Last February, the total number of apps available for download in Google Play Store had breached the 2 million mark. Cut to March 2017 – and the overall app-count here is already up to 2.8 million, an increase of around 40% (YoY). On average, 8 out of 10 app downloads in the Play Store happen through organic search, highlighting the importance of following effective app store optimization (ASO) strategies. The percentage of ‘zombie apps’ (i.e., the ones which are not discoverable through organic search) in Play Store is rather alarmingly high – and in what follows, we will highlight some tips and pointers to ensure proper optimization of your new Android application at the store:
- Use keywords intelligently – Do some research to find out the terms and words that people are likely to use while searching for the type of mobile app you have developed. For instance, if yours is a children’s app, phrases like ‘mobile app for kids’ and ‘Android app for children’ should feature in your targeted keywords. There are several good keyword planner tools – like Wordstream, Appcodes, Google Keyword Planner and Wordpot – which can help you jot down the best set of keywords for any particular application.
- Keyword placement – Unlike the descriptions in Apple App Store, those in Google Play Store are indexed and are searchable by online search engines. Hence, it is of paramount importance to place your selected keywords in the app descriptions here. The main keyword(s) should be present in the description about 4-5 times. Make sure that the words go with the flow of the description, and do not appear forced. Do not get too eager and spam the description by overusing the keyword(s). Also, the main keyword should be present in the title/name of the app. That bolsters discoverability manifold.
- Length of the title – The length of the app title you choose should not go beyond 30 characters (for iOS apps, the benchmark is 50 characters). Flouting this regulation would result in a part of the app title not being visible to people – serving as a distraction, and lowering the chances of downloads. According to a recent Fiksu report, using keywords correctly in the title can boost an app’s ranking in Play Store by 90-100 positions (potential downloads increasing by close to 300%).
- App description – Most smartphone users will take time out to get an idea about what a new app does, before taking a call on whether to download it or not. The description section is the place where Android developers get the opportunity of convincing users about the merits of their software. In the Play Store, two separate descriptions have to be created for your app. The maximum length of the ‘short description’ is 80 characters, and it should be able to capture the attention of viewers rightaway (precise verbs and descriptions are essential). The ‘long description’ on the other hand, can have up to 4000 characters. Use bullet points and short, crisp paragraphs to outline the main features and benefits of your application. Use the keyword(s) optimally over here. Doing so can take up the ranking of your app by 8-10 positions.
Note: Placing a keyword more than 5 times has no additional advantages – and can, in fact, be detrimental (due to spam considerations).
5. Create and add a Promo Video – Probably the biggest ASO tool in the hands of Android app development experts is the ‘Promo Video’. A short YouTube video – highlighting the main USPs/features of an app – can be easily added as the first visual asset of the app’s page in the Play Store. Make it a point to focus on the most unique properties of your app in the ‘Promo Video’. Researches have shown that using a suitable video and featured graphics can pull up the conversion rate of an app (the ratio of actual downloads to the number of page visits) by nearly 26%.
6. The icon factor – When anyone searches for an app, the first thing (s)he sees in the results is the icon image. The icon you use should be nicely designed, and it should convey some idea of what the app is all about to prospective users. Ideally, there should not be any text present on the icon – simply because that would interrupt with the visibility of the image (i.e., no keyword(s) on icon). A good app icon – something that your audience can understand and relate to – can be a great visual boost. Clickthrough rates (CTR) and download count can go up significantly.
7. The importance of great screenshots – The screenshots you upload in the store (along with the Promo Video) serve as the first points-of-interaction (PoI) between your app and its probable users. You can upload a maximum of 8 screenshots in the Play Store (as opposed to 5 in Apple App Store). Highlight the most important screens here…the ones that showcase the key features of your app. Small lines of text/captions – explaining the screens – can also be present. The app screenshots you submit have to be 24-bit PNG or JPEG images, with a minimum dimension of 320 pixels. High-quality screenshots enhance the visual appeal of an app, and explain the software to users as well. Separate screenshots have to be submitted in case your app has a customized for tablets (i.e., to be featured under ‘Designed for tablets’).
Note: For apps that have versions for Android Wear and Android TV, additional screenshots (one and two respectively (minimum)) have to be uploaded.
8. Meta description of Play Store apps – On Google, the ‘title’ and the ‘meta description’ tags are vital for app store optimization (just like in SEO). The initial 167 characters of your app description are automatically included as the ‘meta description’ by the search engine. That, in turn highlights the importance of placing keywords optimally in this section of the description. The keywords you select should ideally have high search volumes and relatively low competition levels. Optimized meta descriptions are instrumental in enhancing the organic discoverability of apps.
9. Reviews and testimonials – Peer opinions matter a lot, when it comes to deciding whether to download a new application or not. Nearly 89% Android phone users check out the existing ratings and reviews on an app’s page, before taking the next action (either download or move away). Make sure that your app is good enough to garner 4-star or 5-star ratings from users. The importance of proper app testing should be reiterated in this context. It is easier to get a buggy app approved on Play Store (than on App Store) – but such bugs would inevitably hamper with user-experiences, and lead to low ratings and negative feedback, putting paid to your ambitions of getting it featured at the store. Keep monitoring the ‘growth of downloads’ metric for the last 30 days. That, along with the total download volume, and the number and level of ratings, are important components of the Play Store algorithm.
Note: Don’t just rely on users actually coming back to the store to review your app. Actively ask for feedback, and ensure that reviews/ratings can be submitted from within the app. Reminders can also be generated as pop-ups from time to time.
10. Create a strong backlink profile – The similarities between ASO and SEO continue with the relevance of backlinks for organic search. Try to get your Android app reviewed/mentioned in high-traffic app-related websites (and get links from that page, to your app’s page in Play Store). Any good mobile app company will have its own web blog as well – and a new app has to be written about in detail over there as well. Avoid trying to get links from low-quality, spammy sites. They will do more harm than good in the long-run.
11. Translations for global exposure – English is far from being the only language you should concentrate on, while optimizing your Android application. In terms of downloads and revenue, Japanese, Russian, German and French are all important languages – and if you wish to target global users, your app should have separate descriptions in different languages. Instead of depending on Google Translations (which is often erratic), avail the services of a professional linguistic expert for the purpose. It is only natural that if a person cannot understand the app’s description, (s)he won’t bother downloading it…a simple extension of the ‘cannot read, will not buy’ rule of thumb.
12. Optimize the featured graphic – The importance of ‘promo videos’ of apps to get viewers engaged has already been highlighted. Whether people actually click on the ‘Play’ button of the video depends a lot on the quality of featured graphic image you create. This feature is no longer optional – and more importantly, the featured graphics are often displayed in organic search results as well. The graphic you upload should be of 1024×500 px, and it should include the name of the app (along with a few descriptive words). Leading Android app makers put prime importance on the role of the featured graphic in making a favourable first impression on target users.
In addition to the ‘on-site’ Play Store optimization strategies discussed above, ASO for Android apps should include ‘offsite’ activities as well. These include publishing press releases and guest posts about a new app, going for app review exchanges on Facebook and G+, and regular tweets on various interesting points about the software. Robust pre-launch marketing is also necessary, to create a buzz about your app. The Android app marketplace is extremely competitive – and unless your ASO strategies are strong enough, your product might get drowned in the crowd.