Incipia blog

ASO App Store Optimization

Gabe Kwakyi | May 24, 2016

ASO stands for App Store Optimization and is the practice of increasing the visibility of your app listing in the App Store and the conversion rate of store impressions into downloads. Similar to SEO, ASO is one of the most crucial components of a mobile app marketing strategy because it is a method to gain free downloads.
In fact, 65% of all downloads come from searches in the App Store, according to Apple.

In this post about App Store Optimization we will detail:

  • The app rankings algorithms (or what we know about them)
  • Tips and tricks for setting up your app listing and keyword optimization
  • Some app store optimization services and tools to use for App Store Optimization

Continue learning about App Store Optimization through our ASO posts page, which has close to 100 unique posts on how to learn and manage App Store Optimization.

If you are seeking our expert help in helping improve your app's App Store Optimization strategy, contact us to discuss how we can help you.

The App Rankings algorithm:

These algorithms are the secret sauce in determining which apps to display and in which positions, each time a person searches a keyword in the App and Play stores. While the exact workings of these massive algorithms will forever be unknown, app marketers have pieced together an understanding of their workings from a variety of sources, including what Apple and Google indicate in official documentation, what is known of similar algorithms like Google’s PageRank and a whole host of A/B testing. The below list is a combination of generally accepted factors, as well as my own interpretations of the factors which influence the Apple and Google app rankings algorithms:

Factors influencing Apple App Store keyword rankings:

Positive factors:

  • Downloads: more downloads indicates an app is more popular. But unlike SEO, paid downloads do influence app rankings.
  • Velocity of downloads: 1,000 downloads in the span of a day will improve rankings better than 1,000 downloads over 7 days. When combined with the above note that paid downloads influence ranking, this means that app marketing campaigns that drive more simultaneous traffic are more effective at assisting an app in earning higher organic visibility, and thus an organic download "multiplier" on those paid downloads.
  • 4 and 5 star ratings and reviews: earning better ratings and reviews is a direct signal used by the keyword ranking algorithms to assess your app's rank.
  • Velocity of  ratings: earning a solid velocity of downloads is also a factor in determining keyword ranks.
  • Retention rate: because Apple can see data on whether or not users actually use apps and how long for, they use this data as a factor to determine which apps users find more valuable than others, and adjust rankings as such.
  • App store keyword CTR: if many people search your app and do not click or download it, this is a signal that your app is not what they are looking for and can reduce your rankings.
  • Keywords in metadata: While Apple is known to rank apps for keywords that do no appear in metadata (e.g. category keywords or competitive keywords), for the most part, Apple will not rank your app for keywords that do not appear in your metadata, which includes, in prioritized order: app name, app subtitle, app keywords, In-App Purchases, developer name; the description and promo text do not rank for keywords.

Negative factors:

  • 1 and 2 star reviews: indicate the app provides less value for users, and will punish your keyword ranks.
  • Poor retention rate: Apple will not show apps which users don't love, in order to keep them comoing back for more.

Keep in mind that an app’s ranking is relative downloads and reviews from the same country; downloads from an ASO marketing campaign in India will not affect the ranking of an app in the U.S.

Factors influencing Google Play store app rankings:

Positive factors:

  • Downloads
  • Velocity of downloads
  • 4 and 5 star ratings and reviews.
  • Velocity of ratings.
  • Retention rates.
  • Keyword CTR
  • Keywords in metadata (but unlike Apple, Google ranks keywords from additional locations such as description and user reviews, and Google is more adept at ranking apps for keywords that are not in metadata, too); prioritized order of importance: app title, app short description, user reviews, app description.

Negative factors

  • 1 and 2 star reviews
  • Retention rate.
  • Keyword stuffing/irrelevancy: trying to “game the system” is something that Google frowns on in ASO and SEO.

