If you’re a digital marketing veteran, you already know about search engine optimization (SEO) and how it can attract more traffic to your site — even if you’re not well versed in the specific tactics necessary to get there. However, most people think of SEO in only one dimension — as it applies to Google web search.
For the most part, it makes sense — Google has long been the dominant search engine in the online world, and continues to hold on to its two-thirds majority of searchers. However, if your main goal isn’t directing people to a website, it won’t be enough to help you.
For example, if your main source of revenue is a mobile app, you’ll want as many people as possible to download it — and while Google does offer some search features that allow mobile apps to show up in search engine results pages, the primary way for your app to be discovered will be through app stores, such as those offered by Apple and Google.
App store SEO is the process of making your app rank higher in search results within these app stores for relevant keyword searches, and making sure your app is considered relevant for the right searches.
As you can imagine, it’s a technical and complicated topic, but this article will introduce you to the basics of app store SEO.
The Big Picture
Let’s start with the big picture. App optimization works very similarly to website optimization, at least from a high-level perspective. App stores want to give users the best possible results for their searches, so they want to accomplish two things:
· Relevance. When you search for keywords like “time management” or “jogging,” app stores want to give you results that reflect those interests, and will choose apps based on how they’re described to fulfill those needs.
· Quality. When multiple apps are available, they’ll be ranked according to not only how relevant they are, but how high-quality they appear to be.
Your job as an app optimizer is to improve your app in both these areas, making sure it’s indexed in a way that reflects its main purpose and improving stores’ perceptions of its quality. There are several tactics you can use to achieve these ends.
App Names and Categories
Though Apple and Google stores offer a different technical setup, they both work in similar ways conceptually, so I’ll treat them both the same for the purposes of this article. Your first job is going to be naming your app, as your app name will be one of the strongest signalers of its relevance; for example, if someone searches for “Uber,” that’s a pretty strong indicator they want the “Uber” app.
It may be helpful to include at least one keyword within the name of your app that’s relevant to the function of your app to capitalize on basic keyword searches. For example, a keyword-optimized name for a diet tracker app might be something like “My Diet Tracker” — while it doesn’t have catchy brand name appeal, it’s easy to remember and will instantly have a leg-up on competing apps because of its keyword relevance.
After settling on an app name, you’ll need to choose a category, which will help your app be listed and categorized appropriately. Apple has an awesome guide on this subject.
Keywords and Description Text
Just like in traditional SEO, you’ll need to do some research to find what keywords your audience is using to search for the kind of app you offer. Use market research and competitive data to generate a list of keywords to target, and include them in your app description (while striving for both accuracy and natural language to avoid the appearance of keyword stuffing).
You’ll also want to mark your app with formally designated keywords or “tags,” indicating what your app is to be used for.
Images and Videos
App store isn’t just about getting more people to see your app — it’s about getting them to see the full scope of your app once they tap on it to display more information, which will lead to more downloads (an instant benefit, and a recursive benefit that increases your perceived quality).
To get more downloads, you’ll want to include multiple high-resolution screenshots, images, and videos showcasing how the app is used. Keep these concise, but make sure to show off the most impressive elements of the overall app experience.
Feedback and Reviews
As you might imagine, app stores base the “quality” of an app in large part on the ratings and reviews it receives; the more ratings and reviews you have, and the more positive they are, the higher your app is going to rank.
Encourage your app users to leave feedback, and pay close attention to what people are saying. If there’s an element causing people to leave bad feedback, correct it right away. It’s going to be tough to get an initial base of reviews, so work with your users to earn a more consistent stream of feedback.
It’s also important to update your app regularly, to remain in compliance with operating system standards, introduce new features, and remain secure. It looks good to the app stores that will be ranking you, and shows users how dedicated you are to creating the best overall user experience.
Since you’ll need more downloads, ratings, and reviews to move up the ladder of the app store, it may be in your best interest to promote your app off-site. That could include, but isn’t limited to, building a standalone website, engaging in content marketing, social media marketing, traditional SEO, PPC ads, and banner ads on other apps or websites.
At this point, you should have enough knowledge of the basics to begin optimizing your mobile app for whichever app store is most important for your brand (though you’ll have to do much of the work separately if you’re on multiple stores at once). Once launched, monitor your search rankings, downloads, and ratings to improve your efforts over time.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!