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, BlackBerry or Windows Phone app) in an app store (such as iTunes for iOS, Google Play for Android, Windows Store for Windows Phone or BlackBerry World for BlackBerry). Just like search engine optimization (SEO) is for websites, app store optimization 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 and mobile marketing companies 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 and some app marketers have reported success.[7]

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.[8][9] 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.[10][11]


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 more easily by users on 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 [12][13]
  • Rank higher in Google´s semantic search through relevant backlinking
  • 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. Some methods for optimizing an app's visibility are known, but the exact ranking algorithms are not known. Some ASO marketers streamline their work by dividing ASO in two distinct processes: keyword optimization and asset optimization.

Asset optimization[edit]

In order to improve the downloads of an app, the icon, preview video and screenshots of an app have to be optimized. It is recommended to measure the effect of these changes by changing one element at a time and measuring the impact on downloads. Taking into account that none official app store (Apple, Google, Samsung, etc.) provides any data on user behaviour on the page (impressions, clicks) the only way to predict the effectiveness and conversion rate of a page is to A/B test all variations using pages that look similar to app store pages.

Best practices[edit]

  • App Title

Around 84% apps in the app store did not have keywords in their titles. the other hand, only 16% apps used keywords in the app titles. While the app store search algorithm is always changing, some have suggested that keywords in the app title may have more impact on rankings than those entered in the Keywords field.[14]

  • App Icon

The app icon is the first visual element that people see when they view an 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.[15]

  • 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. The first 2 screenshots are the most important as they are the ones seen when scrolling through search results.[16]

  • Video

Both Google Play and iOS App Store[17] permit the use of a short video to highlight the key features of the app.[18]

  • 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%.[19] Another study showed that complete localization was able to increase app downloads by 300%.[20]

  • App Description

The app description has very different roles in ASO, when comparing the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Keywords in the description do not factor into the keywords that Apple associates with the app. However, keywords in the app description of Play Store apps are a primary source of keywords that Google uses to determine what an app is about.

  • Keyword Selection

Most app publishers make the mistake of selecting keywords that get a lot of searches every month. What they do not realize is that these keywords are also extremely competitive and most apps will not be able to rank for them. Keywords should first be selected by download relevance, or would people actually download an app, if they searched for that keyword? The next criteria is competition. Does the Chance Score give the app a good chance of ranking in the top 10 for a keyword? Finally, only then should search traffic should be considered. There should be some search traffic for a keyword, but it doesn't have to be a lot. Ranking well for download relevant keywords is much more important. Finding good keywords usually involves targeting long-tail keywords, like in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).[21]

White hat versus black hat[edit]

Many app marketers 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.[22][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][25]

Black hat ASO includes falsifying downloads or ratings and reviews, 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."[26]

Google followed Apple in 2015 and started manually reviewing apps, to enforce app quality and reduce black hat practices.[27]


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  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. ^ "15 ASO Case Studies: Proof App Store Optimization Works". Bluecloud Solutions. 
  8. ^ "Making Money Mobile". Johannes Borchardt, Florian Detig. 
  9. ^ "Droidcon Germany 2009". 
  10. ^ "App Store Optimization". Search Engine Watch. 
  11. ^ "ASO (App Store Optimization) Is The New SEO, And Here's A Tool To Do It". TechCrunch. 
  12. ^ "App Store Optimization". Search Engine Watch. 
  13. ^ "App Store Optimization Algorithm Change in IOS – contextual Keywords". asoprofessional. Retrieved 20 February 2016. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "What you should know about App Icons". AppMixture. 
  16. ^ "Practical App Store Optimization (ASO) Tips in 2015". Indexsy. 
  17. ^ "App Previews - App Store - Apple Developer". Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  18. ^ "Why App Store video previews can be bad for mobile marketing". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2015-06-08. 
  19. ^ "iPhone App Localization: How To Get 767% More Downloads By Localizing App Keywords". Make App Magazine. 
  20. ^ "This App Localization Boosted Downloads by 300% - Mobile Action". Mobile Action. 2017-01-11. Retrieved 2017-02-08. 
  21. ^ "How to Pick the Right App Store Keywords". Kumulos. 2017-01-25. Retrieved 2017-01-25. 
  22. ^ "Application store search engine optimization (ASO)". App Promotion Summit, London 2013. 
  23. ^ "App Store Optimization". SMX Israel, Jerusalem 2014. 
  24. ^ "App Store Optimization: App Store Optimization Market Research". AppStoreChannel. 
  25. ^ "App Store Optimization: App Store Optimization Market Research". AppStoreChannel. 
  26. ^ "Apple Fights App Makers Who Try to Game the System". New York Times. 
  27. ^ Welch, Chris (2015-03-17). "Android apps are now reviewed by Google before you can download them". The Verge. Retrieved 2017-02-08.