9 Common ASO Mistakes That Hurt Your Downloads
You've heard about App Store optimization and how it can propel your downloads, so you spent some time reading about it, made a few changes to your app's name and keyword list, waited and waited some more for results, and... nothing.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
Lots of developers tell me the same thing, and my response is always the same: successful App Store Optimization is as much art as it is science. App store optimization works for many developers , and there is a way for it to work for your app. But you have to work to find it.
To help you find it, I've compiled the most common mistakes I've seen developers make so you can avoid them early and get more out of your ASO.
In this guide:
- 1. Not using keywords in the name and subtitle or short description
- 2. Not optimizing the keyword list
- 3. Not optimizing the long description
- 4. Trusting your gut and not evaluating keywords before using them
- 5. Using easier but irrelevant keywords
- 6. Only optimizing once...
- 7. Not watching competitors
- 8. Using the same strategy for the App Store and Google Play
- 9. Not tracking keyword ranks actively
Let's get into it!
Here are 9 reasons App Store Optimization may not be working for you + what you can to to avoid (or fix) them:
1. Not using keywords in the name and subtitle or short description
This is, by far, the most common and destructive mistake. Apple and Google put a lot of weight on keywords that appear in the name and subtitle/short description of apps.
Some developers like to keep their app's name "clean" and only use the subtitle. That means the search algorithms don't have anything to go by, so they'll only show your app when searching for it by name, losing you the opportunity for organic downloads.
The fix for this is straightforward — once you identify the keywords you want to optimize for, use them in both the name and subtitle. Check out the guide below to learn how to do it effectively.
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2. Not optimizing the keyword list
App Store Connect has a keyword list where you can enter keywords to help Apple's algorithm figure out which keywords are relevant to your app.
The field is limited to 100 characters, and Apple doesn't offer any advice on how to use it, so many developers enter just a few words. But after reverse-engineering some aspects of Apple's search algorithm, we discovered several optimizations that allow you to enter many more keywords.
Apple gives a lot of weight to keywords from the list, so not taking advantage of these optimizations means you're throwing away downloads.
Fix this by going through the list of optimizations or use our free App Store Connect keyword optimizer.
3. Not optimizing the long description
Unlike Apple, Google doesn't give developers an easy way to declare a keyword list. Instead, Google reads them directly from the app's name, short description, and... the long description.
You already know how important keywords in the name and short description are, so let's focus on the long description.
Google's algorithm decides what your app "does" by reading its long description and looking for words that repeat the most. A good organic description, the kind that explains to the user what the app is for, will repeat words related to the app's features often.
Optimizing your description means making sure important keywords are repeated enough so the algorithm sees them. But it's not the absolute number of times a word is repeated that's important but rather its density.
Keyword density is the number of times a word is repeated divided by the total number of words in the description. You want to aim for a density of between 3% and 5% for your top 3-5 keywords.
But keep this in mind: Higher density will lead to Google thinking you're spamming and a lower density will make those words invisible.
4. Trusting your gut and not evaluating keywords before using them
Keywords are the keystone of successful ASO, so some pick keywords they think are relevant and use them. But not all keywords will help, and there are two main reasons why: they don't get enough traffic or are too competitive.
To avoid this common pitfall, you should evaluate your keywords before using them. There are two things you should be looking for:
- Keywords that get search traffic - look at the keyword popularity score and take the keywords with the highest popularity. Whatever you do, try to avoid keywords with a single-digit popularity score.
- Keywords where the top results get a similar number of ratings to your app - before optimizing for a keyword check the number of ratings the top results get and make sure your app is within 20% more or less. If your ratings are much lower, the chances of ranking in the top 5 — where it matters — become very small.
5. Using easier but irrelevant keywords
Sometimes it's hard to find keywords that have a high popularity score, aren't too competitive, and are also relevant. So, some developers look for slightly less relevant keywords instead, where they can rank higher.
If you do that, however, you'll end up with fewer downloads because the people searching for those less relevant keywords aren't looking for your app. Even if your app is the first result, they'll skip over it, or worse, download your app thinking it does something it doesn't. Once they realize it doesn't, they'll uninstall it.
Keyword research can take some time but is well worth it. The guide below has tips to help you find more relevant keywords you can use.
6. Only optimizing once...
If I had a penny for every time a developer told me "I tried ASO once and it didn't work" I’d be able to buy my dream car! New!
Some developers research keywords and make changes but only once. For a few, the first set of changes improves downloads, but for most, it won't because App Store optimization is an iterative process.
This mistake is prevalent and costs developers a lot of potential downloads. It is however easy to fix.
For App Store Optimization to work, you'll need to try different things until you know what works and then continue to optimize that. A simple way to iterate over ASO is to plan three different keyword sets and try each for about four weeks. After you've gone through all sets, take the parts from each that worked best, and double down on keywords that work while removing the ones that didn't.
A keyword set is metadata that works with a specific theme of keywords. For example, if you have a translation app, one keyword set can revolve around the template of "translate into (language)" (ex. "translate into Spanish"). Another can be "(language) into (another language)" (ex. "Spanish into English").
7. Not watching competitors
Another way to stay on top of the ever-shifting search trends is to keep an eye on your competitors. Unless you have no competitors or very unsophisticated ones, your competitors are most likely iterating and experimenting with their App Store Optimization.
Following your competitors gives you visibility into what works for them and what doesn't so you can learn faster and get new ideas for your apps. When following your competitors, you'll want to track the following:
- Which keywords they're currently ranked in, and how those compare to your ranks.
- How their metadata (name and subtitle) changes, and how that changes their ranks.
- Find related keywords to get new ideas for your keywords.
Doing this by hand can take a while, so I'd recommend jumping into our Competitor Keywords tool which combines all the keywords competitors are ranked in, for any app you choose, into a side-by-side list. It's very convenient.
You can also save more time by going from Keyword Inspector directly into Competitor Keywords with the results for any keyword.
I'd extend this to also look at competitor performance with our download estimates in the Competitors report. That'd help you understand how they're performing overall and if what they're doing is helping downloads. Tracking Competitors.
8. Using the same strategy for the App Store and Google Play
Some developers use the same keywords for their iOS and Android apps, but Apple and Google have very different algorithms.
The data they use to determine which keywords are relevant to your app is different - Apple has a keyword list, and Google uses the long description.
They even use different datasets to determine how to rank apps - Google looks at all-time downloads, uninstalls, and crashes while Apple looks at recent ratings.
That's why it's important to research keywords with the specific store in mind and use the ones that make the most sense. Copying and pasting the list from one store to another rarely yields positive results.
9. Not tracking keyword ranks actively
Some developers “set it and forget it” when it comes to ASO, expecting it to "just work." Even seasoned marketers can't do that.
Because App Store optimization is a continuous task, it's necessary to look at trends and not just snapshots of information. For example, if you added a keyword to your app's name, just checking where the app is ranked after a week isn't enough. You need to know when the app started ranking for it and if/how that changed over the last seven days.
And it’s not just about changes you’re making. Changes from competitors and updates to the algorithm can influence your rank. Even if you don’t do anything!
Track keyword rank trends by adding them to your Appfigures account. Once added you'll get an email every day with changes, and see how ranks change every hour. Ahead of your competitors.
Top apps get hundreds of thousands of downloads every day but both stores are packed to the brim with apps. Discovery is the name of the game, and algorithms are getting smarter. If you're doing App Store optimization incorrectly (or not at all), you're at a massive disadvantage.
Appfigures offers all the ASO tools you need to streamline your keyword research, figure out which ones are best for your app, and monitor performance with the fastest updates in the market. Not using Appfigures yet? Get started now →