App Store Optimization Best Practices – The Rest of the Story
Mobile apps are a critical element of your marketing strategy. As such, I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your due diligence in optimizing the apps on the app sites and then maintaining them in the spirit of delivering a positive and valuable experience to your customers.
Mobile apps are marketing technology that you, the brands, are handing over to the customer for their private use. That makes it, in effect, customer marketing tech because you have put them in control.
- The customer decides to download the app … or not.
- The customer decides to turn it on … or not.
- The customer decides to keep it … or throw it away. Sadly, most app’s fall into abyss this very quickly
Thus, all the things we’ve been talking about – app store optimization (ASO), portfolio management, and now best practices – are critical to getting the customer to download, use, and find value for keeping the apps on their smartphone or tablet. If you want to be with them in every place they go on the web, mobile apps are the means to be there.
Let that sink in while we talk about the remaining best practices that will help you beat your competition, as well as the search engines, at their own game. These mobile apps lead the customer directly back to you. It’s your own private customer universe. There’s no one else at the end of the communication path, no middle man, and no search engine ranking page. It’s just you, one on one, with the customer.
There are always far too many best practices to cover and limited space to talk about them. Thus, we will cover the most important ones that have good universal appeal. These can be worked into your corporate work flows along with the many other best practices that are unique to your brand. What I’m going to cover here is:
- Keyword Research
- iTunes Keyword Property Characteristics
- Mobile App Description Development
- Image Selection
- Video Content
- Ratings and Reviews
Success in keyword research is embodied in creating a process that works for you. Contrary to your intuition and confidence in your vocabulary, you won’t get it right if you just sit there and think up words and phrases. Beyond a process, you also need some tools to help you along. The tool can be as simple as a Thesaurus or as complex as Google’s Keyword Planner.
Let me offer some suggestions on how to approach this task. First, follow as simple a process as you can create. The one I use is:
- Gather – look at what keywords your competitors are using. It’s ok. They call it gathering business intelligence (BI). Hey, it’s kind of fun. Just remember, your competitor just might be relying on his intuition and confidence. Talk to your product and marketing teams as well. They did this same keyword research when they built their landing pages and websites.
- Ideate – which is another term for brainstorming with your friends and colleagues. The brainstorm session will provide more keywords and phrases to look at. Take what you’ve gathered and vet the whole list. You can look at volume and traffic that each idea will generate in a search.
- Decide – The key is to evaluate volume, opportunity, and relevance. Be wary of highly competitive terms where volume and relevance provide more opportunity, e.g., keyword rank 455 for “Photo” will provide you very few users versus the keyword “stich,” which has a rank of 2. Opportunity represents the ranking (competiveness) of your app for that term in the resulting search result set on the app store. Most users will not scroll past the 50th result. You may rank 400 for the term out of 2,500 results, but its value will be almost nil. Eliminate the anticipated poor performers and be creative in keeping the ones that just might work best. There are no guarantees, so keep a backup list as well as the primary one.
Review the opportunity for keywords on both iOS and Android distribution platforms (iTunes, GooglePlay). Use the variety that’s out there to triangulate and validate prioritization of keyword selection using tools such as AppAnnie, Searchman, SensorTower, AppCodes, etc
iTunes Keyword Properties
The first thing to understand is that this field in the iTunes store has a 100 character limit. Ok, that’s less than the original 140 character tweet limit. What can you possibly put in the box that will help you be found? Well, let’s look at the example below.
I don’t know about you but that’s a pretty impressive collection of keywords and phrases for 100 characters. Is there more to what you see in the box so far as best practices go? Hey, you knew there would be. I’m an SEO expert.
- Ordered in a priority sequence to support localization
- Keywords are aligned with Product and Marketing
- Brand Terms** **are part of the mix
- Phrases** **have a stronger match for search
Mobile App Descriptions
This is a place where you need to grab the customer’s attention with some brief-but-rich content with these kinds of properties.
- Compelling first sentence
- UVP –Unique Value Proposition
- Authoritative 3rd party reviews (if you have them)
The screenshot of an Adobe mobile app page for Adobe premier provides a good visual reference. Note the video in slot 1 under “Screenshots.”
Images are usually the first thing that catches the attention of the customer. Thus, it has to stand out as an appealing vision of what your app is all about. Color and potentially interactive or moving rich media assets would do the trick. Any compelling features of the image should be highlighted.
By providing a video of an app preview, you can engage your customer with a short introduction as to what the app is all about right on the app product page. The experience gained by the customer into what the app does and how to use it can be invaluable to the customer’s understanding, which would then lead to a better chance that he/she will download the app.
This is not the time for an amateur video. A nice crisp, clean and professional video that explains and demonstrates the most desirable features is what you’re seeking.
Ratings and Reviews
Just like SEO for a website, ASO has an off-page component in the ratings and review process. There are three things to which you should pay close attention.
- Check your lowest-rated reviews for why your app is being criticized
- Share feedback with stakeholders and take action on it to correct the bad and leverage the good.
- Update the product with insights gained from analyzing the feedback
- Language and linguistics require particular attention. So, pay attention to feedback by geographical distribution channels; what works well in one market may not in another. A good example via General Motors is in order. Chevy Vega was a great car name in the USA and other countries, but in Brazil, not so good. You can imagine the PR disaster.
The app stores like to see apps that have a good number of positive reviews and ratings. The obvious value is that they will help convince people your app is worth the download. Once you get a valid number of honest reviews, your app will improve in the rankings as the app store algorithm recognizes its value.
There are a few tried-and-true ways to get reviews beyond the basics of building a good app.
- Personally ask your high-value customer base to write a review. No Black hat review gaming, just ask for an honest review of your app. This helps you to know their needs better, and well-built and designed apps will provide good reviews.
- Put a review button on your app page or add a review plug-in to your app. The plug-in will prompt the user to review the app after he/she has booted it up a predetermined number of times or after a selected number of “inspiration” events like sharing photos with others.
The Final Word
If you take anything away from these ASO blog posts, it should be that mobile apps are not a build-it-and-forget-it-exercise. They must be monitored for performance and tweaked as performance lags or reviews and feedback turn negative. Even the good reviews have insights for improving the value of the app.
Build good software that fulfills a need and delights your customers. Listen to your audience and take action as warranted. In the parlance of shampoo directions “wash, rinse, repeat”; i.e., “identify a need, build it well, monitor your customers feedback, and repeat”…