This is a guest post by Daniel Peris, CEO of TheTool.
There are tons of content about ASO in the Internet and the amount grows every day. App stores (Apple App Store & Google Play Store) are becoming bigger (and more competitive) and they grow exponentially.
In this post we are going to learn how to optimize a Google Play Store listing of any Android app in order to increase visibility and volume of organic downloads from the store.
Let’s start from scratch!
App Store Optimization: What is it?
We aren’t writing again about this, but basically, ASO is the process of optimizing a mobile app in order to get the maximum visibility and the highest conversion rate to install in the app stores. So, ASO is not only about traffic, it’s also about conversion. Some people call it “App Store SEO”, because of its similarity with web Search Engine Optimization.
The App Store Optimization strategy basically consists of these 3 processes:
- Keyword research & Market research
- Google Play Store page optimization + A/B testing
- Tracking / monitoring and repeating number 2 😛
1. Keyword research & Market research
This is the essential analysis you need to make before implementing your ASO strategy and even before publishing your app or game.
For new applications it is quite difficult to get into the top search results for head or mid-tail keywords.
It’s possible, of course, but it will take a lot of effort, time and installs. This is why the best strategy in the beginning is to go for long-tail keywords – keyword combinations that are a bit more specific than usual search request keywords and have lower competition. They have less traffic than the head or mid-tail keywords, but if you target keyword combinations for specific searches, your app or game has much better chances to show up in these search results.
How to choose keywords and keyword combinations for your app?
First, brainstorm the keywords – it could be anything that comes to your mind that is relevant to your app and to the tasks it performs, or its main features. Check what your competitors are doing there, too – which keywords they are working on their listing, which keywords they are ranking for and where (countries). Another good practice is to read reviews of your competitors app and try to identify the keywords that users mention.
After you have created and uploaded your pool of keywords to the system, check the difficulty and traffic for each keyword. You can perform this analysis in TheTool keywords panel as well:
How to identify long-tail keywords in TheTool?
Pay attention to those keywords that have low or medium difficulty and at the same time, the most traffic. These keywords are not highly competitive, and ranking for these keywords will improve the visibility of your app dramatically. When you will start implementing your ASO strategy, you will know which keywords to target.
To check your competition for each particular keyword can be helpful when you analyze the relevance of your app for a particular search, or identifying the keywords with less competition.
2. Google Play Store optimization + A/B testing
Implementing an ASO strategy for Google Play is a process that embraces optimization of your app’s on-metadata and off-metadata.
- On-metadata factors are the ones that are under the control of the developer: title, developer name, description, icon, screenshots, feature graphic.
- Off-metadata factors are the ones out of your control (but you can influence them): installs volume, ratings and user reviews.
Later in this post we will take a close look in the details of ASO on-metadata and an anatomy of a perfect Google Play Store listing of an Android app.
It doesn’t matter if you have already published your app, or if you are just preparing to launch it, you will need to implement the Google Play Store optimization. You will work on different elements of your listing, to improve both visibility and conversion rate to install.
And here is news for you: what you think is not the same as what your users think.
You may have created a great icon, but as Ogilvy said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative”. You can’t trust your own intuition here, and the user response is not always going to be as good as you expect.
This is why you need to perform an A/B test before implementing any change in the listing elements that are affecting the conversion rate. Those elements are primarily the graphics: icon, screenshots, feature graphic, and the localized texts.
What is A/B testing?
To perform an A/B test, you will need to create 2 different versions of your listing element, and compare them against each other. During the experiment, half of your traffic will go to version A, and another half to version B, and then both options will be compared to determine the best result. It is very important to test with a change in only one listing element, otherwise it is hard to determine which of the changes has caused an improvement.
Good news – Google has an A/B testing tool integrated into the Google Play Console! Here you can check out more about how to perform the experiments on your store listing in Google Play and the best tips about A/B testing.
You should always have an a store listing experiment running.
3. Tracking / monitoring
The App Store Optimization process never stops, the market changes as well as the Google Play Store itself, so a developer has to be always up-to-date with the current market situation.
The good practice is to track weekly (ideally, daily), your volume of installs (organic + non organic), keywords rankings, top charts rankings (overall, category, etc.), ratings and reviews of your app or game. Remove the keywords that are not performing, analyze and add new keywords and continue A/B testing until you find a best-converting elements of your Google Play Store listing.
