Appstore Optimization: Practical Tips For Success On The App Stores

APSBERLIN2013-logo (translucent)

The panel on “Appstore Optimization: Practical tips for success on the App stores” took place at App Promotion Summit in Berlin and was chaired by Harald Neidhardt of Mlove. The other participants that took part in the discussion are Lena Stösser Head Of Mobile at Experteer, Stefan Bielau, Managing Partner of Dynamo Partners, Tomasz Kolinko Founder of Appcodes and Kristina Rothe, Game Development Evangelist at Microsoft. Now we are able to share audio recordings of the panel discussion video as well as transcription. The panel covered a range of topics relating to Appstore Optimization (ASO)

You can watch the video or listen to the audio recordings and podcast recording here:

You can find the audio recording below:

You can find the full text of the panel discussion below:

Harald Neidhardt: Let’s have a little bit of interaction of the panel here, and I will ask one opening question. Then I hope whoever has the most pressing one, please raise your hand. We’ll see if we can hopefully answer some of the questions and keep this discussion going among ourselves.

Why don’t we introduce the panel, ladies first? Kristina, tell us a little bit about yourself. Then I asked each of you, basically, what is maybe a tip you have. But why don’t we introduce ourselves first.

Kristina Rothe: Hi, I’m Kristina Rothe, and I’m a Game Development Evangelist from Microsoft, based in Germany, down in Munich.

Harald Neidhardt: All right, Lena.

Lena Stoesser: My name is Lena. I’m working for Experteer, which is a premium recruiting service across Europe and the U.S.. Before that, I worked for the Scout24 Group a lot, also in mobile and innovation.

Tomasz Kolinko: My name is Tomasz. I am the founder of Appcodes, one of the first tools for App Store CEO.

Harald Neidhardt: All right, and we know Stefan? I might be it somewhere. Why don’t you maybe start with a question? Give us a tip, something which you’ve learned afterwards, that we can reinforce maybe to help in the App Store forum.

Stefan Bielau: Well, I cannot emphasize this enough, and it was also mentioned in the presentations before. Start measuring, start doing data analysis even before you go live with your application.

In the face of beta testing, in the face of creating marketing materials, in the face of the final back-fixes, when your app is already out, being used by beta testers. It might even be only 20 people. Start to acquire data; start trying to interpret and analyze those numbers starting to come back to you.

Especially in those early days, there are so many indications which later on, will give you a clearer, faster path to accelerate either marketing or product development. So really try to assemble all the necessary tools you need at the beginning, trying to really take care of AB testing, and cohort analysis, as early as possible.

That’s probably more general advice. But I see a lot of people being focused only on the release date, going live. Everyone’s satisfied getting the thing out there. But then asking each other, “What are we doing? How are our users perceiving us? How are they using us?” when they are already into the game for a week or a month, without having the respective data in their hands.

Harald Neidhardt: Kristina? Tell us a little bit about the Windows Store.

Kristina Rothe: From what I’ve seen, a lot of things have been covered about IOs and Android before in this round. All of these principles apply as well, in general, when you upload your app, or put it up to the Windows and Windows Phone Store. So make sure that the presence is right.

However, what you really want is retention, and things to talk about, things to keep the users in the app. For that it’s important to make sure that you also make use of platform-specific features.

For example, if you look at the Life Tiles, which you an either use as primary, or also, as secondary. Think of a turn-based, two-player, strategy-type chess game. Use that secondary tile as a direct link to that particular game room.

Whenever that second player makes a move, then send an update through that, and make it catchy, so the user is always drawn back into the app. That also makes it easier to get the platform-holder, i.e., us, for example, to put a spotlight on it for added visibility.

Harald Neidhardt: All right. Lena?

Lena: I liked [inaudible 00:04:24], what he said in his presentation about what you have to consider when you plan your app store appearance. I think it’s really where you have to put your spotlight on, because you probably spend a lot of money to get users to your app store appearance.

This is the first touch point which a user has with your app, so I especially like to use those pure-end screenshots, for example. Where you can show the used piece again. You can show your product. It’s the first time the user sees your product. This is also where you should really put some effort on it, because it’s the first touch point with your app.

Tomasz Kolinko: All right, so Gaston spoke about the importance of search and how much search can give. I would like to say that there is a difference between how you position in the web search, in Google, and how you position in the app stores.

In Google, what people do is just fight for the top phrases. You find the absolutely most popular phrase in Google, and then you fight your way up by building uplinks.

In the case of an app store, especially Apple’s App Store, there is no way to fight your way up, exactly. You can switch keywords between name and keyword list, but once your position is at a certain level, you cannot move exactly for a search. It’s very hard.

So there is a different focus over there. The focus is on finding the right phrases that you can get top position for. Don’t look for the most popular phrases. We saw that users come to us and say, “All right, what are the most popular phrases? We want those.”

