In this post we talk about some ASO mistakes app developers and marketers should avoid if they want to improve their apps’ visibility and get more installs
Please, avoid these 16 App Store Optimization (ASO) mistakes
Are you new to App Store Optimization? Would you like to know which are the most common mistakes to avoid before you start any ASO strategy? If this is the case, you are in the right place.
Today there are more than 4,000,000 apps on the app stores and one of the biggest challenges that app marketers have to face is maximizing their apps’ visibility in the oversaturated markets. In this post we have discussed 16 common mistakes that can spoil your App Store Optimization strategy. Let’s go for it!
16 ASO Mistakes that can ruin your app business
You should, when possible, avoid all of them…
1. Not knowing ASO existence and its impact in business
ASO exists and has a direct impact in installs volume and revenue
It’s curious, but the most common ASO mistake is not knowing ASO existence. ASO (App Store Optimization) is the process of optimizing an app store listing in order to maximize its visibility on app stores (Search + Top Charts), improve conversion rates (CTR + CVR) and generate organic installs. Just to remember: organic installs are free and help reduce user acquisition costs. So, ASO has a direct impact in business, don’t underestimate its power.
App discovery is the different range of ways users have to discover and download any particular app and some experts say it’s broken. There are currently more than 4,5 million apps in the two most popular app stores (Apple App Store & Google Play Store) and this number increases every day. For many apps it’s a huge challenge to become visible in the app stores.
According to Apple, 65% of app downloads in the App Store come from search queries. This obviously means that optimizing ASO factors such keywords, visual assets, etc. is relevant. Even if you also run paid user acquisition campaigns, the overall result will always be much better if your app store listing is ASO ready.
There’s no excuse to “not knowing” ASO if you work in the mobile app industry. ASO should be the first step in any app marketing strategy.
2. Not using (the right) keywords in the right fields
Using the right app keywords in the right places is crucial for App Store Search Optimization
Depending on the app, finding the right keywords can be easy or difficult. The first step you have to take is a very simple one: find which keywords define your app or services and which ones are going to bring traffic (users who might be interested in downloading the app) to your app store listing. Even though this previous step sounds a bit “simple”, it’s very important to start the keyword research process in the right way. Once you have done this exercise, from the core keywords that define your app (“run”, “running”, “workout”, “session”, “routine”, etc.), try to find new keywords by combining the core ones (“running routine”, “workout session”, etc.) or combining them with new keywords (“run tracker”, “workout app”, “long run”, etc.). We also recommend you to check keyword suggestions or auto-complete (mainly on Google Play) to get more insights and keywords that are being searched in the stores.
IMPORTANT: Don’t only focus on head-tail keywords (high volume), try to find mid and long-tail keywords for your project. PS: Don’t try to rank for “Facebook” keyword, please 😛
Once you have 50-120 keywords (depending on app and language) that define your mobile app features, have mid / high estimated traffic and as low difficulty as possible, it’s time to enter them in the right fields. But before, let’s see how Google and Apple understand, or not, keywords within their keywords fields:
Google Play Store – App Keywords
In terms of Search in the Play Store, every single keyword field in Google Play app store listing counts. Keywords in Title, Short Description and Description help your app rank for searches as Google indexes the whole app store listing. Your app also can rank for keywords included in the user reviews, developer name or package / URL (remember this field can’t be changed when app is published).
The level of keyword weight in each field that we can control on the Google Play Developer Console (Title, Short Desc. and Description) changes depending on the field. For instance, keywords on the Title count more than some other keywords we find in the Description field. Being said that, we don’t recommend to include pure search keywords in the Title and Short Description because ASO is also a Conversion game. In these keywords fields it’s also very important to find the right balance between Search Optimization and Branding (your app store listing should be sexy).
Apple App Store – App Keywords
When it comes to search, Apple is simpler than Google. iTunes Connect only lets you introduce keywords inside 150 characters (50 characters for the App Name and 100 characters for the Keywords Field). It’s true that the name of the developer and the complete name of the IAP purchases count, but they aren’t specific fields to work keyword optimization.
