Post updated March 25, 2015.
“He said true things, but called them by wrong names.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning
You’ve just finished your app.
AWESOME! Sigh of relief. Champagne. Deep breath. Wooooooo party time!
“……what do you mean publishing?”
Yes, iPhone app publishing – the process of moving your delicious little Xcode archive into the App store for the world to consume. There are many parts, its used to be that the name, keyword, and description were the biggest parts of the equation.
Things have since evolved with Apple’s algorithm and new features like video previews have emerged. Apple looks at multiple areas when ranking an app. Downloads, reviews, user engagement are just a few. However, keywords are as close as it gets to SEO work in the app store, so listen up. Choosing good keywords can make a big difference – as I learned earlier.
Side note: this post is a direct result from talking to the people who decide which apps are featured in the Apple store, in the email newsletters, etc. I was lucky enough to sit down with them and this is EXACTLY what they told me….so you can rest assured that this is coming straight from the horse’s mouth (at least I assume they would tell me the truth haha).
Just in case there are some beginners out there – the Name is the Title of the app, the keywords are input on the back side (users never see them). Here’s how it looks in iTunes Connect (the dashboard where you upload everything). Whoops – spelled Categories wrong….
Selecting Keywords and Names for Your Apps
Your app will be useless if it cannot be found. Considering that the App Store only allows your app to be searched through its name, keywords and your company name, it is of utmost importance that you pick a name and keywords that are search engine optimized to make sure that your app is visible in App Store searches.
Here are some helpful tips in picking keywords for your app:
- The keywords field in iTunes Connect is limited to 100 characters so make sure to maximize this.
- You can use single words or multi-word phrases but make sure to separate multiple keywords with commas.
- Do not repeat keywords. Don’t include your company name and your app name in your keywords since you are already searchable in the App Store with these terms.
- Do your homework by trying out what search results will come out with your chosen keywords. This will inform you of the competition that you are up against.
- Choose as many keywords as possible but avoid overly used ones. When you use generalized keywords, several results will come out and your app might get lost in that long list. The fewer apps using similar keywords would mean less competition in search engine results and a higher chance for your app to be found.
- Relevant keywords are essential. While extremely unique keywords seem interesting, they won’t help your app unless they are relevant. Unrelated keywords can affect your search relevancy in the App Store as it can lower your search engine ranking in your app’s genre. Apple does not allow keywords that are offensive or refer to other products or trademarks. Your app can be rejected if you use these prohibited terms.
- If your app is available in several languages, make sure to submit keywords covering these languages to make your app searchable in those other places too.
- Aim for perfection in optimization and spelling. You can only edit your keywords when you upload a new version or when your app is rejected. Apple reviews your keywords along with your app so you are not at liberty to change them anytime you please.
- Don’t guess. Use programs like Google’s AdWords keyword planner, SensorTower, SearchManHQ, and AppCodes to identify and compare the popularity of specific keywords. It will help you get an idea of what people look for online in relation to the subject matter of your app.
TIP: Its important to pick keywords that help define your app, but don’t pick keywords that will clash with the masses. Keywords should be searchable, but also have low competition. Try longtail keywords such as phrases people may search for.
Of course your app’s name is important because that’s how your app will be known. Here are a number of things you need to bear in mind when brainstorming for that perfect app name:
- Keep it short so it can be displayed in the iOS home screen and in the App Store search results without being truncated. A short name will also allow you to add a descriptive caption of your app to the title. People used create lengthy titles crammed with keywords, but Apple has caught on. Make your titles unique and to the point.
- When you add a descriptive caption to your app name, make sure that your app name comes first. Separate the caption from the app name with a hyphen or colon. Example Above is Alpha Combat – Defend Your Country.
- Make sure that the caption describes your app’s core functionality. It should be catchy and interesting too. This would be greatly helpful for users who do not have the time and patience to read lengthy descriptions about your app.
- When coming up with a description caption, make sure to use related keywords to help boost your ranking in the search results.
- Like your keywords, your app’s name is also subject to Apple’s review and you cannot change it anytime you want (only if you release an update). Thus, make sure that there are no typos, it is search engine optimized and uses relevant words. Never use offensive terms or those that refer to celebrities, other products or registered trademarks as these can lead to the rejection or flagging down of your app. Remember, you can only revise your app name and description when you submit a new app binary version for review or when you need to resubmit your app because it was rejected.
