You’ve developed an excellent mobile game, that successfully went through all the testing stages, and now you are ready to launch it. But how do you stand out from the crowd and compete with hundreds of thousands of games that are available in Apps Stores? And perhaps more importantly, how do you get your app to rank higher in App Store search results, and make sure it matches the users’ search intent? The key is implementing efficient App Store Optimization (ASO) strategies for your game, no matter if you created it for Android or iOS system.
However, what is App Store Optimization, and how can you make the most of it? Here’s what you need to know to help your game or app rank well.
What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?
Just like you use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get your website or blog ranking highly in Google’s search results, you must use App Store Optimization (or ASO) techniques to get your game to the top of the app store search results. Simply put,
Basically, App Store Optimization is the process of optimizing your mobile game or app to rank higher in an app store’s search results. And this includes description, keywords, and other attributes. The higher your game ranks in that marketplace’s search results, the more visible it is to potential users. This usually translates into more organic traffic to your game’s page in the app store and an increased number of valuable (unpaid) downloads.
However, just a better position in search results is not enough to assure increased sales and revenues. You also have to make sure that once people click through to your app store listing page, they also download it or make a purchase. This part of ASO is also known as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).
Why is App Store Optimization so important?
First, because the mobile gaming market is booming, and this is not a secret. Over the last couple of years (and especially starting with 2020), the mobile gaming industry broke any records, both in the number of users and market share, and made billions in revenue.
Let’s take a look at some data:
- there were forecasted to be close to 3 billion gamers around the world in 2021, while 2.8 billion out of them play on mobile
- the mobile gaming industry grew with +4.4% year on year to $90.7 billion in 2021
- by 2024, there will be 3.32 billion players worldwide (NewZoo)
- there was a total of 80 billion mobile game downloads in 2020, with an 18% YoY growth. (AppAnnie)
- player spending is set to reach $138 billion by 2025. (SensorTower)
- on average, players spent 4.2 hours per day playing mobile games in 2020. (AppAnnie)
- In 2021, mobile advertising spending reached a record 288 billion U.S. dollars worldwide (Statista), and it’s forecasted to amount to nearly 413 billion by 2024
- in 2021, mobile game spending reached $89.6 billion across the App Store and Google Play, representing 67.4 % of all in-app spending this year (SensorTower)
- user penetration was 23.9% in 2021 and is expected to hit 28.5% by 2025. (Statista)
- users spend 90% of their smartphone usage on apps and games. (eMarketer)
- on average, gamers play two to five mobile games a month. (AppAnnie)
- users spend 3 and a half hours using mobile devices every day, and 11% of that time is spent on mobile gaming. (eMarketer)
All these data show that more and more players are using mobile devices to play games. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s simple. And unlike consoles and PC games, they give the gamers freedom, allowing them to play wherever they are.
When speaking about how these games are found, you have to know that according to Google, 40% of apps are discovered through app store searches. This means the search in the app store is the most used method for discovering and downloading apps and games.
What’s the difference between SEO and ASO?
As mentioned before, App Store Optimization is considered to be the SEO for app stores. Both processes include similar elements like keyword research and optimization, backlinking, reviews, and conversion optimization.
But the ranking factors are the main difference between SEO and ASO. If, according to Backlinko, there are 200 SEO ranking factors, for ASO, the list is much shorter.
When speaking about SEO, the main important ranking factors are:
- the keywords you optimize your pages for
- keywords density
- meta-title and meta tags, meta description, Alt Tags
- page speed
- bounce rate
- anchor texts
- social signal, to name just a few.
The main important ASO ranking factors are the app name and its description, URL, keywords, rating and reviews, usage and quality metrics, the uninstall rate, backlinks, and download stats.
App Store Optimization best practices
Here are ten important steps you’ll want to take to improve your ASO in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.
1. Use Keywords Wisely
In Apple App Store, you have just 100 characters for all your keywords, so you need to use the most relevant keywords for your game and get as close as you can to this character limit. In Google Play, you don’t have any specific keyword field, but the app description is searchable, and you have 4000 characters to work with.
For the best App Store Optimization, you should use your main keywords four to five times in your description but be careful not to exaggerate them. Otherwise, your app could be penalized for keyword stuffing, just like your website can be penalized by Google if they suspect you try to manipulate your site’s ranking in SERPs.
Just like for your website and online content, you should make your homework and research your keywords. Chose those options that have a high search volume and low keyword difficulty, and match with your users’ search intent. App Store Optimization tools like SensorTower can help you evaluate your keywords.
