Submitting your baby and app store optimization

This is the tenth post in the “12 Weeks of Christmas” series.

The time has come to submit/resubmit your baby to Apple or Google.

Whether you’ve got a brand new app or a fresh update there are some common “gotchas!” you have to think about before you casually upload that binary. Most of these are related to Apple’s App Store, as they can be sticklers for protocol.

Naming your app and choosing keywords

Firstly, there are two conspicuous fields you can only change during official updates to your binary. The first is your app’s name and the second is your app’s keywords. Not coincidentally, these two fields are the most important factors when it comes to people finding your app, so be very careful what you put in there.

The process of optimizing your app store listing so that you’re shown to the right customers is called App Store Optimization, or ASO for short. Lets say you have a great weather app and to be cute you’ve named your app something like “Dark Sky”. You know your potential users will search for “weather” to find your app, so you add that to your list of keywords. But these days that is not enough. Your app will need to be called something like “Dark Sky – Weather Radar, Hyperlocal Forecasts, and Storm Alerts” to actually be found (true story with staggering results).

To get even more traction you may need to decide how important a keyword is to you. In the case of our app Tapfolio, the never ending quest for discoverability lead us from beautiful “Tapfolio”, to redundant “Tapfolio for Stocks” to the final and awkward “Stocks with Tapfolio”. You can probably guess the keyword we were trying to target, and results again spoke for themselves.

“While the PR way is good for the big guys, I believe ASO is the way to go earlier on,” stated Tomasz Kolinko, founder of AppCod.es, when we asked him about app promotion strategy. He mentioned the utter importance of developing your first screenshot (especially for iOS6), getting reviews up and spending some time finding search queries for which you can rank high. “[ASO] may not bring in millions, but it can bring in the thousands necessary to bootstrap a company. It’s worked for me, and I’ve seen it work for many other devs as well”

App Store Optimization Tips

When it comes to ASO, there are lots of small things you can do to keep your app listed towards the top. Some of these rules are outlined by the above-mentioned great site Appcod.es, which helps developers with ASO:

  • Using a word in both title and keyword field doesn’t give you extra bonus, so don’t
  • You will sometimes have to include both plural and singular versions of the same word
  • Keywords field doesn’t require spaces after commas, so make sure to cram words together
  • App description or In-App Purchase names will not help you with ASO
  • Break up compound queries like “word games” into individual words for better targeting
  • Use as much of that Keywords field as you can

iOS 6 adds a few twists:

  • Users can share your app on Facebook and Tweet about it right from the AppStore
  • Your app can be found in Genius – the AppStore recommendation system
  • While browsing – users see your app’s card which contains icon, title and first screenshot

Another service that helps with ASO is AppKPI.com: initially it helps you research which keywords you should target, and which keywords have the least competition. Then, it will optimize your Keywords field for maximum density with the chosen keywords and even help you track the performance of your app for those specific keywords going forward.

Cesar Serna, founder of the service, echoed Kolinko’s earlier advice on search queries: “Some high volume search terms have just one app returned,” and therein lies the opportunity “AppKPI makes it easy to find highly searched terms with low competition and optimize.” Refining your search terms will certainly pay off, but there’s still more to ASO.

The importance of designing for conversion

Notable changes in iOS 6: iPhone now mimics the iPad app store design, and “Genius” has replaced “Categories” on iPhone, increasing the chances for less popular apps to be found.

With the App Store’s new focus on imagery, beautifully designed icons and screenshots have never been more important for your app.

An okay icon will not get you as many clicks as a great icon, and if the user is on iPhone, your first screenshot is your one chance to sell them – your app description isn’t readily viewable like it is on iPad. Secondary to your main screenshot, comes the description.

Make sure that the first paragraph of your description is long enough to fill up the collapsed description box for new users. Use special characters like stars to break up the text, draw the eye and make the description scannable.

As an aside to all this ASO talk, did you know that a well designed landing page directing visitors to the app store page will outsell visitor cohorts who land directly on your app store page, sometimes by quite a margin? If you missed last week’s tips on auditing your mobile app’s landing pages, be sure to take a peek. Dismissing them will cost you greatly.

Ship it!

Finally, don’t wait too long to actually submit your binary. The reason we scheduled App Store submission a full three weeks before Christmas is because Apple gets busy, often taking over a week to review apps. And then sometimes you may not get approved on the first run. In that case, communicate quickly to sort out the problem. Shiny Development runs a great service for checking on what current review times are. Mac developers will want to note the perpetually longer queue they will face.


Next week: listening in and building community

This is part ten of the 12 Weeks of Christmas series

This post is part of a weekly series on marketing your mobile app more effectively – the sort of way that spikes your holiday sales.

To catch the whole series stay dialed-in to Tapstream, or why not subscribe by email to make sure you don’t miss a post. We have lots of great tips coming up.

You can read the first nine posts here:

  1. Warning: the App Store freeze could kill your holiday sales (here’s how to thrive)
  2. Planning and testing for your marketing push
  3. Beyond the App Store: how to start winning with content
  4. Find Your Audience
  5. Get discovered: tuning-up your mobile app’s SEO (incl. free 60 day SEOmoz trial)
  6. How to kill it on social media in 20 minutes per day
  7. The path to improving your app ratings
  8. Email: the key to your audience
  9. Becoming Rico Suave: reviewing touchpoints and reducing friction