A Complete Guide To ASO For Google Play Store + Cheat Sheet

Advices for good ASO

As of summer 2015, there is over 1,5 million (1 500 000) different apps on Google Play Store! A serious percentage of downloads both for brand and non-brand apps comes from organic search, and there are some easy rules and tips to help you optimize your content for the Play Store so that the more relevant users find your app!

 

Advices for good ASO
App Store Optimization helps you gain more users: 50-60% of new app discoveries  come from App Store browsing!

If you are launching your app or if you’re looking for ways to improve your rank in Google Play Story, this guide help!
Why am I writing this now? My team and I are about to launch an app, I have worked for a few clients and startups who are launching or have launched their apps (and I also have over 2 years’ SEO and content marketing experience)… so I tried to make a precise and complete ASO guide to help you with your own app(s) after my research. Wether you are an indie developer, marketer, entrepreneur or just curious i hope you find this article helpful!

Contents

Why ASO and what is it?

Holistic Marketing Approach

6 Main Ranking Factors

3 Free Tools For Keyword Research

Play Store vs. App Store – Keywords

App Title Optimization

Optimization of App Descriptions: Short & Full

Number Of Downloads, Download Velocity, Reviews…

Google Says: Official Guidelines

Little Bit About Visuals

Free Google Play Store Content Optimization Cheat Sheet


 

Why Do We Need ASO, What Does It Stand For

& How To Do It On a Shoestring Budget?

App Store Optimization

 

As you might have guessed or already known, ASO stands for App Store Optimization: creating content and presenting your app in a way that is is both relevant for users and goes well with the ranking algorithms – pretty similar to SEO or Search Engine Optimization. But why do we need it?

Having a good mobile app that solves users’ problems and makes their days either easier or funnier and nicer is crucial for success, but in the ocean of over 1,5 million Android apps available for download, it is crucial to help the right users find you. Although findability and anything to do with Search Engine Optimization (of any kind!) is the art of knowing how to produce high-quality and relevant content, as well as how to fine-tune all the technicalities – there are some simple steps to follow to make your app stand out in Google Play Store.

Algorithms that determine your apps rank are a well-kept secret but luckily many researches, experts, statistics and Google guidelines are here to help! You don’t need to be the smartest man alive and you certainly don’t need piles of cash to do this right. This article is prepared so that you can find all the important information at one place.

P.S. There’s also a really useful, easy-to-use and free cheat sheet included!

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Before We Start:

Holistic Approach To ASO & SEO – Why It Works

 

Different pieces of a puzzle

 

Holistic Marketing Approach is something I really believe in. That means looking on your whole business in a perspective where both the product, the processes, your customers and impact you have are important part of the whole picture. When optimizing content for Google Play Store or Google Search Engine, it is important to have a whole picture in your mind. Text shouldn’t only be stuck with keywords, but relevant, interesting and engaging. Just a simple ad hoc example is writing a catchy short description so that more users who se your app download it- the number of downloads will later have impact on your rankings. And even if  we imagine you had all the top positions, you would still need a copy that makes user curious or interested enough  that they click to check out your app (or a website for that matter).

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6 Crucial Factors And Things To Have in Mind

When Creating Content For Play Store

Different apps

 

 

As said, algorithms that define your rankings are a secret, but there are official guidelines, statistics and advices on what to do. Here’s a list over the crucial factors and things to have in mind:

 

  • Keywords
  • Title
  • App descriptions
  • Number of downloads
  • Download velocity
  • App ratings and reviews

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Doing a keyword research:

3 free Tools, tips and advices

 

Binoculars

 

Keywords are important in all segments (title, descriptions etc.), so it was a good place to start at. To work with keywords, you need to find relevant keywords, and you should use tools available for the best results.

There’s a lot of different keyword tools out there, some are free, some are partially free and for some you have to pay. But you can also achieve good results combining the free tools for keyword research. Here are some of the tools I recommend:

 

  • Google Trends – Let’s you compare how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume; and you can even explore this for different periods, regions, languages etc.

 

 

Google Trends: emoticon versus emoji
Google Trends helped me choose between “emoji” & “emoticon” while creating our app’s Play Store title

 

 

  • Google Keyword Planner is a free tool, but you will need an AdWords account. It can help you get keyword ideas and more, so it is worth it, though some downsides are that it could be a bit complicated to use, and (although it sounds a bit weird), Keyword Planner might hide some valuable keywords. But don’t worry, cause the next free option totally helps.

