership with a thought-leader has the potential to drive downloads and a strong social signal as measured by links from their site and social accounts to your app store listing!
Between offline and online marketing efforts, website analytics, and now mobile user and app store data – it is easy to drown in numbers.
Your app marketing service provider should help you navigate through mobile app and app store data to uncover actionable insights.
In many cases, data collected in the mobile app and from the app stores can help identify and prioritize issues and opportunities.
This data includes not only number of sales but also geographic location of buyers, which days the sales were made on, how many people actually use the app on a regular basis, why and where users drop off, which features are the most popular and what potential users are searching for.
While an app creator may be able to gather this data without professional help, app marketing companies (should) do more than just register and compile data.
Market research goes beyond collecting and analyzing stats.
It may involve conducting surveys, running focus groups, analyzing competitor performance or using app store data to research the preferences and needs of a company’s target audience.
In any case, it is a useful way to determine how an app can successfully reach its target audience and how to optimize or adjust for discovery and use.
Market research – specifically app store research using app store data – can help a company stay ahead of competitors by locating areas of demand or weakness ripe for solving.
There are many cases where working with several marketing partners or agencies is not efficient (time or expense). If you have a significant investment in mobile, or your company sees the opportunity in developing mobile apps – your marketing partners should be able to address at least the above.
If they don’t have convincing answers or approaches to address the mobile opportunity, consider partnering with an agency just for mobile until your current partner either catches up or you move to a more modern agency.
Choosing app store keywords for an app’s store listings has at times been viewed as the holy grail of app store optimization.
The thinking was that finding the magical combination of low competition, high traffic words would drive heaps of organic traffic to even the worst of mobile apps.
While keywords are a big part of ASO, Gummicube considers the initial selection of keywords as much less important than the building of a complete acquisition funnel, and the ongoing optimization of target keywords and phrases as they support the funnel.
The goal of app store optimization is not (only) greater visibility, but the organic acquisition of new users.
Aim for Relevant Coverage
By changing the key performance indicator of successful ASO from “rankings” to “high LTV users acquired”, the role keyword selection plays in the ASO process becomes clearer (and is often missed by app marketers).
We don’t want traffic, we want traffic that is likely to convert to downloads and users.
App marketers should aim for relevant coverage of keywords and phrases.
The app store algorithms are getting smarter. Low conversions relative to position in a search result signals to Apple and Google that users are not finding your app relevant for that specific search.
The fields that have the biggest impact on search rankings are limited – with character limits on the app name/title, the keywords field (Apple) and the short description (Google Play).
Why use that valuable space targeting keywords and phrases that are not ultra-relevant to your app and prospective user?
Use App Store Data
There is and has been a lack of transparency in the app store search algorithms. Reverse engineering the algorithms is made harder due to a complete lack of details on app store search data.
Neither Apple or Google share search traffic or download data by category, phrase or even daily volume.
To fill the void for marketers, several companies built ASO tools using Google web search data as a proxy for app store search data.
The thinking was “something is better than nothing”.
Many optimization efforts based on web data didn’t produce results.
Meanwhile, investments in collecting proprietary app store data and working with large clients and their global app portfolios started to show the differences between how users search the app stores vs how they search the web.
Don’t take my word for it – search for “malls” on the web and then again in Google Play. Both are using Google search, but one returns the local malls in a map, maybe a definition or items in the news, and the other returns mall-based games and shopping companions.
User intent is just different when searching the app stores. Using web search data to optimize an app store listing doesn’t make sense.
Investing in app store optimization is the foundation of mobile app marketing, and provides a measurable long-term ROI.
Partner with an app store intelligence service like Gummicube to identify how your target market is searching the app stores, and create a plan for an optimized listing.
In tracking the app stores for over 5 years, we have found 80% of app store searches are for multi-word, features-based phrases.
That’s “cheap flights” or “zombie rpg game” or “free photo editing”.
The phrases you identify as being used by your target market when searching the app stores are likely made up of several, recurring words.
Breaking these phrases into individual words, and removing duplicates – you are left with a sort of “keywords bucket”.
If there were no constraints on the app store listing fields that impact how an app is indexed, we would be done. Just dump all of those keywords into the name and keywords field or short description.
But there are constraints (which is a good thing!).
Character limits help Apple and Google determine what is most important or relevant to the app from the publisher’s perspective.
Working with roughly 100-180 characters to build the optimal mix of words of various lengths targeting phrases of varying relevance and value is complicated.
Software that incorporates app store data can help you pick the optimal mix of words based on target phrases, category and app store competition.
Speaking of which, what if the phrases we are targeting has 100’s of competitors also vying for ranking in search?
There are so many variables that determine the strength of the competition that the number (quantity) of competitors is almost meaningless.
Simply, not all competition is equal.
Relevance matters. Ratings, reviews, time since last update, downloads and conversion rates all impact how strong each competitor is for a specific search term.
The best approach given how hard it can be to evaluate competition in the app store is start with a keyword bucket that builds phrases extremely relevant to your app and its best or primary features. Adjust and optimize for those words and phrases that your app ranks well for and continue to build on your strengths.
App store optimization, and especially selecting app store keywords and phrases, requires an on-going investment in making small adjustments and improvements that grow to big results.
A word of caution:
Targeting keywords that are trademarked (Disney, MLB, Superman) will get your app rejected, removed from the store or at best have the keywords removed.
Similarly, including words in an app name/title, keywords field or description that is unrelated will also put your app at risk of rejection, removal or flagged for keyword spamming.
Learn more about selecting keywords and app store optimization.