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App Store Optimization Tips: Avoid Rejection

Toward the end of September 2016, Apple reduced the character limit allowed for app names, which caused a frenzy among developers focused on App Store Optimization. It pressured many developers to restructure their app’s title tags since keywords in title tags that exceeded 50 characters on the App Store would no longer be ranked.  The change last year was Apple’s attempt to make the App Store less spammy and legitimize real apps. These types of changes and the additional changes tied to advising app developers to stop referencing the app’s price in its name and screenshots has been Apple’s attempt to enforce its guidelines and efforts to improve their overall App Store merchandizing.

Around February 2017, Apple began cracking down on submissions and enforcing the spoken but rarely followed guideline. App developers have reported being rejected for including the word “free” in the app’s name and screenshots, especially if the app offers in-app purchases. For years, Apple has discouraged developers from using references of an app’s price, and has it clearly stated in their developer guide.

Developers that submit an app with the price in its name or screenshots can receive one of these two notices of rejection.

Rejection 1: “Your app’s name, icons, screenshots, or previews to be displayed on the App Store include references to your app’s price, which is not considered a part of these metadata items.

Please remove any references to your app’s price from your app’s name, including any references to your app being free or discounted. If you would like to advertise changes to your app’s price, it would be appropriate to include this information in the app description. Changes to your app’s price can be made in the Pricing and Availability section of iTunes Connect.”

Rejection 2: “Please be advised that Apple has started enforcing section 2.3.7 (accurate metadata) from their review guidelines to mean that apps should not include pricing data in their app title. As a result, if you have “free” in your app title you are at high risk of getting rejected.

If you have free in your title, or anything else referencing the price of your game we suggest planning to remove the word “free” in your next update, otherwise you risk getting rejected by app review.”

So far, the developers that have received one of the two rejection notices have tried submitting a new app or updates to their app’s metadata. It is clear that Apple does not see referencing the app’s price as part of the app’s metadata.

While there are still plenty of apps on the App Store that have “free” in their title tags and screenshots, tied to Apple’s recent actions, it’s clear that these apps are more likely to be rejected in the future when they go to update.

How Does This Affect ASO?

While ASO best practices have never advocated pushing the app’s price in the title tag or screenshots, the word “free” is a popular search query among users looking for a deal, and has been utilized heavily in title tags to appeal to users in an effort to improve conversion.

From our data, we know there are over 50,000 apps that have title tags regarding the word “free.” Apple’s crack down will affect these apps and is causing developers to make updates to their app’s metadata. Developers focusing on App Store Optimization need to make sure they adhere to Apple new guideline by no longer referencing price in the title or screenshots.

The App Store description, however, is the one area of metadata that developers can continue to highlight the app’s price and promotions. The description is the perfect area to explain to users whether the value of an app is paid or free and if the app includes in-app purchases.

Tied to the constraints made by Apple, it is important for developers to pay attention to real mobile data tied to find out what’s trending and what’s popular in the store to target outside of the general term “free.” Datacube is a great platform for developers to keep up with popular keywords that users are searching for, see what’s trending as well as see how competitors and popular apps are structuring their metadata.

At this point, ASO is important now more than ever because developers need to understand what terms tie to the core features of their app are popular and trending as well as how users are searching for these features in the App Store. Our partners utilize Datacube to their app’s performance and take advantage of miss opportunities.

Losing the word “free” in your title tags and screenshots is not the end all! Developers need to be more self-aware of what other keywords their apps can target besides the word “free” and implement these keywords into their app’s metadata to help increase their app visibility and installs.

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App Preview Videos: How Important Is It For Conversion?

While many developers have followed ASO best practices and improved their app’s metadata (title, description and screenshots), not many focus on the app’s preview video. The preview video is in place to improve conversion rates by engaging the audience and showing users the app’s core features. Unfortunately, it’s a forgotten part of the app’s metadata.

Developers need to optimize their preview video with ASO to increase their odds of converting users and encourage them to tap “GET.”