No, go for the phrases that you stand a chance to be in the top position for, exactly as Gaston said. If you are not in that top position, like the top ten, forget about the phrase. Look for something less popular, but something that will give you traffic. Because being number 17 for a phrase that is extremely popular will give you nothing. So keep that in mind.

Harald Neidhardt: Finally, it’s your time. Who has had a great discussion at their table and have a pressing question? Volunteers first, all right. Here we go. If you could introduce yourself, just the company, as well.

Peter van der Linden: I’m Peter van der Linden; I’m with the Immersion Corporation of California. The discussion on our table revolved around the extreme difficulty of connecting changes to results, as you try this app store optimization process. We felt that something that would help greatly is greater transparency, or a view inside this black box of the app store operators. Do you see any relief coming? How can we force that to happen? Thank you.

Harald Neidhardt: Why don’t you take that?

Tomasz Kilinko: All right, I can take that. I don’t see relief coming any time soon, at least from the Apple side. They are very opaque when it comes to this.

On the other hand, you can look at it from the bright side. There is not so much competition when it comes to tracking changes in the algorithm, and so on and so on. In the case of Google Search, it’s a war zone over there.

In the Apple store, it’s like, “All right, you take your spot. You’re there. Chill out; focus on other things, and just keep your position.” The least we can do is look at the bright side of the whole opaqueness.

One more thing. What helped us is when we started asking users, within our app, how did they actually find the app. We showed them a pop-up and asked them, “Which phrase did you use when searching for our app?”

Some of the users answered this question, and that helped us a little bit to navigate which phrase actually gives us better results. That’s the best we could do to break through that opacity.

Stefan Bielau: I’ll take a second to add, in terms of marketing planning, app store optimization is basically only the homework you can do at the beginning. You set it up once. Once and a while, when you run updates, you take care of slight adjustments or slight changes. But it is nothing which gives you the hockey-stick growth at the end, I would say.

It’s just part of the bigger picture when it comes to acquisition, mobile marketing, planning. It’s definitely the base. You want to have all the dollar spend converted in the right way, but it’s not something which accelerates you to a bigger level, like that. Due to the fact that it’s a black box, I would not rely purely on app store optimization.

Tomasz Kolinko: If I could add to that. I totally agree with Stefan, here. The way we see app store optimization is that it’s a base. It will give you some results; it won’t push you to number one, but it can give you some base.

It is especially important when you want to get engagement. That will give you those hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of free users, whom you can learn from. Then build engagement, build a better product, and then move on with everything else. But that is just a base and a very narrow one.

Harald Neidhardt: Who has the next question? Over there.

Audience Member: [inaudible 00:09:49], from Fox and Sheep. We build apps for kids. One question regarding effectiveness of using keywords in the title, versus normal keywords. Especially at the Apple App Store, with Apple approaching developers, telling them to use short names and specifically telling them not to use keywords in the title. Just a question regarding effectiveness of using them in the title versus just as a keyword.

Kristina Rothe: The only thing I can say from our experience is that the title is pretty strong in the search, so this counts a lot when you put your keywords in there. It’s just that when your competitor does it, you should do it as well. Otherwise you won’t be found.

Even if Apple recommends, I know they’re saying “use just short titles” and stuff, for the optimization and to be found within the search rank, it’s pretty important to put your keywords there.

Tomasz Kolinko: What I would add to that is that Apple likes to change things a little bit. Over a year ago, name mattered a lot. You had that keyword in the name; you were in the top spot. Then they changed it, and name matters just as much as keywords.

We tested that; we switched between name and keywords, and it was similar. Right now, we saw a chart, two presentations ago, where we see that, again, name matters. And that’s what you say. So I would say experiment. Because even if we tell you this today, tomorrow it may be different. Change things and see for yourself.

Lena Stoesser: One thing that you should never forget about that, is always keep the user in mind, as well. Whenever I’m trying to search for one specific type of app, so I enter a keyword, the title is more important for me, when it comes to actually doing that next click and looking at the app description. I want to know exactly what it does and what I could get myself into with that app. So that is just as important.

Harald Neidhardt: All right. We had a question over here.

Tanya: Hi, Tanya from Vango, an app, mobile, video platform. I know Gaston mentioned that last week Apple allowed the first embeddable video in the App Store. I would like to hear your thoughts on what you think the role is for app trailers, and how important this is going to be for app store discoverability and store optimization, specifically in the Apple App Store.

Harald Neidhardt: Video in app stores.

Stefan: Video and app stores, if you’re a video production company, you’re in a great position. And everything indicates in that direction. As soon as Apple opens the gates for everyone to put their video app in the metadata, you will have brands first probably pouring thousands of dollars into your pockets to get the videos right.

