From its earliest day, the app store’s core search algorithm offered the most relevant and most organic search results quickly and accurately on a simple app with a good app icon that has now become synonymous with the mobile search giant’s business. Searching amidst the world’s vast data, both Google and Apple cleverly cataloged and categorized apps using their proprietary search formula, which assessed the ASO keyword rankings to any given app.
For a few years, the Apple search worked seamlessly, repeatedly predicting the most relevant search results every single time, again and again. It was so good that it sent shockwaves online, digitally obliterating its rival (Google) over time. However, as Apple’s clever app store search engine grew into a colossus companies, and both individuals and businesses realized the inherent power of appearing organically at the top of any app search, things began to change.
These changes occurred at the behest of some unscrupulous characters who were hell-bent on gaming the ASO ecosystem. With so much $$$ at stake, can we really blame them? Once they learned the majority of the rules, they began poking and prodding the app store’s innards by reskinning apps, spamming app’s metadata with keywords, and buying app downloads in an effort to outgun other listings and secure the top spots on the app store’s lucrative search results pages or listings.
As a result, these app stores introduced several now-infamous adjustments to its algorithm. As the less-than-savory characters began dominating the mobile app search by supposedly gaming the system, both Google and Apple had to act or risk losing its relevancy. These algorithm adjustments were intended to both weeds out the spoofs and scammers, while also fine-tuning its semantic search.
Before we dive into some of the crucial rules for succeeding in mobile app optimization, we need to take a closer look at the fundamentals of App store search engine. In my recent book called, ASO Bible, not only do I give an extensive overview of how app store search works, but I also look closely at the strategies that can be implemented to quite literally dominate the playing field.
The truth? Most people look at ASO the wrong way. They look at ways to do the least amount of work for the greatest initial return (ROI) when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Obviously, ASO is one of the best skills that you can possibly learn on your own, but in order to succeed with it, you need to exert extra effort and do the most amount of work for the least initial return. It’s a slow, steady, and painful process, but for sure it’s all worth it! It’s also the nature of the beast.
Simply put, in the beginning, Apple and Google don’t trust you. If they don’t trust you, you’re not going to rank on those lucrative first-page listings. You’ll be sandboxed or be lost in the fray amidst millions of others who’re trying to claw their way to the top of the search listings. So, the first real guiding principle of ASO is trust. When you have gained their (app stores) trust, you’ll consistently rank highly. When you lack their trust, you’ll be lost in an abysmal sea of low-ranking mobile apps. And no one wants that, right?
In my ASO book, I cover the ASO basics and the components that comprise the app store’s trust. Each of the components has many factors that influence it, but these are the specific foundational building blocks of just how the app store works. And, considering that it is an inherent part of the app store’s relevancy equation, everything that you do should revolve around building trust rather than losing it and having it taken away.
Component #1: Age
The app store cares deeply about the indexed age of your app. A brand new app that’s a newcomer is going to have a far harder time ranking than an app that has indexed age. Indexed age refers to the date that the app store discovered or indexed the app in question, not when it was originally published or released.
Component #2: Underlying Content
The underlying content is extremely important. Too many people skimp on the quality of the app, but it’s one of the major anchors that tether you to the app store’s relevancy algorithms. An app with errors or duplicate content can really hurt you. Instead, the app not only has to be fully functional, but it has to be unique, keyword-centric and highly engaging where users are spending a good amount of time using your app.
Like everyone else, you’re likely wondering how you can appear relevantly and organically on the first page of the app store search listings. Well, whether you’re doing ASO in 2017 or any other year, it’s important to pay homage to the components of ASO trust. But, there are in fact several factors that attribute to your rank in the app store’s current algorithm. You can discover these algorithm factors in any of my ASO books, webinars, and training videos. However, on a more general note, there are some rules you should be following.
The following rules will help you to dominate ASO in 2017. And no matter what changes moving forward, these rules will still provide the bedrock that you should govern your online activities around in order to make the greatest progress on those all-important ASO rankings. Follow these rules and you’ll find yourself inching closer and closer to ASO domination. Just remember that it won’t happen overnight. It takes time!
