App store optimization

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App store optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the visibility of a mobile app (such as an iPhone, iPad, Android, or Windows Phone app) in an app store (such as iTunes for iOS or Google Play for Android). Just like search engine optimization (SEO) is for websites, App Store Optimization (ASO) is for mobile apps. Specifically, app store optimization includes the process of ranking highly in an app store's search results and top charts rankings. ASO marketers agree that ranking higher in search results and top charts rankings will drive more downloads for an app.[1]


Apple's iTunes App Store was launched July 10, 2008, along with the release of the iPhone 3G.[2] It currently supports iOS, including iPhone and iPad. There is also a non-mobile app store for Macs. Google's app store, Google Play, was launched September 23, 2008.[3] It was originally named Android Market and supports the Android operating system. Since the launch of iTunes App Store and Google Play, there has been an explosion in both the number of app stores and the size of the stores (amount of apps and number of downloads). In 2010, Apple's App Store grew to process USD$1.78 billion worth of apps.[4] iTunes App Store had 435,000 apps as of July 11, 2011, while Google Play had 438,000 as of May 1, 2012.[5][6]

As the number of apps in app stores has grown, the possibility of any one app being found has dropped. This has led app marketers[who?] to realize how important it is to be noticed within an app store. As marketers started working on ranking highly in top charts and search results, a new discipline was formed.

The first use of the term "app store optimization" to describe this new discipline appears to have been in a presentation by Johannes Borchardt on November 4, 2009.[7][8] It began to take hold as a standardized term not long after, with outlets such as Search Engine Watch and TechCrunch using the term by February, 2012.[9][10]

As app publishers became more interested and engaged around App Store Optimization, tools began to emerge to help them understand and optimize their success with app store optimization. For example, TechCrunch wrote about MobileDevHQ's App Store Optimization[11] keyword volume tool on February 29, 2012, and' keyword tool on March 12, 2012.[12][13]


App store optimization marketers, such as SEO marketers, work by optimizing their content so the search engine position it higher on the search engine results page, driving more traffic to this content. While making their content achieve the first position on targeted search terms can sum their objectives, it's not required to evaluate the optimization's success. ASO marketers try to achieve goals such as:

  • Being found better by users in the app stores, due to the fact that App Store Search is the No. 1 source for people to discover new applications
  • Rank higher compared to competitors
  • Rank higher for specific keywords
  • Rank higher in Google´s semantic search for applications
  • Create appealing graphics (icon, screenshots and promo video) to increase the chances of being downloaded


Unlike SEO, app store optimization is still a young and evolving field. Methods of how to efficiently optimize an app's visibility within an app store are still relatively unknown.

However, as the field is quickly becoming an important driver of app downloads for marketers, methods for app store optimization are beginning to be more widespread. App store optimization tools provider MobileDevHQ and Mobile Action broke App Store Optimization into three distinct parts: finding the right keywords, ranking highly for those keywords, and converting visitors into users.[14] ASO marketers, such as Evaldo Rossi, streamline their work by dividing ASO in two distinct processes: keyword optimization and conversion rate optimization.[15]

Keyword optimization (KWO)[edit]

Keyword Optimization (also known as keyword research) is the act of researching, analyzing and selecting the best keywords to target and drive qualified users from app stores to your app. App store optimization tool provider Sensor Tower also breaks keyword optimization down into three parts: relevance, Difficulty Score and Traffic Score.[16]

Conversion rate optimization (CRO)[edit]

Conversion rate optimization involves all metadata available and publicly accessible in the app stores, like icons, screenshots, description and update texts.[17][18] This part of app store optimization is responsible to convert the traffic acquired through keyword optimization into app downloads.

Best practices[edit]

  • Use of Keywords in App Title

Having relevant keywords in your title can certainly improve the search rankings of your app for such keywords. As per MobileDevHQ report, there were around 84% apps in the app-store which were not having keywords in their titles. On the other hand, only 16% apps were utilizing their keywords in the app titles.

  • Tracking

Using keywords is not sufficient. One needs to constantly track the keywords to check where the app stands. There are various free app analytics tools available like Google’s Mobile App Analytics, MobileDevHQ, Distimo Analytics, Mopapp. Paid solutions include: Mobile Action, AppCodes, AppTweak, Sensor Tower, and Searchman.

  • Number of Downloads

The number of downloads has great impact on the performance of any app. App ratings/reviews, effective social media presence are must to promote any app and increase its downloads. Most of the users download any app after considering the reviews as well as popularity (which is reflected from number of downloads).

