Appstore Optimization (ASO) Tips – Podcast, Video and Presentation

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Stefan Bileau is one of the world’s top mobile marketing and monetization experts through his consultancy practice and he also runs the Appstore Optimization Blog.  He gave an incredible talk at the App Promotion Summit London earlier this year and we’re now able to share video and audio recordings of the event, as well as a transcription.  Stefan is also speaking at App Promotion Summit Berlin on November the 28th so register now if you’re interesting in hearing his latest Appstore Optimization advice.

Appstore Optimization Tips Video

First up is the full length video recording of the session.

Appstore Optimization (ASO) – Do’s and Don’ts – Stefan Bielau @ App Promotion Summit London from Appromotion Summit on Vimeo.

Appstore Optimization Tips Audio Podcast

For those who prefer listening or like a podcast to hear on the train or down the gym, we have the talk recorded in high quality audio.

Appstore Optimization Tips Presentation

The presentation is available below on slideshare

Finally we have the full text of the talk reproduced below if you just like reading.

Appstore Optimization Tips Full Transcript

Stefan Bileau: Well, it’s a rather new discipline I want to talk about today. A few words about myself: I started in FM radio, always devoted to media at the beginning. I had my first encounter with mobile back in 2007 when I co-founded DailyMe, which is currently the leading mobile media and leading mobile TV application in Germany. I left the operations when we achieved break-even.

That was in 2010, and together now with three partners, we help and support companies along the value chain of their mobile services. Usually includes in the business concept side of things. We enable product development with regards to being the project manager in that case. We can support you with mobile marketing things, usually media planning, buying, we take care of localization. Apps optimization falls into that category as well. And last, but not least, we take care of the data; speaking about mobile analytics.

So I think we’re pretty good in applying best practice, and benchmark; due to the fact that we have insights and right now, up to 80 live applications out there. And today’s topic is something I came across when I was personally responsible at DailyMe for uploading and updating all the app’s metadata in various stores.

So at the beginning, I started to ask myself why apply one set of metadata in one store compared to applying the same set of metadata in another one. I did some research, spoke a lot with other developers, shared my experiences, and today I want to point you to some rather new findings, and new things in the field of app store optimization.

Apps optimization is a pretty new, kind of discipline. You can apply it within your marketing portfolio. There’s no magic behind it; it’s really immature. There’s no standard. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. So I want to clear up that thing a little bit and guide you through how app store optimization can help you to be more successful with your own app business.

Mainly, I will touch today on issues related to the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store; the two major markets. And usually, it requires, more or less, two days of a workshop to really cover the whole scope of how you adjust, how you optimize, how you tweak your app’s metadata in order to perform better in the app stores. So usually, we cover something like how to design your icon, how you come up with your keyword list, how you define and structure your description in the store, the artwork, the banners, the screenshots, and so on, so forth

Due to the fact that we only have more or less a half an hour, I’d like to rather focus on some particular newer finding which are not so publicly discussed yet. What can you do with app store optimization? Before you start spending an additional dollar on paid user acquisitions- and we will hear about how to do this later on, I’m pretty sure – you should think about what you can do yourself when launching your app and putting it live in the app store.

So it’s basically the homework. Everyone should take care, at least once, before the launch or before a major update; to make sure that your application in the store is set up the right way, that it is appealing enough to make the user who finds it in the store  install the application later on and become a life-long user in the best case.

So app store optimization helps you to get your app found in the store. I’ve seen a lot of examples, especially in the newspaper-publishing world, where newspapers go by an app relation or a nickname. People start searching for an app relation or a nickname, cannot find the application. So app store optimization takes care of that.

It also can enable you to rank higher than your competitor for a certain keyword search query. That’s one of the things you want to take care of, that for a specific keyword combination, your application in the results is ranking higher than your competitor’s.

What app store optimization also can support is the situation where a user might want to look up an application or a certain keyword in the Google search. So your Google Play page and your iTunes Apple App Store page might appear in those search results. And in the best case scenario, someone types in a certain keyword, finds your web site first, second one is your Google Play page, and the third one is the iTunes Apple App Store page. That’s what app store optimization also can support you with.

After the user has done the search in the store, looking up certain things, you want to make sure that he also converts into a user. Meaning, after he reads the description, after he saw your screenshot and so on, so forth; he basically clicks the install button and becomes a user. That’s something we want to talk today.

Also, what we’ve seen across the board is when you apply app store optimization for a complete new app, or for an app which is already live out there, you can achieve up to a 20% increase in organic installs.

So assume you have 1,000 installs per day. Applying it the right way, taking care of really the metadata and all the nitty-gritty details which come with it, you can see an uplift in your organic install by up to 20%. It always depends on the nature of your app, of course, the category you’re in, and so on, so forth. But this is something that can be achieved when applying it the right way.

