App Optimization is more than keywords: Think about icons!

Today I want to share Chapter 7 of my ASO Book…  where I talk about app store optimization and the importance of Icons.
During the last months, working as an ASO consultant, I have realized that the idea of not testing icons is simply crazy, but more and more app developers out there simply put icons thinking that if they look ‘nice” is enough. Well, think twice. Icons have a huge influence in the mental process behind choosing and downloading an app. You can rank for a keyword in the app store, but if people don’t click…. then… you are pretty much screwed right?
(if you like this chapter, go and buy the book – lol )
The importance of Icons in the App Store Optimization world.

Along with the title, your app icon is going to be what makes the first impression on users.
A descriptive and aesthetically appealing icon can boost your app store visibility significantly.
There are many great reasons why app icons matter in the ASO game so it pays to create a professional and appealing image as your app icon.
We don’t need to be a tech genius to understand that a crisp and clear screenshot with a higher resolution will make your app even more attractive.
In fact, many users are inspired to download the app first by the icon rather than the description. We are visual animals and icons play a huge role in the Click Through Rate (CTR) of an app.
Similar to web SEO where <title> tags and meta-description tags are optimized, the app icon plays a comparable role in app stores.
In SEO what you see first is the <title>. In the App store or App Market the first thing you see is… well the icon.
Although an icon itself will never get your site ranked, Google and Apple aren’t likely to feature an app with an icon that has no visual appeal.
Although the idea of having a professional icon and screenshots of your app may seem logical and obvious, many app companies fail in this area.
I believe when we talk about app icons, it’s important to understand the interaction with images, icons and graphics.
The first time I paid attention to the importance of an icon or “graphic” was from Jeremy Shoemoney in a conference titled Facebook Advertising from Soup to Nuts from Affiliate Summit East 2010 which took place August 15-17, 2010 in New York City.

In the conference, Jeremy talked about the important role graphics played in CTR in Facebook ads.
Jeremy launched an experiment where he tested people’s behavior with ads. Mainly he wanted to test where people would click on a huge collection of Ads.
The results were slightly predictable. The big majority of clicks, over 60%, ended up on the Ad with the attractive sexy girl in the photo.
Pretty logical!  We all love the pretty sexy girls on the Facebook ads, right?
But then Jeremy did something simply brilliant,
Jeremy decided to change the content in the “attractive sexy girl’ add from English to Korean while still targeting the same market – the English speaking market.
As soon as I heard him saying this, I thought hey, if the ad is in Korean, for sure people won’t click as much.
The funny thing is the Facebook Ad had the same CTR.
Same image, same audience, different language. The same CTR.


People don’t read – people just click.
In fact, Jeremy defines the important factors in Facebook Ads as:

  • Title = 10%.
  • Body of text = 20%.
  • Images = 70%.

So after watching this, I asked myself… if this behavior applies to Facebook, then why not for App icons?
Let see, when you think about it, a Facebook ad is similar to a potential app icon.
Small, limited content, one tiny graphic and not a lot of time to grab people’s attention.
Obviously I couldn’t replicate Jeremy’s experiment with app icons (a sexy girl icon is not likely to get approved by Apple or Google) but the results of Jeremy’s experiment made me realize that the app icon is a lot more than “just an icon.”
That’s why once you understand how important it is to get the icon right, app developers need to invest some serious time developing, testing and designing their future app icon.
An app icon needs to be clear, strong and modern while being able to inspire people to click. In a few words – it needs to stand out.

Words vs. No words

It’s proven that App Icons with words tend to convert less than icons without words.
The reason is again the same as Jeremy’s story; people don’t read. They just want to click.
Therefore when you combine the icon with text, your icon power diminishes. The message is less clear and the conversion decreases.
Obviously there are clear exceptions to the rule. If you are a well-known brand (Nike, Yahoo, Starbucks, etc.) having TEXT in your Icon could increase your conversion by letting the world know you, the famous company brand have a new App.

The Gloss vs. Non Gloss

As many app users and developers already know, the App store allows developers to add a standard glossy effect to the App icons. This is done at the moment of submitting the app to the store.
The main objective of Apple is to create some type of “standard look” to the apps in the store and make them look and feel “Apple-ish.”
The irony here is that many developers automatically accept that glossy is the best way to go when in reality it makes your App blend with the other apps, making it more difficult to stand out compared to the non-gloss style.
In fact, when you look at top ranking apps from Zynga or Rivio Entertainment, you will quickly realize the top publishers DO NOT use gloss in their icons.
Apple gives you the option to add their standard gloss to your icon when submitting it to the app store.
This is said to give uniformity to the App store and give your icon that glossy Apple look. I’m baffled that so many developers choose to apply this standardization to their precious customized icon.
If you are interested in learning more about great icons, the best resource I have found so far is Michael Flarup’s –
Michael has developed a great Photoshop template which may help people to get started in the creation of their future icons for the App Store.
For information about Apps Icons and sizes visit today