Make your app visibility great (again and again)
In this lesson, you will learn to optimize your app metadata to increase the visibility of the app on the App Store. You will get the hang on keywords optimization process, learn to work with Apple Search Ads, and find out how to get your app featured.
Readt for some real hardcore app store optimizing? We start with increasing your app visibility — and the first thing to do is looking for the ideal keywords.
Same as with search machines, keywords are the main tool in the App Store for people who are looking for an app. One thing is different: when the potential users are browsing the Store, they type shorter search commands. Understanding the logic of the user and choosing the right words is thus the first step to success.
Optimizing the keywords for your app means you will have to analyze lots of information. The phases are the following:
- Find the most relevant keywords for your service and make a list of them.
- Prioritize the words on your list, based on how eligible your app is to rank for a certain word, the relevancy of it, the popularity among your competitors, the volume (the number of users searching by this keyword).
- Target the keywords: insert them into the different parts of the metadata of your app (title, description, keywords set).
- Measure the performance: did your app grow in the search results? How high did it get?
How to find the right words?
The first move one does is a serious research on what matters to the potential client. The research will include the following:
As you can see, you can use a lot of approaches to find the right words.
Probably the simplest way is to turn to the special tools. To name a couple, keywordtool.io, appkeywords.net, appkeywords.io— those will automatically find the suitable keyword ideas for your app given your location, language and the type of the services. Thesauruses (like Powerthesaurus.org, Onelook.com, Thesaurus.com, WordGrabBag.com) are another source of words that may describe your services.
However, the most interesting part is the brainstorming. Together with your team, try to think of who your potential user is and how would they search for an ideal taxi app in the Store. Will they ask for a “clean cab”? A “Cheap taxi”? An “Airport transfer”? Or “I drank bring me home”? Talk to the customers, if you already have some: let them tell you how they were looking for your app, what words would they use.
It is a must to know who your target audience is. It also helps a lot to think about what their needs are: sometimes people are not looking for a specific app, they look for handyness and timesaving. Show them your app provides exactly the needed cure.
Auto-suggestion is also a proven method. Use AppFollow tool to check the suggestions: the words will appear in the order from the most relevant to the least relevant.
You can use Apple Search Ads to find new keyword ideas and prioritize the existing ones, as well. You get auto-suggestions while creating a new ad group. In this tool, you can also see how exactly relevant words and phrases are, and also find out their volume. Be careful if accessing the tool from the desktop: as you already know, keywords people use from their mobile keyboards mostly differ from those in the desktop version. Search Ads will show you the exact volume of traffic available for each keyword. Find here the list of the countries where this tool works.
The words your competitors use is another way to find more keywords. This is done by reading all the data your competitors provide about their apps. Try to recognize what their words are. Look up the reports/reviews of the similar apps: it may be a precious source of information. Do not hesitate to use special ASO tools (App Annie, Mobile Action, Sensor Tower or AppFollow, to name a few) for it.
Similar to looking your competitors’ keywords up, you can use ranked apps and categories to find new words that may matter. In the App Store, search for the brand name + the phrase/word you want to test. If this very keyword is ranking, bingo! If not, well, try further.
Trending searches can bring you insights too. For example, people tend to look up certain things during various events (such as Black Friday, festivals, holidays). It is often profitable to try to catch the hype adapting your ASO strategy to it for a couple of weeks. Many tools (appkeywords.io, for instance) keep an eye on the trending searches.
An important thing to know is that at the beginning of your ASO cycle, it’s better to avoid using “too popular” words. Until you have enough conversion rate (covered in the next lesson), this will only keep your app down in the list. So your goal is to find out unique keywords of a not-too-high volume and begin with them.
Prioritizing your keywords
Now you have an idea of what words may describe your app the best, you prioritize them.
To define the first keywords set (we say first, because you will adjust it multiple times anyways), think of the following:
- How eligible is your app to rank for this word?
- Is the word really relevant?
- Is it popular among your competitors?
- How many users search by this keyword?