What’s a Preview Video?

Preview videos are one of the first visual representations of your app that users will see when searching in the app stores.

On an Android device, the video appears at the very top of the listing, encouraging users to interact with the gameplay and see how to use the app before scrolling down to read the description.

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For iOS, the preview video can take the place of a screenshot and is always listed first in the sequence.

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A preview video is supposed to be rich in content and deliver the app’s message well. There are three common types of preview videos developers tend to use, and those are:

  1. Promo Video
  2. Demo Video
  3. Tutorial Video

Each video is unique to the app and may differ depending on what the developer wants to showcase. The length of the video, however, needs to be taken into consideration. Depending on what a developer wants to highlight, if the video is too short it risks leaving features or gameplay out. Other developers take too much time showing every feature and end up showing too much of the app. Regardless, the preview video needs to be engaging to the audience in-order to increase conversion.

What Each Store Allows

Following ASO best practices will help developers create a preview video that can help drive their conversion rate. Before developers start making a preview video, they need to familiarize themselves with the App Store and Google Play Store different requirements.

Apple wants developers to engage customers with the app’s preview video. By showing the experience of using the app, it can give users a better understanding of how to use the app and improve conversion. Some basic guidelines to follow are:

  • Preview video can only be 15 to 30 second long
  • Must use straightforward transitions
  • Needs to real-world usage and functionality of the app
  • Cannot have people interacting with a device that has the app

While Apple has a handful of guidelines in place, Google gives more freedom to developers. The preview video does not need to stay in the app like it does for the App Store, and instead can be more of a promotional video. The only rule Google enforces is the preview video’s length, which needs to be between 30 second and 2 minutes.

Importance of the Poster Frame

A common mistake developers make with their preview video is choosing a random place for the video to stop. The preview video takes the place of a screenshot and should be treated like one. The still image, otherwise known as the poster frame (App Store) or feature graphic (Google Play Store), is incredibly important to an app’s conversion. In screenshots, developers use high-volume keywords to explain the app’s core features. If the poster frame does not deliver the app’s message, it is less likely to improve conversion.

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ASO best practices suggest that the still image should be an image that engages well with the audience and makes a good first impression. A user’s attention span is typically 3-5 seconds when scanning an app listing, and only 5-10 seconds when viewing the preview video. Make sure the preview video has a solid call to action with high-volume keywords to encourage more decisive users to convert.

Developers also need to take into consideration the color choices and background images of the preview video. If the preview video in general looks clumsily made and difficult to read, then a poster frame will not engage the audience well. Also, make sure that the call to action with high-volume keywords is placed either at the top or bottom of the poster frame. Apple and Google both place a large play button in the middle of the poster frame, and developers do not want their call to action going unseen.

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Key Takeaways

Regardless of which style developers choose, the preview video needs to keep the intended audience in mind and be treated as the first visual representation of the app. The preview video needs to be interesting and engaging to convert users, and the poster frame cannot be a random image that is not relevant to the app.

Developers need incorporate an ASO strategy to properly execute the preview video to yield higher conversion rates. If the preview video is engaging and uses high-volume keywords to target the audience, it is more likely to improve conversion rates.

Having a good preview video that highlights the app’s core features further expands the app’s reach in the app stores and helps acquire more users.

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ASO for Mobile Games: Mobile Marketing Cheat Sheet

It seems every time you go to either app store’s home page there are new apps popping up in every category. The Apple App Store alone has over 2.2 million apps, and the Google Play Store has even more. Last year alone, there were 130 billion downloads on the App Store. Competition is intense regardless of what app developers are trying to market for.

One industry, however, stands out from the rest. Mobile games are constantly growing and gaming companies want to get their apps noticed by users. From what was seen at this year’s GDC, the mobile gaming industry is booming, and developers need to stand out against the competition. The only way to create more visibility for an app is by utilizing an ASO strategy.