 

  • Keyword Tool is a free and many say the best alternative to Google Keyword Planner. (There is also a Pro version where you pay for subscription, but the basic one can also do. Especially if you’re on a shoestring budget)

 

 

It is definitely best to combine all these tools and check your competition and their keywords for inspiration as well!

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Google Play Store vs. Apple App Store:

A Small Difference When It Comes To Keywords

 

Android Marshmallow

 

This is a guide about ASO for Google Play Store, but when mentioning keywords, it is important to tell that Apple let’s you choose keywords (in 100 characters), while Google doesn’t – they learn about your keywords from app description, and that’s why it is important to write it wisely.

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Choosing a Good Title for Your App:

Keywords or no keywords, Semantics & Other Tips

 

Choose an app name

 

 

Now that you know how to do a quick keyword research, we need to use them! And we should begin with the title.

Having keywords in your app’s title can improve ranking by around 10% according to MobileDevHQ, so it is definitely worth it. And although it is a good thing to use them, please do not forget to avoid being spammy and remember that the keywords have to be relevant. Otherwise, you could suffer the consequences, as it is against Google’s guidelines.

There is of course not just one, single and the best way to create a title for any app, but a quick recipe for smart combination of keywords in the app title would be: [BRANDNAME] + [VALUE] + [VALUE] +… Where values are what your users are looking for (and automatically the most important keywords).

A startup I work for offers a free platform and an app for buying and selling used things, so they have smartly combined those key elements (or keywords if you’d like) like this: “[BRANDNAME]: Buy & Sell Used Stuff”. App my team and I are launching is the world’s first emotion tracker based on emojis and emoticons you’ve exchanged in messages and we are currently working with “happi: Count & Track Emojis”. A whole spectrum of Instagram-related apps successfully use “insta” as a part of their titles, financial trackers usually have “financial”, “budget”, “expenses” and related terms in title… What I advise you is to do a research, go through (or brainstorm) your relevant keywords, and in the end use the most important and relevant keywords in the title of the app.

 

ASO Guidelines To Remember

When It Comes To Choosing App Title

-Character limit: 30
-Have the most relevant keywords in the title
-The most relevant keywords should be in front
-The title should be natural
-Use URL-safe characters
-One localized title-version per language
-Don’t repeat keywords, don’t use irrelevant keywords or references

 

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How To Write Good App Descriptions:

Short Description (for Google Play App) + Full Description

 

Writing content

 

As already mentioned, Google learns about the most relevant keywords based on your description, so it is important that both the Short Description and Full Description are wisely written. What’s the main difference between the two? Short Description is the text users first see when they check out your app’s detail page using Google Play app. Full Description is the content where you describe your app, user experience, values it gives to users and add other relevant explanations.

To sum it up: You should use Short Description to make users curious about your app, get them to read more or download it, while you should use Full Description to explain your app, use relevant keywords and add information.

Guidelines For a Good Short Description

-Character limit: 80
-Be sure to describe your app accurately
-Be sure to use pro-active and call-to-action language
-Make sure you grab users attention (they can also click Read more)
-Use your different keywords and synonyms (don’t be spammy!)
-Don’t use unrelated keywords or references
-Don’t repeat keywords too much and keep it brief. Be careful not to violate Google’s spam policy

Guidelines For a Good Full Description


-Character limit: 4000
-Be sure to describe your app accurately
-Be sure to use pro-active and call-to-action language
-Be use to use easy-to-understand language
-Describe real user experience and app functions
-Use your different keywords and synonyms (but don’t be spammy!)
-Don’t use unrelated keywords or references
-Don’t repeat keywords too much and keep it brief. Be careful not to violate Google’s spam policy

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Number Of Downloads, Download Velocity, App Ratings & Reviews:

Things you don’t have control over… or do you?

 

Play Store App Reviews
Never take bad reviews to heart, but always try to learn as much as possible from them [PrtScr: Play Store]


Number of downloads is definitely a ranking factor, and when you have just launched your app it is tough. But here are some advices on how to gain those first downloads:

  • Friends & Family: When the app is launched, ask your friends and family to download it and try it out
  • E-Mail lists: Try to gather subscribers in pre-launch period, and then notify them via mail when the app is launched
  • Your Channels: If you are a YouTuber, blogger or use any kind of social media and have any kind of follower base who could be interested – share your app as soon as it is launched
  • Paid Channels: You can always pay for Facebook or Google ads, but this can be tricky if you are on a shoestring budget. If paying for your adds make sure you are targeting your audience in the best way, as it saves a lot of money and gives better results
  • Earned Channels: If your app has to be interesting enough or if you can make buzz – you could get coverage in different media which can be a great free advertising for your app

