App Store Optimization: A summary of what's what

Any webmaster or web designer worth their salt knows an aspect of good markup is making sure that their HTML/XML is as digestible as possible for the litany of different search-crawlers that exist for respective search-engines, most famously Google’s Googlebot. Efforts aimed at improving rankings are collectively known as “Search Engine Optimization” and they range in effectiveness from snake oil promises (and results) to legitimate ways of making sure you are ranking as well as you possibly can.

App stores, like the mobile devices they sit on, are an emerging form of content discovery. They’re eating into traditional forms of search to some degree (in much the same way social media is) and thus improving brand and content discoverability across these platforms is something we find is increasingly important for people with apps on the App Store or Google Play.

To this end both Apple and Google have been working to make the ways in which consumers search on their devices continuously more responsive and intelligent. Google has the clear theoretical advantage here, given the amount of user metrics and other information it can leverage through its “always on” Google account system, but independent reports still highlight an Apple advantage.

Taken together, the emergence of purported “App Store Optimization” (ASO) techniques was to be expected. However, as we’ve written before on the subject we actually know comparatively little about the way Google Play/App Store search algorithms work when compared to the more well-known SEO equivalents, but there are still some important things that are worth bearing in mind to make sure you’re not handicapping yourself and potentially lucrative traffic:

1. The app store space is a duopoly, so multi-platform solutions are a must:

Unlike traditional forms of search, where Google still have fairly dominant monopoly (in spite of the encroaching threat of the likes of Twitter). The app store space reflects mobile-device market share in that it’s a de facto duopoly between Google’s Android/Google Play platform/app store and Apple’s iOS/App Store platform/app store.

What this means for those interested in maximizing discoverability is that multi-platform approaches, which place their apps on both iOS and Android platforms are a necessity, be it through cross-platform Java solutions or simply through building two separate native apps. Google Play users may lack the bang-for-buck value of iOS users, but they’re catching up with some rapidity.

2. Make sure your metadata and your keywords are solid:

It remains to be seen whether or not Apple or Google will remove keywords from the search algorithms that power their app store search. Google removed support for HTML keyword metadata on their Google search engine some time ago, owing to the widespread abuse of that system. For now however, one thing we do know is that the metadata keywords you attach to your app upon submission do in fact carry value, and identifying trending terms or what kind of keywords your competitors are ranking for is extremely important.

Your “app description” is very similar to the metadata description tag in HTML for websites. Employ the same principles here: Keep it limited to 100 characters, but always try to aim for less. Avoid buzzwords and be honest with the consumer about what you do and what you can provide. They’re looking for information, they’re not looking to be sold to and most of them probably have limited time to begin with.

3. Visual appeal:

As with traditional search, gone are the days when you can “trick” a user into clicking on your links and garner value from it. You can rank highly but to actively engage a potential user and/or customer you need to stand out. In the mobile space this means being visually appealing in the form of things like iconography. This is easier said than done, but it’s worth asking your designers and marketers to think hard about what forms of iconography they think appeal most to the type of demographic you’re trying to court, and what embodies your product/services line-up most effectively if you don’t (like most companies) have a readily recognizable brand behind you to leverage.

Pursuant to the above. Make sure your app screenshots be exemplify what your app can provide for them. If it’s a product catalog for example, then select your pages with your best looking products to display.

Ultimately and as we’ve mentioned before, avoid pre-packaged solutions that “guarantee” all kinds of spurious results. It’s valuable to have something like an app-specific analytics package (if you don’t already have one), but beyond that “ASO” simply refers to a series of best-practice approaches in the same way “search engine optimization” does. To stress again, it’s about ranking as high as you possibly can with the content you’re delivering, not subverting the system.

Categories: Industry Research

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