App Store Optimization Explained in 5 minutes

What I love most about being a freelancer is that I get to work with clients from all over the world and projects/businesses that are completely different from one another. I’m always learning something new.

Recently, I learned about ASO—App Store Optimization—more precisely, ASO for iTunes. so I decided to put together this little guide for anyone looking for a little insight.

General app store browsing is the most common way apps are discovered; below you can see how many installs an app needs to earn a Top 10 ranking in the iOS App Store.


100,000 downloads are needed to break into the top 10 overall apps in the US, and with average CPI of $3.30 USD in the region (US), this campaign will set you back around $330,000 (USD).

Pretty scary, huh?

However, there is a way to help people discover your app—without having to spend hundreds of thousands of $$$$.

Here’s what to consider:

  • Keywords
  • Visuals
  • Secondary Factors


iTunes Keywords

Keyword use is the most important aspect of ASO.

Keyword research should take a significant amount of time. Start with brainstorming relevant and rising-in-interest search queries with next to no competition.

Make use of the Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends in the beginning to get a general idea of your keywords. Once you get the hang of it, move on to SensorTower or AppAnnie. These tools help with keyword suggestions and tracking, as well as competitor analysis (or spying).

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 00.43.14

(Quick check of yours and your competitors App Store positioning with Sensor Tower.)

Keywords in the app name have the biggest impact on app store search rankings. Always remember that you are looking for the highest search volume with the lowest competition.
The App Store gives you 100 characters to list your keywords, so here are some quick tips:

  • Don’t use spaces, use commas (don’t include a space after your commas—this list is not visible to users and works without using spaces).
  • Repetition of keywords has no effect.
  • Use numbers (3) instead of typing them out (three).
  • Users tend to search for shorter keywords in various combinations.
  • Don’t worry about pluralizing.
  • Get rid of “stop words” (the, on, at).
  • Make use of all 100 characters.

Decide what your main markets (countries) are and remember to localize your keywords. It is proven to boost downloads by 767%.

App name

Do use keywords in the app title as well. The first 25 characters are the most crucial, as they are displayed while scrolling through search results.

Don’t include category names in your app name. For example, don’t use “free puzzle games,” because both “free” and “games” are already app store categories and are included as factors when you list the app in said categories.

Keep in mind that keywords that match an existing app may be flagged for duplication. Also, be aware of keyword cannibalization, in which overuse of one keyword results in a lower ranking, as it delivers the impression of spamming.

App description

The description found in the Apple Store is not indexed in search, but it is a good way to sell your app. It should go without saying that an engaging description will result in more installs than a boring one. Here are some things to note:

  • Only the first 3 lines are displayed as a preview – make it count.
  • Present your app’s main benefits and features: What sets it apart? Why should it be downloaded?



Visuals include your app icon and screenshots, both very important for branding and often crucial when users are choosing whether to download the app or not. You want visuals that draw users in and stop them from scrolling past your app while browsing the app store.

While it represents what your app is, your icon should also stand out. When potential users explore different options in the app store, your icon is their first and sometimes only impression. Make the icon design consistent throughout the app, as well as on your website, to help with brand recognition.

Besides the icon, the first two screenshots are the most important, as they are the ones displayed in search results. Don’t just use these screenshots as a place to put some pretty images. Describe your app’s best features; consider using words to describe what is happening in the images. Treat these spaces as advertisements and tell a story.


Secondary Factors

There’s direct link between app reviews and search rankings, so encouraging your users to give you a positive review will definitely help you get a better ranking in the App Store. The thing is, you have to ask nicely; being pushy will likely get you the opposite effect.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 00.38.52


Here are some simple guidelines to follow to receive positive feedback and ratings:

  • Don’t ask when they are in the middle of something—you’re killing their user experience.
  • Don’t ask for feedback as a crash report, that’s literally asking for negative reviews.
  • Rather than begging, ask users if they would like to provide feedback.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 00.40.45


To reap the rewards of ASO, you need to invest time and effort. If you do, you’ll have a consistent channel driving traffic to your app. Generating app visibility and being found is one of the most difficult challenges for mobile apps, but with the right amount of work, it’s a problem you can actively solve.


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