Identifying and Overcoming Apple App Store Visibility Issues Whitepaper


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This whitepaper will discuss the current limitations with the current Apple App Store search and how developers can overcome them. Solutions and case studies are included.

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Identifying and Overcoming Apple App Store Visibility Issues Whitepaper

  1. 1. Identifying And Efficiently Overcoming The Limitations Of iOS App Store Discovery
  2. 2. Introduction This whitepaper will identify the problem with current the Apple App Store discovery process and demonstrate why it needs to be changed. Then we will show various ways that app developers can overcome this issue, given the current situation. Case studies are included at the end to illustrate actual results. The Current Issues With Apple App Store Discovery With over 900,000 apps currently on the App Store, competition for downloads increases by the day. The most effective way for an app to gain notoriety has been to get on the top 25 list in their category. Getting on a top 25 list can be very difficult because it is primarily based on the number of times that an app is downloaded. To compound the problem, once an app gets on a top 25 list, it is very hard to oust that app, by sheer virtue of it being on the list and getting so much exposure. To make matters worse, these download numbers can be manipulated through various methods. It is common knowledge that downloads can be generated simply by using an automated system to download an app and not even install it. For people who do not have the time or knowledge to create such a system, downloads can be purchased from individuals who already have a system set up. At the root of this shortcoming is Apple's inability to come up with a powerful enough search and recommendation algorithm to help users find what they want. Being able to recommend quality apps based on what an app really does, will need to be implemented in order for users to be able to find quality apps and to prevent talented developers who have quality apps from quitting because they are not getting enough revenue to continue their development. Top 25 lists are not the only way to be found on the App Store. Apple also puts heavy emphasis on app keywords in search. Developers can optimize the keywords that they include when they build their app, which will give them a better chance of being found for key search terms. While this method is perhaps too simple to deliver quality search results to a user, therein also lies an opportunity for the developer, which will be discussed later in this whitepaper. The iOS 7 Solution One way that Apple has been hoping to solve the discovery issue in the next iOS update is by removing the Genius For Apps feature and adding the Apps Near Me function to help buyers discover new apps. This feature will allow users to see what apps are popular in their current area.
  3. 3. While this is a good solution for travel related apps or similar categories where location is important, this does not help users who are in remote areas or developers who create apps with national or international appeal. It appears to be just a small part of the overall solution and while implementing this is a step in the right direction, it will not come close to solving the current issues. Current Solutions Given these limitations with the current Apple App Store, there are several possible ways to overcome these limitations. We will explore each one and give you the pros and cons of each. The first solution is to go outside the App Store and use paid advertising. This can have great benefits, but the learning curve involved with optimizing these ads can be quite expensive and many developers do not have the budget to do the testing necessary to get the desired results. Even if a developer is able to optimize an ad campaign, the downloads will stop soon after the ads stop running. This means that the ads must continually generate a positive ROI, which can be difficult to do. In a similar fashion, developers can also choose to utilize online methods such as setting up a website, promoting through social media, writing a blog and doing SEO, so they can be found online. While this can be very cost effective, it is also extremely time intensive and the direct correlation between these efforts and downloads is not always measurable. Finally, App Store Optimization (ASO) is another way that developers can improve the visibility of their app within the App Store. Of the three methods mentioned here, ASO is by far the most inexpensive and most highly leveraged way to improve App Store discovery. Since optimizing for App Store Search relies on organic traffic, it will have longer term effects than paid ads, but it is simpler to do than tuning a website for web search. Given the simplicity and emphasis placed on developer generated keywords, the shortcomings in the complexity of the search algorithm can actually work out to be an advantage to the developer who knows how to optimize keywords properly. We can break down ASO into three basic categories: keyword optimization, localization and user appeal optimization. Keyword Optimization Keyword optimization is the best place to start when it comes to ASO. Developers should first start with their native language and get that stabilized before moving to other languages (localization).