As you have probably noticed, on iTunes Connect you have to think and decide which app keywords you will include in these 2 fields and, almost most important, which ones you have to dispense with.
Do you want to be an App Marketer ninja? Test both app stores’ behavior (Google Play Store & Apple App Store) and learn how they work before you implement any ASO strategy.
3. Thinking visual assets don’t have impact on ASO
ASO = Traffic + Conversion
Thinking ASO is just about traffic is a very common mistake among app marketers, developers and brands. It’s obvious that the traffic you get to your app store listing is important, but it’s maybe more important to convert this traffic into installs / users. Conversion Rate (from visit to install) is key nowadays and can’t be forgotten.
You’re probably asking yourself: How do I improve conversion rate? How can I convince users that my app is great and is ready to be downloaded?
Easy peasy, think that visual assets play a big role: Icon, Screenshots, Video and Feature graphic in Google Play Store and Icon, Screenshots and Video on Apple App Store. Working on the design of your visual assets is key to improve Conversion Rate to install and, also, improve CTR on lists like Search Results or Top Charts Rankings. Once you have done this A/B test it!
Now repeat this mantra: Higher Conversion Rate = More Installs = Impact on ASO
Let’s face it, visual impacts rule the world and make people decide. Get the best out your visual assets or your app will go unnoticed.
4. Not running A/B tests to improve metrics
Nothing is completely proved until it’s tested.
For most digital marketers, marketing is about data and measuring. There is a great feature in Google Play Developer Console named Experiments that lets you test and measure the impact of different listing item variants in terms of Installs volume. With Experiments feature you can A/B test almost every single factor you control on the Google Play developer console (Title, Icon, Short Description, Screenshots, Feature graphic, etc). Not using this is one of the biggest mistakes an app marketer may commit.
You won’t find this amazing feature in iTunes Connect (bummer) which gives you two scenarios:
A) If you have an app in both markets, do all the testing in Google Play and if the results are conclusive, clone them in iTunes Connect. Sometimes this work, sometimes doesn’t. Just test it!
Conversion is important and has to be tracked and improved (ASO = Traffic + Conversion).
5. Not thinking in localizing. Mobile is global
There are more than 3,000 million smartphones all over the world… Why only focusing in 1 single country or language?
If your target goes beyond any particular country or language (it depends on the app), you must seriously consider localizing your app store listings to the languages / countries where your potential users are.
Both Apple App Store and Google Play Store let developers localize their app store listings in order to become visible worldwide. You won’t only improve your keywords search for an specific market, you will also improve the conversion rate to install in that particular market.
Another common ASO mistake that we have witnessed is when the ASO adaption is just a mere copy translation. Launching your app globally means analyzing each market, core keywords, competitors, Top Charts, etc. A mere translation won’t be enough if you want your app store listing completely optimized.
6. Thinking product / app has no impact on ASO
What happens in your app has an echo on the app stores.
One of the main off-metadata factors that Google & Apple take into account when it comes to rank apps is the volume and speed of installs. We can acquire new users by paying for these installs through paid channels (Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Influencer marketing, mobile display, etc.) or we can also make the most of our own channels to achieve that goal. As you probably know, the product / app is a very powerful weapon that can and has to be used to get more users (installs), through some virality and / or “member get member” tactic.
If we work on this product aspect, we can get (free) recurrent installs that will help us keeping good rankings in both Search and Top Charts rankings.
Last february 2017, Google finally announced that from now on apps/games with user engagement (high retention and recurrence) will be ranking higher in the Top Charts. This announcement confirms what some experts were suspecting a while ago; If your product is good (engagement & retention) Google and Apple will “treat you well” in the stores. Apple hasn’t confirmed this change in the algorithm yet, but, in my opinion, they will follow Google’s path.
