Getting App Store Optimization or ASO Right [A Beginner’s Guide] | Hacker Noon

June 22nd 2020

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Hi, I work at Checkaso, the analytical ASO platform. According to my observations, most developers have a problem with ASO (App Store Optimization). I decided to write in detail about text optimization (it’s the first step).
App Store research shows that 65% of apps are installed through the store search. This means that users type a search query to find a suitable app. Google Play has some figures regarding games: in this category, 88% of installs account for organic search. The conclusion is clear: for users to come to you from the store, you may need to deal with the App Store Optimization. Let’s talk about the crucial milestone – improving the visibility, or text ASO. Milestones, nuances, life hacks, and tools that make the developers’ life easier. 

An introduction for dummies: text ASO in 5 sentences

  1. It promotes the indexing of new keywords and improves rankings (app visibility).
  2. It affects explore traffic and increases installs and attracts users as a result.
  3. Milestones: analyzing a market niche, developing a semantic core, prioritizing keywords, updating metadata, and assessing the outcome.
  4. This is an iterative, not a one-time process.
  5. It’s important to analyze the results every now and then and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Analyzing your market niche and competitors

To compete for traffic, you need to analyze your market niche and understand who your competitors are and how they work.  

  1. 1. There may be a lot of traffic in some categories, but most will be associated with branded keywords. Therefore, it will be impossible to make it to the top without a budget. 
  2. 2. You also should track traffic sources. If competitors use motivated or ad traffic, it may be difficult for you to compete using organic methods. The motivated traffic may be recognized by jumps in ranking by keywords and category. Tracking ad traffic is more difficult as there is smoother growth (track it for two weeks or use paid services like Admobispy).
  3. 3. The analysis helps you evaluate ASO level, strategy, competitiveness in the niche market and specific key queries, and maybe you’ll find some optimization ideas too. 

You may want to track changes in text elements of your competitors over time to see their work on the semantic core.

You can study your competitors in manual way or using analytics services. 

Manual option – recommended apps, similar apps in the store and category. It also happens that an app changes its category. Let’s say a game or dating app can be placed in the entertainment section. They do so to get installs out of the niche. It may be advisable to study various categories. You may try tracking the keywords in texts, but this is almost an impossible mission. 

Automatic option – analytics platforms. You may want to start with evaluating a competitor’s ASO level using ASOindex, an indicator of ASO quality from 1 to 10. The algorithm takes into account metadata, rating and reviews, completeness of the developer’s profile, number of indexed keywords, app visibility in the store, keyword popularity and your rankings.

Developing a semantic core

Do not be afraid of vocabulary. The semantic core is a pool of relevant queries. The keywords by which your app will be searched. The two methods – manual and automatic – work with semantics as well. 

Manual option: collecting search tips from stores, analyzing text elements of similar and recommended apps. Brainstorming. But it takes a lot of time and effort, and you can miss many keywords. 

Automatic option: selecting keywords using special tools. Different services have different ones. For example, Keywords Analysis, Keywords Explorer, and Proposed Keywords sections at Checkaso. In the first section, the service selects the app’s starter pack of 50 keywords. In the second one, you can look through all the keywords by which the app is indexed and use the search bar to search for suggests in the store. And in the third section, you can study what keywords your competitors are indexed by. 

Keyword prioritizing

Making a list of key queries is just the tip of the iceberg. Now you need to evaluate their relevance, popularity and competitiveness. That is, prioritize. There are several strategies to do this.

  1. If your app is new or not that popular in the store yet, you may want to start optimizing with low-frequency long-tail queries (with less than three words) since there will be less competition but less traffic as well. 
  2. If you already have a fairly steady and high ranking when it comes to the mid-frequency keywords, then you should try to fly higher. And start implementing high-frequency queries. 

In both cases, focusing and relying on the competitors’ branded requests would not be a good advice since their traffic share is minimum (even with a very high conversion.) Try to use the most accurate and relevant keywords.

Updating text elements (metadata)

Different text elements affect ranking differently. Please keep this in mind to distribute keywords in your text properly. 

We suggest that you experiment with different hypotheses.

Study how many keywords are used from the list of monitored keywords (it can be expanded), their Search Volume (popularity), competitiveness, and your ranking by keywords. It also shows how many characters are occupied in text elements, or if there is room for extra keywords.

Life hacks for how to compose texts

  1. Avoid spamming, forbidden words, or misinformation.
  2. Don’t list keywords in the full description for Google Play, separated by commas.
  3. App Store has a bug with the 30th character in the title: a word that includes this character is not indexed.
  4. Check the full description for Google Play in Google Natural Language for category compliance.
  5. Use html formatting on Google Play for a full description.

Assessing the results

Analysis of ASO results can be divided into external and internal values.

  • External values: rank tracking. After updating the text elements, evaluate the ranking of old keywords and indexing of new ones. 
  • Internal values: analysis of the number of page views and installs, financial indicators, retention and duration of sessions. 

Competitor updates

Keep in mind that your competitors are also working on optimization. Watch their updates carefully. Track all changes to competitors metadata by date, country, app version, and device type. High-quality measurement of results and timely competitive analysis will help you adapt your optimization strategy in time. 

We insist that text-based ASO is an iterative process. You may want to search for growth points and experiment frequently. In App Store, the results will be visible faster. Indexing will occur there within a couple of days after your update. On Google Play, the process can take up to three weeks. 

Summary

  • You need to know your competitors, their sources of traffic, and market niche capabilities.
  • Developing a semantic core is an important milestone. Make sure you prioritize the collected keywords (evaluate their relevance, popularity, and competitiveness).
  • Distribute keywords across text, taking into account different effects text elements have on ranking.
  • Avoid spamming and word duplicates. 
  • Note the features of Google Play (avoid listing keywords in the full description with a comma, check them for category compliance in Google Natural Language, use html formatting) and the App Store bug (30th character in the app title).
  • When assessing results, consider both external and internal values.
  • Work on text ASO non-stop. 

P.S.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them.

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