5 Tips to Improve App Store Ranking

This post was written by Sylvain Gauchet, Co-Founder of Apptamin and Chelsea Andrews, EVP & Co-Founder of DevMode Strategies, in coordination with Amazon Appstore. Follow them on Twitter: @sylvainww, @Chels_LA and @AmazonAppDev.

The holiday season is traditionally the busiest time of year for new mobile device activations and app downloads - so now is the perfect time to make sure you’re optimising your app store presence to maximise downloads during peak season.

Back in August, we had the pleasure of Amazon Appstore presenting at our San Francisco App Strategy Workshop, where they shared invaluable best practices to standout in the crowded app marketplace. Let’s explore Amazon Appstore’s 5 major tips to boost downloads, shall we?
 

Publish or Perish

Quickly, before we dive into app store optimization (ASO), step one is to make sure your app(s) is published in the correct app stores for your product, audience, and revenue strategy.

It seems obvious, but you need to be sure you’re on all the devices your customers use. This means being in the relevant app stores for all those devices - which may be more than one, as some platforms support many stores. Amazon is a great example of leveraging multiple stores to reach new audiences and maximize distinct advantages. 

By the way, if you’re not in the Amazon Appstore, take a peek at our blog post from last week where we unpack the top reasons why you should consider publishing on the platform now.

Assuming you’re content with where your app is published, let’s talk about 5 best practices to improve your app store ranking.
 

1. Know your customers

It’s never too early to start connecting with users. Many developers are using Twitch.tv to live-stream actual game design and coding. It’s a new way to build interest in your title even before it’s complete, or even playable.

Not only does this help you test and evaluate aspects of your app to tweak and refine before launching full-scale, it helps you identify how users are actually engaging with your app. This insight can help you decide what features to call-out and how to showcase your value.

Those that win at ASO don’t guess, they know what their users want, and what imagery and messaging resonates enough to inspire an install. That’s why it’s critical to track users and measure everything.

Amazon Appstore offers a great cross-platform real-time analytics tool that’s useful in countless ways, one of which, is to leverage user behavior to fine-tune app marketing to attract and intrigue new users.

Of course you can’t talk about downloads without talking about retention. What good is a user if they don’t stick around? We could write a whole post about user retention, but for the sake of this post, one thing to point out is this - the wheel works.

Customers are comfortable with what they know, you don’t need to reinvent familiar mechanics. Instead let customers use the skills they have already developed and are comfortable with, and importantly, showcase it on your app product page.

This brings us to tip #2.
 

2. Choose the right name

Clearly your app title is one of the things that matters most, both for search and to attract consumers. It shouldn’t be longer than 100 characters, you should capitalise the first and last words of the title as well as every word besides coordinating conjunctions and prepositions. Don’t put terms like “awesome”, “greatest”, etc. in your title.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Don’t duplicate. Do your due diligence to ensure you’re not considering a name that’s already trademarked. With so many apps out there, this easily happens unintentionally.
     
  • Be authentic. Originality is key. If your app sounds like an existing popular app, your app can come across as phony. Sometimes using a two-part name helps highlight your product and ensure originality. Here are some examples: BuzzFeed, Evernote, HootSuite, YouTube.
     
  • Be descriptive. Would someone know what your app does just by the name? Using made up words or arbitrary names will certainly confuse users and make your app harder to find. Be creative, but call it like it is.
     
  • Go case-sensitive. Users have reported that all caps titles can come across as “spammy”. Case-sensitive names are also easier to quickly scan in the app store.
     
  • Avoid overly common words or phrases ("calendar"). Remember potential users may be using a search engine to find you - don’t make them wade through hundreds of unrelated results.
     
  • Name generators are awesome. Stuck? Name generators can help inspire a new direction. We've used nameboy.com before.

 
There are so many “calendars.” How can you tell which one is the best?

There are so many “calendars.” How can you tell which one is the best?

 

By the numbers:

Name optimization increases conversion by 22% on average, regardless of app store (Chartboost).
 

3. Design the right icon

Icons drive expectations. Your icon is usually the first place most people will encounter your app. You have to stand out from the crowd AND set expectations.

Users will begin to build assumptions about user experience based upon your icon. How is this app different from others? How intuitive will it be? How enjoyable is the experience going to be? Further, consumers look at the icon to build trust and as an indicator of the quality of the app’s technology, security, and so forth.

Is your icon attractive and instantly recognisable?

 
These are some of the most iconic icons. Which ones do you like? Why?

These are some of the most iconic icons. Which ones do you like? Why?

