"If you build it, they will come." Well, not quite. If that was the case, there would be no need for marketing. And marketing for a new app means a lot more than just writing a fitting description for it in the app store.

App Store Optimi­zation (ASO)

You have created a great app. You are convinced of its potential. You upload it to the well-known app stores and wait – but the desired download numbers just don't materialize. This is not necessarily due to the functio­nality or usability of the app. It is more likely that users can’t find your app among the huge range of offers in the app stores. This is where app store optimi­zation comes into play to promote your app.

What is ASO?

App Store Optimi­zation is the perfect means to give your app the success it deserves. Just like search engine optimi­zation (SEO) for websites, ASO tries to improve an app's visibility – especially in search results. It’s not unlike classic search engines, but the focus is on Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store. This is precisely why, despite a similar overall goal, there are clear differences in the methods employed by SEO and ASO.

The goal of ASO is to get better ranking results than the competition, by encouraging users to download and engage with your app.

What types of apps are there?

It's not just from a technical point of view that you should distinguish between different app techno­logies. From a marketing perspective, it is also important to know what type of app you want to provide, because this will present you with different challenges.

In terms of App Store optimi­zation, a native app stands clearly at the forefront. However, there are also other options available if you want to build an application: PWA and SPA, however, are where classic SEO plays more of a role.

Progressive Web App (PWA)

A Progressive Web App (PWA) is actually a website, but it behaves like an app. Therefore, this app type is based on the basic pillars of the web: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Thanks to the so-called Service Worker, a JavaScript component for the app, the application can cache data and therefore make it available offline . A file called the App Manifest allows the PWA to be installed on a smartphone's home screen.

Advantages
  • Simple programming
  • Independent publishing (you don't have to rely on app stores)
Disadvantages
  • Only condi­tionally suitable for iOS
  • Only limited access to device features

Single Page App (SPA)

Similar to a PWA, but different: The Single Page App (SPA) is also a website, but solves everything via JavaScript. Therefore, the SPA does not change the URL even during loading processes. This makes the app very fast and creates a pleasant user experience.

Advantages
  • Fast processing of user input
  • Independent publishing (you don't have to rely on app stores)
Disadvantages
  • Not as powerful as a PWA
  • Difficult to market from an SEO perspective, because in SEO each URL stands for different content

Native Mobile App

The native mobile app is the app that most people are most familiar with. It is installed on smartphones and tablets and offers the widest possible range of functions: from simple information apps to complex software solutions. Since these appli­cations can be installed almost exclusively through app stores, this is where ASO comes in to play for marketing the apps.

Advantages
  • High functio­nality
  • Works smoothly with device features
Disadvantages
  • Complex programming for each operating system
  • Release is tied to app stores

Preparing for Market Launch: Getting Started with ASO

If you have decided to create a Native App, your marketing work begins well before the release. This will make it easier for you to truly market your app later.

Incentivize user reviews

A man at a desk is using a smart phone. Hovering over the image in the foreground are various star ratings that other users have posted for an app.

When programming your application, keep in mind that the app also needs to be promoted. One essential tool for this is user reviews. Many good ratings and comments are important signals to the app stores. But app users don't tend to give these ratings on their own. You have to encourage them to do so. Therefore, build the request for stars and comments directly into the app – with an appropriate trigger: ask for a rating when users of the app have just experienced a sense of achievement (for example, after an in-app purchase or when reaching a certain game level). Both stores allow you to receive reviews through the app.

Publish an accom­panying website

In addition to the app, you should also have an associated website on the Internet. This allows users to find out about the app beforehand. On the website, for example, you might include informative videos about the app. Users who are already using the app will also find instruc­tions, support, or the opportunity to send you feedback on the website. For the latter, you should provide different options: Email, chat and phone, for example.

The advantage of the website is also that it allows you to utilize classic search engine optimi­zation (SEO). Optimize the website so that it can achieve a good ranking on Google and other search engines and use this to promote the app as well. Additio­nally, use the website to promote, for example, a newsletter.

Implement OG:Tags

Open Graph Tags ensure that your websites and apps are eye-catching in social media. Title, description, thumbnail - you can set all this information on your own with OG:Tags. You have control over how links to your website or app are displayed in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Of particular interest to apps, Apple's Spotlight search also uses the Open Graph protocol. This can be used as well to make an app more popular.