Rule 1 — Always Work To Gain the App Store’s Trust
If you want to succeed in ASO, you need to gain the app store’s trust. This has been true for years now, but too many people overlook this principle. However, the question then becomes, how do you get them to trust you? Clearly, it isn’t easy because there are plenty of dimensions to gaining the app store’s trust, but to take a real-world scenario for a moment, let’s briefly look at the plight of a new business that opens up shop. Let’s take for example a new business that needs a working capital, and the founder walks into a bank for a meeting with the bank manager.
Being new in the business, this said company will naturally face some bias. How can this company expect the bank to give them a loan for their business when they have no track record? This is the same dilemma that will face any newly-formed or developed app. If Apple or Google just found out about it, it’s going to look at you with the suspect. It won’t trust you, thus, you won’t rank high, no matter what ASO strategy you attempt to implement.
This is the greatest barrier to entry in ASO that possibly exists, but there’s a method to the app store search engine’s madness, and much of it has to do with those unsavory characters who were so hell-bent on bending the rules. Today, Apple and Google know about all your ASO schemes, so don’t even bother with them if you’re looking to build its trust.
Rule 2 — Age Always Comes Before Beauty
Your mobile app’s age is more important than its beauty. No matter how good your app looks, what they are really looking for is quality over time. How much time? We’re talking months or even years here. Even if you have a good developer profile and your app looks amazing, loads quickly and is easy to navigate, it will fall short without age.
Whether you’re just learning mobile app optimization in 2017, or any other year for that matter, what’s important to bear in mind is that algorithms are always logging, analyzing and judging any behavior related to your app. If you do a lot of ASO work for a month or two then completely abandon your app, you won’t help your efforts, you’ll hinder them.
Rule 3 — Quality Will Trump Quantity Every Single Time
When it comes to mobile apps, one of the steadfast rules is that quality trumps quantity every single time. So don’t focus on developing so many apps, rather focus on developing one or a few high-quality app(s). For example, don’t bank on reskinned apps; worry about pushing out updates for your app(s). That’s what Google and Apple care about — quality.
Rule 4 — Content Will Always Be King
The underlying content of an app will always be king. If the content falls short, so will the ASO rankings. The app store’s aim to deliver the most relevant results in the quickest manner possible has much to do with delivering the best possible content. If the content in your app is no good, how can it be relevant?
Bear in mind that most people have now automatically become reliant on these app stores, knowing that the first page of search results will likely be the best result. In turn, app developers want that top spot, but they simply won’t get it if your app isn’t good enough. The truth is that great content is shared often. Everyone wants to share something that delivers real value. So put the time into the content, because that’s what really counts.
Rule 5 — Keywords, Keywords, Keywords, But Don’t Overdo It
ASO in 2017 has so much to do with keywords, but also so little to do with them. The app store wants content made for humans. That’s why you also have to tailor the app’s metadata for the app store. The distinction here, however, is a very difficult one to make, and it’s very easy to cross the line.
What often ends up happening is that ASO practitioners overstuff keywords in an effort to rank. This can decimate your listings on the app store search results pages. You don’t want that. What you want are not only exact-match keywords, but also Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords.
Use LSI keywords to your advantage. The app store search engine uses LSI as a way to determine the similarities between words and phrases. So, something like “best apps for losing weight quickly” would be semantically similar to “top weight loss apps that work fast.” LSI keywords are relevant and similar keywords that make the writing more organic in nature.
Your goal here is to make your app’s metadata (title, description, keywords) content keyword-centric, but don’t bombast the exact keywords over and over again. Yes, this can be difficult to do because you still have to follow the developer guidelines. But with practice comes perfection. With several other factors involved in the app store’s core algorithms, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But if you stick to creating an amazing app that delivers enormous amounts of value, that clearly conveys the purpose or the answer to the questions that users are seeking, you’ll win the ASO ranking game over time. Not overnight. Over time.