All of a sudden, it’s important to take into account stuff like push notifications, inbound marketing, CRM, communication strategy, App Value, etc. to engage with users, rank higher and have more visibility in the app stores.
Remember product has a direct impact in user reviews / ratings. Bad user feedback can hurt your app’s conversion rate.
7. Focusing on the wrong keywords
App Store Optimization is a process that involves Keyword Research, Optimizing & Tracking overtime.
When it comes to find the best keywords to be optimized in your app store listing, Keyword Relevance comes first. It’s vital to find which are the keywords that best define your business, product or service, the ones that your potential users are likely to search. Once you have found relevant keywords you have to track them all with an ASO tool which will show you estimated traffic score and difficulty to rank for any particular keyword. Focusing on non-relevant keywords is useless: nobody looking for a food delivery app is downloading a flashlight application…
Also, it can be a big ASO mistake to focus in high-volume head-tail keywords if your app has just been launched or barely has recurrent installs. Try to find mid & long-tail keywords that can bring some installs and optimize them in your app store listing. Don’t rush, start optimizing gradually and consider keywords with less estimated traffic which also have low difficulty.
After few years of experience in ASO we have noticed a very common mistake among app marketers: “Focusing only on high volume keywords”.
Step by step, ASO is a long run.
8. Implementing the same ASO strategy on App Store & Google Play
If Google Play and Apple App Store are different, why should you implement the same ASO strategy?
When it comes to ASO, Apple App Store and Google Play Store have their own particularities. When it’s time to implement ASO changes on the app store listings it’s crucial to think first and understand how each store works and how ASO factors behave. Let’s separate and analyze Search and Conversion in both stores:
Remember this: Google indexes all the content in our app store listing and Apple does not. Google will consider any single keyword included in your Title, Short Description, Description, inside the reviews your app gets, developer name and package / URL. Try adding relevant keywords on Title field (30 characters), Short Description field (80 characters) and Description field (4,000 characters).
In the other hand, Apple only take into account App Name field (50 characters), Keywords field (100 characters), developer name, and the exact match of the full name of IAP (In-App Purchase) in case you consider this app business model. It’s not proved that Apple indexes description field or user reviews, but there are some experts who think that these fields will be indexed soon. ASO Specialist Moritz Daan wrote about this hypothetical change.
We consider Conversion as another ASO column, the factor that should be optimized to convince users to install your app. As you may know, the more installs your app gets, the higher ranks in the app stores.
We have read lots of studies about visuals assets that can improve the Conversion Rate. In this bullet we want to write specifically about how Google and Apple deal with it and what they can offer to developers, particularly in the their own developer consoles. For some marketers, when we talk about conversion, the first thing that comes to their mind is A/B testing. In this case, Google gives the possibility to create experiments with every single asset, including Title, Short Description and Description. You can deliver 2 or more options to the % of visits you consider and decide which one brings more installs. Once you finish the experiment with one clear winner, you keep that option. It’s important to say as well that some marketers make a mistake combining different experiments at the same time. Our recommendation is to gradually run experiments and to not start a new experiment until the last gives you a significant result.
More particularities that Google gives to developers when it comes to Conversion is the possibility to add emojis (even in the App Title) and write HTML to format text in description field.
Ok, you have read about how Google helps developers in terms of improving Conversion… now, what about Apple? In iTunes Connect you won’t be able to create and launch A/B experiments, as neither you don’t have the possibility to rich your text at all.
If you get the most out of your visual assets and test them with different variants you should experience how your Conversion Rate rises. What a pleasant feeling!
9. Thinking ASO is a one-time job
ASO is not a sprint, it’s a long run, like a marathon.
We’re trying to educate the industry by saying that ASO is a process, not a one-time implementation. Tracking and, if possible, optimizing Top Charts rankings, keywords rankings, conversion rates, user reviews, A/B tests, algorithm changes, competitors’ updates, etc. takes time and so much observation and efforts.