The Big Names of Mobile Gaming

Last year, the top gaming companies generated a combined $70.4 billion with a year-over-year increase of 17 percent. Gaming is no joke, and even the biggest names in console and PC gaming have made the move to mobile.

Gaming companies like Activision Blizzard, Tencent Holdings and NetEase are just a few names to mention that have made the shift to mobile. These three companies are just a few examples of who is currently cornering the market and pumping out mobile games regularly, whether it be through their own companies or buying out others. These companies understand that to appeal to their current user base, all of whom most likely have smartphones, they need to develop mobile games.

To stand a chance against the biggest names in gaming, mobile game developers need to incorporate an ASO strategy to create visibility and drive discoverability in the app stores.

Understanding the App’s Title and Keywords

While many apps worry about competition within the app category, mobile games are slightly different. Within the app stores, there are separate categories such as action, adventure, arcade and more. Developers want to rank in the category that is most relevant to their mobile game. To become visible and relevant, they need to develop an ASO strategy that uses specific keywords to target the intended audience. Before the app can become more visible, developers should understand the app’s core features and how users are most likely going to search.

Understanding user searches are a great starting point to build a keyword matrix, mostly because users tend to search in 2-3 word phrases. When thinking about the target audience, developers need to think about what kind of features their app offers and how users are more likely to search. Always have the audience in mind and understand that users are searching based off the game features they are most interested in. Developers can use high-volume keywords that address specific features such as:

  • RPG
  • Endless Runner
  • Strategy
  • Adventure

Keywords need to be used throughout the app’s title to create visibility. If developers use the app’s core features in the title, it will be easier to build new keywords to rank for, regardless of those keywords being targeted.

Take for example the high-volume, feature-based keyword “RPG.” Anyone that looks at the Top 10 Ranked apps in the Role Playing Category of the App Store will notice that none have the keyword “RPG” in their title. However, when searching “RPG” only 5 out of the top 10 searches have the word in the app’s title. This means it would be a good opportunity for mobile game developers with an adventure game to take advantage of hardly anyone placing the keyword in the title, and try to rank higher than the competition.

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Metadata and Creatives

While the app’s title is incredibly important to its visibility in the app stores, ASO suggests improving the rest of its metadata. The description, screenshots and video are equally important to an app’s visibility and conversion rates. Developers need to continually keep their audience in mind when optimizing the rest of the metadata or else they will lose out on users.

1. Description

  • It is the largest area that developers have available to explain to users the app’s core features and the app’s gameplay.
  • If developers use relevant keywords, it will increase the app’s overall rankings and improve conversion rates.
  • Good time to take advantage of current promotions or new features.
  • Depending on which store an app is deployed in, the App Store or the Google Play Store, the description’s structure will be different.

Regardless of which store the app is available through, keywords need to be used naturally instead of stuffed to emphasize the app’s core features and entice users with a description of its gameplay.

2. Creatives – Screenshots and Video

Game developers already know that the audience wants to see the game in action. There are two ways to successfully show off an app’s gameplay and encourage users to convert – screenshots and video. These two visual representations are critical to your apps conversion, and there are simple practices to follow for both.

Screenshots:

  • Screenshots do what the title and description can’t – visually show the gameplay.
  • Think of screenshots as an advertising poster that is also the first visual users will see.
  • Need to be full of exciting features to entice users to convert and show how different the app’s gameplay is compared to competitors.
  • Screenshots should not be cluttered or confusing. Less likely to convert when users cannot understand the features or gameplay.

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Preview Video:

  • App Store – Video should focus on the app’s core features or gameplay, essentially making it more of a demo video.
  • Google Play – Video doesn’t have to feature gameplay and can be used as more of a promotion video.
  • The preview video needs to be clean and straightforward.
  • Have keywords prominently placed in the poster frame – Using high-volume keywords in visuals could help convert users. When a user sees relevant keywords to their search term, they are more likely to convert.

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Why Mobile Games Need ASO

ASO is necessary for every mobile game app due to the high volume of competition in the app stores. To stand out and be unique, developers should utilize an ASO strategy to create visibility, which will in turn improve conversion rates.