User reviews is a part that is not totally under your control, but if you are constantly monitoring it, you will get valuable information about your product, keywords, and the weak points of your product and / or your communication strategy with users. In Google Play you can interact with users, replying to their reviews, which helps to build trust and improve the overall rating of the app. A good user sentiment not only improves the conversion rate to install, but it is also favorable for search ASO, as Google ranks higher the apps with more and better user reviews.
How to Optimize Your Google Play Store Listing for ASO
A perfect Google Play Store listing for ASO can improve keywords rankings, improve conversion rate to install and drive organic downloads. As simple as that.
Besides optimizing your app for Google Play Store, ASO will also help your app rank higher in Google web search results (App Packs). Read more here.
Let’s take a closer look on the anatomy of the perfect Google Play Store listing:
URL / package
First things first, and the URL is the first thing you should think about, because once set, it can not be modified later. In Google Play Store, same as in the Google web search, keywords included in the domain / URL act as a strong ranking factor for app search.
Read this curious case study on how Nintendo’s Super Mario Run included the keyword “zara” in the package URL. When the installs kicked off, giving the necessary off-metadata boost, the game started to rank for this extremely competitive and highly searched keyword.
Worth including a few keywords in the URL, right?
The developer name will as well help your app rank in search results. Besides that, Google favors apps from a developer with a positive history and ranks them higher in searches.
Try adding some keywords in the developer name. For example: “#DeveloperName: keyword + keyword”
The title of an app in Google Play Store is another important ASO on-metadata factor to keep in mind. It affects, above all, the search results, but as well the conversion rate to install.
Google allows developers to include 50 characters in the App Title (NEW: link), so use them wisely. Keep your brand name short, easy to spell and easy to memorize for your users. Include your most relevant keyword(s) alongside your brand name. This can significantly improve your app keywords rankings!
Remember that you can add one title in each language to localize your app. Don’t ignore localizing your app title – the mobile world is global, and the demand for your app can arise from the countries that you have never expected.
Quick tip: Try adding emoji to your app title to grab attention of the users when they browse or search the Play Store.
The perfect Title should look like…
- Brand – Keyword
- Brand: Keyword
- Keyword – Brand
- Keyword: Brand
In Google Play Store, the short description of an app has a strong effect on the ASO in keywords rankings and conversion rate.
Google allows developers to include up to 80 characters for the short description, and if the users are interested to know more, they can expand the short description to view the full description of your mobile app or game.
A well-composed short description is the highlight of all the best things about your app or game, and the best use that a developer can give to this field is to include the core keywords and the main purpose of your app.
Quick tip: Like it happens with the title, adding emoji in the short description defiitely catches users’ eye!
BONUS: Spy any Google Play Store short description with this tool.
The description in Google Play is specifically important because it is an On-Metadata factor that is responsible for Search and Conversion. In this field you have to include all the keywords of your app or game, combined with a powerful call-to-action.
First of all, the description serves the purpose to improve your app’s position in the Google Play Store search algorithm, so it has to be searchable. And secondly, it helps to convince your potential users to install your app, so it has to be actionable.
The maximum length for a description in Google Play is 4.000 characters. The best practice is to include your target keywords a few times, and it is important to mention the core ones in the first and in the last lines of the description to improve rankings for those keywords.
Unlike Apple App Store, Google indexes ALL content of your app description and it helps with ASO.
A few tips for a perfect description:
- Use the maximum possible number of characters for description. 3000-3500 char is OK.
- Localize description to ALL possible languages.
- Look for mid and long-tail keywords and add them to your description.
- Use bullet points to organize the information in a clear and visual way for the user.
- Describe the best features of your app.
- Write in short paragraphs without an overload of information.
- Include emoji 😉 ✔️ or format text with HTML.
- If your app has won a contest or award, brag about it!
- Include a call-to-action that contains a sense of urgency (e.g. “Download now and start an adventure”)
- Support your description with your social media profiles or links to communities of users of your app.
- And check these requirements from Google what NOT to do 🙂
An icon is the first visual impact that your app will have on the user, an essence of your application. Right after making the search request in Google Play, what the users see is a huge list of apps with different names and icons, and at this point the users will decide which app to check out and install.
A striking, attractive icon is a key piece of your app’s appearance, and it directly impacts the Conversion Rate. An image is worth a thousand words!
Moreover, the icon (as well as the title and developer name) are the things that users see in the actual search result in Google Play Store, so these elements are ones that have the most impact on the search ASO.
