Apple App Store Optimization Explained
Today apps are a dime a dozen. With everything from this app to that app, how do you compete? There is an endless stream of game apps, workout apps, lifestyle apps and productivity apps coming out regularly.
How can you avoid getting lost?
Ranking in the app store and showing up high in search results would certainly be a nice start…
So how does Apple do their app store rankings?
Just like Google and their search engine algorithm, Apple is never going to expose the formula for exactly how they rank apps that you can follow. And the likelihood is that their method for rankings and search results are always changing.
But also, just like Google’s algorithm, the goal of Apple’s store rankings is to get the most relevant results in front of their customers as soon as possible. We can assume that their current system, and all future updates, will work towards this goal.
That being said, there are a few factors we know play a significant role in the rankings.
1) Keywords in the App Title
Using keywords in the app title is currently a very effective tactic for showing up early in search results. This tactic is old school. This tactic isn’t pretty. I can’t even say that we recommend this tactic as it can damage your brand image.
But, it does work.
You can also use the descriptive copy and meta data to include keywords, but having keywords in the title in the app store has proven to be a huge driving factor.
Check out the app name for hotels.com in Apple’s app store.
“Hotels.com – Hotel booking and last minute hotel deals”
Their name not only includes their core band name, but also keywords and core features of their app. Check out this article to learn more about how to name your app in the app store.
Whatever you do, make sure to balance the number of keywords that you use in your title with your brand image.
And a word of warning about this tactic: who knows how long this will last? Like Google, Apple will wise up to this tactic and eventually move towards a more sophisticated ranking system, so don’t sacrifice your brand image too much to include keywords in the title.
2) App Rating
Not surprisingly, the quality of your app plays a significant role in where Apple will display your app in search results.
There is no shortcut or cheat for this tip. Your app simply needs to rock.
But assuming your app does rock, there is something that you can do to help increase your ratings…ask for reviews consistently.
Provide them with incentive for taking the time to rate your app. Another simple trick is to ask if users are enjoying your app or if it’s working well for them after use. If they say yes, go ahead and ask them to rate your app. At that point they’ve already said “yes, I like your app”. Not only are they more likely to rate your app after expressing their happiness with it, but you know the rating will be good.
Remember, app reviews are associated with each version of your app, so you must continue asking for ratings as you release new updates.
Also not surprisingly, popularity (number of downloads) plays a significant role on where your app appears in rankings as well.
If other people are using an app, it’s probably more relevant for most users than an app that only has a few downloads, so the Apple app store will rank it higher.
The key here is to have a popular app, which comes back to the value your app brings to users and awareness. Develop a strong marketing strategy and make sure that your app is shareable. Give your customers something for free if they share or refer friends (social currency). This will ensure organic growth as your users become champions of your app.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to optimize for the app store, check out Kissmetrics’ blog article on app store optimization.
How to Truly Improve Your Ranking in the App Store
Ranking is not easy. It is a big of a chicken and the egg problem. Success begets success. Once you rank well, you get more downloads and more reviews, and you rank even higher…
But how do you rank in the first place? Our recommendation is this:
Don’t focus on optimizing for the app store. Yes, you heard us right.
Of course you should make sure your title has a couple core keywords, request ratings, and promote your app.
But instead of optimizing for the app store, focus on optimizing your actual app.
You cannot put lipstick on a pig. (Well, you can, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig that just looks goofier than usual due to the ridiculous shade of red on its snout.)
If you have a bad app, it is not going to matter if it’s optimized for the app store. With bad reviews and few downloads, you’re not going to get anywhere near the top of the app store.
It is by having a stronger app that serves your audience better that you will improve your rank in the app store.