Is your app struggling with app store rankings? You may be making these critical mistakes.
App store optimization (ASO) is tricky since app store algorithms work in mysterious ways that puzzle even the most successful of developers.
Your app may be dominating the rankings but what works now is not guaranteed to be effective tomorrow.
The horror stories you hear about top-ranking pages being wiped out of the face of the earth by a Google algorithm change?
The same thing can (and will) happen to apps as well, especially if you’re making these major ASO mistakes.
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Why You Should Do ASO the Right Way
The ultimate goal of ASO is to increase the ranking of your app which leads to more visibility, downloads, and users.
This is achieved through a variety of factors such as:
- Optimal keyword placement
- The number of backlinks to your app
- Ratings and reviews
- User downloads
- App engagement
What happens if your app does not satisfy the factors above?
You guessed it, no one’s going to see your work!
This fact is more apparent when you consider how people are downloading apps today.
According to TechCrunch, 47% of iOS users discover their apps from the App Store search engine, while Android users recorded a slightly higher usage rate (53%) with Google’s Play Store.
In the same vein, 65% of all App Store downloads come directly from searches—a significant figure considering the size of Apple’s market.
Here’s the key takeaway: half of all mobile users are finding what they want from the search bar.
This is the number one reason why ASO matters in helping apps succeed.
Good ASO increases the chances of your target audience discovering and downloading your app.
You also don’t have to pay for good ASO which brings us to the next point.
Developers invest valuable time and effort in ASO as it is the cheapest form of customer acquisition—why?
Customer lifetime values (LTV) are mediocre at best in the app industry.
The average LTV in popular verticals like travel and shopping hover around $15 to $30, with the value dropping to as low as $1.70 in highly contested niches like gaming.
With such low margins, it’s in the best interests of developers to spend as little money as possible in acquiring users.
The average cost per install (CPI) in the US is $2.07 and $1.72 for the Play Store and App Store respectively. Downloads from organic search, on the other hand, cost only a fraction of the fees developers pay advertisements.
Which option do you think is better for your bottom line?
The answer’s obvious so without further ado, let’s move on to the major ASO mistakes that are eating away your CPI and profits.
Mistake #1: Not Doing Any ASO
The biggest and most common ASO mistake is doing nothing at all.
Too many developers fall into the trap of dedicating months—sometimes years—to build a stunning app, only to spend less than 1% of that effort on marketing, including optimizing for search.
Yes, the content of your app and how it’s architectured do play important roles in ASO. An app with excellent user experience and well-structured content increases user engagement significantly, which does wonders for your rankings.
However, you also need to make sure people are able to find your app, which is what ASO is all about.
Thankfully, starting with ASO is straightforward. Your job gets easier if you’re familiar with search engine optimization (SEO) as the two overlap in many areas.
In fact, your website’s SEO performance is also part of ASO but that’s an advanced topic for another day.
To begin, work on your app’s name, icon, and description. The name and description fields of your app should accurately reflect what it does as well as projecting its core value proposition to the user.
Mistake #2: Using the App Name Only
A common mistake is to only use your brand name as the title.
This is not a problem if your business is well known (e.g. Uber, Instagram) but it can be an issue if your app name is vague or misleading.
If you’re building a to-do app, for example, a good title would be something like: “Todoist: Simple To Do List & Task Manager”.
Just by looking at the title, your target audience will have a good grasp of what your app does and how it’ll benefit them within seconds.
Similarly, your app icon should also be an attention grabber just like your title.
92.6% of users use visual factors to decide if they want to learn more about an app so it’s worth it to spend time on making your icon stand out among competitors.
Mistake #3: Not Doing Enough Keyword Research
Another facet of strong ASO is in utilizing the right keywords.
Unfortunately, a lot of developers are not using targeted keywords for their apps. Some even resort to keyword stuffing which is one of the cardinal sins of ASO, and SEO in general.
Before moving on, here’s a primer on how search algorithms work in Google Play and the App Store.
The system scans through the entire metadata of your app to check if it meets what the user is searching for. For example, someone searching for “budget calculator” will only see results that are relevant to the search request.
If you’d like to learn more about this, Google has an entire page dedicated to explaining how they rank apps on the Play Store. The factors on this page also work similarly in the App Store’s ranking algorithms.
The million-dollar question is, how do you come up with the right keywords?
Begin by running comprehensive keyword research.
Thinking of terms that might fit is not keyword research.
Going through your competitors’ app pages, using keyword research tools, checking Google trends and field reports—these are the real tasks you need to carry out in an effective keyword research project.
A useful rule of thumb is to select keywords with high traffic and low to moderate competition. This avoids heavy competition from the top ranking apps while being relevant enough to get people to see your app.
Mistake #4: Relying on Black Hat ASO
Black hat ASO revolves around abusing and exploiting optimization techniques to gain an unfair advantage in the app space.
It’s tempting to not play by the rules… until you understand the implications.
These are some of the penalties you may face if your app is found to be guilty of black hat ASO:
- Removal of the app without warning
- Account bans or blacklists
- Fines or lawsuits
- Stripping of licenses and certificates
Black hat ASO is not sustainable as it relies on techniques that either:
- Cost a ton of money to maintain its effectiveness over time (e.g. buying reviews and app installs)
- Will be patched out in future updates.
Bear in mind that Google and Apple go out of their way to stop the manipulation of app rankings.
You may see initial results with black hat ASO but eventually, it will be detected and your app will be penalized in one way or another.
Mistake #5: Not Using the Right Tools in Implementing ASO
If ASO seems like a chore, you’re probably not using the right tools to assist your work.
ASO tools help you automate tasks and analyze data that is not feasible with manual work.
Checking the rankings of keywords, finding out what’s topping the charts, assessing where your traffic is coming from and how it’s happening—these are all the metrics you can track if you leverage the right technology for your app’s ASO strategy.
These tools also provide valuable insights for your app’s performance data so you can make better decisions in your ASO efforts.
For example, instead of connecting with users individually, you can use a tool to automatically collect and analyze user feedback to assist you in building features that cater to your users’ biggest needs.
ASO is a Continuous Effort, Not a One-off
Overcoming these mistakes is just one piece of the ASO puzzle. Understand that ASO is a process, not a one-time job.
There is always room for improvement even if your app is at the top of the rankings. Remember, ranking algorithms change over time and your app will be left behind if you don’t work on improving ASO continuously.
It’s hard to assess the impact of ASO in the short-term but if you put in effort over time, you’ll see downloads and traffic increasing steadily—and you’ll wonder why didn’t you start optimizing earlier?
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters