How to Improve Ranking in the App Store

To keep up to date with all of the latest news in SaaS, sign up here

To stand out among competing apps, understanding App Store Optimization (ASO) for both Android and Apple (and how you can leverage it) will give you an upper hand and boost your app’s visibility considerably. 

App Store Optimization means that you are actively improving your app’s visibility within the app stores. Apple’s App Store for iOS devices and the Google Play Store for Android devices are the two major platforms. 

The goal of ASO is to increase app conversion rates and click-through rate (CTR), as this will impact your app’s ranking. Having a higher-ranking mobile app will take some work, but if you apply ASO best practices, you’re likely to see increased traffic to your app.  

The Importance of ASO for Your App

Imagine spending countless hours developing an incredible app but neglecting the marketing aspect. As a technical developer or founder, it can be easy to get stuck in a mindset of developing your product to perfection.

However, it’s worth considering testing your app to get some early-stage feedback. Responses from potential users will help you shift if needed and ensure you’re solving for the right problem.

Your app can achieve significant organic growth, but to fulfill your apps maximum potential, ASO could very well prove to be worth the effort.  

Why does ranking matter? The higher your app appears in the search results, the more relevant it looks to people searching. Most users don’t typically scroll too far down the page when they are searching for apps. 

However, the goal is not only to rank in a high position but to make sure the right people see your app. If thousands of people see your app but it’s not relevant to them, you could ask yourself what the point is? That’s why you need to create an ASO marketing strategy.  

Top Tips: Adhere to Ranking Factors

Many developers decide to have their apps in both, the Apple App Stores and Google Play Store. This is a great idea! However, to optimize your app perfectly in both stores it is crucial to understand that there are differences. Many things that are really important for Google Play, are not even considered by the Apple App Store. That being said, you need to know about these differences in order to optimize in the best way in each app store.

There are quite a few overlaps in approach between traditional search engine optimization (SEO) and ASO – something we’ll cover in more detail in the next section.

According to Search Engine Journal, app stores are, in effect, a closed site search engine, which in turn rely on:

– Easy content (app content) discovery
– Plus, app ranking algorithms are tied to:
– Perceived app quality
– Freshness
– Brand scale
– User value signals (e.g., reviews, ratings, engagement)

These factors are similar to the ones that matter in SEO, which most entrepreneurs in the tech space are familiar with.

According to Semrush, the following are factors that influence your ranking in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. 

Apple App Store Ranking Factors 

The key ranking factors for iOS apps on the Apple App Store based on the things that you can influence are: 

– App name 
– App subtitle 
– App URL 
– Keywords
– The number of installs 
– Reviews and ratings 
– App updates 
– In-app purchases 

Google Play Store Ranking Factors 

The key ranking factors for Android apps on the Google Play Store based on the things that you can influence are: 

– App title
– App short description
– App long description
– The number of installs
– Reviews and ratings 
– In-app purchases 
– Updates

Create an ASO Strategy

Before you launch your app, or if you’ve already launched and are looking to improve your metrics, here’s what you should focus on: keyword research for app name/app title, app icon, app screenshots, app description and app ratings. These elements work together to increase your CTR. For your text elements, you’ll want to focus on keywords and make sure you’re using the right ones for you.  

Are you thinking about selling your app? Improving ASO could positively affect your app’s growth. Check out our blog on how to build, value and sell your app.  

Optimize Keyword Research

Do your homework on relevant keywords for your niche. There are several great ASO tools out there that can help you find the best performing and most relevant keywords for you.   

According to App Agent, the goal when it comes to keyword research and optimization is to find the most relevant, but least competitive keywords and use them in your app title, description and keyword field. These keywords can then be combined into long-tailed keyword phrases.  

“The trick for high rankings is not in finding the best keywords but in your ability to pick those which generate the highest number of combinations of relevant, high-volume and low-competition long-tail phrases.”  

Stick with one good long-tail keyword and then those combinations around the keyword. This way you’re creating a substantial number of combinations in addition to your app title.  

The ASO tool AppTweak contains features like keyword research, analysis and suggestions, competition analysis with estimated downloads and vital metrics such as impressions, page views, installs and conversion rates to help you make informed decisions and track your ASO efforts.  

