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App Store Optimization is all about improving the visibility of a particular app on the App Store. Is that all it is? Of course not, The term “ASO” also harnesses all the techniques which drive user behavior towards the desired action, an app install. In this article, you will be shown what we did to improve app installs by 140%.

Does App Store Optimization (ASO) really work?

Yes it does. ASO is not magic. You may find similarities between SEO and ASO. Wikipedia defines ASO as:

“(…) the process of improving the visibility of a mobile app (…) in an app store (…). Just like search engine optimization (SEO) is for websites, App Store Optimization (ASO) 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 agree that ranking higher in search results and top charts rankings will drive more downloads for an app.(…)”

App Store Optimization focuses on two main areas:

  • search optimization
  • behavioral adjustment

Search optimization

search optimization

This part of App Store Optimization focuses on adjusting the name of the app and its keywords. When it comes to App Store, each app is described by keywords, packed into a 100 character string. These keywords affect search rankings. The better the keywords, the higher the possibility for the app to appear in App Store search results.

The reason for keyword adjustment is to feed App Store’s Search Engine with data, optimized towards the most lucrative search terms and phrases.

The more often the app appears in search results – the more installs – the higher it ranks – the more installs. Circle closed.

Keywords used for ASO purposes cannot be considered separately, as just comma separated words. If we want to have them work for our app, they have to connect with each other to form phrases. These phrases should, of course, be those that people use for search purposes in the App Store… and that’s not a trivial thing.

Tip: Based on our observations, the app name is the strongest key phrase. It works best for search optimization and triggers the users’ action (install or bounce).

Keywords, how to choose them properly

We were experimenting with several techniques and chose one that works the best. This means we needed less iterations to form the best performing keywords. So what did we do? Here is a detailed, step by step list which shows how we create keywords that optimize App Store search results.

  1. Chose an app and think about its values, name them.
  2. Create a list of general keywords based on the app description and its values.
  3. Find the Top 5 apps that target the already selected keywords.
  4. Find keywords that work best for each of the 5 apps.
  5. Now you should have created quite a large list of keywords. Get rid of those which don’t fit your app.
  6. Create 100 characters, a comma separated string that contains the best keywords you chose.

Keywords example for (let’s say) a magazine about startups:

  • how to start a startup
  • startuppers magazine
  • magazine for startups
  • Product/Market Fit Canvas
  • Best title canvas for magazines
  • become a young entrepreneur
  • journey to breakeven
  • All about canvas

Tip: In order to create the best keywords, think about them as crosswords that, when mixed together, create logical phrases (eg. how,to,start,a,startup,breakeven,business,…)

Behavioral adjustment

App Store Optimization is not only about adjusting towards search algorithms, it’s also about human behavior. There are several areas on App Store that trigger human decisions to make an install or to abandon it. These are the most important for us:

  • Application name
  • Rating
  • Screenshots / video preview
  • App description

Application name

Descriptive names

This is the strongest key phrase and the very first thing people look at. It should be descriptive and provide instant knowledge of the app’s key values.

Descriptive name examples:

  • Buffer for Social Media: Twitter & More
  • Pocket: Save Article and Videos to View Later
  • Nozbe – to-do, task lists, projects and team productivity
  • Trello – Organize Anything

Now, imagine what you would do if you did not know the above apps and saw them on the App Store? Buffer, Pocket, Nozbe and Trello – these names alone say almost nothing about the app and its value.


app rating

This is another important factor that affects user’s behavior. People install apps that have been rated more willingly. We need to have at least 5 ratings done in order to see an “average rating” status bar visible by the app. It’s been proved in our internal trials that rated apps are doing better than apps with no rating stars.


Images of the app and its content play an important role on the way towards a new install. Screenshots are the most visible elements on the App Store’s application page. In the case of magazine apps, the best performing screenshots provide information about content: covers, photos, posters and interesting content with written descriptions.

App description

This piece of text explains what the app is all about and should be written in a very easy to understand way. As a matter of fact, 99% of the text is collapsed so the first two sentences are the most important. What to write about? It should be valued building text with a clear call to action. It’s also good to have the app description translated into several languages to influence a wider range of people who will land on an app page.

During our approach into App Store Optimization procedures, we tested several apps and several optimization tactics. We were measuring the impact of every single aspect which was optimizable. After all this, we aimed at one of our magazine apps with high-quality content and poor statistics. Here are some insights:

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Case study

Artists Entrepreneurs magazine – A.R.T.S.Y

A.R.T.S.Y Magazine tells the stories of all the kids and young adults who are finding new ways to be successful in unconventional formats. They bring attention to all of the members of the counter-culture who are building their companies in ways that until recently did not exist. It sheds light on up and coming musicians, underground artists, and up and coming fashion designers.

Name of app: “A.R.T.S.Y Magazine”

Optimization date: Feb 13, 2015

Optimization details:

  • The app has been given a new, more descriptive name: “Artists Entrepreneurs magazine – A.R.T.S.Y about design, photography, fashion and music”
  • Keywords have been updated
  • Users added six 5 stars ratings

Testing period radius: 30 days

ASO Results

When it comes to downloads and revenue, the app started doing much better almost immediately after optimization.

Downloads grew +140% (measured 30 days before ASO vs 30 days after ASO)
ASO installs boost

Downloads between Jan 2nd 2015 and Mar 2nd, 2015

Revenue driven by in-app sales grew +87% at the same time.
ASO revenue boost

Revenue between Jan 2nd 2015 and Mar 2nd, 2015

Why so much rumble?

Based on research firm Forrester’s market survey, around 60% of new app installs come from browsing through the app stores, including searching, so the game is definitely worth trying.

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If you are interested in learning what the other factors that influence building an organic increase of app popularity are, you should read about getting featured on the app store. Building a community around an app is definitely a must, but there is nothing like App Store Optimization for being so cost and time effective.