A few honest words up front: app store optimization is not the only tool which helps to break the Top 10. It doesn’t work alone, in a sense that you always have to combine it with a certain set of media, which comes on top of it. And it doesn’t sell a shitty product by the end of the day. That’s for sure.

As I said before, at the beginning, people started talking about it maybe 1 1/2 years ago, even the term “app store optimization” was not a standard yet compared to SEO in the online world. So there are some restrictions and obstacles I want to share with you, which has to be kept in mind when starting or talking about it, or doing some research.

The first one is, there’s very little data available. None of the two major store owners; Google and Apple, are sharing anything public in regards to how the algorithm in the store works nor how the search functionality is set. Or something like how many people are looking for one specific keyword. That’s not available, keep in mind, when you talk to, let’s say, providers of certain ASO, app store optimization tools, some of them try to sell you that. That’s bullshit. It’s not available. So keep that in mind.

When you start applying app store optimization tactics, you will see that there’s a lot of fragmentation out there. Not only in terms of what kind of operating system you’re taking care of, or what kind of app you’re handling, it also is always an issue what kind of category you’re looking at or what kind of country to which you’re distributing.

So applying one change, for example, in the keyword section here, might have a different effect in another country. The translation issue comes with it and so on, so forth. So keep that in mind. A lot of manual work is also involved and you need the respective resources for doing so.

And there is the issue, or the problem so far, that analyzing the effects of it are always hard to figure out. Because, usually, you promote your app in different channels. You have your banners, you have other app stores, and you do PR and so on, so forth. To really isolate the effect of changing one keyword here or changing the application’s name in a certain store, in a certain country; that’s a hard thing to do.

So keep that in mind, when considering doing something in that field or working with someone who can help you with it, that this is not so easy to do; to find out what kind of effect comes with it. The tools, I just mentioned it: there are 20 available at the moment which offer app store optimization automated services. They’re very immature. They are visualizing the data a little bit better

They are a little bit more convenient than the axle you set up yourself, just counting on what position you rank currently under a certain keyword query. So be sure that you have a close look to their offers, to their price, to the service they’re offering. Keep that in mind, that it’s not there yet. They are not as great as [Inaudible 00:10:00] dealing with app store ranking analytics and so on, so forth.

I want to show you three rather new things, which are currently discussed within the field of app store optimization. We want to touch first on the issue of producing clickable links in your Google Play description text. Who of you is, at the moment, in charge of a Google Play application? Alright. I’d say 30. And which one of you is using links in the description text of that particular Google Play app? One? Two? Three, maybe five?

The thing I want to talk about is where and how you can produce clickable links within Google Play. Here’s an example where in the description text of an application are two clickable links available.

Here’s another example where, in the mobile view of Google Play, actually here, it’s the ”What’s New” section, clickable links are available.

So you might want to ask yourself, what’s that good for? If the user comes to your Google Play page, and you’re promoting your social accounts there, what he expects is a clickable link. The user expectations, which should be fulfilled in the best way, and the best way here is a clickable link, right? Everyone would confirm.

So user experience is one thing, the other thing is that all the links within Google Play are do-follow links. The concept of page rank and link juice, just to apply that to that point, is the following: If you’re promoting your web site, your social accounts, your support page within Google Play, those destinations will profit from the link juice. This particular link in Google Play is producing for those other destinations. So Google, the robot recognizes that from your Google Play page, the link is pointing to your web site. This web site will be recognized in receiving such high qualitative link, and therefore it’s very good to have a clickable link in your Google Play texts.

And also what you can do with this is promote other Android apps that you might want to have within your portfolio. Which also profits from the fact that, if someone sees your app description, sees a promotion of another application within the description text; that you’re saying, “Hey, we have other great applications,” those are the ones. Click here and go for it, it might be the better choice to put the user in that direction than having him choosing a competitor’s apps, which might be recommended by the store next to your description.

So producing a clickable link, it’s important to know where you can do this. There are four parameters basically. The one is the [WEP] view. When you open Google Play on your laptop, on your desktop, that’s what I call the [WEP] view. The mobile view is when you access Google Play on your mobile devices. And then there are two destinations or sections. The one is the description text, where you basically describe your app with all the features and so on, so forth. The other one is the text you upload together with an update, the so-called “What’s New” section within Google Play. Combining those four dimensions, you end up with something like this.

Lets focus first on the [WEP] view, and the description text. A link within the description text on the [WEP] view is clickable when you apply a certain prefix to the link structure. And the prefix you should use here is http:// and https://. If you have that set in the description text of Google Play, then you have a clickable link for your user. What does not work is if you simply, like Marvel is doing here, putting in WWW in front of your link. That’s not a complete link; it doesn’t produce a clickable outcome by the end of the day.

