The Future of Mobile

App Store Optimization – the importance of pre-optimization

David Murphy - Member Content

Dave Bell, Co-founder and CEO of Gummicube, explains the importance of pre-optimizing your app prior to listing it on the app stores. 

If you are a developer and you have a great app that you have rigorously bug tested, and it looks great and it runs great, but you have not yet published it to the App Store, there are key decisions to make before publishing. Before you invest time and money into creating your store listing, it is crucial that you apply the best practices of App Store Optimization.

 App Store Optimization is the process of fine-tuning your metadata for keyword indexation, and rigorous testing of creative assets, to determine what drives conversion for your app. This process does not need to wait for your app to even be on the App Store; in fact, there are key benefits to pre-optimizing your app through ASO.

Start on the right footprint
The hard truth is there is no one perfect keyword to represent an app and boost its visibility. Instead, it takes a myriad of relevant keywords that work together to represent an app’s main features and functionality. A little research legwork is needed in order to find the right keywords to target.

The first step of the keyword research process is identifying what market the app will be a part of. Second, determining the target audience and their behaviors is crucial to discover what types of phrases are searched in the App Store. Both of these key pieces of information will give you the insight and a basis on which to filter keywords to determine relevance.

When creating a list of keywords, the keywords must be relevant to the app, no matter how high the volume is. Users and the algorithm should see how the app is related to the keywords it targets, otherwise it will not gain rankings or conversion. For instance, a podcast app would not want to target “guided meditation” keywords, no matter how high the volume is.

Targeted keywords should be a mix of high and low volume. The higher a keyword’s volume, the more users are searching for it. While high volume terms may be an obvious choice, low volume keywords can still provide value as long as they are directly related to the app. If your app meets a specific need for a niche audience, you should target associated keywords, because there is still a user pool that is searching for those terms. What’s more, a low volume term has less competition, so you are more likely to receive high rankings as long as you are deemed relevant.

Know what converts
Once you have an idea of what keywords are going to best represent your app in the app store, you will need to build a creative set that will draw users in. In the app stores, this includes the screenshots, icons, feature graphics and preview videos. An optimized creative set can increase clickthrough-rates significantly. There are a few general practices that developers should follow when optimizing creatives.

Icons: The icons need to represent the app, whether through brand iconography or relevant visuals. For example, a game app will likely have the main character in the icon, while a music app may use a musical note.

Screenshots: Along with maintaining branding from the icon, screenshots should also incorporate high-volume keywords that will accurately represent features of your app. These keywords should be added in the screenshots to create a cohesion between your metadata and creative set. Using high volume keywords may help drive conversion from impressions on those keywords. In general, screenshot text should work to explain what the in-app is depicting.

Feature Graphics: This is a design element that appears in place of the promo video before it starts playing, and can also be used when the Google Play Store highlights the app. This creative element should be clean – incorporate important imagery, but do not crowd the screen. A general rule of thumb is to incorporate branding and design elements that will be cohesive across the board and create interest.

Preview Videos: Preview videos should keep the intended audience in mind. If the preview video is engaging and uses high-volume keywords to target the audience, it is more likely to improve conversion rates. Having a good preview video that highlights the app’s core features further expands the app’s reach in the app stores and helps acquire more users.

Iterative Testing: While best practices will ultimately help developers create optimized creatives, iterative A/B tests should be conducted to ensure these creatives are performing to their peak potential and are being updated as new trends emerge. A/B tests allow developers to select different variants that feature similar or contrasting images, colors, screen orientation, and more to see which engage and convert users better. The information gathered from these A/B tests is invaluable and can improve conversion rates.

Understand the competition
In order to hit the ground running with your first launch, you will want to know what you are up against. Thorough research on competitors and share of voice in your category will leave you prepared for optimization. 

Researching competitors is an integral part of any optimization strategy. This step will help you identify what is driving conversion and visibility in your category to capitalize on what drives success for similar apps, and iterations of research will show over time the rankings as they change.

For metadata, identify keywords that are repeated across competitor product pages. Establish what terms are used within the screenshot callouts, how they structure their descriptions and what types of terms they use there, etc. This will help you to determine what keywords competitors are targeting, how they may relate to your app, and how relevant they are to the specific market.

For creatives, identify the features competitors highlight in the first three screenshots, what color schemes are used by competitors, are there unique design elements being used that help to illustrate the in-apps, etc. This will help you determine what design choices to test within your own creative sets and ensure your app looks like it belongs within those results.

When selecting keywords and optimizing creatives, utilizing what is already established as effective in this category may help drive your app to top positions amongst competitors, effectively maximizing your visibility potential in the app stores.

Pre-optimizing your app helps you start off strong and build ASO momentum right from launch. Start with a solid ASO foundation to build on, rather than launching an unoptimized app then improving it over time. This helps ensure your app gets a strong launch and starts off on the right foot.

Doing research on what market you are in, what targeted demographics search for, high and low traffic terms, and what strategies competitors are implementing in both their metadata and creatives will help you to design a succinct, all-encompassing strategy from your title to your screenshots, and everything in between.

Start your launch off right with pre-optimization through App Store Optimization.

About the Author
Dave Bell is Co-founder and CEO of Gummicube. Gummicube is a global leader in App Store Optimization with more than 11 years of experience optimizing and marketing apps. We offer the leading enterprise ASO technology and agency services, providing support to clients around the world. Our company is trusted by thousands of enterprise brands and leading startups including Microsoft, LinkedIn, Bethesda, SWEAT, GrubHub, McAfee and many others.