App Store Optimization Part 1: What The Heck Is It?

Published: 10/04/2012, Last Updated: 10/04/2012

Whether you’re a seasoned developer who has submitted many different apps to the various consumer digital storefronts available, or you’re a newbie who’s just getting started in this exciting field, you’ve probably already run into the problem of getting your app noticed once it’s submitted. It’s nice to think that a simple upload will deliver the kind of customer interaction (and let’s face it, profit!) that you’ve always dreamed about, however, the reality is that it just doesn’t work that way. That’s where app store optimization comes into play: basically, this is search engine optimization targeted at getting apps noticed in not only app stores, but in search engine results. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the bare basics of ASO, going over the most important aspects that developers can start implementing right now as they look to submit their apps.

What is ASO?

If search engine optimization is the practice of making your website the best it can be for both search engines and search engine users, then app store optimization (ASO) is the practice of making your app the best it can be for both search engines and search engine users as well. There are similarities between the two as far as ranking factors, optimization opportunities, and developer-specific copy, but there’s also a lot of new ground to cover.

App stores are still very much in their infancy, and so is app store optimization. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available across a wide variety of app store platforms, and even just basic knowledge of ASO can boost one app over the other, providing measurable advantages over the competition. Right now, because this field is still so new, there exist multiple opportunities for even the most basic of apps to outshine and outrank their competition.

More than one app store to choose from=greater opportunities

With how new the app ecosystem is, there are multiple digital storefronts and therefore multiple platforms that a developer can take advantage of as far as optimization. These stores include Apple’s App Store, Google Play, and the Windows App Store, among others. Each store has its own requirements for developers as far as app guidelines and submission boundaries, and each store necessitates its own special set of app store optimization factors.

Now, you might be asking yourself the question “why do I need to optimize my app differently for different app stores?” Back in the early days of the Web, when there were multiple search engines to choose from and there existed healthy competition between them all (rather than today’s somewhat monopolized version of the online landscape), savvy content publishers were able to take advantage of this competitive Web, optimizing their content in different ways for whichever search engine they wanted to rank most highly in. Nowadays, search engines view the Web somewhat homogeneously and there’s really no point in optimizing content this way; however, the app store ecosystem is still new enough that apps can be tweaked to fit the unique flavor of whatever app store they might be in, therefore potentially increasing their ranking and customer interaction.

A few stats to think about

It’s not enough to just create a great app, upload it to an app store, then walk away. Let’s consider some recent stats on uploaded apps from a few of the major players:

The statistics can be overwhelming when you consider that any new app uploaded to these stores has to compete against a whole host of other apps numbering in the hundreds of thousands. How can you differentiate your app from all the other ones out there? How can one app break the surface and get noticed by its target market? Is it even possible to get on the charts with these kinds of numbers?

While the numbers are impressively large, they can also serve as a deterrent. It’s difficult to imagine how one app could possibly break through all the noise to signal ratio and make a significant connection with customers, let alone get downloaded, ranked, and move up the charts. However, these numbers – in the grand scheme of the Web – aren’t really all that remarkable. Comparing a few hundred thousand apps to a few hundred billion (and counting) Web pages, you start to get a feel for what the opportunities in app store optimization really are. With just a few practical, common sense tweaks, developers can make their apps big fishes in a relatively small pond.

In the next article in this app store optimization series, we’ll go over the basics of what ASO means for developers looking to get their apps noticed in the various app stores available. This includes information on the following:

  • App name: how to make sure it gets noticed by the right people
  • App keywords: general guidelines on how to conduct effective keyword research
  • App description: how to write a description that conveys  your message effectively
  • App icon: how to design your icon so it stands out

Next, check out part two in this series to learn about ranking factors. Now it’s your turn: if you’ve submitted an app to any app store, what has been your experience with getting it noticed? What kind of app store optimization best practices would you suggest for others? Please share your experience in the comments. 

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