It’s already available on Amazon; it’s already available on Google Play. As far as I know, at the moment, and I cannot tell how long it will stay like that, only those who have a managed account with Apple are able to negotiate and prepare something like that.

The first one, Natural Motion last week, with Clumsy Ninja; we will see a lot more things coming. It’s just the nature of iTunes, which was built for media, for video, music, and so on and so forth, to present things not in esthetic, aka screenshot way, rather than having it present in a really appealing, visual way. And video is the best way to do so, I think.

Harald Neidhardt: Great question, thank you. Who has the next question?

Daria: I’m Daria; I’m from Yandex, Moscow. I have two questions. One is in regards to the effectiveness of screenshots, because it really takes lots of efforts to design them, especially when you have lots of apps. So do you have any cases of really seeing a difference when story-telling, between created screenshots and real screenshots?

The second question is how can we maximize organic downloads by being, for instance, in the top three in app stores? What would be the percentage of maximizing the organic downloads, of being in the top three? Thanks.

Stefan: I think I can take the screenshot question. What we’ve seen, once, just adding the word “free” in the first screenshot, in the IOS app store, even though the app was free, and clearly indicated by the button, we saw a ten percent increase just because of that. Just to make sure.

Tomasz: It’s the same as “click here”.

Stefan: Realize where the people look at and what they actually read through in your description, or not, to give you an example. Even going farther, when story-telling within the screenshots, not only AB testing the final set of your screenshots, but even comparing the performance of each individual one against the other.

So the setting of one, two, three, four, five, which is the total amount of screenshots you can use in the app store, for IS at least, might be even going so far as to test each of the final set against each other to see which one performs or clicks best. Then put that one in the first place.

Daria: But how do you see how they perform? Because you can’t track the direct conversion from the app store; you don’t get the information from them.

Stefan Bielau: No, that’s impossible. What you can do is run an add campaign using interstitials, basically running a campaign like on AdMob. Spend a couple hundred dollars there, and simply put the screenshots out there and see which one clicks best.

Daria: Okay, thanks.

Harald Neidhardt: All right, let’s get Goetz to run. How about a question all the way in the back? Pick that table, there. No, the one with all the people, eight people. They must have one question. So we put somebody on the spot.

Ilker: Okay, you forced me.

Harald Neidhardt: Yes.

Ilker: I’m Ilker; I’m the CEO of KaiserGames. We are originally coming from the online publishing industry, so mobile for us, is relatively new. I’ve been in the gaming industry since 2004 and we publish in Flash Games. As all of you know, FlashGames does not have a big future, so we had to adapt to mobile.

For us it’s really great in that it brings new energy into the company. But what I want to say is that we see the behavior the people have. For example, they know that there is a browser, for example; they don’t know the App Store.

Once they get their SmartPhone, they intuitively open the mobile browser and search for certain keywords. For example, “girl games”, “kids games”, “racing games”, whatever. So what is the importance of the mobile browser?

We talked a lot about ASO, about the organic search in the app stores. But what about mobile browser? Does it have a big importance to get downloads?

Harald Neidhardt: Browser versus apps.

Lena Stoesser: Maybe I can take this. By now, at Expeteer, we have a web app; we call it that way. So you reach it as a service via the mobile browser. I also don’t believe in this war of mobile browser against native apps, because I think you really have to have both.

Maybe your mobile website or your mobile web app is like the central point where the user starts. What I always like to offer is having a gateway, or something in between, where you can promote your apps, but also let the user just choose whether to use the mobile website, or you can lead him to the app store. In that case, a mobile browser could also be like a marketing channel for your native app, and you should use this as well.

Kristina Rothe: Also for us, both for Windows8 and for over the phone, there are direct representations of both App Stores in the browser, in the webspace, including all the screenshots, all the information, with the opportunity to, at that stage, from the browser already, download or purchase the app and send it to whichever device you want to have the app on later. Or to bookmark it for download later.

Or if you open that website on a browser, there will be a direct link into the app store, so that you make it as easy as possible to get the download right away. At the same time, it gives the opportunity to use the link, the presence in the app store, for your own website, to market that as well.

Harald Neidhardt: All right, next question? If not, I pick the table with the lady in red. I like red, and you stand out. So somebody at your table, what did you discuss? Ah hah, red is appearing. No question over there? Okay, the experts. Ah hah, over there, James, all the way in the back. No, yes, okay, all the way in the back, okay.

Christopher: I will try to ask a question.

Harald Neidhardt: Will you introduce yourself?

Christopher: Yes, yes, of course. My name is Christopher, from Lindstedt and my question is, because we talked about the need to test on apps and what is performing well, as so on, what are good tools to really go into it? There’s Google Analytics, and so on, which is, I think, not ideal for the in-app testing, which feature is really performing well, and so on. What are good tools that we could use here?

Harald Neidhardt: Good question, in-app analytics.