Again, it is better to start with the words that are not too “competitive”. If the Uber metadata is literally stuffed with the word “travel”, it is clever to look for synonyms or to narrow the term (say, to use “ride”, “trip” and “car” for your app).
The thumb rule is simple: first, “over-ASO” the small competitors, and then proceed to outperforming the real wolves of the industry. Therefore: prioritize realistically.
Apply your keywords
Up here, you see the places to insert your freshly-found keywords. For App Store algorithm, keywords in different parts of the app’s metadata values differently. Here we go with a table of the most important places.
As you can deduce from the table above, the title is the most important metadata element. Any keyword you set here will provide a high chance of getting ranked for this word. The only problem are the actual rules of the App Store. As Apple puts it, “do not include terms or descriptions that are not the name of the app in the app title”. When this rule is violated too obviously, Apple may ban the app altogether.
Accordingly, if you still want to cross this line, choose for the less obvious synonyms: do not just write "taxi, taxi, best taxi". The title can contain up to 30 characters. This means, every digit counts. This means, cut out the words and grammatical signs that can be avoided. Try using only the root words (“travel” instead of “travelling”, “limo” instead of “limousine”).
However, stuffing the app title up with keywords is definitely a bad idea for the companies who want to emphasise their brand. If you want everyone to know and find your service as, say, “Lemon cars”, it’s clever to put this brand into the title already.
A subtitle can also hold up to 30 characters. People can see the subtitle of the app anywhere the app is shown. It is slightly less important than the title itself, but still: take care you use this precious space well.
It is a clever move not to repeat the same keywords in the title and subtitle: instead, turn to the synonyms. Same with the words you’re going to put into the “Keywords” field and the words that can be deduced from your category: do not repeat them. It works much better to use more relevant words than to use the same word really often.
There is no evidence that the keywords you place into the description field help your app rank higher. However, the first 170 characters (it’s called “Promotional text”) of the description is something potential users will get to see if they tap on your app icon. This is why optimizing it (or at least making it appealing) is important. Apple themselves recommend to update promotional text every once in a while since one can change it any time without re-submitting the whole app. It is a good practice to share some extra-interesting information in these 170 characters: tell customers about a referral program, discounts or new features.
Now to the “Keywords” field itself. You can enter up to 100 digits on keywords. Use the digits in a smart way:
- Cut out the spaces. Commas are enough.
- Do not repeat one and the same word. It doesn’t rank any better.
- Do not care about targeting the exact wording. It doesn’t matter if you type “taxi services” or “services, taxi”.
- Do not ignore possible synonyms: use them.
- Try to use as much of the 100 symbols allowed as possible. There’s one rule: less is less. The more of the relevant keywords you mention, the better you will rank.
- Remember: you often get the plurals/singulars of the words for free automatically, but they can be ranked differently. So use the word form that ranks higher for your app.
Another important thing you can optimize for your app to become more visible is visual elements you upload. Apple works with visual word recognition. This means the icon of your app and the screenshots may contain your keywords (or images associated with them) as well.
Choosing the right category is important as well, partly because the algorithm deduces keywords from the categories automatically. Pick the one that matches the needs of your clients the most. On the contrary, the App Store “Secondary category” will not have a big influence on how visible the app becomes.
- If you have a brand-new app, it’s better not to aim on the categories with a too high concentration: this would be just asking for a very intense competition.
- Some app creators dare to tag their competitors in the metadata. Something like “the app better than Uber”. Reason: the hope that people searching “Uber” will get to see their app. Generally, it is a lousy practice. The only case it works is if the competitor does not (yet) have an app for iOS. But then again, if you get banned for it — well, fair enough. 😒
And of course, we’ve spared some very tasty information for the very last moment. Turns out, A/B tests you run for your app count for the indexing. This means if you upload two versions of your app with the only difference between them is that the one has short and not optimized metadata, while the other has the metadata loaded with keywords, both versions influence the search results. It is a shady thing, okay, but still, maybe you can make good use of it…
Okay, now you’ve optimized your metadata you can get an idea if the strategy works.