 

Because icons are used in a wide range of sizes, the imagery you use needs to be clear and identifiable from a distance. A few quick things to consider:

  • Focus on a simple and clean, yet unique shape.
  • Stick to two colours (sometimes more works, but the less busy the better).
  • Don’t use photos, use illustrations instead.
  • Test your icon on a variety of backgrounds to make sure it’s as impactful on a dark wallpaper as it is on a light one.

By the numbers:

Icon optimisation increases conversion between 8% and 17%, depending on the app store (Chartboost).
 

4. Write your description like a dating profile

The description needs to get your customers excited. It needs to be fun, informative, and concise. Think of your description like a dating profile:

  • Form a narrative. Write your description from the point of view of the user as opposed to the creator. Illustrate how and why passionate customers use the app to help the customer imagine how they would use it.
     
  • Start with a bang. You have limited space “above the fold” to sell your app before a user has to drill down for details. Take the opportunity to grab the user’s attention and differentiate yourself within the first two lines.
     
  • Highlight the stand-out features. Chances are your app has a ton of great futures. Try and stick to the top 5 that best showcase your core offering.
     
  • Explain why you’re the best. Clearly identify the problem you’re solving and showcase features that set you apart - or ahead - of the competition.
     
  • Use compelling subheads. Begin each section with some written artistry to get users to keep reading.
     
  • Details do sell. Creative titles reel them in, but it’s the details that convince users to download.

Each app store has their own description criteria and guidelines. To learn more about best practices for writing and posting descriptions on the Amazon Appstore, check out this link.

By the numbers:

Description optimisation increases conversion between 11% and 23%, depending on the app store (Chartboost).
 

5. Maximise visual impact

Use screenshots that demonstrate gameplay.

Use screenshots that demonstrate gameplay.

Put your best (visual) foot forward with imagery that pops and is descriptive. Just like your icon, your imagery creates assumptions about the quality of your product and sets expectations. The first two screenshots are the most important, Chartboost indicates that users rarely get past the fourth or fifth screen.

Another thing to remember is a huge percent of app discovery comes through search or recommendations, so consider how your assets will appear next to your competitor’s.

The best / most impactful screenshots demonstrate gameplay:

  • Show gameplay, not splash screens
  • Show what makes the game unique
  • Show action, not menus
  • It’s okay to annotate screenshot

By the numbers (Chartboost):

  • Screenshot optimisation increases conversion 35%.
  • Adding video increases conversion 19%-35%.
  • Optimising your video adds another 22% lift.
     

Bonus general marketing tips...

Tip 1: Famous personalities entertain.

Does your app give them the ability to riff in their signature style, in a way their audience can relate to and enjoy?

Similarly, Internet celebrities have massive online followings and can provide immense exposure for your app, especially games. They're popular because they are entertaining; does your app allow them to do their job? That is, can they riff on the gameplay, storyline, or characters?

IMPORTANT NOTE: You gotta get permission first :)
 

Tip 2: Connect with industry pros.

Broadcasters, journalists, league players—reach out to those who make their living in the industry.

You can also reach out to industry professionals, like journalists, or league players. They are often a trusted voice in a position to reach a large, specific audience.

 

Tip 3: Diversify revenue streams...and expand your fan base too!

And finally, it’s a good idea to break out of the main monetisation loop.

There are tons of ways to take the expand in other directions, and generate alternative revenue:

  • Crowd funding
  • Merchandise
  • Alternative media (and/or advertising)
  • eSports

A major benefit of generating revenue outside of your app is the opportunity to expand your fan base.

Someone buys a t-shirt with your app logo, and now other people see it and say, "Wow, that's a super cool shirt. What's the deal? Tell me all about that amazing product!"

So, in conclusion

In the increasingly competitive app marketplace, you have a limited opportunity to impress users before they move on. Optimising your name, icon, description, and imagery can increase conversion dramatically to achieve the results you’re looking for. Before we head into the holidays, we invite you to test out some of the key tips we touched on today and let us know the results!

As a final note, with distinct discoverability and cross-platform advantages, I definitely recommend developers publish on the Amazon Appstore before the holiday season. You can learn more about optimising your Amazon product pages here.
 

And that’s not all...

The Amazon Appstore is offering a unique UK Developer Spotlight - an ongoing initiative offering the opportunity to get premium billboard featuring on the UK Amazon Appstore*. AND, if you submit your app by December 7th you’ll be in with a chance to reach the Christmas Billboard - yep, your app, in a spotlight, at the busiest time of the year!


*Not a UK developer, but your core user base is in the UK? Go ahead and register as a UK publisher!

 

Finally

Wherever you are in the world, you can sign-up to receive updates and incentives from Amazon.


Finally, finally

The content explored in this post was discussed at our recent App Strategy Workshop in San Francisco. Check out the video below, which expands upon the points above and also explores tactics to avoid.