Smartphone users are expected to download an astonishing 44 billion mobile apps within the next five years alone, and with only 600,000 or so iOS apps available today, it’s a safe bet you can expect a deluge of new arrivals in coming years.
So, after the challenge of creating, designing and developing an app is complete, the next logical step is figuring how to get noticed – and a climb to the top of the app search results is just about the best you can shoot for.
As with traditional search engine optimization (SEO), the foundation for success at the App Store begins with an algorithm. In this case, understanding how Apple’s algorithm functions is paramount.
Unfortunately, these algorithms aren’t as advanced as major search engines (Google) and in some cases functions quite differently. However, for those interested in learning its intricacies, the following crash course in App Store Optimization (ASO) is a great start.
Name your app
Much in the same way a title tag functions in the world of SEO, the name of an app is arguably the most important App Store ranking factor. Avoid including highly competitive, general keywords in your title. Instead, use descriptive keywords that illustrate your app’s theme. To coincide with this, if your app works in conjunction with another app be sure to include their name within your title. This will ensure your application will be displayed within brand searches. For example a search for “Spotify” displays third-party tools (such as a remote and search function) that users can use alongside the popular music streaming service.
Research your keywords…carefully
As online marketers know, there are many free tools to help assess the competitiveness and search volumes for keywords. Targeting long-tail, descriptive keywords are usually easier to rank for than general, highly-searched keywords. But, how do these tools speak to the rankings within the App Store? A new tool, the App Store Optimization Keyword Volume Estimator, has the answer. It can give developers an idea of keyword difficulty as it translates to the App Store world.
Enter your app’s URL and some competitor’s URLs and the software analyzes the metadata of their apps and makes recommendations on which keywords to implement. As of now, the tool relies on third-party data (from sources such as Google Trends, AppStoreHQ, etc.) to derive search volume.
Note: Apple treats the singular and plural version of words differently. Searches for “vacation” and “vacations” will show two separate lists of search results.
Optimize your content
Although restricted to just 100 characters, the keywords field is essential to your search results. Apple states search results are pulled from both the company’s name and app name, so it’s not necessary to include brand terms within your keywords. As with titling your app, be sure to include terms that effectively describe what your app does. Do not stuff keywords within the description field. Apple has never stated rankings are determined based on the keywords within a description, and a spammy looking description can drive potential customers away. Include reviews from notable sources in your description and present your services in a bulleted easy-to-digest format. Finally be sure to include five screenshots which showcase and sell your product to consumers.
Ultimately, nothing will drive an application to the top of search results faster than becoming the next big thing. Apple not only takes into account the number of downloads an app receives, but it also looks at install trending. The number of devices which have installed your app is noted, but a significant spike in downloads within a short time frame proves to be the biggest influencer on one’s ranking. Further, Apple monitors users’ satisfaction based on reviews, the amount of times your app is used, and the amount of times your app is uninstalled.
Choose your availability date wisely
Your availability date – the day your app will be made available for purchase on the App Store – can provide immediate exposure to millions of iTunes users via a special “just-released apps” list.
When submitting your app, choose an availability date two weeks in advance and check your approval status daily. If you’re still in pending approval status, push it back a day.
A common mistake made when submitting apps for approval is selecting the next day as one’s target availability date. Many believe this will only speed their app’s approval process. However approval times will take two weeks regardless.
Because of this many apps are released after their assigned availability date, which removes any chance of being featured on the “just-released app” list.