It’s important to understand that there’s ALWAYS something that can be improved in your app store listing. You can optimize all the ASO factors properly, but you will have to keep a permanent eye on how these factors behave and check if your app / keywords go up or down. Another fact that confirms that ASO is not a one-time job is the simple existence of multiple and variable competitors: other apps who want to rank for the same keywords as you. We will talk more about competitors in the next bullet, but it’s crucial to understand that tracking only your own app is a big mistake. Between any ASO implementation we should control which app is ranking for the keywords we are interested in, which apps are ranking high in the Top Chart Category where our app is at and, even more important, find out and understand how they do it.
If you follow ASO guidelines and you take the right decisions you may increase the number of downloads dramatically.
10. Not tracking competitors
The good and the bad of the Internet is that almost everything is public. Get the most of it!
Any particular app has 3 types of competitors: the ones that compete strictly as a product, the ones that compete for searches or Top Charts (ASO competitors) and the ones that combine previous both (ASO & Product competitors).
As your app is not alone in the app stores (and will never be), not tracking competitors can be a huge mistake. Monitoring how they rank for the same keywords you have optimized, how their app store listings are optimized and how they rank in the Top Charts is a MUST.
You can learn a lot from this exercise, good and bad praxis from the app which can / want “steal” users from you.
11. Doing Black Hat ASO
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Black Hat ASO is a cruel reality on Apple App Store and Google Play Store: fake installs, search fake installs, fake reviews, bot installs, etc. The truth is that some Black Hat ASO tactics work, but nobody knows when they will stop working… So, our advice, if you care about your app or apps, is NOT DOING IT.
Here is a interesting presentation about Black Hat ASO (by Moritz Daan):
Also, we recommend to read this post: Black Hat ASO — Where to Draw the Line (MobileGrowthStack)
12. Not using the right ASO tools
What is not measured can not be improved
Since the launch of Apple App Store and the birth of ASO until the present day, we have seen the appearance of tools focused on tracking stuff related to apps’ visibility on app stores.
These ASO tools allow you to monitor the main ASO KPI: keywords rankings, Top Charts rankings, reviews & ratings, competitors and much more. In our experience, one of the mistakes developers, startups and brands make is not tracking everything related to their apps’ presence on app stores.
It’s CRUCIAL to understand how the app stores work, how our apps perform on them and if our ASO strategy is working, or not, in order to make better business decisions. To track all this metrics we necessarily need ASO Tools.
Our friends from Incipia has just updated a list of the main ASO Tools in the market and what they do. Also, you can find a very complete list of App Marketing tools in this awesome post from Apptamin.
BTW, why don’t you sign up for free and start using TheTool? 😝
13. Not following these ASO jedis
May the ASO force be with you
Connect with them, they work in the ASO industry, are experts and always share good ASO / Mobile Growth stuff.
- Thomas Petit (8fit)
- Gabe Kwakyi (Incipia)
- Ido Schoonen (Lab Cave)
- Steve Young (AppMasters)
- Stefan Bielau (Dynamo Partners)
- Moritz Daan (Phiture)
- Peter Fodor (AppAgent)
- John Koetsier (TUNE)
- Charo Paredes (DOCOMO)
- Peggy Anne Salz (MobileGroove)
- Hugh Kimura (Mobile Action)
- Luigi Bastanzio (Hostelworld)
- Dimitar ‘Mix’ Mihov (The Next Web)
- Brian Egerup (Mobtimizers)
- Mantvydas Lisauskas (Runtastic)
- Ashley Sefferman (Apptentive)
- Shlomo Garbi (Zemingo)
- Peter Munch (Mobtimizers)
- Robi Ganguly (Apptentive)
- Sylvain Gauchet (Apptamin)
- Daniel Peris (PickASO + TheTool)
- Dan Held (Uber)
- Ouriel Ohayon (Appsfire)
- Isak Ström (MAG Interactive)
- Ryan Kelley (Gummicube)
- Laurie Galazzo (AppTweak)
- Romain Golfier (Spil Games)
- Gabriel Machuret (ASO Professional)
- Anatoly Sharifulin (AppFollow)
- Johannes Von Cramon (Grow1st)
- Ekaterina Petrakova (Rocket Internet)
- Maximilian Lehmann (Phiture)
- Benjamin Günther (Grow1st)
- Thomas Kriebernegg (App Radar)
- Joe Robb (SparkPeople.com)
- Guillermo Gallardo (PickASO + TheTool)
Following people of the ASO industry is very interesting to be up to date with all news. Anyway, attending to Mobile Growth events like, for example, Applause or App Promotion Summit, networking with other professionals, meeting new people and making new friends is always good!
