app store optimization tips

App Store Optimization: 35 Tips for Title, Keywords, Screenshots, Description, Ratings & Reviews

App Store Optimization (ASO) – the Complete Guide

There are roughly two million apps out there, and few are taking all the steps to optimize for search.  That’s great news for you and your mobile product. With proper App Store Optimization, it’s relatively easy to get discovered.

Look at the web – there’s an estimated 1 billion web sites and thousands of tools to optimize for web search.  As a quick test, I just searched for the keyword “manatee” and found the following results.manatee2

  • Web results for “manatee” – 3.9M pages
  • Apple App Store results for “manatee” – 34 apps

That’s not to say search volume on web and mobile are comparable, but with 0.0009% of the competition, I’d think about taking your sea-cow obsession to the mobile arena.

Additionally, optimizing for the App Store is more difficult than the web. It’s not necessarily “difficult,” it just involves a little time and effort, which is why you’re here.

We’ll cover the following topics to give your app the best chance of getting discovered, getting downloaded, and then getting rated in Apple’s App Store. Along the way, I’ll provide actionable items for each topic as well as a video tutorial for those that can’t read.

  • App Title
  • Keywords
  • App Description
  • Screenshots
  • Apple Ratings & Reviews


ASO – App Title

Here are the five tips for optimizing your App Title in the App Store.

  1. 32 Characters Displayed:  know that only the first 32 characters of your app title will be displayed in the app store results.  Make sure that they’re concise and get across the message you’d like. Feel free to use more than 32 characters to include important keywords in the title.
  2. Use Keywords in Title:  it’s important that you include your most important keywords in the app title. It’s been proven that there’s a 10% greater likelihood that you’ll rank for that keyword if it’s in the title.
  3. Be Descriptive:  don’t simply stuff keywords in your title. Be as descriptive as possible, while also using relevant keywords and keeping it concise.
  4. Omit Company Name:  don’t include your company name in your title. There’s a defined area for your company name and it does impact search.
  5. Don’t Change Too Often:  once you’ve figured out a descriptive, keyword-infused title, keep it consistent.  Users will eventually be searching for you by name.  App review sites will be citing you by the same.  If you change it often, it’ll be difficult to build a brand / recognized title.


ASO – App Keywords

Equally as important as your title are the keywords you use to be found.  Here are seven tips to make sure you’re making the most of these.

  1. Leave No Spaces:  do not include any empty spaces – not between words and not before/after commas.
  2. Don’t Use Phrases:  separate all keywords by commas.  Let’s look at an example for these first two points. Say, for example, your keywords are “machine washable robots”

    BAD:  machine, washable, robots
    BAD:  machine washable robots
    GOOD:  machine,washable,robots

  3. Use Every Character:  you get 100 characters and should be using every one of them. It’s a waste not to!
  4. Don’t Pluralize:  most of the time, you’ll want to avoid pluralizing keywords. Apple has gotten better at recognizing plural forms.  If the keyword you’re considering including as pluralized is much more important than the next best (otherwise included) keyword, it might make sense to add the “s.”  This will require testing to determine.
  5. Don’t Add “Free:”  if your app is free, Apple recognizes this and the term is implicit in your searchability. Adding it is a waste.
  6. Omit Company Name:  don’t include your company name in your title. There’s a defined area for your company name and it does impact search.
  7. Don’t “Game” the System:  keyword stuffing and other gamey tactics will probably hurt your chances at building a long-term, high-quality app. It’s probably best to shoot for the sincere route.


ASO – App Description

You’ve gotten some traffic by optimizing your title and keywords, now sell them with your description.  Here’s five tips.

  1. app store descriptionKeywords Aren’t Important:  don’t use keywords in your description for the benefits of search. They won’t impact searchability.  Instead, focus on best describing and selling your app.
  2. First Three Lines:  once clicking on your app, the user only sees the first three lines of your app description.  The goal is to make them click “more details” or, preferable, “download.”  Make sure to treat these first three lines as critical!
  3. Social Proof:  within the description, include any evidence of success or popularity among other users.  This could include:
    – Press mentions (“As seen in TechCrunch”)- Vanity metrics (“Over 1M downloads”)
    – Powerful reviews (“This app is the best…”)
  4. Optimize for Readability:  use typical rules in the world of “copy” to make your description as easily consumable as possible. Use frequent paragraph separation and bullets to help with this.
  5. Call to Action:  include text like “Download now to see…” or “Press install for the best…”  These “call to action” items have been proven to increase conversion.


ASO – Screen Shots

We’re obviously a very visual society, which makes optimizing screen shots so crucial.  Here’s five tips to do just that.

