App Store Optimization (ASO) 102: Some Lesser Known Hacks

<a href=''>Technology vector created by stories -</a>

So many factors play a role in App Store Optimization and each of these factors have layers of nuances that usually escape the attention of the untrained eye. Our previous blog, the beginner’s guide provides a broad overview into the field and objective of ASO, but it does not dig deep so as to remain comprehensible for those new to this field. In this blog we will dig a little deeper and understand certain less obvious hacks and intricacies of ASO.

(For the purposes of this blog ‘App Store’ refers to the Apple App Store and not app stores in general)

Hack #1 - Keyword Optimization

Title and Subtitle

As most people would know, keywords play an important role in indexing an app for both the App Store and Play Store. Researching and optimizing for relevant keywords help boost visibility in those areas that are related to your app. However keywords entered in some fields have more weight than others. The words chosen for the title and subtitle (App Store)/ short description (Play Store) have more weight than text in other fields. Having a title that includes the name of the app, which could be a keyword in itself, hyphenated with a 2-3 word description of the app helps the user understand the function of your app more easily. Be mindful of the words you chose as there is a 30 character limit in the App Store and 50 character limit in the Play Store, with spaces. It must also be noted that the title and subtitle cannot be changed once the app is submitted for review to the App Store. The Play Store on the other hand does allow you to change the title and subtitle but it leads to the loss of previous traffic and browsing data. Also, it takes about a week or two for the changes to be indexed and reflected in the search listings.

Swiggy utilizes all 50 available characters to give a brief description of the app in the title field.
Swiggy listing

Image Source: Google Play Store

Keywords in App Store

The App Store also indexes a keyword field which stays hidden from the users. Here there is a character limit of 100. To get the most out of this feature, it is advisable to separate the keywords with commas without space. Searches do not differentiate between singular and plural versions of a word, so including both in the entries will make them redundant and you will be losing on character space which is ever so precious.

Long Description in Play Store

The Play Store has space for a long description which is visible to users so make sure that it is well written and provides more incentive for the user to download and use your app. This section is also indexed and has a 4000 character limit. It is common belief that you have to use a keyword at least 5 times for it to be effective but this is not true. Using it once is sufficient and moreover using it multiple times just for the sake of it can amount to poor user experience which can have undesirable consequences. Placing the most important keywords in the beginning of the description can also significantly improve ASO rankings.

Default Keywords -

The App Store also uses certain default keywords to index applications based on categories. For example, a game that is free will automatically get listed for the keywords ‘free’ and ‘game’. Similarly if an app is relevant in two categories at the same time , such as ‘food’ and ‘utilities’, it will get indexed for these terms as well. So do not include these words again in other sections and waste character space.

Hack #2 - Strong Branding

Building a strong brand identity helps in retention and recall based on associations. This works on the simple principle that the more the visibility, the higher the recall value. With the exponentially growing market of today, it is difficult to stand out from the crowd and acquire new users, especially if your app is new. Building a brand is basically building a personality for your app that potential users can connect with. Including your brand name in the logo increases its visibility and builds an association, so it can help in the increasing downloads of your other apps that are part of the same brand.

Brand name and logo is utilized within the app logo.
Games by King

Image Source: Google Play Store

Hack #3 - Increase Global Presence by Localization

The only way to reach the heights of success is by global growth. For this you must list your app in different countries with different languages. Some countries also have listings in more than one language. Using different keywords in different languages that are locally relevant can increase your app ranking. Though this will definitely broaden your potential user base, it has a catch. If you list one keyword ‘weight’ in, let's say English, and ‘tracker’ in Spanish, you will not rank for the combined search of ‘weight tracker’.

Each country/region in this list is mapped to more to more than one language for app store listings.a
Languages of listings in various countries

Image source: Apptica

Hack #4 - Visual Elements

Before we dig deeper into the different visual elements, please keep in mind that different symbols and colors mean different things in different countries so be mindful of their regional connotations while designing these aspects.

Logo -

A logo is the first visual aspect of your product that a user will see. Having a simple, flat and well designed logo converts better than highly detailed logos. Using high contrast colors to make your logo stand out from your competitors.

Screenshots -

App screenshots act as a prelude to what users can expect your app to feel like. Instead of just adding simple screenshots, adding some text describing important features can go a long way. Also, using different orientations of the app image creates some element of surprise and grabs users’ attention.

Dribbble uses screenshots in different orientations with colorful backgrounds and short text promoting itself.
Utilization of eye-catching screenshots

Image Source: Google Play Store

Videos -

Adding short videos is a relatively new aspect of app stores but using a well designed, short (around 12 seconds) and to the point video highlighting the USP (Unique Selling Point) of your app is the best way to communicate with your target audience.

Domino's Pizza uses a short video in its listing to promote its new discounts and coupons.
Utilization of promo video

Image Source: Google Play Store

Hack #5 - A/B Testing

Constant testing and tracking on KPIs is necessary to refine your ASO strategy and stay on top of the game. A/B testing is a simple concept where half the users are shown one alternative and the other half are shown a different alternative, and KPIs such as conversion rate are compared to determine which version is better. This sort of testing can be done with more or less all sections of the listing from the icon to the description. More complex tests involving multiple aspects in various combinations can also be designed and executed to refine your listing even further.

Hack #6 - Paid Advertisements

Running advertising campaigns on branded keywords, including those of your competitors, can capture some portion of their traffic. If you want to play nice, it is still recommended that you run advertisements on your own branded keywords at least so that your rivals cannot use them as part of their campaigns.

Hack #7 - Quality Content

It should go without saying that your content must be of high quality but there is so much sub-par content out in the world that this also has to fall under a ‘hack’. The phrase ‘content is king’ sums it up beautifully. Even if all other aspects of your ASO strategy is the best, and the users are convinced to download your app, they will not stick with it if the experience and functionality is not up to the mark. In fact, if the users feel cheated in any way, they will leave bad ratings and reviews which definitely affect your ASO ranking. It is a lot more difficult to get good reviews than bad ones as it is human tendency to complain rather than appreciate. The only way to receive good ratings is to deliver what you promise beyond the users expectations.

Final Thoughts

ASO is not a one time job. The strategy needs to constantly be tested, tracked and tweaked to stay relevant in the changing market. Not just the ASO strategy but the app itself needs to be regularly updated with new features, enhanced experience and bug fixes. Make sure to constantly keep iterating on both your app and your ASO strategy and you are bound to see an improvement in the rankings.