App Store Optimization (ASO): A Beginners Guide
App store optimisation or ASO as it’s more commonly known, is the practice of perfecting your app store listing to make it as easy as possible for users to find.
So how is this done?
Keywords are a major part of any store listing and you should have these in mind from the very onset of development, allowing the title and game description to include words which will make your game as easy as possible for users searching the store to find.
How to keyword research? There’s a lot of tools and sites around to help with this, however most of these are paid, with a huge variety of prices going all the way up to monthly subscriptions of $1000+ per month.
My own games are currently sitting at well over 10 million downloads and projects I have worked on, well over the 50 million downloads mark.
I have achieved this all with FREE ASO.
So how do we go about this? My first port of call, after deciding which game we’re making is heading over to Adsense Keyword Planner. Yes, this is a tool for websites. However, if people are going to search the web for certain game keywords, they are more than likely going to search App stores too, for the same or similar words.
If you’re making a racing game, you would enter something like, car racing, drifting, car racing games and so on. Not only will this show you the search volumes for each of these but you will also find suggestions for new keywords, pick the best ones for your game, with the highest search volumes and then start thinking of how they can be included in your game description and or title.
Another place to look, is other store listings. What keywords are similar games using? Which words are they ranking for? Check out the competition, see what they are doing and what you can do better.
How to write your description:
It’s important to know the difference between writing a good description, including relevant keywords and keyword stuffing. You don’t want to just find as many keywords as you can and throw these into a description, in a way which doesn’t make much sense.
The best way to do it is to write a genuine description of the game, select 3-5 keywords (Single words or strings of up to 5 words) and include these in the game description, in a relevant way.
Lets use the keywords:
Best Racing Game
Let’s go back to a racing game, an example of keyword stuffing would be
“The best racing game, free cars and speed can you drive all the free cars in this best racing game and become the number one in the best racing game?” and so on for another 10 lines. Believe it or not, I come across descriptions like this on a daily basis.
That’s pretty much just crap. Users will read it and think what the hell is this, the store will see it as keyword stuffing and it will actually hurt your ranking, rather doing any good.
How I would personally write it:
“‘Game name’ puts you right into the driver's seat and lets you test your racing skills against AI racers. Do you have the speed and skill to become number 1 in the best new racing game around? Beat other drivers to unlock new free cars and with higher speed, different cosmetics and maneuverability”
Obviously the above isn’t a complete description, but it’s a way of including keywords and keeping them relevant to the game and description without spamming. You simply want to think of how you can include the words to describe the game in sentences you would have used anyway.
Icons and images:
The worst mistake you can make is thinking I like this icon, it looks better than any of the others I have made and sticking with it.
You would be amazed at what App Store users will click, it’s not always a case of this one looks more professional, so I will use that.
Your best bet for icons is AB testing, you can set percents for the icons to display in the store and after days or weeks, depending on download volumes you will see a conclusion with scaled installed, giving a clear indication of which icon should be used. Now set that as your icon, jobs done.
The same AB testing can be done for screenshots too.
Below, you will see 2 icons from one of my previous games, one which I thought wow that is awesome and the second one I put into AB testing, just because that’s what I do.
Believe it or not, the right image outperformed the left image by 34%.
That’s a crazy amount of extra clicks. That’s an extra 34,000 views per 100,000 and will make a HUGE difference to not only your ranking, but your income.
By far the biggest impact on your games ranking is going to be number of downloads and and it’s ratings/reviews.
However, don’t take that as oh I need to get some fake reviews and spam the game around as much as possible. Reviews of the game without any play time, a sudden surge in reviews on a small number of downloads and reviews from inactive accounts are all red flags and will likely lead to your game being penalised or banned.
The way I do it, I leave the first review. Install the game, play for a little while then leave a review later that day or maybe the next day. I then ask the same from anyone else who has worked on the game. I don’t go spamming everyone I know, I don’t post to every facebook group I can find and I certainly don’t pay anyone for fake reviews.
So how to get good reviews? Give the users a good experience, make the game as good as it can possible be. Read reviews on the store listing and fix any bugs, issues or even features users don’t like. Reply to their comments and let them know it’s been sorted.
Have a “Do you like this game? Leave us a review” pop up, but have it pop up later in the game, where only users who genuinely enjoy the game will have played to. However, do not incentivise ratings or reviews, don’t offer unlocks, rewards or anything in return. It’s against store policies and again could work against you, rather than for.
All of the above should help your game get some attention from users, however the biggest impact is certainly going to be the quality of your game. Be sure to pay attention to feedback and update your game accordingly.