App Teardown: How Homesnap is Bucking the Trend with App Store Optimization

Ariel Michaeli Ariel Michaeli
Oct. 20, 2020

Welcome to App Teardowns, a series where we analyze the strategies apps and games use to gain visibility and downloads on the App Store and Google Play, their performance, and competition.

If you've had to move in this decade, odds are you searched for your new home using an app. They know your location, make searching very simple, and even send you alerts.

That's the good.... The bad is that moving is one of those things nearly everyone has to do, so it's a pretty competitive field to be in.

Homesnap, a platform for finding houses, is an excellent example of an app that isn't the leader in its category (yet) that's using ASO to get more downloads, and in this teardown, we'll be looking at how it managed to maintain its downloads while direct competitors lost as much as 40% of theirs.

Overall, Homesnap gets an A+ ๐ŸŽ‰

FYI - we advised Homesnap on its keyword strategy. Our suggestions were based on our analysis of competitors and research of more than 5,000 keywords using our ASO tools. Our advice isn't what earned it the A+. The results did.

Homesnap by the Numbers

COVID did a number on real estate apps, but it also pushed home searching even more to apps. Here's how it's performing in the U.S. App Store, based on our Competitor Intelligence:

  • ๐Ÿ“ˆ 44.4K estimated downloads in the last 30 days.
  • #๏ธโƒฃ 119 in the Lifestyle category.
  • โญ๏ธ 94% of new ratings were positive in the last 30 days.
  • ๐Ÿ‘‹ Audience is young home buyer and leans male.
  • ๐Ÿ… Competitors include Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin

Homesnap Isn't the Category Leader (Yet!)

Homesnap, which comes from the B2B side to the consumer side, is facing stiff competition from household (ha. ha.) names that have been advertising for years. On the App Store, however, the right ASO strategy can help you get ahead by learning from them and then applying it better.

The highlights:

  • Bucking the trend - Since the summer, downloads of all competitors went down except for Homesnap.
  • Homesnap released more updates than its competitors in the last 30 days. And active apps get more algorithm love.
  • The top competitors are doing a better job converting downloads into ratings.
  • Most apps in this set have a similar user-base, 35 - 49 (parents who can afford to buy a house).
  • Homesnap has quite a way to grow.


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Keyword Analysis - The Obvious Parts

Let's kick off the analysis with the keywords Homesnap is using in its name and subtitle. Those send the strongest signals to the App Store's algorithm.

  • Name: House Finder by Homesnap
  • Subtitle: Houses for Rent & Sale

Strictly based on these, here are the popular keywords the algorithm sees:

Let's take a look at where Homesnap is ranked for these keywords:

While there are many keywords relevant to real estate and home buying, Homesnap picked a set that's fairly focused. it might seem limiting, but that's actually a great strategy to use when competing against apps that have more downloads.

The "trick" to this strategy is to experiment with different sets and then pick the keywords that worked best from each and stitch them into a single set that spans the name, subtitle, and keyword list.

Takeaways:

  • & is better than "and" because it's two characters shorter and no one's searching for the word "and."
  • Focusing on a small number of keywords helps climb competitive keywords without needing more downloads.
  • Aim to rank in important keywords first, then optimize to climb up.
  • Iterate often to explore more opportunities.

Going Under the Hood — The Keyword List

Now, let's reverse-engineer the keyword list. The list isn't public, but we can attempt to uncover it by looking at all other keywords the app is ranked in. We believe it looks something like the following:

rental,apartment,finder,find,house,home,buy,sell,realtor,condo,broker,property,open,renting

The real estate market is very competitive. To get broader visibility, Homesnap uses its keyword list to expand on the main keywords with terms that are relevant to its industry.

You'll notice competitors aren't being mentioned. That's good! You'll also notice keywords from the name/subtitle are used in the keyword list but in modified form. For example, the keyword "rent" appears in the app's subtitle, and is then modified into "rental" and "renting" in the keyword list, to capture more searches.

This is a clean and targeted keyword list. Does your keyword list contain competitor names?

Takeaways:

  • Use modified words from your main keyword set in your keyword list to capture more searches
  • If a keyword is very important, repeat it in the keyword list and the name or subtitle. This is controversial and only works in a small number of cases, so experiment with it.
  • Apple gives you 100 characters for keywords. Use them.
  • Keep words in their singular form (a few other tips)

Where Else is Homesnap Ranking?

This combo of name, subtitle, and keyword list gives Homesnap a bit more than just the name and subtitle alone. Here are some of the highlights:

When ASO is done right, the name, subtitle, and keyword list come together and give the algorithm a lot of potential keyword combinations to rank the app in. And it's working. Based on our keyword discovery, Homesnap is in the top 10 of 100 keywords in the U.S. App Store.

Screenshot Analysis

Colors, captions, highlights. This is a great set of screenshots to learn from.

What's great about these screenshots:

  • Dark background creates contrast, and contrast makes it easy to focus the user's attention.
  • Short and clear captions invite the user to read.
  • Lots of features = lots of screenshots (or is it the other way around?)
  • Highlighting what the caption is all about means less thinking and more downloading.

I only have two nitpicks here, and only because there's not much else to optimize:

  1. The font. Round and "chubby" fonts are very friendly and inviting, and while the ones used aren't terrible, there are quite a few better ones available freely on Google Fonts for free.
  2. Humans. Including humans in screenshots is a great way to humanize the app and connect with users more quickly, leading to a higher conversion rate. This is somewhat subjective, so test your screeshots.

Video Analysis

Homesnap has an App Preview, so we have something to analyze!

It's worth noting that all of its direct competitors also have one, so it's no longer about just having a video but also about squeezing out the most potential out of it.

Homesnap does that very well by showing the app's UI and captions to describe what's going on. The video takes you through searching for a house, all the insight Homesnap offers so you can make a more informed decision, all the way down to how the app uses AR to show you the property lines and that you can search by commute time (which is pretty nice).

Crafting the "perfect" video is a challenge because, just like keywords, you have to figure out what the users care about most. In this sense, the keywords you choose should align well with what your video is highlighting.

Takeaways:

  • If every competitor uses an App Preview, there's probably a reason...
  • Your video should focus on what users care about most and not every feature.
  • Using captions helps keep the user's attention as they watch the video.
  • Videos can play in search results, so make sure your captions are very easy to read, even when the video is very small.

The Verdict: It's Going Up

Homesnap is doing pretty well and is on the right track t do even better. All done! Right?

Not at all. App Store Optimization is an iterative process that relies on momentum as much as it relies on intelligence.

To really succeed, Homesnap must build on top of this success, and there are two ways to do that:

  1. Focusing even more to focus the momentum and build downloads
  2. Experiment with a different set of keywords that has a parallel focus

Each has its potential but also its pitfalls. The key, however, is to continue iterating. The only wrong answer to "what to do next" is "nothing".

Use the Tools I Use

I did this entire analysis with our App Store Optimization and Competitor Intelligence tools, the same ones hundreds of thousands of app makers rely on to monitor and optimize their apps. Appfigures gives you the tools to get ahead + outsmart your competitors. Get started →

Download and revenue figures used in this teardown are estimates created by our Competitor Intelligence tools.


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