Welcome to ASO Teardowns, a series where we dissect the strategies apps use to gain visibility on the App Store and Google Play for you to learn from. This is a special edition.
We just wrapped up season two of ASO Teardowns, and this one was juicy. After analyzing the on-page ASO of streaming apps, shopping apps, games, a to-do list, and even a casino game, we've learned a thing (or three) from their strategies. We've summarized those into a single list.
In this guide:
- Season Two Stats
- 1. Experiment Often to Grow Keyword Coverage
- 2. It's Hard to Succeed Without Focusing
- 3. Downloads Don't Magically Convert to Revenue
- 4. Beautiful Screenshots Aren't Necessarily Good Screenshots
- 5. Good Screenshots Show, Great Screenshots Highlight
- Bonus: 6. Ask For It!
- Your Turn!
Season Two Stats
Every teardown starts with stats, for context, and this one's no different. Except, this time, the stats are about the teardowns:
- #️⃣ Analyzed 9 apps and 3 games.
- 🔬 Reviewed 54 competitors, in addition to the main apps.
- 🔎 Inspected a total of 7,121 keywords.
- 🎨 Analyzed 92 screenshots. Four apps used all 10, and one used just 5.
- 📺 Watched a total of 5 App Preview videos.
- 💬 Held 3 Live ASO Teardown Sessions.
- 📬 Received 381 replies from readers with questions about ASO, including from the teams behind most of the teardowns we did.
- 🏅 Overall, the average score was an A. Four apps got an A+. Pandora scored a B-, the lowest score this season.
Accelerate Your Downloads
Discover new keywords, monitor ranks, and learn from competitors.
When you add up all ASO Teardowns, you get a lot of useful and actionable takeaways. Here are the top 5 we think you can't miss:
1. Experiment Often to Grow Keyword Coverage
Lots of marketers and developers want to rank for lots of keywords. That makes a lot of sense because being seen in more keywords means being seen by more people, which (usually) translates into more downloads. The real challenge is doing that while fitting within Apple's and Google's keyword limits.
The real solution, as we saw done by several apps in this season, is to update your keywords because the algorithm remembers.
PicsArt, a video editor that ranks in a handful of keywords on the App Store, is a great example of how updating your keywords often can increase your keyword coverage.
Many of the keywords PicsArt is ranked in aren't in the app's name or subtitle and unlikely to be in the keyword list (because there are just too many). They got those ranks by having them in the app's name, subtitle, or keyword list at some point.
I'm a big proponent of iterating over keywords, which is a different way of saying updating your keywords, as often as once a month. Your app may get better results with slightly faster (2-3 weeks) or slower (2 months) cycles, but updating is the key to ranking in more keywords.
2. It's Hard to Succeed Without Focusing
Many developers and marketers choose to optimize for as many intents as possible to "cover all their bases." If there were no character limits, I'd probably say that's a good idea, but there are, so it isn't.
The simple reason is that to rank for a keyword, you need to really help the algorithm associate the app with that keyword and similar ones. The more competitive the keyword is, the more necessary this is. Covering all of your bases make focusing hard, and without focus, the algorithm may not associate the app well with any of the keywords.
Pandora, an App Store veteran, makes that mistake.
Even though Pandora gets millions of downloads every month in the US, it ranks very poorly for most of the keywords it optimizes for.
Focusing on one set at a time, and then updating keywords often can easily tip the scales in their favor and net the app higher ranks with minimal effort.
3. Downloads Don't Magically Convert to Revenue
We talk a lot about downloads, which are, to most, the goal of App Store Optimization. But as a developer, the ultimate goal is revenue. Whether you've got a paid app, a freemium one, or are selling subscriptions, getting downloads means getting the opportunity for revenue and not actual revenue.
When you analyze your competitors, make sure you note who's earning the most per download and analyze how it does that.
When analyzing PicsArt, we noticed that one of its competitors, FaceTune, is getting half the downloads but is making more per download, so they net more revenue. About 5x more revenue.
That means FaceTune can spend much less effort than PicsArt and get a better bottom line. Alternatively, it means that for every new download FaceTune earns through ASO, they make so much more they have a much stronger incentive to improve their ranks.
Whether you want to spend less time optimizing or earn more, how downloads convert to revenue is an important path that you have to actively optimize.
4. Beautiful Screenshots Aren't Necessarily Good Screenshots
Beautiful screenshots make users download apps, right?
Yes and no. Screenshots that are designed to convert get the downloads. The more beautiful, the better, but contrast, layout, and captions are more important. We have a whole guide on how to design screenshots for conversion.
What if they're just beautiful?
I've used PicsArt a lot in this recap, and that's because it's one of those cases where there's a lot to learn. Both good and bad.
PicsArt's screenshots are really beautiful. The colors are great, they're pretty exciting, and they catch your eye easily. But... they don't do a great job with that attention.
Vague captions lose the user quickly, lack of contrast makes captions hard to read, and overly complicated visuals tend to require more attention than most users care to give while deciding whether to download an app or not.
My advice, stick to the basics. If you have some free time on your hands, take a stab at A/B testing. If you still have enough free time, polish your screenshots.
5. Good Screenshots Show, Great Screenshots Highlight
On the topic of highlights, if you read our guide on how to design screenshots, you'll know it's important the show the app in action. For apps with very simple UI (whether by design or not), a screenshot is enough. For most apps, however, one screen packs multiple features.
In such cases, showing the full screen may not easily align with a specific caption, and you should use specific captions.
The solution - highlight the area of the screen that matches with the caption.
Homesnap, an app for finding houses and apartments for rent, not only shows how easy it is to use its app but also highlights the elements you'll use so you can see it's got everything you need to find a place to call home.
Bonus: 6. Ask For It!
One of my favorite highlights of this season was Todoist's simple (but powerful) screenshot that simply says "Get Todoist now." It's actionable, it's direct, and if someone managed to get to the last screenshot, there's really nothing else to do but to download the app, so why not say it?
This is one of those strategies you can almost copy and paste. Add a screenshot with this same caption or integrate it into an existing screenshot. It's the easiest ASO hack you can use.
We've looked at apps big and small and how they use ASO to get ahead. Some do a beautiful job, and others not so much. The ones that do see the results. Homesnap's steady downloads while their competitors dropped and Chess.com riding the wave started by Netflix's show are good examples of the benefits of doing ASO, and that's really the key.
If you start, you'll see better results than if you do nothing at all. That I can guarantee.
Don't know where to start? Email me.
Now that you've read this recap (and hopefully the rest of the teardowns), you have what you need to get your app in front of more users using ASO! All you need now are tools to make researching and monitoring easy. We've got those. Get started with our ASO tools →