In June this year, Apple announced at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco that the iOS App Store now contains over 1.2 million applications, and has seen more than 75 billion downloads to date. This puts them roughly on an even keel with Google’s Android apps, of which it’s estimated that there are about 1.2 million.
So, with so many apps out there, how do you make your new little app more discoverable for users amidst all the commotion and competition? Indeed, how do you find your way onto the featured lists, such as Editor’s Choice, Best New Apps, or Best New Games?
Well, the question you should really be asking is – what are the criteria for an app becoming featured on one of these top charts?
ASO Keyword Strategy
The answers are what you might expect: apps that generate a high amount of traffic over a short period of time gain a high rating, as do apps that receive lots of reviews and ratings, and there are of course editorial decisions taken by the App Store as to what app should be featured.
The first of these answers, reviews and ratings, is undoubtedly the most important, and is of course the one over which you, as the developer, can have the most influence. You’ll only gain traffic towards your app and users will only download it if it’s easily discoverable in the first place. So, how can you make this happen?
As with good old-fashioned SEO, app search optimization (ASO) relies heavily on the calculated use of keywords that match with the search queries that users punch in when searching for a new app to download.
When choosing your keywords, there are, however, a few things you need to consider, and number 1 is the limitations enforced by iTunes connect.
ASO keyword rules
Excluding spaces and commas, the keyword character limit for an app is limited to 100, so you will have to be very selective when choosing the words you want to use. The words in the app title are already recognised as keywords, so no need to repeat them in your selection. The app’s description is not taken into consideration – your keywords are therefore just the ones that you choose and your app’s title.
Making your choices
The more apps that get published, the higher the competition will become for relevant keywords, so it will be ever more essential to keep dreaming up convertible alternatives to keep your app ranking high in searches.
Making the right choices will require a lot of brainstorming, and you should write down every single idea that comes to you – what you may dismiss in a moment might actually hold the key to your keyword strategy. And besides, what may not be so useful at present, in time might become perfect as you update your app, or if the competition for that keyword ever plummets.
What keywords are your competitors using?
One way to get ahead of the game is to find out exactly what keywords your competitors are using, and what other apps in your category are using for their ASO strategy, and the Sensor Tower Keyword Spy Tool is a tool for finding out just that.
Sensor Tower features
One of their most innovative creations is the Review Analysis Tool. This allows you to perform a search of app store reviews for a list of useful keywords. This way you can really find out the sort of language actual users of your and your competitor’s apps are using. You can select any app that you want to investigate, and you will be presented with a breakdown of the most commonly used words in the reviews for those apps.
Of course, you can use the usual SEO keyword research tools such as the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, but there are others such as App Annie and the emerging AppCase which are also leading the way in app optimisation products. (Disclaimer in the interests of transparency – I also write for AppCase)
Pull out the Thesaurus
This decidedly low-tech initiative (though of course there are plenty of thesaurus apps out there) can actually be very useful when coming up with original ideas for keywords. In fact, it will actually be a lot simpler to use an online version of a thesaurus, and something like thesaurus.com is ideal.
The trick when coming up with original keywords using the online thesaurus is to click through on the synonyms that your search initially returns. This will provide you with a list of less obvious options for keywords, and therefore it will be more unlikely that they are being used by your competitors. Thesaurus.com also provide a visual thesaurus displayed in a web-like structure that shows you how synonyms link back to the original word.
Testing, testing …
The keywords that you choose will not be set in stone, and so the best practice will be to brainstorm an extensive list of possibilities and trial them over a period of time. Some of the above methods will work better for you and your app than others, so indeed the key to your keyword strategy will be patience, trial and error, and a lot of scrutiny over your competition.
Keyword research is highly important to your strategy, as is competitor research if you want to climb the charts. Make sure that you don’t repeat keywords and look too for key phrases that may be more commonly searched for. There are some great tools coming onto the market now so don’t be afraid to sign up for some trials and give them a go.
It’s also important to remember that ASO involves more than just keywords, which is something that we’ll be looking more closely at in upcoming posts.