Tomasz Kolinko: Aside from running the SEO tool company, I am also an independent developer.  What we [inaudible 00:20:16] was, we built our own server site tool to do really in-depth analytics, because we could do in the software, inscript some different analytics that were harder to do than in [inaudible 00:20:26] and other kinds of things.

The trick that we discovered is that there is an analytics tool called “Localytics”, which has an open-source module for IOS. So you can actually take their open-source library and embed it into your app, and then put it into your server. Then your server keeps track. That’s a trick that we used, at least once, and it was quite nice. That I can give you.

Lena Stoesser: I used to be in game development, and one tool that we used very successfully, but is a bit tricky to set up and cater to your needs, is Graphite. It allows you to really set your data points, and mix and match them as they come. But you’re responsible for the server, and there are a couple of things that you need to be aware of. But for a cross-platform, that was a pretty cool tool.

Harald Neidhardt: How about Flurry, Stefan?

Stefan Bielau: Obviously Flurry is a very well known name in the mobile analytics base. Although it can get quite confusing, when you look for “mobile analytics”. To make it easier for myself, and maybe for others, as well, I usually try to cluster mobile analytics into three pillars.

The first one is this. App store analytics, we’ve seen this demo today, app store analytics probably plays a certain role there. So you get all of the performance data out of the app stores: your downloads, your rankings your keywords, and stuff like that.

The second pillar is in-app analytics. This involves really figuring out who is the user, what is he doing, how is he spending money on your offers.

And the third part is everything related to your marketing, when it comes to tracking what are the most efficient sources of traffic. Who comes from a click-on-the-banner, just to keep it simple? Downloading the app in the store, and doing something within the app. Attribution tracking, so to speak.

There are also some new, interesting players coming into perspective from that kind of thing. Those are the three pillars, so to speak, when it comes to mobile analytics. I don’t want to mention anyone specifically, but there are a lot of players out there.

Harald Neidhardt: No, no, mention some. We need some names. Name names. You mentioned one already.

Stefan Bielau: For the latter one, a local bass player, [inaudible 00:23:01], I think the guys are here, as well. This started as an attribution analytic tool, to give you the latest perspective on where the traffic comes from.

Now they are evolving and enhancing their product, adding features like in-app analytics to the whole perspective. This is a great tool, not only seeing where the traffic is coming from, and maybe, how many people spend, but also, what they do afterwards, in more detail.

Harald Neidhardt: What about the in-app thing?

Stefan Bielau: Localytics, Flurry. I like Google a lot. Even though you say that you have not had that much good experience with it, Google Analytics still works great, even IS, to track things in your app.

Harald Neidhardt: All right, last question.

Stefan Bielau: Kontagent was mentioned here, too.

Dyor Haenner: My name is Dyor Haenner; I work for Mansion. For the past ten years, we build online casino games. We have big brands like, and so forth, and we are kind of new to the app game.

For us, we have a very mature product on the Web, and something that really concerns us, in terms of marketing, is what you just mentioned, regarding where the traffic comes from. What we’ve gathered so far is that it’s a little bit tricky to track traffic source, from media, from affiliates, from other kinds of sources.

On the regular Web, we’re doing it rather well; although there is still room to evolve. But it’s a little bit tricky for us, after being in the business for ten years, to understand how to do it well in native apps, especially when you’re sending traffic into app stores.

Harald Neidhardt: And the question?

Dyor Haenner: So, how do you do it?

Stefan Bielau: As I said, some companies have figured out how to do this using cookie-fingerprint technologies, similar to the Web. AdEven is one. There is a U.S.-based company called HasOffers. Another player, I think from the UK, AdEx, doing stuff like that.

On Google, you can use Google Attribution Tracking, to do a similar thing when it comes to Android applications, native ones. Talk to those people, get a first-hand look at their SDKs and solutions, and I think you’re good to go. Although, it is really early days in that particular field.

Lena Stoessser: I would like to add something. What you really have to consider is, especially when you’re from a web company, this is what I have recognized over the last few years, mobile is just different.

You cannot apply the rules you have from the Web. It’s so easy; you have affiliates; you have cookies; it’s a nice funnel. You have just these app stores, especially on IOS in between, which is a black box.

You always have to think, “It’s different.” You cannot apply the Web rules here, but, as Stefan said, there are some nice tools that you can use, and they help you to do the same.

Tomasz Kolinko: I totally agree with what you said. I add, again, that you can ask users; that’s irritating to users, of course. But if you run a limited amount of questions, like a pop-up asking, “How did you find our app?” for a limited time, most of them will say, “I don’t want to answer that.” But some of them will give you some indication. Those will be the things that you cannot track any other way, like using cookies and so on. It’s a least worth a try.

Harald Neidhardt: All right, let’s thank the panel, and thank you for your time.

Thanks to the moderator and panelists for a great discussion you can find out more about App Promotion Summit here