  • Rating/Reviews

Ratings/Reviews are also very important aspects which one should consider. As mentioned above users look for reviews of the app before downloading it. Make sure your app gets genuine reviews. In case you get some negative reviews, try to work on user’s issues and recommendations. Encourage your happy customers to put reviews for your app.[19]

  • App Icon

The app icon is the first visual element that people see when they view an app app store listing. An icon should immediately convey what an app is about, in the simplest manner possible. Complex icon designs can be difficult to distinguish on smaller devices and should be avoided.

  • Screenshots

Screenshots are also one of the first visual elements that people see when viewing an app listing. Each screenshot should convey a specific benefit of the app and supplemental text should be used, whenever possible, to clarify what each screenshot is about. All available screenshot slots should be used to maximize visibility.

  • Localization

Translating an app into different languages can greatly increase downloads and expose an app to a larger potential audience. In one study, localization increased the downloads of an iPhone app by 767%.[20]

White hat versus black hat[edit]

Many app marketers[who?] attempt to perform ASO in a way that most app stores would approve of and accept. This is called "white hat" ASO and publicly covered by presentations, conferences[21][22] and case studies.[23] Developers also use different platforms available to get their peers to rate their apps for them which provides great feedback.Some app marketers, however, engage in what many call "black hat" ASO and are practices which the app stores do not condone.[24]

Black hat ASO includes falsifying downloads or ratings, perhaps by using bots or other techniques to make app stores (and their users) believe an app is more important and influential than it actually is.

Apple has been proactively fighting against black hat ASO. In February, 2012, Apple released a statement as reported by The New York Times "warning app makers that using third-party services to gain top placement in App Store charts could get them banned from the store."[25]

Beginning in 2013, Apple has also improved the search algorithm as reported by "Apple’s new algorithm pushes forward apps with high ratings. 4 stars and 3 stars apps are now more inclined to grow steadily in the top rankings despite being less popular than some trendy apps." [26]


  1. ^ "How many downloads do some of the Top 50 free iPhone apps get per day?". Quora. 
  2. ^ "Apple launches new iTunes with App Store". Cnet. 
  3. ^ Morrill, Dan (23 September 2008). "Announcing the Android 1.0 SDK, release 1". Android Developers Blog. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  4. ^ "Report: Apple remains king of app-store market". Cnet. 
  5. ^ "Apple's App Store Crosses 15B App Downloads, Adds 1B Downloads In Past Month". TechCrunch. 
  6. ^ "Number of available Android applications". AppBrain. 
  7. ^ "Making Money Mobile". Johannes Borchardt, Florian Detig. 
  8. ^ "Droidcon Germany 2009". 
  9. ^ "App Store Optimization". Search Engine Watch. 
  10. ^ "ASO (App Store Optimization) Is The New SEO, And Here’s A Tool To Do It". TechCrunch. 
  11. ^ "MobileDevHQ App Store Optimization". 
  12. ^ "ASO (App Store Optimization) Is The New SEO, And Here’s A Tool To Do It". TechCrunch. 
  13. ^ " Launches App Store Prediction Tool, Tells Developers Which Keywords Work". TechCrunch. 
  14. ^ "App Store Optimization in 3 Easy Steps". MobileDevHQ. 
  15. ^ "What is App Store Optimization?". WordData. 
  16. ^ "The Definitive 3 Step Process for Selecting ASO Keywords". Sensor Tower. 
  17. ^ "How to copywrite you app´s update description". AppStoreOptimization on Tumblr. 
  18. ^ "App Store Optimization: 8 Tips for Higher Rankings". Search Engine Watch. 
  19. ^ "App Store Optimization- A Critical Aspect of Mobile App Marketing". SoftProdigy. 
  20. ^ "iPhone App Localization: How To Get 767% More Downloads By Localizing App Keywords". Make App Magazine. 
  21. ^ "Application store search engine optimisation (ASO)". App Promotion Summit, London 2013. 
  22. ^ "App Store Optimization". SMX Israel, Jerusalem 2014. 
  23. ^ "App Store Optimization: 3 fresh case studies". AppStoreOptimization on Tumblr. 
  24. ^ "App Store Optimization: App Store Optimization Market Research". AppStoreChannel. 
  25. ^ "Apple Fights App Makers Who Try to Game the System". New York Times. 
  26. ^ "App Store Optimization: Apple improves the search algorithm of the App Store". AppTweak.