ASO Guide - Reach Your First 1M Downloads - Comprehensive Guide to ASO

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VIEWS: 11209 Views CATEGORY: SEO READING TIME: 14 Min To Read UPLOADED ON: 05 Sep 2018

With app stores paying out billions of dollars to developers (Apple has paid out over $100 billion since inception) and seeing hundreds of billions of app downloads every year (more than 175 billion downloads in 2017 in places like Google Play Store), the mobile app market has become pretty attractive, and by extension, competitive for developers.

As of March 2017, there were 2.8 million apps in Google Play Store and 2.2 million in the Apple App Store, according to Statista. With these huge numbers and levels of competition, how can you stand out or even dominate your niche as a developer or one who runs an app for your business?

Enter App Store Optimization (ASO).

By its simplest definition, App Store Optimization is optimising a mobile app to maximise its visibility in the app store, increasing traffic to its listing page, and improving its conversion rate to download.

This boosts the app's position in the search results and top charts rankings within operating system-native stores like Google Play, Apple App Store, Windows Phone Store, and BlackBerry App World.

To understand better, take ASO to the app stores what SEO is to the traditional search engines. Thus, it is often referred to as App Store Search Engine Optimization (App Store SEO), App Search Optimization, and Mobile App SEO.

Ready to move in and supercharge your app downloads? Let's do it!

NOTE: There's a fantastic 5-point bonus tip towards the end of this guide, which you can use to crush the competition in any app store. Ensure you read to the end to get it!

The Goal of ASO

The primary goal of any ASO strategy is always to generate the maximum amount of app downloads. However, there are other objectives and benefits to keep in mind, including:

  1. Stable Revenue (through app purchases, subscriptions, or ads)

  2. Better engagement

  3. Positive app reviews and ratings

  4. Increased brand exposure

  5. Improved app discoverability

  6. Increase in organic installs

  7. Improved Conversion Rate to Download (CRD)

  8. Lower ECPI (Effective Cost Per Install — in case you run paid marketing campaigns)

When creating an ASO strategy, it's vital that you focus not only on downloads but on these other objectives also.

Why do ASO?

Do you know what happens to a considerable number of app publishers?

When launching their first app, they often think that because their app is "so awesome," it'll automatically get millions of downloads. So they usually don't pay attention to ASO, picking keywords and writing descriptions at the last second during an app's submission process. Next, they would upload their app to the app store and wait for the millions of downloads to pour in. And then wait for some more. But in reality, nothing happens other than a few downloads per day!

Frustrated, they turn to paid advertisement campaigns. But soon realised that paid ads are no child's play, especially for starters. For instance, on the Apple App Store, the cost-per-install of an advertising campaign can easily reach US$1 to US$5. In addition, you need at least 40k installs per day to get to the top 25.

But you know… don't have to go through all that sticky wicket.

With the right App Store Optimization strategy and execution plan, you can join the league of intelligent, growth-conscious devs who get millions of hits every other month. ASO becomes even more imperative when you realise that SEARCH is currently the #1-way users discover new apps in the app stores.

Precisely, 65 per cent of users rely on app store search to discover new apps… And 63 per cent of apps are found through app store searches.

Again, in a recent Google I/O, Ankit Jain said that search makes up most installs for the average app.

If you're not doing ASO, you're missing out on your app's most extensive discovery channel available. In short, it could be likened to running a website without plugging into the astronomical traffic opportunity traditional search engines offer through SEO.

App stores are a kind of search engine, and there are quite a few overlaps between SEO and ASO.

The ASO/SEO Overlap

The fact is that there are more overlaps between ASO and SEO than there is direct competition. In other words, some of the traditional search engine optimisation tactics that work for SEO gains can also be directly applied to ASO.

For example, app ranking algorithms use some of the most popular ranking signals as standard search engines:

  • Keyword signals

  • User value signals (e.g., reviews, ratings, engagement)

  • Metadata descriptions (app name, title, subtitle, etc.)

  • Context (personalized/localized content)

These are all important ranking signals in SEO. And yes, they also matter in ASO.

Just take a look at the top 5 most influential ASO factors as found in the ASO Factors & Trends for 2018 expert survey by, and you'll understand better:


The study surveyed 60+ international ASO and app marketing experts, who were asked to evaluate the effect of different on-metadata and off-metadata factors on Search Rankings and Conversion Rates of mobile apps and games. Beyond these signals, there's also the mobile nexus. We've recently witnessed mobile devices overtaking desktops as the primary channel for accessing the web.

But mobile is not just about web browsing. Mobile has redefined the software industry, and apps have become one of the most intuitive ways to reach customers. A study found that 26% of mobile searches start with a branded app.

