How do I get more app downloads? With App Store Optimisation!

Many developers know the prolem. You invest a lot of time and energy in your app and you want to make many people happy with it or help them in some way. Giddily, you publish it in the app stores and you can’t wait for those downloads to explode. However, shortly after that, there’s the seemingly  inevitable disillusionment: the download figures are stagnating at about 50 and nothing much is happening. If you’re financially dependent on your apps, that is an actual problem. Time for ASO – app store optimization!

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How do users find apps?

This question can be answered relatively easily and the answer has not changed a lot over the years. More than half the users find the apps they end up downloading through a direct search in their respective app store.

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Fig.1 is based on a survey with 476 Android (Google Play) respondants. Fig.2. is based on a survey with 350 iPhone respondants. Source: http://www.mobiledevhq.com/resources/whitepaper_how_users_find_apps.pdf

So what does that mean for us, if we want our apps to be found? Of course, a search for a range of terms should lead to our app.

How can my app be found by the search?

Naturally, the first step is making sure the app pops up in the users’ search results when they search for a relevant term. That means it’s not only the term “[insert the name of your app here]”, but also other words that relate to the topics covered by your app that should lead the users there. As an example, we might want to lead users to our Demo app when they search for “augmented reality”.

Therefore, it’s necessary to find the right keywords. Duh. But that actually sounds way easier than it is, because there’s a lot of factors at play. Of course, lots of people should look for your defined keywords, so you can reach as many of them as possible. But on the other hand, your search terms should not be so general that every other similar app uses them as well, because that’s a lot of competition. So your goal is finding search words that are as relevant to your topic as possible and which will be found by the right users, i.e. users who are likely to be interested in downloading your app.

At this point, it’s also helpful to know that most users search in very broad terms. Someone who’s interested in football, might therefore just search for ‘football’ without knowing exactly what will come up or without wanting to solve any particular problem. Of course, this is somewhat at odds with the idea that keywords should not produce a lot of competition.. but hey, I did tell you that this part sounds easier than it is 😉

The best thing to do here is to have a little think and decide on some keywords you think will work best. Of course, there are numerous online tools which will help you in generating such keywords. It would go far beyond the scope of this article to tell you more about them here, but luckily this page provides a great overview to get you started (see the ‘app store optimization’ section)..

How do I get people to look at my app?

Yay, so your app appears in relevant user search results. But now, you also need to make sure that these users also want to know more about your app and, ideally, install them on their device.

The answer, once again, is simple: you need to make a good first impression that gets users interested in what you’re offering. That means that what we need first and foremost is a good title and app icon.

I used to think (and maybe you do too) that the title should be short and snappy. In fact, it seems to be just the opposite: the title should be as long as possible (there are limits to how many characters you can use) and include the most important keywords. To give an example, I’m sure you and everyone else knows exactly what you can do on eBay and therefore with the app. Nevertheless, the app isn’t simply called ‘eBay’ but instead ‘eBay – Buy, Sell, Shop & Save’.

As for the app icon, there’s a lot more room for creativity – which means there’s a lot more room for error as well 😉 Of course, you can’t make too many general statements here and there’s always an exception to the rule. However, there are some commonly accepted guidelines, starting with this one: the simpler, the better!

You should avoid including words in your icon and instead use clear shapes and symbols (no photos!). Also, you should reduce the colors you use to a minimum and, if at all possible, not use more than two or three different ones. Needless to say, the icon should also tie in with the app it represents, but that’s usually the case anyway.

How do I get people to download my app?

Now that the user has arrived on your app information page, there’s not a lot than can go wrong. What’s there to see here, you ask? Usually, there’s some info about your app, a few screenshots and, of course, other users’ ratings.

For the description text, it’s important to stick to concise and informative sentences. We need to convince the users in our target group that they really need this app. So we provide reasons and solutions. Bullet points work well for presenting the most important advantages of your app.

Similarly, the screenshots should also provide reasons that will convince the user to download your app. Here, you can be really creative and show your app’s best and most appealing side.

The ratings are a slightly different story. It’s more difficult, because there’s relatively little you can do to influence them. Of course, you can ask your friends and family to give the app a good rating, but there are risks involved. If the quality of the app is obviously at odds with the ratings (say, an objectively ugly and useless app with only 5 star ratings), many users will rate the app badly just out of sheer spite.

So what can you do to get good ratings? There’s the possibility of including a pop-up inside your app that actively asks your user to give a rating. A good point for the pop-up to appear is when the user has just experienced some sort of success in the app (which is easier for a game than for a compass, granted). You can also use this to deflect bad ratings, by directing the user to a feedback form, so that they can get in touch with your customer service in order to solve their problem.

The app has been downloaded! But phew… that was a lot of work!

Firstly, congratulations – you managed to get your (certainly excellent) app to a bunch of users. I’m sure, they can’t get enough of it.

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If that was all the work you could possibly handle, I’m sorry to say that that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more reading you can do on this topic and there’s a sheer endless amount of tools and services that promise to optimize your optimization (hehe). But don’t despair now!

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For a standard app, these first and most important steps should cover about 90% of the possibilities you have for achieving success. Have fun trying them out! And if you’d like to know more, or if there’s anything else I can do for you, just drop us an email!