 

Download velocity represents downloads number in a given time period… You could also improve this by creating buzz and constantly finding ways to make new people download it, some of the suggestions

  • Recommendations and loyalty rewards: This depends on the type of your app, but you could always offer awards for inviting other people use the app and sharing it (take a look at different games that give you gems for inviting someone to play with you)
  • Share-able and like-able content: If app results and contents are interesting for users to share, other people could download it (just take a look at how many popular quizzes spread across the internett)
  • Hitting the jackpot / Trending: If your app is trending, it can be such a huge boost for new and continuous downloads
  • Plan according to dates and events: If your app is relevant to some special dates, holidays and periods (like New Year, Summer etc.) or different events (Fotball World Cup, Super Bowl, Grammies etc.) – plan to launch in those periods

 

App ratings and reviews are really important for your app’s success, and there are some ways to get more of them, and not just more, but more better ones (hashtag: truestory). Here are a few tips:

  • Try your best to make a good app/MVP: Your app can’t be 100% perfect (nothing is), and even giants like Facebook or Google work continuously on improving their apps. But you can and have to make a good product. If your app is not ready – do not launch. You can literally kill your app at the very beginning
  • Call users to rate your app wisely: You should try to make as many users rate your app (even suggest rating it in the app description), use in-app notifications etc. but be careful and use this feature wisely.
  • Revert the bad reviews: You should be open about eventual mistakes or weaker sides of your app, but you can always try to revert the unsatisfied users from rating you: channel them to giving you feedback and show appreciation for it. Because you should be grateful: bad feedback is an awesome chance for improvement and a free advice, it is just even better if it ends up in your mailbox and not in your average score. Use sentences like If you have any problems or suggestions, please let us know and we will get in touch ASAP. When using notifications, don’t lead unsatisfied user to Play Store. You can, for example, ask if they like your app – if they click yes, ask them to rate it, if they click no – ask them to tell you what went wrong and how you could improve. Also remember to give them a chance not to answer immediately (famous “Ask me later” button)
  • Try to turn the bad reviews around: When you happen to get a negative review, try to thank for the feedback, see what you can improve and if possible ask the user to re-review your app after an update where you fixed the problem. No matter how annoying user could be – do not be a jerk and always be constructive.

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Google says… Avoid Keyword Spam!

Dos and Don’ts straight from Google’s Guidelines

 

Here’s an overview over a part of Spam & placement in the store part regarding keyword spam:

 

Many developers unknowingly violate spam policy in their app titles and descriptions in ways that are easy to avoid. In general, you can avoid spam violations in your app title and description by following these best practices:

  • Highlight what’s great about your app—Share interesting and exciting facts about your app with users. Help users understand what makes your app special.
  • Describe your app accurately—Make sure the title and description describe the app function and user experience accurately.
  • Don’t use repetitive keywords—Avoid keywords that are repetitive or excessive.
  • Don’t include unrelated keywords or references—Your description should not be loaded with irrelevant keywords in an attempt to manipulate ranking or relevancy.
  • Keep it brief—Keep the description succinct and straightforward. Shorter descriptions tend to give a better user experience on devices with smaller displays. Excessive length, detail, or repetition can violate spam policy.

[tweetthis]#Google says: Highlight what is great about you app, describe it accurately & keep it brief #ASO[/tweetthis]

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Little Bit About Visuals

 

It is important to have app screens and use nice visuals to promote your app. It will benefit you when it comes to getting attention from users as well as when it comes to ranking in Play Store search results. Remember that you can also use a video which can only be good for the app. It is great if you have a designer on your team or if you can hire someone to do it, but if you are really working on a tight budget you can use some simple online tools like Canva.com to acheive nice results. (I used Canva to make the cover photo for this article, and I like to use it on daily basis.)

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Misc / Some Tips For the End

 

Some of the areas or the areas that I haven’t covered this time (I might do so in an update if you request) are backlinks, optimised landing pages, social signals (especially Google Plus +1’s) which could all improve your app ratings, but you would have to experiment. Anyway, sharing your app with bloggers, getting social signals and natural backlinks can only be good for you (as long as it is not spamming or against guidelines).

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Google Play Store Content Optimization Cheat Sheet:

Download For Free

 

Since this is a lot of information and everyone gets easily overwhelmed, I decided to make a simple cheat sheet for optimizing content for Google Play Store. The Cheat Sheet consists of 3 main parts for your content, listed tips and guidelines for each and with a place to fill the text in. This way you have everything you need at one place. Download the ASO Cheat Sheet here.

App Store Optimization Cheat Sheet

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