They say you don’t get a second chance at making the first impression. Likewise you only have one go at launching an app. That’s why it’s critical to get everything right from the get go. This checklist will help you make sure you get all the essential App Store Optimization (ASO) elements covered before you hit the release button on your app.
Mobile App ASO Pre-launch Checklist
App Store Optimization (ASO) is a central element of any successful app launch regardless of the marketing and promotion strategy that you choose. ASO is a two-part process: on the one hand you need to make sure that your app is visible in search for the right keywords. On the other hand you need to optimize your conversion rates so that visibility turns into users. Whether you’re counting on viral growth, search traffic, user acquisition, cross-promotion or all of the above, having a well optimized app page will amplify your growth and ROI manyfold.
1. App Name
App name is important for several reasons. It affects your search performance, conversion rates and also the viral potential. Therefore you need to make it:
- Unique – so that you always rank first for your own app name
- Relatively easy to spell and pronounce – so that you can leverage word of mouth and not lose traffic to misspelled searches
- Descriptive – to let users know what your app does and rank better for relevant keywords
And of course you have to fit the limits:
iOS – 50 characters
Android – 30 characters
2. Keywords (iOS only)
App Store also gives you 100 characters per localization to specify the search terms relevant to your app. It’s critical to get this right if you want to have meaningful search traffic. Here’s what you need to remember:
- Don’t use spaces
- Don’t repeat words (you only need one mention either in title or keywords)
- Keywords in title have more weight
- Word forms like singular and plural are often interchangeable so you only need one, but sometimes they can be different – so always check the search results to decide if you need both
- Take advantage of other localizations (MX spanish keywords will affect search results in the US, UK – in AU, and so on – you can always check these cross-relations in iTunes Connect).
- Use App Store typeahead search suggestions, Search Ads suggestions, related searches, competitor’s app names to brainstorm keyword ideas and analyze them. Specialized tools like ASOdesk, ASOdragon or MobileAction can help save time and make you more productive.
Being the first thing a user sees on the App Store, your app icon has to be simple, recognizable and eye catching. It has to stand out from the crowd (i.e. being different) but at the same time should give at least a general idea of what your app does. Here is what can help you design the perfect icon:
- Avoid using lots of text or small details
- Use a clean color palette
- Opt for contrasting colors
- Keep a simple clear concept
Chances are you will come up with several ideas for your icon and you will want to know which one you should pick. You may feel like trusting your guts, or go and show your icon designs to your friends, family, colleagues, ask for advice on developer forums and discussion groups and have them choose. Don’t!
First of all you shouldn’t care what you or your friends or colleagues think. The only people who should decide are your users. Secondly your users shouldn’t know they are taking part in an experiment, so they behave naturally, therefore you can’t just show them several icons and let them choose. So the best way to really find out which icon works best is through A/B testing.
App screenshots are the most prominent element of both your app page and your search results listings, therefore we can’t stress enough how important they are. This is the element that has the biggest impact on your conversion rates and it requires your undivided attention. Always remember to:
- Use all five screenshots
- If your first screenshot is portrait, make sure second one is in the same orientation
- Use caption texts describing and selling your app: tell a story, highlight features and benefits
- Analyze competition and look at apps outside your category for inspiration
- Experiment, experiment, experiment
Just like with icons – A/B test all your assumptions and act based on data, not hypotheses and guesses.
When it comes to description, the main thing you should be aware of is that you only have 252 characters visible before the “More…” link. These 3 lines are of the primary importance.
- Make sure your description is written so that the text above the fold clearly explains what your app does and why it’s better than the others
- Try to avoid interrupted sentences – you really want people to install the app, not tap to read full description
- Don’t forget to use bullet lists to highlight the main benefits of the app
- And by all means, have a call to action! (if you can’t think of one just use ‘Install now!’)
6. Preview Video
A video app preview can make or break your app’s success. We’ve seen enough examples of both scenarios, that’s why we strongly recommend app developers to A/B test new video previews before uploading them to the App Store. And here is what can help you when creating video previews:
- Try to keep your video short and get straight to the point. 80% of users stop watching video previews after 12 seconds, so don’t beat around the bush.
- Pay special attention to the poster frame, as it is taking a place of your first screenshots, so make sure it follows the same guidelines as your screenshots images.
- Remember that you only have one version for all localizations so keep your messaging clear and universal
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7. Ratings and Reviews
Even though it may seem that user reviews are out of your control and all you can do to impact them is learn how to build a great app, but there’s more you can do to get better ratings:
- Give users a place where they can leave a review
- Try to capture and work with negative feedback directly, while directing positive feedback to the App Store.
- Encourage reviews. Make sure to find the right segments and the right timings for doing this. Don’t make your users annoyed with the pop up windows all the time
Retention is an important factor for several reasons. First: the cost of retaining a user is as a rule much lower than that of acquiring a new one. Secondly, retention is considered to be a factor in search results (more so on Google Play, but according to some reports on iOS as well).
- Push notifications
When done properly, push notifications can help you improve your retention as well as alert your users of major updates or promo campaigns. The key here is to only send a notification when it really provides value. Don’t make you users feel spammed.
- Email Newsletters
While a lot of developers go on abusing push notifications and spoiling it for the rest of us, email remains an underused but very effective channel in the mobile world. First of all make sure that you build your email list via an opt-in form, so your users know that they are subscribing to emails. And just as with push notifications – put user value at the center of your communication.
If you can allocate a budget to it – consider running retargeting and reactivation campaigns, especially when it comes to loyal/paying users.
Naturally, these guidelines alone won’t magically push you to the top charts overnight, you still need to have a decent app and work on your marketing and user acquisition. But if you get these points right they will amplify the effect from everything else you do to promote your app giving you a bigger bang for every buck or effort that you invest.
Most importantly, App Store Optimization is not a set-and-forget activity that you do once and run with it. You need to be constantly optimizing your app: monitoring your keyword positions and refining your keyword list, coming up with new ideas to improve all elements of your app store page page and running A/B tests to prove your theories, monitoring your ratings and reviews and making your app better for the user.
We tried to cover all the most critical pieces of app launch, but if you think that we missed something important – do share in the comments!