App store optimization (ASO) is the process of increasing your mobile app rankings in the app store to improve visibility and thereby garner more app downloads. In this ASO guide, we’ll focus on on-page optimization for both the Apple App Store and Google Play store, which includes Titles (App Name), descriptions, keywords, icons, screenshots, and localization.
App Store: The character limit for app names is 255 characters however it is recommended to keep the title under 23 characters to avoid truncation and keyword stuffing.
Keywords towards the beginning of the title hold more weight so it is recommended to use the following formula for titles: [Brand/App Name] + [Descriptive Keyword or Phrase]
- Urbanspoon – Restaurant & Food Reviews
- 365Scores – Live Sports Scores & News
- GasBuddy – Find Cheap Gas Prices
- Travefy – Group Travel Planner
Google Play: You are limited to 30 characters for your app name in Google Play. Key your app name simple and include your focus keyword or phrase. Just like for the Apple App Store, use your app or brand name followed by your focus keyword.
App Store: You have 4,000 characters at your disposal when crafting your App Store description. Out of the app title, app keywords, and app description, the latter has the least, direct impact on app rankings. However, the description is very important for conversions which will ultimately influence your app’s ranking in the App Store.
The part of the description above the fold is the most important because it contains the snippet that appears when the user clicks on the app.
Also, many users do not click ‘read more’ to expand the description so it is important to sum up what the app does within the first 3 sentences.
Google Play: You can use up to 4,000 characters for your app description. Sum up the main focus of your app in the first few sentences, which act as the meta description for your app’s Google Play page that is displayed in Google’s search results.
User testimonials are NOT allowed in the description. References to other apps or products should also be avoided.
App Store: The character limit for keywords is 100 characters. Apple’s search algorithm will automatically group keyword phrases so it’s best to incorporate as many single keywords as possible. For example, if you were targeting the keywords restaurant review, food reviews, restaurant guide, restaurant ratings and restaurant finder, you would enter in the following words into the keyword field:
Google Play: There is not a keyword field in the Google Play Store like there is in the Apple App store. Instead, keywords should be implemented in a traditional SEO fashion. Once you’ve identified your keywords, they should be incorporated into the title and description.
However, Google treats keyword spamming in their app store the same way they treat it on the web. Never list out your keywords. They should be used in context and repeated with good frequency throughout your description (instead of lumping them together in one area).
Some industry experts advise using your top keyword 4-5 times in the description. However, that advice should be taken with caution. Using a keyword five times in a description that’s only 100 words long may come across to Google as keyword spamming.
Use a high-quality icon that is enticing and indicative of the app’s primary function. Often times users will overlook an app in the search results if the icon is poorly designed because they associate the quality of the icon with the quality of the app. You also want your app icon to stand out from your competitors. For example, if you notice that most of your competitors use the color blue in their icons, you may consider using a different color if it doesn’t conflict with your branding.
The first two screenshots are the most important because they are displayed in the search results. Assume people are ignoring the apps description (because most people are). Capture and display the best features of the app. Add copy and annotations to the screenshots to describe what the user is looking at. Complement screenshots of your app with marketing messages (the third screenshot is a great example of how to effectively use marketing copy). If applicable, use screenshots that capture hand gestures (like swiping, pinching, tapping, etc.) or screenshots that show how the app solves problems in the context of the real world (for example, using a map feature to find tourist attractions in a city as seen in the second screenshot).
Reach a global audience by localizing your app. For discoverability, translate your metadata (keywords, title, and description) and screenshots. Then translate your in-app content and create language specific versions of your app assets (such as nib files, text, icons, and graphics) for each country you want to target. Both Google and Apple offer support and resources for localization.