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Growth Hacking the App Store Charts

Growth Hacking the App Store Charts

Photo by Rami Al-zayat

With BBH Stockholm

There are over four million apps on the five largest app stores combined. Every month 45,000 new apps are submitted to the iOS app store making it easy to drown in the sea of apps for an app developer on a slim budget. Since the dawn of the App Store, BBH Stockholm, previously known as Monterosa, has built and rolled out over 100 apps. In this article they reveal some hard earned App store optimisation techniques.

So, you’ve built an awesome app. People love it. Why on earth bother with App Store Optimisation? Bah! BOOOORING! Build it and they will come baby!

A phone showing the position of Volvo app on 8th place App Store Optimisation works

Not so fast. The number one reason for downloading apps is not rave reviews, peer recommendations or Google Adwords. It is people aimlessly browsing the App Stores. Help these people find what they are looking for and you will both prosper. We learned this lesson the hard way.

For Volvo, one of our biggest and oldest partners, we developed this beautiful car configurator, an app that’s best-in-class. In fact, it’s the most downloaded car configurator on the App Stores, but our client asked us to aim higher on the top charts. So we took a look at our App Store presence, and determined it was time for a rewrite using all the tricks in the ASO book, the app soared from top 100 in Lifestyle to solid top 10. The cost? It was dirt cheap.

For apps, ASO has become what SEO is for websites. Even though app search makes up for the vast majority of installs, we’re still meeting a lot of app developers who have overlooked even the easiest of techniques to boost search rankings.

There are a number of factors in play to make your app rank higher in the app store searches. Your app will outrank your competitors if it has a large volume of downloads, if it’s being downloaded a lot right now, and lastly, if your conversion rate is great between the actual app store search, ‘install page’ view and download. Other things that help your app rank high are, if you end up top 3 in the keywords that you’ve picked, if it weights light, if you update it often and if your users aren’t deleting it too frequently. It’s wise to chose a less crowded app category and to optimize your app’s ratings.

Here are 3 concrete ‘hacks’ any developer easily could perform:

  1. Keywords

    You’d be surprised to see what searches people are running to find your app, it’s not just your app’s name. Use Mobile Action’s free keyword tracking tool to test your search volumes and how high your app is ranking within those. On the App store you want to switch out those keywords generating low search volumes and the ones you’re ranking bad on (3rd result or worse). Be creative and test different keyword hypotheses. With Volvo, we found that people were searching for model numbers such as xc90, s90 and v90. These are relevant searches in which we even didn’t turn up in before.

    Search result for Lifesum Choose your characters wisely for Keywords

    You’d be even more surprised to see how few developers actually use their app’s title to rank higher on searches. On iOS you have 255 characters and on Google Play you have 30 characters. Once you have your ‘keyword heavy weights’ lined up: Choose your characters wisely. On Google Play you don’t have a keyword box so here you have to bake them in the description 3-5x to turn up in the search results. A tip is to add a keyword section in the bottom and iterate your way forward.

  2. Screenshots

    Screenshots of the Arla app on App Store Communicate the app using screenshots

    Remember the two first are the most important. On iOS they are even so important they turn up in the search result. It’s wise to communicate your edge here as in this search returning the ‘Arla Köket’ app.

    Clicking through to the install page, it’s best practice to communicate the app in the screenshots as the users tend to look at screenshots rather than your description. Especially since most copy is written on a computer and never optimised for the small screen. Puzzled about Apple’s App store guidelines? There are more apps featured by Apple with annotated screenshots, than without.

    If your background is bright, choose a white phone to bring back the noise. Your app’s beautiful design becomes clearer. On Android the screenshots are smaller so optimize the font size and use less characters.

  3. Ratings

    It’s not polite to ask for a review when a user is in the middle of something while using your app. We see a lot of developers and apps just prompting reviews randomly. Asking for reviews randomly usually will get you 1-star reviews.

    Comments are positive but ratings bad because they ask at the wrong time Find the magic zone for asking for reviews

    On the other hand, Rebtel’s app, making international calling affordable and borderless with a 25M strong user base, is timing the review dialogue. After a call they ask the user to rate the quality of the call, ranging 1-10. Review dialogues are only triggered if the user says 9 or 10. This is brilliant not just because the user is finished doing what they are doing, but they are in a happy state, so the likelihood of the them giving Rebtel a 5-star review is great.

    Work out the magic zone. This is where your users are finished with what they were doing, and you know when you’ve performed a task inside an app and you feel gratified for a split second, that’s the magic zone. It’s logical, the earlier in your app’s user journey you place it, the more reviews will follow. For Volvo we found 3 magic zones and placing the review dialogue there gave us 47 reviews with an average of 4.9 within the first month.

    Ratings for Volvo are 5.0 and 4.9 Efficient tactics drive organic growth

Mobile is the main digital access point. In the US 65% of all web traffic comes from mobile phones. In Japan mobile e-com purchases already exceed their web counterparts in retail. Mobile grew up so big over night it eclipsed all time consumers spent online. This is mainly because of apps. People spend 18x more time inside apps than they do on the web using their phones.

– $143Bn: That’s what the total market size of the entire app industry including all surrounding service layers has been estimated to.

In other words: The app competition has become fierce. Implementing these tactics will make sure you have app store optimized your app ruthlessly with laser focus on the most efficient tactics to drive organic growth. Drop us a line if you need any more help in your quest for a larger user base.

Differentiation has never been more important.

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