We’re all familiar with SEO, but these days, you also need to be thinking about ASO (App Store Optimisation) in order to drive users to your app. There are two components to this: making your app store page as effective as possible to maximise conversions and getting your app store rankings as high as possible. It’s not, contrary to what you expect, just about the total numbers of downloads.

Let’s look at some of the numerous techniques you can use to get people using your app.

The app store page

Before you start worrying about your app store ranking, make sure that people who come to your page are actually going to download your app. Average install rates are somewhere around 20-25% - in other words, nearly 80% of your potential users are moving on without even trying out your app. Your first task is to get those conversion numbers higher - not only will you get more users, but your ranking will be improved as a result.

● Prepare the user - The ideal scenario is that a customer comes to your page knowing what they’re going to get, and immediately downloads it. Sell them on the benefits of the app before they get to the app store and they’re less likely to abandon you for someone else.

● A/B test everything - Experiments by SplitMetrics showed that testing different combinations of screenshots, descriptive text, video and icons resulted in average improvements of 18-26% in conversions, and often much more. Don’t be afraid to try new things and see what happens. Interestingly, what works best on Apple doesn’t necessarily work as well on Google, so treat each app store individually.

● Pictures are decisive - Users typically make an install decision within 3-6 seconds. The first two or three screenshots have to convey what your app does and the quality you offer. Don’t waste that valuable screen estate showing menus or boring screens.

● Focus on the first sentence - Fewer than 10% of customers who install your app will bother to read most of the descriptive text. That opening sentence has to handle all the burden of making the sale, so get it right. The rest of the text is only there to catch a few waverers.

● Update your app - Most users won’t download an app that doesn’t look like it’s being maintained. Push out updates every couple of months so you stay current.

● Get users to rate you - The more ratings you have, the better. Don’t be ashamed to ask your users for reviews.

The higher your conversion rate, and the more of your users who rate and review you, the higher you’ll rank in searches. Now let’s look at some of the other indirect techniques you can use to improve your rankings.

The Web-app spiral

Don’t think of SEO and ASO as two separate things. Your site and your app are inextricably interlinked. The success of one helps the success of the other - and if one is underperforming, it’ll drag the other down with it.

● Integrate your app with your website - If you enable Firebase App Indexing you make sure that as far as Google is concerned, your website and your app are all part of the same thing, your brand.

● Get into Apple’s search engine - Yes, Apple has its own search engine and it’s integrated into every Apple device. By integrating the Apple Search APIs in your iOS or React Native app you accomplish the same thing as with Firebase App Indexing, but within Apple’s ecosystem. Since it’s importance is growing you want to make sure you are not left behind.

● Do regular SEO - Once the link between your website and app is established, anything you do to enhance your website's popularity will affect your app store ranking - and vice versa. Whatever you’re doing for SEO - keep doing it, but you might want to pay extra attention to making sure you have proper semantic markup. Adding schema.org, Open Graph and Twitter Cards markup are especially important from an app perspective.

Use your website to drive app installs - Your app users are typically going to be people who already use your website. So use those web visits to get them using your app as well. 

● Engage your users - The app stores give more prominence to apps that people actually use. If your app is sitting on their phone unused - or worse, is uninstalled - that won’t help you. Develop a solid onboarding program to get them interested, and then send them regular incentives to keep using your app. And, most importantly, make it genuinely useful so that they’ll naturally turn to the app first rather than your website.

● Build your online presence - The app stores tend to recommend apps from brands people already know. They’ll take into account the popularity of your website and your social media presence, and apply that to your app ranking. So yes, the speed with which you respond to customers on Twitter can affect the popularity of your app.

In time, this turns into a virtuous circle. Use your website to drive users to your app, and use the app to increase the ranking of your website in the search engines to drive users to the site. This creates what both customers and the app stores want to see - a true omnichannel experience where users can access your brand via whatever device they choose without loss of UX.


By Andreas Hassellöf, founder and CEO of Ombori Group

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