What Is App Store Optimization (ASO)?

Posted on Feb 18 2014 - 10:18am by Hugh Kimura

Mobile App

In a previous post, I wrote about why App Store Optimization is a vital part of any iPhone marketing plan. Now let’s get into a little more detail and examine the different components of ASO.

There is actually more to it than just optimizing keywords and most components are relevant to any mobile app store, regardless if it is Google Play, iTunes, Windows or Amazon.

The 8 Components Of App Store Optimization

Since Google Play and iTunes are the two biggest app stores, those are the stores that we will be primarily talking about. Here are the 8 basic components, in no particular order.

1. Keywords

Keyword optimization is what most people think of when talking about App Store Optimization. It is the biggest factor in determining your organic downloads.

So be sure that you are using the best practices for the app store that you are in. For example, the Apple App Store gives developers a 100 character keyword field that they have to optimize for. On the other hand, Google takes the keywords for an app from the app description. In either case, be sure that you are using the right keyword optimization tools that will allow you to see which keywords are the best to target for the app store you are publishing in.

2. Icon

One of the first things that people will see when they find your app through app store search is your icon. So be sure to make it look professional and do your best to make it communicate what your app does. The only time that you should use a logo is if you are a very recognized brand.

3. Title

Different app stores handle titles in different ways. Apple allows you to have 200+ characters in your app title, but Google only allows 30 characters.

Both app stores give more weight to keywords that are included in the app title, but given the big difference in maximum lengths, you will have to choose your naming strategy carefully, depending on which store you are publishing to.

In iTunes, you can include a long sentence that has several keywords, so you have a little more freedom when it comes to naming your app. The limited Google Play title field means that you will have to be much more selective with your keywords.

4. Pricing

Some people don’t realize that pricing is part of optimization, but you must really understand what other apps in your category are charging and what people are used to when it comes to paying money for apps. Sometimes and upfront charge is acceptable, while successful apps in other categories make money on in-app purchases.

Also consider experimenting with your pricing to boost downloads. For example, when you drop the price of your app, many “bargain app” websites will pick up on this and feature your app on their website. A higher or lower price might also get you more downloads. Experiment and see what works for you.

5. Screenshots

Just like with your app icon, your screenshots are one of the first things that people will seen when investigating your app, so they should look great. On top of that, they need to instantly communicate the benefits of your app.

If your app has smaller fonts or screens that are a little busy, consider adding text banners that explain why the screen is great. This will help people decide if they should examine the screen closer. If they do not understand it at a glance, chances are that they will move on to the next app.

6. Description

This is where the description of an app can have varying effects on app store search. In iTunes, the description is not often looked at and is almost an afterthought. When it comes to Google Play however, the description is vital. This is where the keywords for search are pulled from, so you really have to take the time to choose your words carefully.

7. Reviews

Did you know that even your reviews can be optimized? If you are just starting out, there is no reason to have zero reviews. Ask a few friends and family to review your app. This will only account for a very small number of reviews that you get, but it will get you started on the right foot. Would you download an app that has no reviews?

You can also add various services to your app that will allow you to send people who love your app to write a review on the app store, while sending dissatisfied users to a feedback page that will keep their negative review out of the app store. Provided that you give good customer service, people who do not like your app will get their concerns addressed and your good reputation will stay intact.

8. Localization

Once you have all of the above pretty well optimized, now you should look at expanding your app into other countries. The process for optimizing your app for other locations will be similar, but you will have to make changes for language and cultural differences.

There are cases where apps have been able to improve their downloads by 700%+, by localizing. So this is an option that should not be ignored.

But it can be a costly and time consuming process. To get around this, you can test your app in other countries by creating a clone or just optimizing your title, keywords description and screenshots, to test how well your app might do in that country. If the test is favorable, you can consider localizing the entire app.


So that is a detailed explanation of what App Store Optimization is. Remember that although keyword optimization is important, the other components can also significantly improve your download numbers, so explore every possibility that will give you an advantage over your competition.

About the Author

Hugh Kimura is a marketer, photographer and surfer. He is the Content Strategist for Sensor Tower, a San Francisco startup that provides online App Store Optimization Tools.