If we focus on the [WEP] view, and the “What’s New” section, and honestly speaking, I think that’s a bug by Google which might be fixed in the near future, I’m just stating the fact. No matter what kind of link structure you apply there, none of it will work and produce a clickable link. I don’t know if the ones in the back are seeing this, but that game is not using any prefix. Everyone will agree, it’s not producing a clickable link here. So that won’t work. Neither does WWW in that matter. Temple Run is using http://, nor does https:// work in that context. So keep that in mind, whatever you do here, [WEP] view links, no clickable links.

Now switching to the mobile view, on your mobile device. What does work here is the same http:// and https:// prefix. Two examples. You will see the presentations after today and you can look it up yourself. Also, here, what does not work: WWW, again. The example of Marvel, it doesn’t produce any clickable link. It’s not very convenient, not any link juice to the Facebook page of theirs. Mobile view and the “What’s New” section, and that interesting and different from the [WEP] view where we just saw that none of the structure produces any clickable link.

If  you’re applying http:// and https:// here, it will produce a clickable link. Just the example where it does not work, just to fulfill the whole view, is WWW. So just to sum it up, to give the user a great experience with a clickable link, to cross promote your other apps, maybe within the Google Play store, plus it let’s other destinations of yours profit from the link juice, off Google Play, use https:// and http:// in the description text, as well as in the Google Play “What’s New” section. Just keep in mind, that in the [WEP] view, and the “What’s New” section, none of the links at the moment do work.

The description of in-app purchase terms in the Apple App Store is the second topic I want to touch. The developer who’s introducing an in-app purchase item has an opportunity when he’s setting up on the developer console this in-app purchase item, to give it a name. On the first, there is a so-called reference name, which is basically only for internal use. So you can give this, the 123ABC item a name, however you like, and it puts up usually with your sales report by the end of the day.

On the contrary, there is a second option Apple gives you, or you’re actually required, to give that in-app purchase item a so-called display name. The display name is the one who pops up during the purchase and is shown to the user. But it’s also displayed in the Apple App Store itself. You can open the Apple App Store right now, look for any application which comes with an in-app purchase item, you will see on the app view, on the left side, an in-app purchase item list or on the mobile view, below the description text. What is important is that this display name is actually indexed in the search in the Apple App Store.

So if someone types in a keyword looking for something specific, an application which has an in-app purchase item which is using that keyword as a name, pops up in search. To just give you an example, three games, CSR some of you are familiar with, and two other racing games. None of those are using a search query of “super nitrous” in their title or in their keywords. You’re restricted within the Apple App Store to 100 characters in your keyword list, so none of those are using the combination of “super nitrous” in their keyword list nor in their name. But where they use it, is in the display name of their in-app purchase item.

You can try it yourself, look up any application, and figure out what’s the exact description of the in-app purchase item and you’ll find it in the search results list. Ask yourself, what is it good for? Or how can I use that for my own application? Well, it always depends. If you, for example, are someone like Booking.com, and let’s assume Booking.com has a feature to save historical hotel room searches and they are selling this for $0.99 as an extra feature.

If I would be in charge, I would call that in-app purchase item “hotel search” instead of maybe “historical saving list” or “historical search”. Why is that? “Hotel search”, that particular combination, is a really high-valued keyword for those businesses like Booking.com. And on one hand, with using it for an in-app purchase item, it could extend their keyword list. As I said, they are limited to 100 characters, so using that destination of the in-app purchase item display name; it could extend their keyword list. Or, if they are maybe using “hotel search” already in their title and their keywords, they could use a third place to put that keyword in, “hotel search”, and increase their keyword density.

Another topic, a couple weeks ago during Google I/O, Ankit Jain, who heads the search and discovery team at Google Play, made, for the first time, the announcement that backlinks to Google Play application increase or support the ranking performance of that particular app in the store. So if you receive great, high qualitative backlinks, from review sites, from your own social accounts, from PR sites, and so on, so forth, to your Google Play page, your apps ranking performance is getting better

And not only this. He mentions in particular the fact that if you combine those backlinks, with the great and specific keyword optimized anchor text, the impact of that backlink is actually even better. Anchor text is the layer which is on top of a link, which points to another site. I gave here a rather not-good example of the BBC’s weather app. We’ll explain it. On their blog they did a review of their weather app and the backlink to the Google Play store where the app is actually hosted

It’s just using an anchor text called “Google Play Store”. Pretty generic, doesn’t say anything about the app. So a way to optimize that and have not only a backlink to the Google Play store, but also a great, optimized anchor text, I would rather go in the direction- say maybe they could use something like “The best weather app for the UK, now available in the Google Play store” as an anchor text to that particular link to the Google Play Store.

That’s something you should think through whenever you run promotions, you talk to bloggers, or you talk to review sites for your application, that they are not only pointing to the Google Play store; they are also using an optimized and very specific anchor text which helps to describe the nature of the app.