It’s essential that Mobile game developers keep user’s behavior and search trends in mind when choosing keywords to help the app become more discoverable in the app stores, and the more relevant the keyword is to a user’s search, the most likely it is to be found.

If developers create and maintain a bullet-proof ASO strategy, they are more likely to stand out against big names like Activision Blizzard or NetEase and be more visible to users in the app stores.

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iOS 10.3: Customizable App Icons

Apple’s newest software update, iOS 10.3, made waves when the company announced that developers could now respond to user reviews. While developers are making time to respond to reviews, others detect another hidden gem of iOS 10.3. Before the software update was released, developers took notice a new function in the SDK that allows for multiple app icons for one app.

While iOS 10.3 is only two weeks old, one company has already implemented the new function in two of their apps. MLB at Bat and the NHL app were the first two to update to the under-the-radar option and allow users to change the app’s icon to their favorite team. While it may seem easy to customize an app’s icon, there is more that goes into the update than some realize.

Here’s how it works:

While the concept seems flashy, the implementation isn’t as dynamic as developers had hoped. For those that want to offer personalized icons, they must include the icons within their app files, and these icons should be created in advance. Once an app features the option to change the app icon, users then see a prompt to choose an icon. They will then manually pick one of the new icons within the app’s settings or the prompt.

User customization isn’t that far-fetched of a concept, especially for sports apps MLB at Bat and the NHL app. While these apps want to give users the ability to customize based off their favorite teams, Apple recommends that only apps that offer theme customization as a primary feature to consider implementing user-selectable icons. The company has also given a guide that explains that the icons can only be changed at the user’s request. On top of this, if users choose to change the app icon, a confirmation must show the change has occurred.

Those interested in changing their icon for MLB at Bat, will see a prompt asking if they want to change the app icon based off their favorite team. For NHL, however, users must go into the app’s setting to change the icon. At any time, if users no longer want the app icon to feature their favorite team, they can revert to the app’s original icon.

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With every new software update, there are pros and cons to what has been implemented. While the ability for developers to allow customizable app icons seems like a good idea, there are still pros and cons that developers should consider before updating their app to use this feature.

Pros:

  • Users have responded saying how much they love the customization ability.

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Dave’s Mets Dugout.

  • MLB states that more than 93 percent of At Bat’s millions of subscribers now use the customize feature.
  • The apps have already put a focus on helping users get more information about their favorite teams.

Cons:

  • While it’s easy for users to change the app icon, developers must first include the new icon files with the newly updated app.
  • Despite users enjoying the ability to personalize the app themselves, it means that developers are not allowed to change the app icon at will without a major software update.
  • In Apple’s guide, developers that use this feature in their apps must have various images in different sizes to keep consistency throughout the system.
  • Not only will developers have to design customizable icons in varying sizes, they will need to design an icon selection screen that feels like a natural extension of the app. Developers can, however, select not to make a selection screen and can instead redirect users to the app’s settings.

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  • While there was speculation at first that weather apps could use this new feature, it turns out developers will not be able to use dynamic app icons. Unfortunately, this limits the feature to a select group of apps, meaning only apps that offer customization as a primary feature will benefit from the new feature.

Key Takeaways:

MLB at Bat and the NHL app, both run by the company BAMTech, were the first to update their apps to feature the ability to change the app’s icon. So far, they have seen great responses from their current user base and have seen their conversion rates improve. These two apps have taken customization to the next level through Apple’s newest software update, but like all new features, there are pros and cons developers should pay attention to before implementing an update. The move MLB at Bat and the NHL app have taken is only the first step in a long line of developers sure to use user-selectable app icons.

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App Localization: Why Your Mobile Marketing Strategy Needs Global ASO

The mobile app market is growing at an exponential rate, and as it stands, more than half the world now uses smartphones, which equates to roughly 4.92 billion global mobile users. Across the globe, mobile app developers are adopting an ASO strategy to change their app’s metadata to increase discoverability in the new market.