Use Deep Linking

If a website and an associated app offer the same functio­nality , you should also link them together. To do this, use deep linking. In this method, URIs (Uniform Resource Identifier) in the app are related to URLs (Unified Resource Locator) on the website via lists. At Apple, they use Universal Links , at Google, they are called Android App Links.

With deep links and a good website, you can promote the app even better: Apps themselves cannot currently be searched for content, but websites can. Users find the content of your app on Google. There, you can then encourage users to use your services through a native app. App users tend to be much more loyal.

Directly Improve App Store Ranking at Launch

Now that you have published your app, the next step is to increase its visibility. There are a few different ways to improve search optimi­zation in the app stores. While the two major app stores use different, largely secret algorithms, many methods work in both Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store.

The launch of an app is an important moment for future success. It is advisable to plan this well and to already prepare all measures to raise awareness for the app. A soft launch, as is common for other new products, does not work in the sense of ASO. So accompany the launch with other marketing tactics, such as certain social media activities, in order to make a big splash right from the start.

Ranking Factors to Consider

There are two different types of ranking factors in the app stores: static and dynamic.

Static ranking factors are set when the app is uploaded to the store and can then only be adjusted to a limited extent – primarily, only when a version is changed. These factors include:

App name: The name of your app should be unique and memorable. But also reveal the main benefit (possibly thus also the most important keyword) in the title of the app. So users know immediately what your app is for.

App metadata: The metadata can be adapted to each new version. The various app descrip­tions are parti­cularly good for accommo­dating keywords in addition to important information. When changing the metadata, it is recommended to try out new keywords as well.

App icon: The icon is usually the first thing users see. It should be profes­sionally designed and fit the app, thus promoting downloads. In addition to the icon, place meaningful screenshots in the app description.

The dynamic ranking factors are constantly changing and can only be influenced by you to a limited extent. These factors are:

Download numbers: The more people who have already installed your app, the higher the app stores rank it.

Ratings: Users can assign star ratings. Both the number of ratings and the ratio of positive to negative ratings play a role.

Uninstalls: The app stores also check how many users uninstall the app. App deletions that are carried out shortly after instal­lation are parti­cularly impactful.

ANR-Rate: Under the term "App not responsive", the app stores collect crashes and errors in your application. These then flow into the ranking as negative signals.

Optimize metadata

Just like search engine optimi­zation, metadata plays a big role in ASO. Write the description of your app in such a way that the details encourage people to download it. Mention the app’s most important features – and be honest: Promised but non-existent features will lead to the app being deleted right away.

In addition, the use of keywords in the metadata is important: These enable users to also find your app based on matching search terms. ASO therefore also includes keyword research. When optimizing metadata, also consider the following points:

Conduct separate keyword research for each country in which you want to be active. The differences can be enormous. Popular tools for research include  Sensor Tower or  App Radar.

The most important keywords (usually those with the highest search volume) are then placed at the beginning of your short description. You have a maximum of just 80 characters here. For the longer description, users have to first click. You therefore want to include the most important part already in the short description.

In the long description you have 4,000 characters at your disposal. This is where you place less important keywords. Even if this area is less crucial for ASO, you should write a readable text that encourages download.

The App Store from Apple also allows a short promotional text above the description. Here you have another 170 characters to inform about news related to the app. New features or important improve­ments can be advertised here. The promotional text can be changed at any time without having to upload a new version of the app.

Measures for the continued success of your app

Once you have published your app, the most important part of App Store optimi­zation is already done. But you need to stay on the ball in the future as well. Therefore, pay attention to the following tasks:

Planning app updates: Every update to your software is an opportunity for you to adjust metadata and try out new keyword combi­nations. So align development and marketing.

Use other marketing measures: To guarantee the success of your app, you should not only rely on ASO. Always accompany the app with other marketing activities.

Use App Store Advertising: The app stores allow you to use paid advertising to promote the app. This can give your app a little boost, which can also positively influence ASO.

Analyze performance: Download numbers and star ratings are a good indication, but you can get even more information about your app's performance using Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Providers like  AppsFlyer and  Flurry can also provide interesting information.