Hundreds of games are launched on marketplaces like iOS & Google Play every day. The primary challenge of indie game developers, therefore, is in being discovered. Without a massive budget and strategy to acquire 5 to 10,000 users per day, it is highly unlikely that your game will be featured in any major category.
Thankfully, smart marketers and developers with less robust budgets can maintain equally substantive numbers through the careful employment of App Store Optimization (ASO).
ASO isn’t as simple as optimizing your marketplace listing and waiting for your game’s ranking to rise higher. The rules that govern it change every day. The laws that worked yesterday may not yield the same results today, and it’s up to you to evolve your marketing strategy in response.
Is there an easier way to go about it? Search online and you’ll see that many tools and experts have tried to conquer ASO once and for all. But how many actually deliver the results you need? Are they worth the investment? You may find a ton of information on optimizing your game’s name, images, description and so on. But none of them can replace the four pillars of ASO.
If App Store Optimization is your key marketing strategy this year, focus on the following four factors for success:
- Keyword Research
- Ratings and Reviews
Let’s examine each in turn.
1. Keyword Research
Writing compelling copy for your marketplace description is an obvious step in ASO. But to do so, thorough keyword research is necessary. Can this be done quickly and efficiently?
The fastest and perhaps most reliable way to dig up unique keywords is by studying your competition. Tools like AppAnnie will help you identify important information, like where your competition ranks for different keywords, what categories their game has featured in, and some historical ranks as well.
You can also brainstorm possible keywords your target gamer will search for when looking for a game like yours. To do this, use tools like Google Keyword Planner, Uber Suggest, and Recommended Keywords by Apple Search Ads. Although these tools may not give you exact keyword data from app stores, they can help you easily identify better keywords and expand the number of your brainstormed keywords.
Once you have a list of possible keywords, find out what the competition for each keyword looks like. It’s common sense that a simple keyword like 'magic' would have high competition, whereas 'card magic tricks' would have less competition and be simpler to rank for. Look for long tail keywords with decent traffic, rather than those one or two words with high competition.
At the end, you should have at least 10-15 keywords that are related to your game. It’s good to start small. Build traffic of about 50 to 100 visitors per day and then optimize your game further for better and more competitive keywords. And remember: don't let your ASO be dominated by just one keyword! Because if it doesn't work, you have to do everything all over again.
And don’t overstuff, either. If you have less than 500 words of app store description, do not stuff your keywords more than five times, especially in the play store. There are other ways of going about it. For example, with the app store you can add keyword metadata even though the description doesn't directly matter in the getting ranked. Obviously, the intricacies of various marketplaces must be fully understood before you plan your ASO strategy, but it will certainly pay off in the end.
Once you have healthy optimization for your game listing in the United States and English-speaking countries, the immediate next step is to seek international opportunities through localization.
To localize your game, you must have the images, game UI, and every major text in the marketplace listing translated to local language. Take a look at your store stats and make a list of the top 5 non-English countries where you are doing good or even just okay for certain keywords. Then hire some professional translators via Upwork, or approach some expert localization agencies to get the work done. You will find instant progress in the number of downloads overall, and you might even discover that you’ve tapped into a better user base in Asian countries.
And here is where most developers fail: monitoring the results. It makes no sense to put so much effort into ASO and then not keep a close watch on post-ASO performance.
Using analytics tools, it’s quite easy to keenly observe your data and use this insight in your decision making and improve your ASO.
If only 3 of your 15 keywords are doing well, you should either try harder for other keywords or replace them with an entirely new set of keywords. Experiment with different screenshots and see which works better than others. Try different description copies, too, and see which one helps you push conversion rates from 40% to 50%. And so on.
Unmonitored ASO is as good as not having an ASO strategy at all. So collect as much information as you can, and pay attention to how your decisions affect your rankings.
4. Ratings & Reviews
The fourth and most important pillar of ASO is maintaining good ratings. Most apps in the top 100 have an average rating of 4 stars. When your game has a number of positive ratings and reviews, users will automatically trust in the quality of your game, download it and even recommend it if all else go well.
Sure, at the earliest stage you might get some negative or criticizing reviews. But as a content creator, you must find an opportunity in bad reviews to improve your game for the long term. Keep a close eye on crashes, reports and bugs discovered by users. It will do both you and your game a lot of good to politely reply to complaints from frustrated users as well as their suggestions, making it clear that you hear them, and are working on or have already improved the issue raised.
Intelligently prompt users by gently 'asking for reviews'. Please don't beg for reviews, as it is unprofessional and hampers the user experience. It’s also good practice to Ask users after a certain duration, rather than asking every second day.
Sometimes, users may be unwilling to rate your game for one reason or another. This is the precise moment to kindly ask for suggestions. Smart prompts like these minimize the chances of scoring a bad review.
And for the many users who don’t have time to rate your game? Adopting a data analytics tool like Flurry can identify user behaviour and how they interact with various parts of your game. What a great help.
In the end, ASO done right can keep your conversion rate high, attract new users and help you maintain better ratings.Ultimately, better user experience is key for achieving success with ASO.
With newer technologies and valuable competition analysis tools, ASO is becoming a measurable way of marketing in 2017. What are your thoughts on where ASO is heading? Share with us in the comments section below!