Your App Listing

This is what people see when they search a keyword and come across your app; however users won’t see all of the information in your store listing at the same time and they won’t give each element of your store listing equal weight when deciding whether to download your app or not. Here is a diagram showing an Apple App Store listing from a prospective user’s view. Consider the following tips and tricks:

View After Searching a keyword (iOS Search Impression)

app store keyword search impression

View After Tapping into an App Listing (iOS Product Page)

app store keyword product page

iOS Product Page Scrolled Down Slightly

app store keyword product page 2

Tips for iOS App Store Optimization

  • Perhaps the single most important detail is your rating. Not only does it have a significant bearing on your rank, but also people will download high rated apps and will not download poorly rated apps. In iOS 11, app ratings are now only listed for all time. Ratings no longer automatically reset after new versions are submitted and developers can choose to manually reset their ratings.
  • With iOS 11, you'll notice that your app's top chart ranking appears in the product page. This means that apps that have earned a top chart ranking will see better conversion rate, similar to how the total downloads estimate affects conversion rate for Android apps.
  • In iOS 11, preview videos also autoplay in search and product page results, meaning that this element is the most important factor in improving your app's CTR and CVR.
  • The first 3 screenshots (or preview video and screenshots 2-3) appear in the search results page. Do not forget to order your screenshots accordingly.
  • The first 130 characters of your full description appear before the "more" truncation and determine whether users will decide to read the rest of your description (like email subject lines/previews). Thus, this text matters more than any other part of your description: put your hook and key selling points in this first section of your full description.
  • Additionally, be aware that there is a so-called “7 day cliff” of visibility when a new app is launched. For 7 days, Apple will artificially boost your visibility, causing you to get more searches and downloads, but resulting in a sharp decline in visibility at the end of the boost week.
  • Also, be sure to reply to user reviews to assure them and other users that you care about people who download your app, which can also raise your star rating (if you are able to address issues raised in lower rating reviews).

View After Searching a keyword (Android Search Impression)

google play store keyword search

Image credit: Apptamin

View After Tapping into an App Listing (Android Store Listing)

android store listing view

Tips for Android App Store Optimization

  • For Android apps, the most important visual in the search impression is your app's icon. Devote extra effort to this visual element in Google Play Experiment A/B testing to improve your ASO performance.
  • Your app's rating is also highly important, as it appears in the search results page. Shoot for a start rating of 4.0 or higher.
  • The first visual element that users who land on your store listing will see is your feature graphic or app video. Ensure that this element does a good job of converting users' initial interest into sustained interest by combining entertainment with intrigue.
  • Because your screenshots do not appear in search results, they do not need to be as flashy and eye-catching, as user who see them will already have chosen to learn more about your app. Use your Android screenshots to explain, rather than entertain.
  • Take advantage of Google's rendering of HTML elements in your long description, like emojis and font formatting.
  • Be sure to leverage Google's A/B testing engine to make continuous, incremental improvements to your app's elements, and strengthen your CVR.
  • As with iOS, be sure to reply to user reviews.


Keyword research Tips

Do research on keywords that are as high in traffic and low in competition as you can find, and put those keywords into your app metadata to see how you rank for them. Then, check to see that you are ranking well for the keywords you want to, and adjust your keyword mix and density as necessary. Keep these 3 app store keyword optimization tips in mind:

  • Try to find keywords for which you can rank top 10 for. If you rank in place #2,319, it doesn’t matter how high of search volume exists for that keyword; you’ll never see the light of day. Look for keywords that have a high chance of ranking top 10, or a low total number of competing apps.
  • Do a live search for your app store keywords before you use them to ensure people using that keyword are who you want to get in front of. Look at the other apps that pop up and use their presence as a proxy for what types of apps those searchers are looking for. For example, while “goal app,” may be taken as an app to help people track their personal or professional goals, doing a simple search reveals that this is only partially the main intent of people looking for “goal apps.”
  • Remember that having a good search-to-click ratio AND click-to-download ratio will affect your overall app rankings: optimize your keywords over time for those that you see improvements for in app rankings, and divest from those where your app rankings fall.
app store goal app search

App store optimization services and tools

A must-have component in an ASO marketing strategy are app store optimization companies, which can help you improve your app store visual look, do keyword optimization, run competitive app research, improve rankings and more. Check out our list of over two dozen ASO tools to find one that fits your needs, as well as our essential ASO resources list.


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Incipia is a mobile app development and marketing agency that builds and markets apps for companies, with a specialty in high-quality, stable app development and keyword-based marketing strategy, such as App Store Optimization and Apple Search Ads. For post topics, feedback or business inquiries please contact us, or send an inquiry to