While creating an app’s visibility in the market is essential, developers looking to expand their app’s appeal on a global scale need to correctly localize their app to increase conversion. According to data we have verified, developers who took the steps to localize their iOS app saw download rates in the same country increase by 130 percent on average. In turn, increasing their revenue by 25 percent.

Localization is necessary to appeal to users on a global scale and incentivize users to convert. If users see an app that is in their native language, they are more likely to spend money on the app and download.

What App Localization Is:

Many developers think that app localization is simply translating the app into another country’s language. While that is a part of the localization process, however, localization is adapting an app to meet the language and making it locally relevant to the cultural requirements of a specific market.

Developers need to know what countries to promote their app in. Everyone wants to cover the top grossing mobile markets, which means needing to localize the app’s metadata in the top languages. The list of the top ten languages to localize in includes:

  • The US
  • China
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • The UK
  • South Korea
  • France
  • Canada
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Brazil
  • Russia
  • Australia
  • Mexico
  • Taiwan

Localizing an app in these languages means bringing mass appeal to an app in a greater market than before. Take for instance the popular app Pokémon GO that became an international hit. When news broke about the app, fans across the world waited in anticipation, especially the Japanese, who presumed the app would launch in their language first due to Japanese store indexing in both Japanese and English terms. Instead of taking advantage of Japan’s indexation, the app launched in the US, Australia and New Zealand first. Niantic’s clever plan built up the hype and suspense for a mobile Pokémon app worldwide but overall upset Japanese users, one of their target audiences. Niantic’s error in localization is an example of why developers looking to localize need a strong strategy, despite having an app that was an international hit.

Your ASO Strategy Needs to be Global:

It is imperative to incorporate an ASO strategy in the localization process to generate discoverability and drive conversion in countries with a high volume of mobile app users. To successfully localize, developers need to pay attention to their target audience, user behavior and trends before they start choosing keywords to emphasize the app’s core features for that region. App localization is necessary to create visibility in other markets, but developers cannot localize an app without an ASO strategy to improve the app’s metadata.

Why Global ASO is Necessary:

User trends are different across different markets and regions, even among English speaking territories like the US and Canada. Specific trends and user behavior need to be monitored constantly to understand the international territory.

Apps that feature English as the primary language cannot just start translating their pre-existing keywords into the language of choice. While keywords for an app in the US can be the same in Brazil, ASO best practices suggest that it is better to use words that are culturally relevant to improve the app’s metadata and further expand the app’s international market. Keep in mind that keywords cannot be combined across different speaking countries, but will be combined in same speaking countries.

How to Implement a Localization Strategy:

Keywords are important to the localization process because they help the app’s metadata become more discoverable in user searches. Based off user trends and behavior, the keywords are used in the app’s title, description to create visibility and screenshots to convert users.

The metadata cannot just be translated into the intended language but needs to connect to current user trends to appeal. Adapting an ASO strategy will help developers understand their target audience better and understand which keywords work better in each mobile app market.

The app’s creatives, screenshots, need to also be localized to target users in the new country. Screenshots need to reflect the elements from the country being localized to successfully convert users. There are some elements developers need to consider when localizing their screenshots to successfully localize. Developers need to:

  • Think about color schemes, trending features and what users want to see.
  • Screenshots being localized for Asian territories should not have Americans primarily featured.
  • Apps that feature social media, especially when localizing for China should adjust their screenshots to present the local social media that is actively used to target users accordingly.

Key Takeaways:

To stay competitive in a continually growing market, developers need to make sure they are localizing right the first time by incorporating a global ASO strategy to penetrate high traffic mobile markets. Adapting an ASO strategy is the only way to gain visibility in a new territory and improve the app’s metadata (title, description and screenshots) to correspond with the intended country’s culture. The app needs to be repositioned with ASO to correctly appeal to the new target audience and have a solid foundation when venturing into a new territory to become a global hit.