PUBLISHED: Dec 5, 2016 7 min read

App Store Optimization Tips for SEOs (and Other Digital Marketers)

Do you know how to make sure that fantastic app is actually seen?

So, you or a client has created a must-have, incredibly-versatile app that will change life as we know it – or at least the amount of time spent on mobile gaming, perhaps. But no matter how revolutionary, fun, or useful the app, it won’t take off and spread like wildfire unless people can find it. That’s where App Store Optimization (ASO) comes in. Read on for valuable tips on how to use ASO to make your apps more visible – and more likely to be downloaded when they are discovered:

What is app store optimization?

App Store Optimization is the art and science of improving the visibility of mobile applications in their respective stores: Apple’s App Store, Google Play, and the Windows Phone Store (yes, that’s a thing). Think of ASO as the equivalent of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for mobile apps.

Why would an SEO (or every digital marketer, for that matter) want to learn app store optimization?

Have you noticed that an increasing number of clients need their mobile applications optimized these days? If you are developing or promoting an application, its visibility is almost as important as its utility and intuitive user interface.

There are now more than 5 million apps available today, mobile usage accounts for the majority of internet traffic, and, while the research around app usage is confusing and somewhat contradictory, there is a consensus that apps have a huge role in driving that traffic – the proportion of what they generate is somewhere around 18%, 52%, or 88%, depending on which metrics and methodologies you favor.

Sooner rather than later, you’ll likely have to market an app for either a client or yourself. And everyone can easily learn ASO, so let’s get started.

What skills do you really need?

SEO and ASO share some similarities, and many of the skills from one technique are transferable to the other. Whether you’re a PPC marketer, a digital marketer, or an SEO expert, you’ve likely gained and mastered many SEO skills over the years – so the following requisites shouldn’t be a problem for you: keyword research, competitive analysis, testing and optimization, link building, and … …

… patience. (hey, you’re a marketer, right?)

How to rank in the app stores:

ASO is probably one of the simplest user acquisition techniques you can take advantage of. Optimizing for maximum app discoverability and creating an unforgettable first impression are key elements of doing it right. Here are a few steps to follow to help an app catch more eyeballs in the marketplace:

1. The right keywords: How discoverable your app will be depends (at least, at first) on your keywords. And those should be carefully researched and chosen – both primary keywords and any valuable long-tail searches for which you’d like to rank.

Just as in SEO, think about all the ways someone might be looking for the features or services your app provides. Keyword research is a critical step that should come before anything else, as many subsequent steps depend on it. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for users to find your (or your client’s) app through their natural online research process.

2. The perfect description: This is where you’ll make those killer keywords work for you. As a good SEO, you should be able to pack as many valuable keywords as you can in captivating, concise copy that reads well, doesn’t feel wordy, and can be easily skimmed through. Think bullet points, paragraphs, capital letters for headers, etc.

  • Tip #1: Consider above the fold copy and below the fold copy – namely, are your relevant keywords showing up early on in your app title or description?
  • Tip #2: Consider using some special characters like stars, etc. to grab attention (keep in mind policies vary from time to time, from store to store).
app store optimization traffic increase
Just by releasing a new version of a small client app with optimized screenshots, title, and description can result in a significant bump (more than 5x) in the number of app downloads in just a few days!

3. An optimized name: Keywords in the name (or “title”) of the app also count. If the name of the app isn’t very descriptive, don’t hesitate to add a few good keywords after a separator (hyphens tend to look better than pipes in the app store). Example: instead of naming an app “DuckDuckGo” in the app store, name it “DuckDuckGo – The Best Search Engine”.

optimized app store titles

Seriously, just look at those long, descriptive app titles.

4. Ask for and encourage ratings and reviews (from friends, coworkers, and users): Both quality and quantity of reviews matter, as they both greatly influence how the app will place within search and drive who will tap to learn more about it. Tip: if your app is just launching, don’t ask any and all users to review it right away. Instead, target users with more time and sessions spent on the app – these folks are most likely to be engaged and enjoying the app, and will be more likely to leave a positive review when prompted.

5. Get links (for Android apps at least):

“Getting people to write about your app improves your search rankings in the Play Store” (Google I/O, June 2012).

That’s right – backlinks to your app’s listing page matter with Google. Surprised? Who said link building was dead? Some easy ways to gain links naturally:

  • Make it easy for users to share the app with others by featuring prominent buttons for social media, email, and other sharing options.
  • Get listed on app aggregator sites.

6. Create a great icon: This is one of the most prominent visual aspects of your app, so it’s very important to get it right. It’s slightly easier than choosing a logo for a brand, but still tricky. Hopefully, you or your client already has a good one. Great icons are clean, visually appealing, representative of your branding and/or the app’s function, and likely to stand out from the crowd of other apps. Otherwise, consider updating it.

7. Use screenshots of the app’s main screens – but within a frame that explains what the screen is, how easy the app is to use, and all that it can do for you. The first few screenshots are especially important, since they’re the most visible. Don’t just think of them as screenshots, but more like banner ads contextualizing and framing what users should be looking at.

8. Test new titles, descriptions, and keywords, and monitor results to keep optimizing your app’s visibility!.


To succeed at ASO, you can’t simply buy a ton of fake installs, obtain dubious reviews, and throw a few link wheels at your app store landing page. Don’t take shortcuts. ASO –  just like SEO – takes time, but if you follow the steps mentioned above, you will be on the right track to improving your app’s visibility.

Also, just like SEO, ASO is as much of an art as it is a science, which is why it’s important to iteratively monitor your efforts, test new ones, and apply the lessons you’ve learned to optimize your search visibility.  In a next post, we’ll take a look at app engagement and re-engagement strategies, which, just like in SEO, are becoming increasingly important to keep top rankings!

If you’re looking to increase the visibility of your app or website, contact us for a free SEO consultation. Otherwise, feel free to share your own app store SEO tips in the comments below.