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April 2, 2020
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Use ASO to Rank Higher in the App Store

by Fernando Vaquero on 05/14/14 04:48:00 am   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

Discoverability. The bane of all developers without deep pockets to market their games. Naturally, this includes us in Divertap.
How do you plan to gain exposure in the App Store? If you think using ASO is the way to go, you’d be right
More apps are discovered through search than any other method. More than word-of-mouth. More than browsing top ranked apps. 
More apps are discovered through search than any other method.
There is a lot of common knowledge of how to rank higher using App Store Optimization. We’ll refresh the best common practices and share with you the techniques we used that resulted in our game to rank #2 in the US App Store for the search term ‘Ludo’.
Positioning your game in the top 10 in the App Store can be tricky, but with some guidance and a little work, it can be done!

Small time investment, big reward

We’re a small two person studio with a heavy workload, so we don’t have enough time to dedicate to everything we’d want to. The results we got come from the tiny investment of a half day’s work.
Good news for all fellow indie developers! Just dedicating a small amount of time to ASO will get you better results than other apps who don’t. It’s really worth the small time investment.

Keywords are boring, but you need them to rank high

Keywords determine how high your app shows on the search result list when someone does a search on the App Store.
Because placing high is what gives your game better exposure, it’s important to know how to use keywords at the time of naming your app, and on the iTunes Connect forms.
To get the most of your keywords, you have to analyze your competition and see what words are working best for them. We also looked into what type of keywords are used by the top studios of the industry to get ideas for our own keyword strategy. 
You may need some intel to do that. We used Sensor Tower, it’s a really useful tool to study competition and it also recommends keywords to improve your app’s ranking in the App Store.

Best common practices

There are three common places where optimising your keywords turns in big results in the App Store. These are the App Title, the 100 Character Keyword Field...
What you might not be aware of is that the In-App Purchase Name is also indexable in the App Store, so take advantage of that as well.
Unfortunately, the App Description isn’t indexable in the iOS App Store.
Finally, having good Ratings and Reviews and the Number of Downloads also have an impact on your ranking in the App Store. These two are the ones you’ll have the least control, but you can still make them count even with no money.

App Title

  • Your app name is VITAL, make it simple.
  • While it doesn’t have to be unique, make it descriptive.
  • Refer to the category of your app or to the outcome your audience wants. For instance: “Chess, classic strategy game”
  • Only about 25 of your app’s name characters show up in search. Make sure the most relevant are visible so nothing important gets cut off.
  • You don’t need to use the word FREE. The App Store automatically categorizes your app if it’s free.
We used different app titles for English and Spanish. Both use keywords that people use when searching for this kind of classic family games. Bolded are the characters that are always visible in the search results and that aren’t cut off the app’s title.
Ludo, the funniest board game to play with your family
Parchís, el juego de tablero familiar más divertido
Only the first 25 characters are shown in searches.

App Description

  • Although it doesn’t index in the App Store, it still has a useful role to play.
  • The first line of text is paramount because it represents your chance to stand out from the crowd.
  • Describe the essence of your app and reiterate the most important keywords for your app.
Again, we used different copy for English and Spanish. What we did here though, is opening the focus using the terminology that different cultures use to refer to the game. Just like ‘Ludo’ is known as ‘Parchís’ in Spanish-speaking countries, they know it as ‘Petits chevaux’ or ‘Le Jeu de Dada’ in France.

100 Character Keyword Field

  • You have 100 characters to fit in the most relevant keywords around your app.
  • Use no spaces and separate keywords with commas.
  • Use common language and short words.
  • Think as a player. What would you search for if you were looking for a game like yours? 
The first thing we did was to research what keywords are working for the top apps of the most successful studios. Deciphering why they choose the words they do, even if they seem a little odd at first, made us understand the behaviour of their target audience.
Do that for the apps in the same category as yours. You’ll see what keywords your competition use and are worth picking up a fight.
Now, if you get your app rolling in the App Store, you might want to dedicate more time to ASO to improve the download ratio.
It usually takes several iterations of research and testing before you can get to a point where you are happy with your keywords. Trial and error is the only way, and it’s how you’ll be able to refine and improve your ranking. 
Surprise, the In-App Purchase Name is important too!

In-App Purchase Name

  • The name of your in-app purchases are indexable too. Choosing the words carefully is common sense.
  • Don’t name your IAP package “premium content”, it’s too general and it doesn’t describe what it contains. 
  • Make the name specific and in context with the app. For instance: “power-up costume”, “special weapon”, “hard puzzles”.


The last two are difficult to control without money, but you can still influence them!

Ratings and Reviews

  • You can’t fully control them, but you can sway them to your side.
  • Creating good stuff prompts good reviews. Shocking.
  • Ask users for a review at a time of happiness, for example after she’s completed a rewarding task or beat the best score. Pull, don’t push.


Number of Downloads

  • If you’re reading this you probably don’t have the money to buy installs, put your efforts in designing
  • Your app icon to stand out from competition in the same category.
  • Let screenshots reveal the natural flow of your app, so users recognize how it works at a glance.


Wrapping up

We were lucky to have a decent amount of downloads just after our game launched, which helped it rank higher for some searches. At the same time, hadn’t we followed the best common practices for ASO, the game likely would’ve had less visibility on the App Store —thus less exposure— and ultimately had gotten less downloads in return.
As the downloads started to dwindle, so did our ranking for the search term ‘Ludo’.
It’s important to bear in mind that all the different aspects that influence ASO work together as a whole. You shouldn’t discard any of them, they’re connected!
[ This article is cross-posted from the Gamedonia blog ]

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