And then, there's the web traffic integration.

As with SEO, traffic directly impacts app rankings — the more traffic an app listing receives, the better its order will be in-app store search results. Thus, it'll be a significant mobile app marketing mistake to overlook the role of your website in driving volumes of referral traffic directly to your app store page. In essence, you ought to treat your website as a  mission-critical tool for leading and guiding people from being mere information-seeking, undeciding visitors to engaged, download-ready prospects.

Typically, content levels are limited within the app stores (Apple App Store allows only 100 characters, for instance). But that should be an opportunity for you to leverage your website content to increase app awareness, external app authority, and visibility.

How to Optimize Your App Store Page

Let's now get into the meat of this guide:

To optimise your app store page successfully, you will have to focus on the key factors influencing ASO (as we've discussed).

With that in mind, here are the key steps to concentrate on:

  1. Researching and Optimizing Keywords

  2. Improving Conversion Rate to Download

  3. Tracking KPIs to Improve Performance

Let's discuss each one in greater detail:
Researching and Optimizing Keywords

You need to target the right keywords for your app to gain high visibility. Hence, keyword research is the first essential step in ASO. According to research by MobileDevHQ (now Tune), using keywords in your title can result in up to a 10.3 per cent boost in rankings.

How do you find the best keywords?


Step #1: Carry out a market research

The first thing is to get a basic understanding of the market you're getting into.

  • What are you offering?

  • Who are your target users?

  • Who are your main competitors? What category do they belong to? What keywords are they ranking for?


Step #2: Create an initial keyword list

After your market research, brainstorm for the initial list of keywords based on your market research findings.

Here are some tips:

  • Describe your product and the tasks it performs, and find the hidden keywords in your description.

  • Think about your audience and the words they use.

  • Check out your competitors and steal the keywords, bringing them the most business.

  • Get help with a keyword suggestions tool.


Step #3: Define the final keyword set
After you've created a large set of keywords, it's time to analyse and prioritise them, identifying the most important ones. You'd want to pick high-visibility keywords with a good balance between high traffic and medium difficulty (not too competitive).

Integrating keywords the right way

Once your keywords are ready, the next step is to integrate them into the textual elements of your app store listing. While most of the strategies in this guide apply across the board to the different app stores, Apple App Store and Google Play Store have two very different approaches regarding ASO keywords.

Why? Because they operate entirely different search algorithms.

Let's explore the keyword approaches for each store:

Google Play

Google Play Store takes an approach similar to standard SEO in ranking apps. First, there is a provision for 4,000 characters for you to describe your app in a natural, user-focused language. From that 4k provision, Google will scan your app store page to extract relevant keywords from your app description to rank your app.

But don't be tempted to try to game the search engine just because you're given 4k characters. Don't try to stuff your app description with lots of keywords. Instead, try to sprinkle relevant keywords where they naturally make sense.

Aim for 2 to five repetitions. A recent Sensor Tower study discovered that the maximum number of times to repeat a keyword in an app store product page is five. That's the number of repetitions, at which point you will maximise the likelihood of ranking prominently for that keyword.

Put differently, don't write your description for the search algorithm, but for the user first, just like modern web content.

After first writing for the customer, you can make minor edits for keywords.

Besides the 4k long description, Google Play also provides an 80-character field for "Short Description." The Short Description is meant to emphasise what your app is about briefly. Try to include your main keyword here.

Apple App Store

The iOS App Store approach differs from the Google Play Store.

It provides you with a 100-character keyword field and then exclusively uses the title and whatever keywords or keyword phrases you include in these 100 characters to determine which search strings your app will show up for. With this in mind, it's pivotal to use all the character space provided and carefully add your keywords to maximise organic traffic.

In place of Short Description, Apple provides a 30-character space for subtitles. This was recently introduced with iOS 11 to highlight your app's full functionalities and features, and it has an effect not only on search rankings but also your app's conversion rate.

Optimising Conversion Rate to Download

The whole point of ASO is to increase your app downloads. So after optimising the app product page for search results, you would want to improve the Conversion Rate to increase your download. Without this, your app listing may receive thousands or even millions of visits but not many downloads.

For best results, it's good to optimise for Click-Through-Rate (CTR) or Tap-Through-Rate (TTR) and Conversion Rate to Download (CRD). CTR or TTR measures the number of users that see your app in Search, Top Charts and Featured AND tap to view its product page. CRD estimates the number of users visiting your product page and downloading it.


Now, regarding app store conversion rate optimisation, some factors determine whether or not users will click download. These are:

  • App size

If your app size is unreasonably large, users will prefer to download competitive apps that are smaller in size. Even worse, apps over 100MB can't be downloaded using cellular service.