14. Not being up to date with app store algorithm changes or updates
When you notice an algorithm change that affects you in the app stores don’t hesitate and react quick!
This mistake has a lot in common with the previous one. We recommend you to follow all the ASO experts mentioned before because for sure they will announce app store algorithm changes on their social media accounts or websites. Google and Apple usually update and improve their own store algorithm few times during a year.
Not being up to date with app store algorithm changes means that if Apple and Google change something in their stores you won’t notice a thing and you won’t be able to react in the right time before your competitors do.
We still remember last 1st of September (2016) when Apple decided to change the length of the App Name from 255 characters to the current 50 characters. The guys from PickASO studied the effect of this change and wrote this interesting study (in spanish).
Last 28th of February Google implemented another change in its Google Play Store search algorithm. Even though they announced that they would reward engagement, lifting apps in the charts, we have seen some strange movements related to keywords rankings, as you can see in the following screenshots:
15. Thinking ASO is SEO for apps
SEO is SEO and ASO is ASO. Maybe they’re similar in some ways, but they are not the same.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of improving the visibility of a website in Google Search. ASO, like we have mentioned some paragraphs before, is the process of optimizing an app store listing in order to maximize visibility (Search & Top Charts), improve conversion rate and get organic installs.
SEO & Search ASO are very similar in some ways, but there is a BIG difference: Paid campaigns don’t have an impact in SEO, but they do in ASO.
Of course, you can do SEO for your mobile app listing or contents (App Packs, App Indexing, etc.), but don’t confuse it with ASO.
Some ASO factors (on + off-metadata) have a direct impact in app store listing SEO, so ASO and SEO are connected.
PS: soon we’re posting a post about apps, SEO and App Packs. Stay tuned!
16. Not tracking…
Not tracking the right ASO KPI
KPI = Key Performance Indicator
As we have mentioned along the whole post, not tracking the right ASO KPI is a big mistake because… What is not measured can not be improved.
We recommend to track the following:
- Keywords rankings – You can track this for your app and your competitors’ apps.
- Top Charts rankings – You can track this for your app and your competitors’ apps.
- Reviews & Ratings – You can track this for your app and your competitors’ apps.
- Conversion Rate – You can track this only for your app.
- Organic Installs – You can track this only for your app.
You should also track competitors’ ASO on-metadata and its updates / changes: app name / title, description and short description (this can help) and organic installs volume and evolution. You can do this with an Attribution partner like AppsFlyer or with Google Play Developer Console in case of Android apps.
Bonus: more ASO mistakes you should avoid
- Changing on-metadata (App Name, keywords, short description, description…) too often
- Stuffing keywords to Title and / or description
- Trying to success with a terrible app / product
- Using brands from others… Don’t do this!
- How I grew an app’s revenue x35 with App Store Optimization in less than 30 days (Medium)
- How App Store Optimization Increased Downloads by 700% (video)
- Increasing the number of keywords in App Store Optimization by localization (MobileGrowthStack)
- The Ultimate Guide To App Store Optimization For Localized Apps (PhraseApp)
- How to Localize Your App to Get More Users (Apptamin)
- Google Play now considers user engagement, not just downloads, in ranking games (TechCrunch)
What do you think of these ASO mistakes? We are waiting for your comments.
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