To publish your app page in Google Play Store, you need a high-resolution icon. Google has the following requirements for developers:
- 32-bit PNG (with alpha)
- Dimensions: 512px by 512px
- Maximum file size: 1024KB
Some tips to put a spotlight on your app icon:
- Make your icon coherent with the purpose of your app or game.
- Stick to the overall style of your app.
- Check your competition and be different.
- Use vibrant colors to grab the attention.
- Avoid text in your icon.
- Play with simple forms and harmonizing colours.
- Adding borders to the icon makes it more visible.
- Follow the design tendencies, be modern and innovative – remember how flat design stole the show?
- Test, test, test – A/B test your options with Google Play experiments to find a perfect one!
- Test again 😉
If you are ready to start designing, read this great case study by Incipia on how to pick the best app icon. Or go to Creative Bloq for inspiration on some awesome icon designs! Browsing the Google Play Store can also be helpful to find out new trends for icons.
Another key element for Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the feature graphic that gives an idea and “mood” to your Google Play Store listing.
Basic requirements for feature graphic from Google are:
- JPEG or 24-bit PNG (no alpha)
- Dimensions: 1024px by 500px
Follow these simple tips while designing your feature graphic:
- Don’t include any important visual or textual information near the borders and in the bottom third of the graphic.
- Center the information/text/logo horizontally and vertically.
- Use large font sizes for texts.
- Mind that your feature graphic can be used alone without app icon, so stick to your style and make it recognizable.
- A/B test your graphic to see which one has better conversion rate to install (this is your end goal). Use Google Play experiments for this.
- Take a chance to change the theme for a season, important announcement, or an X-mas holiday, for example.
- Remember to localize your feature graphic alongside with name and description, in case it includes text.
Again, our friends from Incipia has put together a compilation of 10 feature graphic inspirations and tips on how to A/B test them. Check them out!
Or use a video instead ⬇😎
If an image is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand images!
In Google Play Store you can add a YouTube video to enhance your app or game identity. The thumbnail of a video will be acting as a feature graphic in this case.
Simply enter the URL of the video in the “Promo video” field, and remember these Google tips:
- Make sure to use an individual video’s YouTube URL, not a YouTube playlist or channel URL
- Don’t use an age-restricted video as your app’s promo video
You can localize your video, too. To do that, upload your video in different languages, or upload just a transcript, which Google will automatically display depending on the user language settings.
The best thing about it is that the views of the video from Google Play Store count as YouTube views, making your video rank higher in YouTube search and, subsequently, in Google search results.
Check this great post from Apptamin and this case study on Vivino (video below) for some more tips, and don’t forget to A/B test your video to optimize the conversion rate of your Google Play Store listing!
Keep in mind that the feature graphic (or feature graphic with the video play button) can also appear when someone searches for your app. One more reason to get them right!
Like the icon and feature graphic, the screenshots don’t affect the search algorithm, but they do have an impact on the conversion rate to install. Screenshots show how your app or game looks like from inside, and highlight its best features. It is then up to the user if he likes what he sees and if he wants it, so it is very important to grab user attention from the first screenshot.
In Google Play Store you can add up to 8 screenshots for each supported device type, while the minimum required by Google is just 2 screenshots with following specs:
- JPEG or 24-bit PNG (no alpha)
- Minimum dimension: 320px
- Maximum dimension: 3840px
- The maximum dimension of your screenshot can’t be more than twice as long as the minimum dimension
Obviously, don’t limit yourself to the minimum of 2 screenshots. Be creative and captivate your users with a showcase of your app’s best features.
The screenshots don’t have to be actual screenshots, you can (and should) go for storytelling and create a sequence of rich images to describe the best features of your app.
Follow these tips to rock your screenshots:
- Reserve the first screenshot slot for your most important message, or your app’s BEST feature.
- Don’t give bare screenshots, provide explanations to each slide.
- Pick a style or theme for your screenshot sequence and follow it instead of bringing up random images
- Don’t just declare your app features – challenge the user with your copy!
- If you have a limited offer, show it on your screenshots.
- If you have awards or mentions in media, too!
- Test many options to find the best-converting ones.
- Localize screenshots 🌍 if needed
And if you need more inspiration, read this article!
ASO for Google Play: To sum up
App Store Optimization is a never-ending process, so keep on trying new things and optimizing your Google Play Store listing. Keep on monitoring the evolution of your app and your competitors. Test everything and be updated with Google Play Store news and changes to never miss any trend.
Keep on ASO!
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