  • User ratings

If your app rocks 1 out of 5 stars ratings, users will automatically think it's a low-quality app or people don't like it. And so they'll pass. Aim for 4.0 - 5.0 stars ratings.

  • Visual components

Visuals probably have the most robust grip on conversion. If your visuals are bad, your whole package will turn down users and ultimately conversion. Below are some of the most essential visual elements to keep an eye on:

  • Icon: Your app icon is probably the first thing users see when searching or navigating the stores. Create a great first impression by making your hero stand out beautifully. Be creative and unique.

  • Videos: You've heard how that action speaks louder than words, right? Videos are a powerful opportunity for you to "show" users what your app can do versus "tell" them. Videos are displayed differently in the two leading app stores. On Google Play Store, your video (YouTube link) is displayed at the top of the product page. App Store's video previews will autoplay on mute and appear in search results and the product page.

  • Screenshots: App screenshots help 'spotlight your app's key features. They allow you to display pictures of how valuable your app can be. On Google Play Store, you can add up to 8 different screenshots, while on App Store, you can add up to 10.


If you make efforts to improve these three elements — app size, user ratings, and visual content — your app's CTR and CRD will be impacted positively. One thing you can do is to A/B test the visuals until they stick. For Google Play, there's an A/B testing tool in the developer console (with Google Experiments). For Apple App Store, you will need to integrate third-party tools.

In any case, A/B testing will help you find the best marketing elements to use on your mobile app marketing through a data-driven approach. What's more, to take your app's overall performance to the next level, tracking and improving key performance indicators (KPIs) is just what to do:

Tracking KPIs to Improve Performance
Let's jump straight into the most important KPIs to track and improve for your app store listing:

  • Conversion Rate metrics

Given that the primary goal of ASO is to increase downloads, it's only wise to track your conversion rates to know how to improve them. The key metrics to follow in this group include CTR/TTR and CRD.

  • Visibility metrics

The metrics to track in this group include keyword ranking in search results, top charts rankings (including Free, Paid and Grossing), category rankings, and featured rankings.

  • App Monetization metrics

The monetisation metrics to track include Average Revenue per User (ARPU) — obtained by dividing the total revenue by the number of users, Lifetime Value (LTV) — a prediction of the amount of Revenue that a particular user will generate, and Revenue — total income generated by your app.

  • User Feedback

User feedback has a significant impact on both search rankings and conversion rates. It's a critical ASO factor. Tracking and measuring user feedback will help you find the best ways to create a product perception that supports growth.

Bonus: Let's crush the competition!

Here are the 5-point bonus tips we talked about earlier. They'll help you take your app marketing game to the next height:

  1. Localisation: If you look at the TheTool expert survey we cited, you will notice that the "localised product page" is considered the top two most influential ASO factors for both Google Play and Apple App Store. If you want to scale your app, localisation is necessary. The reason is that nearly 5 billion unique mobile users search for apps using local elements like their own language. Why not use the opportunity to turn them into customers? It's advisable to work with an extensive list of keywords — at least 60-120 per country. Users would often instead carry out specific, local searches than broad ones.

  2. Backlinks: You probably already know that backlinks are the most important Google ranking signal for web search results. But did you know backlinks are also potent regarding app rankings, especially on Google Play Store? Ensure you build backlinks for your app page, and your competitors will be surprised at your results.

  3. Relevant keywords by users: We already gave you some methods of discovering relevant keywords for your app. Here's one we didn't mention: Check user reviews to find exciting keyword ideas. On Google Play, keywords in studies are also taken into account by the ranking algorithm.

  4. Video indexation: Your Google Play Store video does get indexed by Google and can help you gain high positions in Google web search results. Also, the views from Google Play Store count as YouTube views. This is great for getting an edge over competitors with no videos.

  5. Categorisation: App categories also influence app rankings. You may find you rank higher in one category than the other. That's why it's essential to tweak your classes, or if your app does more than one thing, you can choose more than one category.


Just as SEO is necessary for top web search rankings, App Store Optimization is also required for your app to gain high positioning in result pages of app stores. With a working ASO strategy, effective execution plan, consistent tracking, and performance improvement, you will be able to stand out in the app stores.

But do keep in mind that ASO, just like SEO, is a constantly changing phenomenon. App stores keep updating their algorithms, so you must stay abreast and continually tweak and test things. See our freemium toolkits for search engine optimisation for the tools to work with.

You can also find us on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Linkedin, and the Smallseotools blog will keep you updated with all new happenings in SEO and ASO.


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