The future of mobile apps was uncertain a decade ago with many conflicting views. In 2009, the mobile industry started experiencing exponential growth, but some speculators were still not convinced that mobile apps or App Store Optimization were and important part of the industry.

Then came the biggest breakthrough in 2014, when mobile users surpassed desktop users. The tide suddenly changed among these pessimists as they began to realize the potential in this growing industry. By then, Bill Gates, a man whose wealth has been substantially generated from desktop software, was worth $76 billion.

The growth hasn’t slowed down since. As a matter of fact, by 2020, more people will have mobile phones than electricity in their homes. Makes you wonder how some of them will be charging their phones.

Mobile-Phone-vs-Electricity

Mobile Phone vs Electricity. Source: CISCO

As a result, the app economy has grown astronomically and is expected to hit $6.3 trillion in 2021. Yeah, you read that right…$6.3 trillion.

Mobile-App-Economy-Forecast-2016-vs-2021

Mobile App Economy Forecast 2016 vs 2021. Source: Techcrunch

Pretty exciting news for entrepreneurs, developers, and creatives. Definitely more electrifying than the Bitcoin craze. But, unlike cryptocurrencies- whose future is uncertain- apps are founded on a solid framework of smartphone users. We certainly don’t look like we’ll be slowing down on smartphones anytime soon.

And now for the big question- how can you capitalize on such a promising market? Simple, build an app. And most importantly, market it strategically and extensively.

The App Store currently hosts 2.2 million apps, and they are not just sitting, waiting to be stumbled upon. The bulk of app owners are leveraging a wide range of marketing methods to scramble for a chunk of the 300 billion downloads per year.

While various prelaunch app marketing and post-launch marketing methods have different efficacy levels, one thing is certain- App Store Optimization is king.

Your overall approach to ASO substantially determines the number of people who discover, and ultimately download your apps.get-app-downloads

What is App Store Optimization?

Simply put, app store optimization is to the App Store what SEO is to Google. It’s essentially the process of combining multiple tactics that are relevant to app ranking, in a bid to boost an app’s overall position in the search results.

For an effective optimization process, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of your prospective customer base. In addition to their search patterns, you need to know exactly what they look out for in their choice apps. Most importantly, you have to develop an in-depth knowledge of the App Store, its ranking algorithms, plus learn how to distinguish between the truths and myths.

How The App Store Algorithm Works

App Store ranking is a combination of two principal algorithms- category and keyword ranking.  Category algorithm is the simplest and relies upon, among other things, overall downloads and gross revenue.

Unfortunately, the precise ratio between downloads and revenue to ranking is unknown. However, based on our experience in ASO, calculations used by Apple vary between categories.

For optimal user experience, category ranking is compounded by country ranking. So apps will first be ranked by their categories, before ultimately being listed according to their popularity in the country.

Keyword ranking algorithms, on the other hand, establish an app’s ranking according to its relevance to chosen keywords. Even when your app is extremely popular, it will still not be displayed within the search results if its keywords are not optimized accordingly.

Sounds simple?  Sadly, it’s not. Keyword relevance is not as not as straightforward as it may seem. The App Store assigns a keyword rank score which shifts with each user interaction. Something as simple as watching an app demo video affects your total score.

However, user interactions do not guarantee an improved score. Only positive engagements like downloading and purchasing translate to better scores. Negative engagements on the other hand, like impressions without corresponding installations, will make pull your score down.

All these scores collectively establish an app’s ranking according to its optimized keywords. And since each keyword has its distinct score, it’s possible to rank well on one keyword, and poorly on another.

Myths About App Store Optimization

  • Myth 1: Being In The App Store Is Enough

Building an app, on average, takes 4-5 months. Now take a minute to think about the most complicated app you’ve ever come across. One that you assume probably took years to create. If what you have in mind is bad enough, getting your app discovered can become a worse nightmare if you don’t know the ropes around ASO.

According to research conducted by Forrester, 63% of users discover apps on the App Store through organic searches. But sadly, there are many people, both amateur and experienced developers, who believe that submitting an app is good enough and that users will simply stumble upon their apps the same way new items are discovered on supermarket shelves.

How-users-discover-apps

How users discover apps. Source: Kissmetrics 

Well, one thing we have to admit is that this myth was actually true at some point. Back in 2008, when the App Store was introduced along with iPhone 3G.

But now, with 2.2 million apps and growing, waiting for your app to be discovered without ASO is just as good as forgetting you even had an app in the first place.

Growth-of-apps-in-the-App Store.

Growth of apps in the App Store. Source: Statista 

Some people argue that while App Store Optimization is relevant, popular apps do not need them at all. Let’s take a look at Facebook and Google. They are two of the most popular brands in the world. All smartphone users, even in countries that have blocked access to them, recognize Facebook and Google. And still, they have a team of dedicated professionals exclusively dealing with app marketing services. They are persistently reviewing their ASO strategies.

So, unless your app is way more popular than Facebook and Google, we strongly advise you to invest immensely in ASO.

  • Myth 2: Aligning Name With Popular Search Queries Improves Ranking 

We earlier mentioned that the App Store heavily factors in keywords in its ranking algorithms. But, while it’s similar to Google’s ranking in some ways, the title/name is not part of the keywords. So, naming your app “Best Card Game” will not improve your ranking at all. As a matter of fact, it might hurt it.

This is a debate that has existed in the marketing circles for quite a while. The head of Google Play’s search, Jain, may have fuelled it through the Inside Mobile Apps report- by stating that the title is the “most important” piece of metadata.

