The potential to drive large amounts of downloads, at no cost, would be enticing to any app developer. But App Store optimization is a marketing science that takes time and patience. It also requires a knowledge of what you’re doing.
There are a number of resources online who attempt to explain how to enhance your ranking in the App Stores. Some of those, however, lead you down the misguided path with incorrect information. I’m here to dispel the worst of the worst when it comes to ASO.
Here are the Top 5 App Store optimization myths:
1. A Good Keyword is the “Key” to Success
Let me be completely honest here. You’re not going to rank for the keyword “game,” nor are you going to even appear in the Top 50. It just won’t happen. You may think “game” is a good keyword, but the competition for that term is so high, the amount of downloads you’d need to even break into the Top 100 is significant.
The path to success is finding a keyword that has low competition, but high traffic. There are a number of tools, including MobileDevHQ, that can expose this data for you. Also explore long tail phrases (e.g. “fun cat game”) which will have some competition, but not nearly as much as “game.”
So, yes, a good keyword can help you find download gold, but the chance of ranking well enough for it is near impossible. A great keyword is one that isn’t widely used, but has a large audience looking for it. That is one of the keys to success.
2. Keywords in the description don’t matter
Apple hasn’t gotten a handle on how to manage App Store search. They attempted to get better at it with the iOS 8 release, but it still has its faults.
The Web used to primarily use title and keyword meta tags to index pages. That’s essentially what Apple is doing: taking what keywords are in your title and keyword field and using those to help people find your app. Google, on the other hand, uses the title field and description to aid in your visibility in their store.
Just because Apple doesn’t care about the description, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. In fact, the iTunes Store is indexed very well on Google, which means your description content, if paired with Google search, could result in significant downloads.
There was also a study done by MobileDevHQ a few weeks back that showed a potential correlation between keyword ranking and App Store description. I think it’s just coincidence, but still worth monitoring.
3. Keyword density helps
There’s been much debate over whether including the same keyword in the title and keyword field in iTunes helps search ranking. Nothing conclusive has ever been proven. So if you’re thinking about making your app name “Game” and using all 100 keyword characters to write “game,game,game…,” you’ll likely be rejected or have wasted some valuable marketing real estate.
This myth, however, is true for Google, which indexes description content for keyword ranking. It’s believed that five references of the same keyword does the trick to rank for it. How well, that depends. But also including it in your title helps.
4. Update your app often to show
I’m a firm believer that if an app hasn’t been updated in more than two years, it needs to be removed from the App Store. It will get removed if the developer doesn’t pay their $99 annual renewal license for Apple. But there are those who will keep paying and leave the same apps that don’t even support the iPhone 5 resolution out there. Google’s even worse since they only charge a $25 one-time fee.
It was once thought that updating an app often showed you were constantly iterating, making it better. But, instead, you may be sending the message that the app is buggy. I’ve worked at companies that released every month and some every quarter. For Winery Passport and Brewery Passport, we release as needed, which works out to about every two months.
Another important point to consider is that Apple weighs reviews and ratings differently for historical and current version. Every time you submit an updated binary, those current version ratings reset. That leads me to my last myth…
5. Ratings don’t matter
Completely false. Ratings and reviews matter tremendously for Apple and Google. In fact, I wrote about this in a blog post on Tuesday. The more ratings and reviews your app has, the better it will rank, even if it’s not five stars.
Google has especially valued user feedback, even allowing developers to respond to reviews. I’ve also heard that apps that respond to the user feedback get better placement. That’s definitely still a myth. Regardless, it’s something you should be doing.
Apple, meanwhile, started weighing reviews more heavily in their algorithm in the last two years. It’s not known whether a review and rating are valued the same though. I’ve also seen indications that the more current ratings an app has, the better — back to myth #4. After all, why would Apple prominently display ratings on the search results screens if they didn’t matter?
It’s important, no matter what platform, to target your users to leave you a review. Go after “fans” and “follows” on social media since they’re interested in your brand. Use in-app messaging to ask politely after an action that may have left a user feeling good about your product. If you leave it up to users themselves, you’ll end up with a lot of one and five stars — people don’t know how to discern a two or a three or a four. Better to get ahead on the fives when you can.
Bonus App Store Optimization Myth
Don’t include plurals of keywords you’re trying to rank for: The truth is you’ll rank for both “cat” and “cats” if you use “cat” as your keyword. But your ranking for “cats” won’t be as good as if you had it as one of your keywords. If it’s a must-have term for your app, use both iterations.
What are your favorite App Store Optimization myths? Let us know in the comments below. If you need help with your ASO strategy, we can help.