  1. Make the 1st the Best:  in the app store search results, you’ll notice that only one shot is displayed initially per each app.  And, it takes up 70% of the screen.  Make sure it’s the most telling and enticing visual you can get from your app.
  2. High Res a Must:  mobile devices have more and more pixels with each update. If you’re image is low quality, all of those imperfections will be noticeable on an iPhone / iPad. Use the highest resolution possible.
  3. Use all Spaces:  you’re allotted five screenshots, and there’s no reason not to use all five.
  4. Add Marketing Copy:  you’re free to overlay marketing copy on top of your screen shots. This could include social proof (vanity metrics or press mentions) or contextual info to help understand the screen shot. This can be very powerful if used properly!
  5. Combine Screenshots:  if you can’t fit enough screenshots in the five allotted spaces, consider combining four screenshots into one.


App Store Ratings & Reviews

Ratings and Reviews in the App Store directly impact visibility and total downloads. More downloads result in higher rankings, which result in more reviews.  Better reviews directly translate to more downloads.  Here are nine tips to increase ratings and improve reviews.

  1. Use Friends & Family:  go through your contact lists and extract the emails of those that owe you favors or that are bound by family ties to do you favors.  Use Mailchimp or another free service to send them a message with each new release of your app.
  2. Five Rating Trigger:  Apple won’t show a rating score until they reach the magic number of five.  Encourage users to quickly get this rating number to five (use Tip #1).
  3. In-App Contact:  this is extremely important. Make it as easy as possible for users to contact you through the app.  Otherwise they’ll vent their frustration in a review and you’ll possibly lose your chance to respond and fix the issue.
  4. Answer Every Email:  use each received email as a chance to earn five stars.  The majority of our 1,000 5-star ratings are the result of quality customer service as opposed to the quality of the app itself.
  5. Email Signature Link:  in your email signature, include a link to your app in the store and ask for a review.  If you’re having a one-on-one via email, chances are the recipient is experiencing quality customer service and should be prompted to share this experience.
  6. Boost Ratings Immediately:  momentum out of the gates is important.  As soon as your new release hits the App Store, get those downloads and ratings asap (use Tip #1).
  7. Track Down Haters:  if a user leaves an upset message in the app store, attempt to track them down. Google their Apple display name. I can generally find 50% of our haters. Once found, I can turn 9 out of 10 into five stars.
  8. Ask Superfans:  if you’ve created a quality app, you’ll get fan mail. Specifically ask these users to rate you and give them a link to the app store to make it as easy as possible. If your user base is less sophisticated, create a step-by-step tutorial showing them how to rate your app.
  9. In-App Review Prompt:  I’ve personally not used this tactic, but have heard of other successfully implementing a prompt within the app to rate the product. Often you’ll see a screen asking if the user loves or hates the app – the lovers are funneled to the app store and the haters directed to an email to the developers.


I hope that this helps app developers / marketers out there.  If I’ve missed any tips, please help out and leave them in the comments section below.

Feel free to use our Ship Mate App as an example. All critiques & suggestions are encouraged.

Comments 6

  1. Rob e

    I would add analytic to your tips. It is super helpful to what what countries are downloading, how many sessions are used, when activity spikes, when you are listed on a Top Free x board on iTunes. All that helps to fine tune marketing and give users what they want.

    Great article.

    1. Post
  2. Carl Ojerio

    Wow! great article.

    App reviews should be your main focus. It really affects how your app ranks and how your potential users react on your app. Encourage good ratings and feedbacks through your community and in-app.

    This article gives me more insights about app store optimization and how to customize it for my own apps.

  3. Ryan Weber

    Something to add to this article. In our research, we found that using more than 64 chars on Apple’s App Store negatively impacts your rankings.

    Here are a few more interesting insights on the keyword ranking factors:

    • Apple
    o Review Text – Text in reviews do not impact the keywords you get indexed for (somehow this myth exists in ASO land)
    o Effective Use Of Ads – Paid advertising has a sudden and lasting impact on rankings but it needs to be handled carefully (downloads, download velocity, CTR, & discard rate influence)
    o 7 Day Cliff – Apps get a boost in ranking their first 7 days so pushing to rank early is a good strategy as you’ll see a boost if you make the top since the downloads then kick in
    o Description – the keywords in your description do not impact what you index for but Apple does find keywords by associating your app with other similar apps so people often mistakenly assume it’s based on their description

    • Google
    o Downloads – The past 7 days, the past 30 days, and the total downloads each count as factors but the more recent period is weighted higher (7 more than 30 more than all time).
    o Geofence – Tweets and other Geo-tags do have impact for regional success
    o Social Media – Google Play Services, Google+ influence rank

    For a free white paper we published detailing the impact of various factors to Google Play and Apple keyword rankings, as well as how to optimize for them check out:

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