- Use your app name and caption as marketing extensions. Coupled with search engine optimized keywords, these will definitely increase your chances of being found in the App Store.
An app description is important because it allows you to say more about your app. Think of this like a conversion mechanism. You’re selling users on why they should download the app! Here are some tips in writing that description:
- It should include a brief explanation of what your app does and why people should get it.
- Provide enough sales hook to keep consumers motivated to read your app description.
- First impressions last so make the first few sentences of your description as catchy and comprehensive as possible. Remember that the iPad and desktop iTunes versions of the App Store only display the first three or four lines of your description and readers need to click on the More link to read the rest. If the visible parts of your description are boring, chances are the readers won’t click on that More button.
- During the introduction phase of your app, very few people know what your app is about. There will be very few or no customer reviews either. To make up for this, you can take advantage of some prominent media reviews that you got during the prerelease stage of your app’s launch. You can get some quotable quotes from these reviews and winning testimonials and include them in your description to convince users of your app’s quality. While customer ratings are valuable, consumers will be more encouraged to try out your app if the recommendation comes from respected bloggers and media personalities.
- You can also include in your description any awards your app has won to vouch for the quality of your app.
- If you are torn between including awards and testimonials in your description vis-à-vis your quick pitch app summary, it’s best to choose the latter. Customers would find it useless to know about your awards if they do not know what your app can do for them.
If you’re interested in learning more about app descriptions, check out this Description Formula to drive in more downloads.
Video Previews are still new in the Apple Store, but we do know that apps with Video Previews in the Google Store get higher search rankings than apps without. Whenever a platform offers a new feature like video previews, I suggest you take it. Apple will notice and if the quality is there, will rank you higher.
Video previews can be tricky. Our brain tends to immediately want to showoff our app and the coolest the coolest features. Apple has something different in mind. Apple has specific regulations for video previews that they heavily enforce. Instead of a marketing tool, video previews are meant more to give a walkthrough of an app.
Length can be tricky too, videos must be between 15-30 seconds long, and must be exported to each device. Which is a pain in the ass!
The biggest limitation is localization. Video previews can only be localized to one language (so far). So choose wisely. At the end of the day, video previews are a lot of fun and can convert extremely well if done correctly. Apps with high-quality graphics or interactive interfaces are a few examples that should no doubt have previews.
If you’re interested in creating your own video previews, checkout this Step-by-Step Walkthrough.
App Engagement & Reviews
Even if your app has a killer title, keywords, and video, Apple STILL weighs-in other factors. Apple looks for engagement. Social Networking apps are a perfect example. The average time spent per Facebook visit is 20 minutes (Source: Infodocket).
Its incredibly hard to retain a user for 20 minutes, and takes a lot of work. But when developing an app, take engagement into account. Popups with fun facts, small games, and rewards are a few ideas that can keep people in your app.
Apple also takes reviews into account. Reviews are one of a developer’s greatest resource for feedback from users. Negative reviews shouldn’t be viewed as a nuisance, they should be accepted and addressed. But make sure your app isn’t getting tons of negative reviews…
Aim for 3 stars or higher. There are methods to achieve this. One is by creating your own custom review panel. TinyTown for example, has a custom popup asking the user to rate the app with a simple touch. If the user clicks a 3-5 star review, they are taken to the App Store. If a 1-2 star review is selected, they are taken to a support email so the developers can review the response.
Developers have also turned to review sites. This is a tricky topic as Apple has been known to shutdown accounts of developers with fraudulent reviews. However, if you’re going to sites that supply honest unbiased reviews, your chances are small of running into any complications. What’s the harm in asking for a honest review right?
Along with engaging users and getting reviews, make sure your app is consistently being updated. Not everyday, but often enough where you can track data and changes. While I slack a lot on updates, for my heavy hitting apps I like to use 2 weeks as a solid marker for collecting data.
Hope this helps! If you have had any other experiences or insights with keywords, names, descriptions, or ASO, please leave a comment so that everyone can hear about it.
If you’d like to hear more about choosing keywords and app marketing, sign up for my newsletter and download the free ebook by clicking here.
Talk to you soon!