Despite the fact that the report was only discussing Google Play Store’s search algorithm, some marketers thought they should give the concept a try on the App Store. After all, the mother of all search engines factors in titles- so why shouldn’t Apple?

They would subsequently come up with varying names and titles on a regular basis, changing them and then mixing things up- in hopes that that they would eventually hack the whole App Store ranking system.

But, as we’ve come to establish, changing your app’s name and title could be detrimental to your overall marketing strategy. Loyal users and their corresponding referrals will find it harder to locate your app in the App Store. And that translates to a progressively diminishing user base.

A good name may contain the keyword, but don’t keyword stuff it. Keep it unique, simple, and short. All things considered, “Angry Birds” would rank better than a generic name like “Bird Game”. It even sounds so much more interesting to an App Store user.

  • Myth 3: Ranking Is All About The Downloads and Ratings

This is arguably the most popular myth about App Store Optimization. Judging by how much apps are consistently begging users to give them good ratings, you’d think that it’s the most fundamental part of ASO.

Thanks to this misconception, many developers continue to pay for ratings and ghost downloads. Unscrupulous marketers have preyed on them to make a killing. And business is still booming.

Well, let’s get one thing clear. We are not refuting the fact that ratings and downloads are essential in ASO. Of course, they are both important elements of app store optimization. The thing is, they are not as critical as most people assume. If you get your ASO tactics right, you can rank better than your competitor’s excellently-rated app.

Take a look at this table prepared by researchers, who sampled apps and analyzed their app store ranking according to rating. They searched random terms and categorized them into; competitive search terms (101+ results), medium search terms (26-100 results), plus easy search terms (1-12 results).

App-Store-Search-Results-of-Random-Terms.

App Store Search Results of Random Terms. Source: Adweek 

Conspicuously, the app ratings drastically dropped after position 8. While ratings of apps lying between position 1 and 7 may have been way better, they seemingly fluctuated downward and upward. The results were evidently not dependent entirely on ratings and number of app downloads.

Interestingly, after running the word “easy” through the App Store search tool, the researchers established that the app ranked at number 10 had a rating as low as 1.09. Sad for apps with good ratings, but that’s what good ASO gets you. You may have poor ratings but still rank comparatively well in the search results.

  • Myth 4: The Same Strategies Work on Google Play and App Store

Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store are both technically app stores, right? Plus, the most popular apps on the App Store are equally prominent on Google Play Store – so they must be running pretty much the same algorithms, right?

To debunk this myth, consider conducting a random search on two of the highest ranked search engines, Google and Bing. They both crawl through the web to generate results in a matter of microseconds. But, as you’ll come to establish, the search results are never identical. Different ranking and varying sequence.

Well, that’s pretty much the same case with the App Store and Google Play Store. They all run on separate algorithms, which prioritize on different elements. While Google Play Store considers almost every textual element in keyword indexing, the App Store provides specific keyword fields, and additionally considers app gross revenue. 

Consequently, while ASO is an effective strategy on both Google Play Store and the App Store, individual tactics have different efficacy levels.  It would be detrimental to engage what you learn about Google Play Store on the Apple App Store.

  • Myth 5: You Don’t Need a Marketing Agency

To some developers, apps- unlike websites- seem like comparatively small-scale engagements, not worthy of marketing agencies.  After all, what’s so difficult about tweaking a couple of keywords, choosing a unique name and taking captivating screenshots of your app?

The truth of the matter is that learning the basic principles of App Store Optimization is quite easy. Applying them, however, is a different story altogether. You need an in-depth understanding of the entire App Store ecosystem. And that’s not something you can grasp in a couple of months.

While you may be up for the challenge, spare time is something that you may soon not afford anymore. Developing and submitting an app may seem like a relatively simple undertaking at the beginning. But in reality, the amount of subsequent tech support required is immense.

Users will flag issues as soon as they start making comments through your App Review. You’ll be overwhelmed with the whole debugging and retesting processes, especially after every OS update.

Working with a marketing agency (a good one for that matter) also grants you the privilege of capitalizing on strategies that have been tried and tested. An experienced company like PreApps, for example, has worked on over 3,250 apps- and knows just the right tactics to employ to boost your downloads tenfold.  For optimal results, your overall marketing will be a combination of pre-launch (like app press release) and post-launch strategies (like ASO).

Conclusion

app-secrets-bookTo recap:

  • By 2020, more people will have mobile phones than electricity in their homes.
  • The app economy has grown astronomically and is expected to hit $6.3 trillion in 2021
  • The App Store currently hosts 2.2 million apps and the bulk of app owners are leveraging a wide range of marketing methods to scramble for a chunk of the 300 billion downloads per year.
  • ASO is the process of combining multiple tactics that are relevant to app ranking, in a bid to boost an app’s overall position in the search results.
  • App Store ranking is a combination of two principal algorithms- category and keyword ranking.
  • Category algorithm is the simplest and relies upon overall downloads and gross revenue, in addition to other factors.
  • Keyword ranking algorithms establish an app’s ranking according to its relevance to chosen keywords
  • According to research conducted by Forrester, 63% of users discover apps on the App Store through organic searches.
  • With 2.2 million apps and growing, waiting for your app to be discovered without ASO is just as good as forgetting you even had an app in the first place.
  • A good app name may contain the keyword, but keep it unique, simple, and short.
  • Ratings and downloads are essential in ASO, but are not as critical as most people assume.
  • While Google Play Store considers almost every textual element in keyword indexing, the App Store provides specific keyword fields, and additionally considers app gross revenue.
  • Working with a marketing agency grants you the privilege of capitalizing on strategies that have been tried and tested.

Feel free to share other myths you’ve heard about app store optimization.