  4. 4. Choosing keywords can seem like a shot in the dark if one is doing it for the first time. There are a couple of different ways to get help when it comes to picking keywords for a list. The first option is to "spy" on the keywords of apps that are doing well in the target category. Although not all of the competition keywords will be applicable, it is a great place to start. The Sensor Tower Keyword Spy Tool will show you the keywords of any app on the App Store. Using that as a starting point will give developers a head start on keyword ideas. Another way to get possible keywords is to use the Keyword Suggestion Tool. By entering the best keywords from the research list along with other ideas, the tool will recommend additional words that could be good keywords for inclusion. When choosing keyword for a list, it is important to keep three factors in mind: competition, traffic and length. Competition and traffic are straightforward, keywords with low competition and high traffic are best. Of course, this is a balancing act and only testing will reveal which keywords will get the best results (more on that later). When it comes to keyword length, shorter is better. This is because Apple only allows 100 characters in the keyword field, so developers want to maximize this space, as much as possible. Along these lines, it is best practice to remove any spaces between keywords, add commas between phrase keywords, use only the plural or singular form of a word (whichever performs better) and do not use the app or company name in the keyword list. This is because that information is already factored into the keyword list with having to explicitly declare them. Although it almost goes without saying, duplicate keywords should be removed. The Keyword Optimizer Tool will provide this information. Following these steps will create a great set off initial seed keywords, but that is not the end of the optimization process.
  5. 5. Each keyword has to be tracked and how an app ranks for the keywords in its list, carefully monitored. This must be done because there is really no way to tell how well an app will rank for a keyword until it is actually implemented. Once the results are monitored, a developer can then start to remove the keywords that an app is not ranking well for and add other keywords to the list. Using the Sensor Tower Keyword Tracker will allow a developer to monitor how an app is ranking and will send an email when the rankings change. User Appeal Optimization
  6. 6. After the keywords are optimized a developer can optimize the title, description and screenshots of the app to convince a user to download the app after it has been found through search. Quantifying the effect of these elements in the App Store Discovery process is more difficult and beyond the scope of this whitepaper. Although keywords in the title do factor into search results, communicating the function or benefit of the app is more important and therefore characterized as a user appeal optimization. Localization After the keywords of an app are optimized, an app developer can work on a similar process to tune keywords, title, screenshots and app description for other languages. Only localizing these elements can be a good way to test markets in other countries, without spending a lot of time or money. If the result is favorable, then a developer can localize the entire app for that country. Case Studies Omvana MindValley wanted to make an app that would become the “Spotify of personal development” and allow users to download and mix meditation, music and spoken word tracks. The result was Omvana. By doing keyword optimization alone, Kshitij Minglani, CEO of MindValley Mobile, says that they have improved their downloads by as much as 125%. Phrase Pop Varun Goel is an independent developer out of Chicago Illinois who created an entertainment app that allows people to listen to fun phrases in various English accents, so they can practice their accent. On his first update after doing keyword optimization, Varun was able to achieve a +143% improvement in downloads and a +283% increase of revenue, just by improving his keywords. Tapps Games Tapps started out making business apps, but then decided to shift gears and start making games. It turned out to be a good idea because they were able to create over 60 games, with over 10 million game downloads, in less than two years. Felipe Watanabe, from Tapps, says: “We have many examples of games in which the definition of new keywords has changed the outlook of a game.” Conclusion Although opportunities exist for promoting an iOS mobile app outside the App Store and making up for the shortcomings in iOS App Store discovery, they generally involve more
  7. 7. variables, longer optimization time and a bigger marketing budget to effectively increase downloads. Even if an app marketing method is able to significantly increase downloads, methods like advertising have limited effectiveness and will stop yielding results as soon as a campaign ends. Through systematic research and vetting of keywords, a developer can improve downloads of their app, sometimes with substantial results. Until the Apple App Store implements a system that offers better discovery opportunities to up and coming apps, App Store Optimization will continue to be one of the lowest cost and most highly leveraged ways to improve the number of times an app is downloaded.