So app store optimization: the user has found you, you’re ranking better than the competition, and so on, so forth. How do you make this user click and install the application? And that’s the topic of conversion optimization, which is really close to ASO. I just want to share some really hands-on tips for you to take out of this session. The first one is always the situation you find yourself in when creating a new icon. Usually, the designer comes into the meeting, presents his three or four new drafts for an icon, and maybe you like the blue one better. The other one, maybe your boss says, “No, I like the red one.” Discussion goes back and forth.

In order to support this decision with some user data, I usually do it the following way: I take $100, I set up a mobile app banner campaign on whatever network you like. Use always the same template, the same call to action. The only thing different in those three banners is the icon. I put the banners live, and make sure the impressions they get are equally shared. By the end of the day, I look at the click-through rate. Saying “Okay, which one had the highest appeal to the user? Which one made people click?”

In order to support this decision, what icon design works best for my app with some actual user data? This is one thing which is really helpful. You can apply a similar approach to your screenshot design. So the designer sets up three different versions of screenshots, you see which one clicks or generates the highest click-through rates. And then, if you want to go even a step further, you can think, which one should be the screenshot who appears first? Which one is the one the user sees first?

You remember that after Apple introduced last year’s iOS 6, the first screenshot appears now on the search results together with the icon and the name of the application? So it can be much more important in that decision making process, for the user really to dive into that app’s description and so on, so forth.

You can promote that it’s free, you can talk about what’s the app good for, you show the features of it, you can even tell stories. We did the project for a client that’s a gaming company in Germany where we not only tested which design works best, but also we’re making sure that we put the one who generated the highest click through rates at the first place.

Our assumption was that the blue knight might be the most attractive. Turned out after the running campaign with some interstitials, the design of the interstitials where exactly those screenshots, that the red knight actually produced the highest click- through rate. And that case was almost 25% higher than for all the others. So it was clear to us that the one with the red cape, the knight, should be the first screenshot we show to users first, making it most appealing to him.

And another tip is, also stated in Google I/O, where the guy from Google Play said they see in their internal data that video is the item within your app’s metadata which makes people convert most into actual downloads. So video is really important. As you know, you can use video in your app’s metadata on Google Play and Amazon App Shop. Google Play, you can actually localize it for whatever country you want to distribute. That’s the important thing.

But not only can you use video in order to promote and show your app much better than with static screenshots, in the store you can use it also on your social accounts, on video portals. Think about backlinks here, again. I’m pretty sure that within one of the next major updates of iOS, Apple will support developers with the opportunity to put trailers or app trailers for their app in the Apple App Store, to make it much more appealing for the user. To really think or see up front before he downloads or buys an application, what’s that about? I mean, iTunes was built for media, for video, so it shouldn’t be a big deal for Apple to introduce that very soon.

Having that said, you put your heart and soul into developing the best application. Don’t fall short on those things when the user’s actually already there. Make him click, make him buy, convert him into a user. I usually compare with the supermarket situation, where in front of a shelf full of yogurt, with 100 brands. The one right in front of you, the one with the best design, the one with the most appealing color, of course price is an issue here. That should be the situation within the app store for setting your app up in the best possible way. Don’t fall short on that.

And my last slide, just to sum it up, if you want to apply app store optimization into your overall marketing, mobile marketing strategy, have someone in charge. Usually, it’s the developer on one hand, and the marketing person on the other. Maybe you find in the near future, someone more like an app editor, who takes care of all of those things. We briefly discussed getting the description right, supporting the decision making process for the screenshot design, taking care of translation work, keyword changes, keyword tracking and so on, so forth. This is something you should think about when considering doing app store optimization

Also, focus. As I said, it’s not so easy to measure all the things. Maybe start first with one of the major markets you’re distributing your app for. See what works; see what does not. And then later on, apply it to either other countries, to other languages, or to even other stores. There’s a company in Australia called Codango. They are having a dashboard where you can publish your Android app to over 50 different alternative app stores. So think about even applying app store optimization later on for all those alternative app sites in Korea, in Asia, and so on, so forth.

And that’s common sense: try to set yourself some goals, and try to measure them as hard as you can. The download rate after applying app store optimization, the variation in your ranking position for a certain keyword query, how you are doing when someone types in, as I said, “hotel search” versus your competitors; on a weekly base, maybe on a monthly base, maybe on a daily base.

And try to apply this data in your overall process of getting your app out there in the most successful way. What helped me most, or still does, is exchanging all those findings and insights very openly – it’s not magic; it’s nothing like a secret – with other developers. So I’m really looking forward to talk to you throughout the day, get your idea of someone who’s maybe using it already or applying some certain tactics of app store optimization. So that’s all I have to say. Thank you very much.

Massive thanks to Stefan Bileau for giving such a great talk and don’t forget you can come and hear more from him at App Promotion Summit Berlin.