ASO tools (you’re going to learn to know them better in the next lesson) can help you to track the rank of your keywords. As ASO tools track every search query ever, you can see exactly what the impact of using a particular word in your metadata is.
The “Impressions” of the App Store (“the number of times your app was viewed on the App Store for more than one second”) can show you how the optimizing really influences the app’s visibility. There, you can check how the position of your app in the ranking changes depending on your ASO strategy. Secret hack: set “Unique App Store Impressions” to see the unique views only.
“Product page views” is another tool to measure the visibility of your app in the store. It represents the number of times people view your app’s page (fully). Normally, viewing a whole description of the app means that people are interested and rather ready to download.
After you measure, you can compare the results of your keywords optimization with the KPIs you have (for example, the desirable number of downloads, retention rate, amount of ratings/reviews). It is good to relativize the “Impressions” and the “Product page views” results to a time period, and also to the number of downloads to get an idea of what the optimization at all and the increasing visibility do mean for your app promotion.
ASO is a repeated process
You may think: now I have measured everything alright, and I can forget the whole ASO thing for a year or so. Well… Not really.
App store optimization is rather a circle of iterations than just something with a final point. Why? Because the position of your app in a store depends on many things.
- Changes in the trends.People change their search patterns depending on many factors.
- Changes in the industry.When your competitors change their ASO strategy they go up and down in the ranking. Obviously, this asks for adequate adjustment from your side as well.
- Changes in the App Store algorithm. The related keywords set change over time. Same way the relevancy, ranking, eligibility and volume of your keywords change together with the algorithm. This, too, asks for a change of strategy from you.
Accordingly, it is a good idea to never stop measuring the effects of your ASO practices. Here you have some important information about how exactly to analyze:
- Keep an eye on the trends per periods (week, month, 3 months). Why? Because it gives you an idea of what trends you can leave out and what keywords bring the best performance independently from the trends. It will also give you a possibility to compare the data you gather.
- Always check if your most important keywords are still popular. Use ASO tools for this, they are constantly collecting all the info about how the algorithm changes.
- Do not forget about working on increasing your conversion rate, too. The visibility turns to conversion over time. However, the apps that fail to get more conversions while being very visible, tend to go down in the rankings.
Your “homework” for today
Let’s begin with some very basic questions. Starting your business, you might have already answered them. Yet get those ideas out of the closet, you’re going to need them with your optimization.
- Who is your target audience?
- What is your target market?
- What is your unique value proposition?
- Who are your competitors and how different is your app from their ones.
While defining your target audience, think of what would matter for those people the most. The list of your keywords will depend on it a lot. Brainstorm with your team and try to figure out the ways people may use to find your app. To get some fresh insights, ask your current and potential customers about the search terms they’d use.
Your unique value proposition will also help to define the relevant keywords. What kind of problems does your app solve? If you have some special services, try to tag them as well. Do not forget to tag all the competitive advantages: while the most popular words such as “taxi” may already be taken by your big competitors, you can promote your app emphasising your unique selling points. Say, you provide airport transfers or non-emergency ambulance services — make sure to mention it in your keywords.
Normally, keyword trends are already dependent on your locality. This is why you do not really need to mention your city or region in the keywords set. However, if there is any proven possibility to rank higher if mentioning the place, do not hesitate to do it.
Try out the lists of suggested keywords: get auto-suggestions from the App Store with one of the tools we’ve mentioned above. You will simply need to type in your most important keyword (say, “taxi”), choose the locality and the language — and here we go! A nice list of words sorted by their relevance is right in your hands! (You will learn how to manage the tools in Lesson 4).
Prioritize your keyword list realistically. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How eligible is your app really to rank for this word?
- Is the word relevant? (You can check this up with the ASO tools)
- How popular is this word among your competitors? Is it not too popular, too common?
- What is the volume of the word? How many users actually type it to find similar apps?