It can be tricky to rank for broad terms when you’ve just launched an app. An effective tactic, as mentioned by App Agent, is to incorporate those long-tail keywords. These are keywords that are more than one word.  

Long-tail keywords are more specific and are a great place to start out, more so than trying to compete with broad, highly competitive keywords.  

For example, if you’re creating an app within the fitness category. There are a plethora of health and fitness apps available. Per ASO guidelines to increase your app’s visibility, try including keywords that are longer than one word: instead of only using “fitness,” a long-tail keyword could be “at home workout for moms, “or “bodyweight at-home workout.” Once you’re getting traction on those keywords, you can start using broader term keywords that are more competitive. 

How to Choose the Right Keywords:  

Research is the backbone of picking the right keywords and it’s essential to determine who your target customers are and what they are searching for.  

Phiture outlines the main stages of an ideal keyword strategy with the following points:  

– Research to find keywords
– Prioritize the keywords that matter 
– Target the right metadata with the chosen keywords
– Measure the impact of the selected keywords 

Keyword research helps you understand what people are typing into Google and other search engines and it’ll help you make sure you’re ranking for the keywords your target audience is using.  

Appfollow is a tool you can use to track keywords and positions in search results, monitor metrics like app downloads, re-installs, uninstalls, revenue and get high-level analysis of organic growth. Among their features, the platform offers an “Organic Traffic Dashboard” with major KPIs and keyword research automation using real-time data with difficulty scores and other keyword metrics.  

Meatti, another ASO tool, uses their in-house-developed AI to assist with keyword analysis and selection. They also offer ASO reports that help you identify your app’s potential weaknesses, benchmarking your app against similar apps to show you how to improve your app page.  

According to App Radar, Google and Apple don’t openly disclose exactly how their algorithms work and which factors most heavily impact ranking.  

However, we do know keywords are essential for both Apple App Store and Google Play sStore, but the way their indexing processes work differs. Google Play works a lot like Google Search. Google looks at all the text elements when your app is indexed. Keywords should be repeated about three to five times across all text elements to rank. Apple, however, has a field where you type in your keywords. Therefore, you should not repeat keywords across your app title and description.  

Create a Killer App Landing Page

ASO is a tag-team effort with SEO. You’ll want to drive traffic to your app from external sources and not just within the app stores. Creating a landing page that links to your app will boost your efforts in other channels. Use SEO strategies to optimize your landing page. Include strong keywords in your title, headings and images with alt tags (containing keywords).  Your app landing page is a dedicated page to describe the functions of your app and should be in line with your overall brand visually. The landing page should present a simple and clear interface that gives the potential user a clear picture of your app and its functions. GoodFirms discuss several factors to consider when designing your app’s landing page.  

Write Compelling App Descriptions

In this part of the ASO process, you’ll put your keyword research to good use. Make sure your description is as straightforward as possible while also naturally including your keywords. The description should highlight what your app is all about and describe its main features. You should also have a clear call to action with a solid incentive to download.  

The Apple App Store won’t index your description, but it should still be well thought out and creatively crafted to attract downloads. In the Google Play Store, your description is very impactful when it comes to ranking. This is the leading content that the algorithm indexes. Keep in mind there is a 4000-character description limit in both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.   

Don’t fall for the temptation to stuff your description with keywords. According to Apple, “repetitive and/or irrelevant use of keywords in the app title, description or promotional description can create an unpleasant user experience and can result in an app suspension.” Make sure you keep your description natural and include keywords where it makes sense. Keyword stuffing will also damage your conversion rates, don’t fall for this outdated tactic. Instead, let the users know what’s in it for them right off the bat. Make it clear what your app has to offer.   

Questions to Consider When Writing Your App Description:  

– Is my description informative and easy to understand? 
– Does it have a clear structure? (you can include bullet points) 
– Did I use all relevant keywords without keyword stuffing? (mid and long-tail)  
– Is it 4000 characters or less?  

GIF Maker by Momento utilizes many of the key tactics of ASO in their app description. It’s easy to read and understand. The description contains bullet points and a plethora of relevant keywords.  

Don’t Neglect Visual Elements

Visuals matter. Together with your app name, the icon is your chance at that critical first impression.  

