Just Build an App and They’ll Come
So, you’ve built an awesome app. People love it and they even tell their friends to download (as you’ve read on several forums). Why on earth bother with App Store Optimisation? Bah! BOOOORING! Build it and they will come baby! Not so fast.
News flash: There are now over four (4!) million apps on the five (5!) largest app stores combined. Every month 45,000 new apps are submitted to the iOS app store — it’s shockingly easy to drown in the sea of apps for any app developer on a slim budget.
Since the dawn of the App Store,
BBH Stockholm has designed, built and rolled out north of 100 apps. In this article, they reveal some of their hard earned growth techniques. Do you really have the insights about where your new customers are coming? Hint: They won’t magically appear out of the blue. The sustainable answer isn’t to launch a sassy advertising campaign or spur witty PR. Just because you’ve uploaded that awesome app idea and written a press release, downloads won’t start pouring in. The truth is far from that. It seems like this knowledge has been locked away into the towers of a handful of tech unicorns. So, how do you actually build a large user base over time without pouring in potential profit into huge advertising budgets?
Let’s get back to the basics: 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.
ASO is what SEO is for websites
For Volvo, one of our biggest and oldest partners, we developed a state of the art car configurator. In fact, it’s the most downloaded car configurator on the Swedish App Store, but our client nevertheless 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. Soon, the app soared from top 100 in Lifestyle to solid top 10.
Even though app search makes up for the vast majority of installs, we’re still encountering a lot of app developers who 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 currently being downloaded a lot
- if your conversion rate is great between the actual app store search, ‘install page’ view and download.
There are a few other things that will help your app rank high: if you end up top 3 in the keywords that you’ve picked, if it’s not too heavy MB wise, if you update it often or if your users aren’t deleting it too frequently. It’s wise to choose a less crowded app category and to optimize your app’s ratings.
3 concrete hacks anyone easily could perform
1. Keywords: Choose your characters wisely
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, xc60 and v90. These were relevant searches in which we didn’t even turn up in before. All that lost potential traffic.
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 30 characters and on Google Play you have 50 characters.
Once you have your ‘keyword heavyweights’ 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 title and the description to turn up in the search results. A tip is to add a keyword section in the bottom and iterate your way forward. We built a Recipe app for Arla, Scandinavia’s largest dairy producer and listed all their recipes in the description. For Bruce, a training membership application, we listed all their possible work-out locations. Both cases ensured that the apps appeared in the long tail searches.
To further demonstrate the power of keyword optimisation on iOS, we ran a quick US sample using the mobile analytics tools App Annie and Mobile Action comparing two very famous running apps exposing their daily downloads and to which keywords these downloads were attributed. Runtastic received beyond 18.000 iOS downloads a day in the US, whereas adidas MiCoach only saw 800. When we looked closer we saw that MiCoach was wasting keywords by using gut feeling rather than data, not picking the ones with high search volumes and the ones where they ranked either first or second. On the other hand, Runtastic had ruthlessly picked keywords with higher search volumes as well as optimised for ranking above the fold within the top 2 results. The irony of the experiment is that Adidas later strategically acquired Runtastic for €500M. Probably because of the millions of users, but also for that elusive mobile expertise to deploy across their suite of apps.
2. Screenshots: Communicate clearly what your app does
Remember: the first three screenshots are the most important. On iOS, they’re even so important that the two first turn up in the search result. It’s as if you could design your own meta tag on Google search. 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 the 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. In the developer console there’s a brilliant tool for A/B testing screenshots and copy — use it.
3. Reviews: Find the magic zone for asking
It’s not polite to nag reviews 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 will not uncommonly result in 1-star 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 them giving Rebtel a 5-star review is probably higher. Work out the magic zone. This is where your users are finished with what they were doing. 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 placed the review dialogue there, which resulted in the Volvo app getting 47 reviews with an average of 4.9 within the first month.
Efficient tactics drive organic growth
Mobile is now the main digital access point. In the US 65% of all web traffic comes from mobile phones. In Japan, mobile e-com purchases exceed their web counterparts amongst the top retail players. Mobile grew up so big overnight it eclipsed all the 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: What the total estimated market size of the entire app industry is including all surrounding service layers.
In other words: The app competition has become fierce. If you want users to find and download your app, you need to think ahead: implementing the above-mentioned tactics will make sure you have optimized your app ruthlessly with a laser focus on the most effective tactics to drive organic growth. Drop us a line if you need any more help in your quest for a user base.