How Do Apps Get Discovered?

Published: 10/21/2013   Last Updated: 10/21/2013

You’ve done the hard work of coming up with an idea for an app; you’ve slogged through the process of coding it into life, and now it’s time to release your creation into the wild blue yonder, where it will organically rank high in search, pull down one gushing review after another, and make it into the Top Ten list of every app store available on the planet. Right? Well, maybe not. There are a few steps missed in there on the way to greater app visibility; unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply create something and expect that the hard work is done. In reality, that’s just the beginning.

app store optimization

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App stores are the online marketplaces where apps from all over the world can be found, anything from teaching yourself how to play the piano to social media dashboards to light saber simulators. ASO, or app store optimization, is all about positioning your app in an app store so more people will download it; it’s not an automatic process, unfortunately:

“ASO is the process of optimizing mobile apps to rank higher in an app store’s search results. The higher your app ranks in an app store’s search results, the more visible it is to potential customers. That increased visibility tends to translate into more traffic to your app’s page in the app store.

The goal of ASO is to drive more traffic to your app’s page in the app store, so searchers can take a specific action: downloading your app.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:

“Today, the most common approach to ASO is no approach at all. Developers often pick keywords and write descriptions at the last second during an app’s submission process. In most cases, little or no research on keyword searches occurs before the app submission, leaving most apps hidden and the likelihood of discovery quite low.” - App Store Optimization,

Organically impacting search results

One of the key factors in ASO is figuring out what keywords to target when submitting your app to the various digital storefronts available to you. It’s smart to do some research using free tools that are widely available online.

Keyword research is an essential part of optimizing your site or app. It’s smart to find more targeted keywords that speak to exactly what your app is about, rather than vague, generalized keywords that while might be relevant would be extremely difficult to rank highly for. For example, perhaps your app is about art. Instead of trying to rank for the very vague “art”, it would be much easier to compete using the words “van Gogh”, “Picasso”, or even “art for kids”. These kinds of keywords and keyword phrases are called “long tail keywords”; they are descriptive, specific keywords that are much easier to rank more highly for within app stores, and they make it much easier for customers to find your app.

While the Google Adwords Keyword Tool has been somewhat deprecated in recent months, only offering its services if you have an Adwords account, it’s definitely worth signing up for the breadth and width of data that it makes available to you. Google’s keyword tool gives you a list of keywords directly derived from and/or related to your original search query, search volume, search competition, and both local and global search trends. You can also use this keyword search tool to estimate possible Web traffic for these terms, filter keywords based on a wide range of different factors, and display ideas that are specifically tailored to your website and/or app copy.

Google Trends gives you an instant synopsis of the Google searches that are receiving the greatest traffic (updated hourly), understand which subjects have been searched for the most (or the least) over a period of time, check if particular keywords have appeared in Google News, examine search patterns geographically, and much more. It's a keyword search tool with numerous diverse uses that help you gain a sense of how a certain keyword phrase could potentially perform now in comparison to historical data, geographically, and much more. It's a keyword search tool with numerous diverse uses that help you gain a sense of how a certain keyword phrase could potentially perform now in comparison to historical data.

Word of mouth

A recent study from explored best practices – including ASO, keyword research, and basic search engine optimization – for developers looking to get their apps noticed in various app stores. Far more than onscreen factors, word of mouth and peer influence are the dominant factors in whether or not an app tends to go viral:

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More from the Forrester blog:

“However, having your app stand out from the crowd is far from just mastering App Store optimization or mobile advertising. Even if you could crack the Apple App Store ranking algorithm, you would still have to deliver a differentiated experience to maintain your app in the list of top 50 or top 100 applications. The use of advanced analytics and push notifications to maintain the quality of the app over time is key……Recommendations from friends and family, as well as social app discovery, are critical. According to Forrester's European Technographics® Consumer Technology Online Survey, Q4 2012, up to 50% of iPhone users report that they first learned about an app by speaking with friends and family, versus only 41% of Android users. Nineteen percent of European iPhone users and 15% of European Android users report that they initially learned of their mobile apps on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Influencing the influencers and integrating social features into your app will be increasingly key.” – “The AppGratis Controversy and the Mobile App Discovery and Promotion”, Blog

More than words

You can actually become a big fish in a small pond using ASO processes to organically outshine the competition, but it’s definitely not a magic bullet. There’s a lot to getting your app noticed, and while the proper keywords and app store optimization is definitely part of the puzzle, there’s also the somewhat mystical “word of mouth” factor, reviews, and app store rankings. What would you say to a developer who’s looking to get their app noticed? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.



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