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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 the App Store 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. Additionally, app store optimization also encompasses activities focused on increasing the conversion of app store impressions into downloads (e.g. A/B testing of screenshots), collectively referred to as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).[1] Earning an app store feature and web search app indexing are two additional activities which may be categorized within the remit of app store optimization.[2]


Apple's iTunes App Store was launched July 10, 2008, along with the release of the iPhone 3G.[3] 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.[4] 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 US$1.78 billion worth of apps.[5] iTunes App Store had 435,000 apps as of July 11, 2011, while Google Play had 438,000 as of May 1, 2012.[6][7] By 2016, Apple's App Store had surpassed 2 million total apps and Apple had paid out close to $50 billion in revenue to developers.[8] Industry predictions estimate that by 2020, the App Store will hold over 5 million apps.[9]

As the number of apps in app stores has grown, the possibility of anyone app being found has dropped. This has led to the realization of 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.

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.[10] 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.[11][12]


App store optimization works by optimizing a target app's keyword metadata in order to earn higher ranks for relevant keywords in the search engine results page, as well as increasing the rate at which users decide to download that target app. ASO marketers try to achieve goals, such as:

  • Being found more easily by users on the app stores, due to the fact that 65% of all downloads come from App Store searches[13]
  • Ranking higher than competitors.
  • Ranking higher for specific keywords.[14][15]
  • Ranking higher in Google's semantic search through relevant backlinking.
  • Optimize app store assets (e.g. icon, screenshots, promo video, description, etc.) to increase download conversion rate from store features, top chart impressions, and keyword searches.


Many ASO marketers categorize their work into two distinct processes: keyword optimization and conversion rate optimization.

Keyword Optimization

One of the main jobs of an ASO marketer is to optimize the keywords in an app's metadata, so that the app store keyword ranking algorithms rank that app higher in the search engine results page for relevant keywords. This is accomplished by ensuring that relevant and important keywords are found in an app's metadata, as well as adjusting the mix of keywords across an app's metadata elements in order to increase the ranking strength of target keywords. [16]

Conversion Rate Optimization

In order to increase the downloads of an app, an app's assets (e.g. the icon, preview video, screenshots, etc.) must also be optimized. It is recommended to measure the effect of these optimizations by creating different variations of each asset, showing each variation to users, and then comparing the conversion rate of each variant, in a process referred to as A/B testing. Google Play facilitates this process by providing ASO marketers with an A/B testing platform built into the Google Play Console. For other platforms such as the Apple App Store, ASO marketers can run A/B tests via 3rd party A/B testing tools, running a pre-post test (i.e. pushing new assets live to the store and measuring the impact pre-and-post change), a country-by-country experiment (i.e. testing different asset variations across similar countries, such as UK/AU/CA/US/NZ), or testing different variations via ad platforms such as Facebook Ads.[17]

White hat versus black hat

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.[18][19] 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.[20][21]

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."[22]

Google followed Apple in 2015 and started manually reviewing apps, to enforce app quality and reduce black hat practices.[23]

iOS 11

At WWDC 2017, Apple announced major changes to its App Store experience arriving with iOS 11. The major implications of iOS 11 for ASO are as follows:

  • Subtitles show for all app impressions – The new subtitle metadata element now appears below the title wherever an app preview appears, as well as in the app product page.
  • Three visual tiles show in search results for apps – App results now show either 1 preview video and the first 2 screenshots, or the first 3 screenshots in the search results page.
  • Preview videos now auto-play on mute – App preview videos will auto-play in mute, in both the search results page or app product page. If two videos are in-view, the first video will play until completion, followed by the second video.
  • Additional results appear in the search results page – Apple editorial content, developer pages, and In-App Purchases are all now eligible to show in search results, in addition to apps and Search Ads.
  • Additional app metadata – New app metadata includes:[24]
  1. App subtitle (30 characters, which does rank for keyword searches).
  2. App promotional text (170 characters, which does not rank for keyword searches). Promotional text appears as a second, separate line above the app description.
  3. Up to 3 preview videos (up from 1 preview video in iOS 10).
  4. Up to 20 promoted In-App Purchases, each of which appears in the app product page and is also eligible to appear in the featured tabs and the search results page. In-App Purchase metadata includes a name (30 characters, which does rank for keyword searches), description (45 characters, which does not rank for keyword searches), and an icon (1024x1024 PNG/JPEG).
  • App titles now limited to 30 characters
  • Navigation Tabs Revamped – The iOS 11 App Store now includes three featured tabs (Today, Apps, and Games), as well as the Updates, and Search items. Additionally, the top charts have been moved to within the Apps and Games tabs.
  • Top Grossing chart removed – The top-grossing chart is now removed from the App Store app.[25]
  • All time-only ratings – Ratings and reviews will no longer reset after a new app update and there is no longer a current set of ratings/reviews. Developers can choose to manually reset their ratings and reviews.
  • In-App Purchases now rank for keyword combinations – In iOS 10, users had to type in the exact name of an In-App Purchase before the app would return (e.g. "500 gems"). In iOS 11, In-App Purchases rank for combinations of keyword searches, not just the exact match search (e.g. "clash of clans gems").
  • App descriptions locked between releases – The app description, which was previously editable before submitting a new app version, will now be immutable between new versions; though the promotional text will be editable between new versions.
  • Top chart appears in the product page – If an app ranks in the top chart for its category or country, the app's best top chart ranking will now appear in the product page, next to the overall star rating.

Additionally, Apple now requires developers to use its iOS 10.3 in-app rating prompt, disallowing custom ratings prompts.[26]


  1. ^ "The App Store Optimization Stack [2/4]: Increasing Conversions". ASO Stack.
  2. ^ "The App Store Optimization Stack [1/4]". ASO Stack.
  3. ^ "Apple launches new iTunes with App Store". Cnet.
  4. ^ Morrill, Dan (23 September 2008). "Announcing the Android 1.0 SDK, release 1". Android Developers Blog. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
  5. ^ "Report: Apple remains king of app-store market". Cnet.
  6. ^ "Apple's App Store Crosses 15B App Downloads, Adds 1B Downloads In Past Month". TechCrunch.
  7. ^ "Number of available Android applications". AppBrain.
  8. ^ "Apple's App Store now has over 2 million apps". The Verge.
  9. ^ "Apple's App Store Will Hit 5 Million Apps by 2020, More Than Doubling Its Current Size". SensorTower.
  10. ^ "Droidcon Germany 2009".[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "App Store Optimization". Search Engine Watch.
  12. ^ "ASO (App Store Optimization) Is The New SEO, And Here's A Tool To Do It". TechCrunch.
  13. ^ "App Store Search Ads". Apple.
  14. ^ "App Store Optimization". Search Engine Watch.
  15. ^ Olmert, Nadav (September 20, 2017). "What Entrepreneurs Will Find New and Cool About the IOS 11 App Store". entrepreneur. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Daan, Moritz; Kwakyi, Gabe (September 7, 2017). "Chapter 5: Increasing Visibility". In Leuwer, Regina (ed.). Advanced App Store Optimization. pp. 27–37.
  17. ^ Daan, Moritz; Kwakyi, Gabe (September 7, 2017). "Chapter 6: Increasing Conversion". In Leuwer, Regina (ed.). Advanced App Store Optimization. pp. 231–233.
  18. ^ "Application store search engine optimization (ASO)". App Promotion Summit, London 2013.
  19. ^ "App Store Optimization". SMX Israel, Jerusalem 2014.
  20. ^ "App Store Optimization: App Store Optimization Market Research". AppStoreChannel. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06.
  21. ^ "App Store Optimization: App Store Optimization Market Research". AppStoreChannel. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06.
  22. ^ "Apple Fights App Makers Who Try to Game the System". New York Times.
  23. ^ Welch, Chris (2015-03-17). "Android apps are now reviewed by Google before you can download them". The Verge. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
  24. ^ "App Store Product Page". Apple.
  25. ^ "What happens to the App Store Intelligence industry with no Grossing chart?". Mobile Dev Memo.
  26. ^ "App Store now requires developers to use official API to request app ratings, disallows custom prompts". 9to5Mac.