Consider this: less than 2% of users opt in to “read more” in the description section, according to Splitmetrics. A potential user could ignore your app description all together, making your app’s screenshots essential to tell your story and give a positive impression of your app.  

The effort you put into ranking should be reflected in the visuals of your app. Users are searching for your app through keywords, but it’s not enough that they find your app; your visuals should compel them to try it. Conversions are just as necessary as high ranking. Let’s dive into the details of how you can optimize the presentation of your app to get ahead of the competition.  

App Icon  

Your icon should reflect your app’s “personality” and underline the story you’re trying to tell. Try to create an icon that stands out – easier said than done, maybe? Here are a few tips to get you started.  

Keep your icon simple. Focus on one element and avoid trying to fit too many features into your design. Don’t use long words or sentences. Many designs use one letter and solid background colors. The “less is more” principle applies here. It can be helpful to go with a vibrant, eye-catching color to attract attention and don’t be afraid to get playful. Think about your target audience and what they are looking for. Those are the people you’re designing for, so prioritize their preferences when you’re creating. It might be worth looking at your competition and making sure you stand out. 

It’s a good idea to stay updated on current design standards. Google has a design language called Material Design, while Apple has its Human Interface Guidelines. It might be worthwhile to start with these guidelines to help you get an understanding of how your icon should look to attract users. Also, make sure your app icon is the optimal pixel size. Android and iOS have different preferences, so adjust accordingly.  

You’d be wise to do some A/B testing to see which icon will perform the best. Create several versions of your icon and use a service like PickFu to get customer feedback before submitting your app for approval in the respective app stores.  

Questions to consider when designing your app icon: 

– Is it eye-catching and esthetically pleasing? 
– Is it simplistic and functional? 
– Does my icon reflect the desired look and feel of my app? 
– Does it comply with the iOS and Android sizing requirements? 
– Does it follow best practices for design? 
– Have I done A/B testing?  

The guided meditation app Unplug utilizes an eye-catching icon that also communicates its message of serenity through blue tones and white bold font.  

App Screenshots: 

Adding explainer videos and screenshots is your chance to show off the best parts of your app. Ideally, your screenshots should highlight what your app is all about and give a clear picture of its main functionalities. Although screenshots and videos won’t directly affect your ranking, don’t underestimate this part because they help your conversion rate. Your visuals can be the deciding factor for people to download your app when they stumble upon it.  

Let your screenshots and videos tell a story. This is your time to shine and showcase your beautiful and thoughtfully designed app. Your goal is to increase your visibility and encourage people to click on your app. What’s the point of a high ranking in the app stores if your CTR is low? 

Questions to consider when choosing your app screenshots: 

– Do they illustrate what your app looks like?  
– Do they showcase your app’s primary features? 
– Does the layout and sizing match iOS and Android requirements?
– Do they tell a story? 
– Do they stand out from your competitors?  

Videorama: Text and Video Editor, an app that was sold through FE International, showcases its features in a comprehensive way using screenshots in the Apple App Store. Videorama’s screenshots offer a clear visual impression of the app’s main features.   

Pay Attention to Your App Ratings

Ratings and reviews are other factors the app stores use to rank organic search. Google Play Store and Apple App Store both pay attention to what people are saying about your app. Potential users will also look at other customers’ experiences and feedback. But how do you get people to give you their opinion and take the time to leave a review?   

It’s pretty simple. You ask them. There are several plugins available for both Android and iOS to prompt users to leave a rating and review. But the timing matters. You don’t want to ask for a rating right away. Give the user a chance to have a positive experience with your app first. Introduce the prompt after a user engages with your app and has completed a task or a level.   

Remember that customer service is also going to be important when you’re dealing with reviews. Are people having issues? Are there recurring problems that users complain about? You should engage with your users on these topics and let them know you’ll improve the app and address any complaints that come up.  

Take time to consider how you’ll want to ask for ratings and have a plan in place to make sure you’ll be able to respond to users and engage with all the reviews.   Dive even deeper into App Store Optimization with FE International’s App Store Optimization step-by-step Guide.

Don’t forget you can subscribe for free to read the full SaaS Mag including interviews with Asana COO Chris Farinacci, SaaStock Founder Alex Thuema, Tomasz Tunguz, and more…