Where to insert your keywords:
- app name
2. Write a compelling description for your game
While your game’s visual elements are the most attractive parts for many potential users, there are still many who will start by reading your description to get an understanding of your game and see if it fits their intent. And since people usually need just three seconds to make a first impression, it’s important to grab their attention in the first paragraph.
Consider it as your sales pitch and the unique chance to convince potential users to download your game. Therefore, you should use it to tell people from the beginning what your game is all about and then continue with any narrative you want to include. Try to summarize it as best as you can and include any special features that make your game unique and stand out.
3. Use high-quality screenshots as part of your App Store Optimization
Screenshots are a great way to convince potential players to download your game. While they don’t have a direct effect on search rankings, imageries drive downloads if they are interesting and bold, and represent your game well. Visuals are the first thing users see when opening your game’s page, but also when they come back and search for more information. Therefore, the screenshots should give a true representation of your game, so you should really take the time to think about and select the right shots to use here.
4. Use a video trailer
With 82.5% of all web traffic and 86% of businesses using it as a marketing tool, online video is predicted to be the leading source of web content in 2022.
So, if you’ve created a great video trailer for your mobile game and uploaded it to your YouTube channel or other social media pages, why not have it also on your app store listing?
As the name implies, a video trailer doesn’t need to be long. 30 seconds are enough to give your target audience an excellent sneak peek into what your game is about and how to play it. This way you make it easier for them to decide if it’s something they want to download and play.
As the video content has a high impact across all the online communication channels, you can use the same trailer from your website to social media platforms to app stores and beyond. Therefore, your video should be considered a valuable investment.
5. Focus on icon design
Your game’s icon is a crucial part of your App Store Optimization strategy and plays a significant role in the number of your game downloads. So, it’s worthing to spend some time and energy to create a great one.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, so you should invest in working with an experienced designer to develop a few icon options. Try to choose the one that is most visually appealing and most representative of your game.
6. Adapt for both Android and iOS
Even if in 2021 Android was the leading mobile operating system worldwide with a 73% share, you still don’t want to miss out on the iOS users. But if you advertise your game saying that it can also be downloaded from Apple App Store but your iOS users can’t do this, you’ve made a very big mistake.
As Android and iOS have different interfaces, you need to adapt your game for both platforms.
7. Encourage feedback and update frequently
Let’s face it, no one has just positive reviews. But handling bad reviews can be tough, especially when their number is increasing. Instead of letting it set you back, consider these negative reviews as a great opportunity to listen to what your audience is saying and understand what your potential users really want. Then work with your development team to make necessary improvements and adjustments.
Many mobile players like to see that games are constantly improving thanks to the feedback from their customers, while app stores also value more frequently updated games.
8. Be prepared for localization
Even if the majority of your target audience speaks and regularly plays games in English, it doesn’t necessarily mean they use the English version of their app store. In fact, 72% of consumers outside the English-speaking world prefer to use their own languages, but there is still a way to reach these communities.
Through localizing your game on both the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store, you can adapt your brand communication and language for different countries to make your game discoverable.
That’s why localizing your game and translating your title, keywords, and game description can work for you in a big way.
9. Use App Store Analytics
Just like Google Analytics for web page marketing, there are several powerful app store analytics tools that are designed to help your mobile marketing strategy. You will be able to see where your game stands compared to the competition, and use the right ASO strategies to increase your ranking.
Some of the analytics apps are:
to name just a few.
These tools are useful because they give you data related to your game. Their indicators can show you what you’re doing wrong in marketing your game, what you could do to improve your game ranking in the app store, and much more.
10. Re-evaluate regularly
If it’s been a few weeks, and you’re not pleased with your app’s current app store ranking, it’s time to take a look at your data, make some assessments, and change some things around:
Regular evaluation is an important part of both your ASO strategy and your overall marketing strategy. Depending on how your data looks and the current ranking of your game in the app store, you may decide to change and improve a few things:
- find more relevant keywords
- change the description
- make sure you listed your game in the right category
- fine-tune the icon
- change the screenshots
When you make changes, it’s important to make them one at a time, and then wait to see their impact.
Like SEO, ASO is a process that needs to be constantly monitored and improved. The best set of keywords is not always the set you chose when you first listed your game in the app store.
Most game developers do not research at all or are too little interested to search the keywords their audience uses when looking for something in the app store. And this can be seen sooner or later in the number of downloads of the game.
To get the most out of App Store Optimization, you need to invest time and effort. If you do, you will have a consistent channel that drives traffic to your game.