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35 Tips to Increase Mobile Game Downloads - Part 1 of 3

Do you want to increase your app downloads for free? Read these 35 App Store SEO tips!

You’ve put in a lot of hard work to make a great mobile game, and published it on the app stores.

Hooray! Now what?

Marcus Kay, Blogger

March 20, 2017

12 Min Read

Do you want to increase your app downloads for free? Read these 35 App Store SEO tips!

Note: this is the first part of a 3-part article about App Store SEO. You can also read the full article of App Store SEO here.

You’ve put in a lot of hard work to make a great mobile game, and published it on the app stores.

Hooray! Now what?

After you launch, it’s time to get people to download and use your app. After all, if you don't care about it, who will?

app seo increase app downloads no one cares

To help you get started, I've put together a list of 35 App SEO tips to get app downloads. But wait, what is App SEO?

App Search Engine Optimization (App SEO)
App Search Engine Optimization (App SEO) is also referred as App Store Optimization (ASO) or App Store SEO. It is the process of optimizing mobile apps to rank higher in an app store's search results. It also improves an app’s overall and category rankings by boosting app downloads and conversion rates.

Some of the tips helped me increase app downloads by 1478% in less than a month. If you follow them all, I'm sure you can get even more app downloads than me. The best part? You don't need to spend a penny to do most of these tips!

Okay, let's dive right in!

App Name & Keywords

Name your app in a creative and searchable fashion. Not only it is the first piece of the clue telling your potential users what your app is, but it also gets your app in the search results. According to research by MobileDevHQ (now renamed Tune), using keywords in your title can result in up to a 10.3% increase in rankings.

app SEO keywords title
Image courtesy of MobileDevHQ via John Rampton on Forbes

Both Google and Apple’s search algorithms scan the app name for keywords when a user performs a keyword search in the app markets. It is a good idea to include a few keywords in your app name as an App SEO practice. It is because both platforms give quite high priorities to apps with app names that contain the search input. But don’t stuff every keyword into your title or your app will look spammy. You need to find a good balance between keywords and branding. But how? Read on!


App Name Format

Keep the actual brand name short and sweet. You can then append this short brand name with a few keywords, typically preceded by a dash or a semicolon.

App SEO Pro Tip: App Name Format
Use the format "Brand Name - Keywords" or "Brand Name: Keywords" to include relevant keywords in your name.

Here are some real examples:

app seo increase app downloads google map Google Maps - Navigation & Transit

app seo increase app downloads amazon icon Amazon App: shop, scan, compare, and read reviews

app seo increase app downloads ebay icon eBay: Buy, Sell, Save! Electronics, Fashion & More

app seo increase app downloads pandora icon Pandora - Free Music & Radio

app seo increase app downloads weather channel icon The Weather Channel: Alerts, Forecast & Radar

It’s also important to use only URL-friendly characters in your title, particularly in the App Store. It is because Apple uses the app name to create your app URL. Also, avoid any special characters in your app name, like the trademark or copyright symbol. They will cause iTunes to refer to your app’s numeric ID to scan for relevant keywords instead of your app name.


App Name Length

Apple limits the app name to a maximum of 50 characters since September 2016. So you have to make good use of every character in your app name. Brand Name: Use 23 characters or less for optimal presentation on every device. Total Length: To make the most of the 50 character limit, use more than 40 characters to cover more relevant keywords.


App Description & Keywords

Apple App Store: Apple App Store does not search for keywords in the app description, but that does not mean iOS developers can be lazy with it. Read the sections below for more tips about App Description.

Google Play Store: you need to be careful with the app description. It is because Google pulls keywords from your description to be your app’s keywords. Incorporate your keywords in the description in natural and sensible sentences. Note that keywords in the above-the-fold section (the first few lines) carries more weight than the rest of the description copy in Google's ranking algorithm, so remember to put your main keywords in this section. And this leads us to the next tip below...


App Description - The First Few Sentences

According to StoreMaven, only an average of 5% users will click the "read more" button below the first few sentences of app description on Google Play. This number is further down to only 2% on Apple's App Store. So the first few sentences of your description are the most important. Every word counts! app seo increase app downloads app description

Make it concise and attention-grabbing. Tell users what makes your app unique and why they will love it. Focus on your app's values, instead of features. And don't forget to include a call-to-action text to get the users excited!


App Description - The Expanded Description

Highlight the features of your app here. Use spacing and bulleted lists to make it easy to read. If possible, also list out all the social proofs, awards, and honorable mentions your app has received. Don't forget to include your app’s social media links too. Also, Google Play Store allows rich formatting and emoji in your app description. Make good use of these to make your description organized and stand out from the crowd. Communicate in the tone of your brand. Use terminology your target audience will appreciate and understand.


App Description Length

We analyzed the description length of the top 100 apps in Nov 2016. Here are some findings:

  • 90% of top 100 apps use more than 589 characters

  • 90% of top 100 apps use less than 3385 characters.

Though app description length doesn't have a very impact compared to other factors, it is still a good idea to keep your length within this range.


App Icon

A better icon can increase your downloads up to 560%! To design a good icon, keep your design simple and eye-catchy. Do not cram the small space with many items or words. You want people to remember the icon after the first impression. Also, make sure your icon will still look good when it is scaled down to the smallest size required by App Store / Google Play. To get more design inspirations, browse the top-rated apps in your category and Apple/Google’s top picks. Also, make sure your icon is different from your competitor’s to avoid brand confusion.

App SEO Pro Tips: Branded vs Functional Icon
If your app has a brand, use the logo to make your brand and your future products recognizable. If your app is a functional app, use one object to describe your app.

app seo increase app downloads facebook icon
Branded App Icon - facebook

app seo increase app downloads whatsapp icon
Functional App Icon - Whatsapp Messager


App Keywords - Getting Keyword Ideas

To begin with, try and come up with at least 50 keywords. Here are some great tools that help you with the keyword ideas. All you need to do is to provide a keyword. These tools will then give you many keyword ideas to consider. And they are all free!

apple search ads keywords

You can also use Google Trends to check how popular a keyword is in different countries. This is very useful if you want to launch your app in specific countries.

Remember that your keywords must be relevant to your app. Don't be tempted to use a keyword just because it is popular, but not relevant to your app. You want your app to be found by users who will really download and enjoy your app.

App SEO Pro Tip: Use Time-sensitive Keywords
Let's illustrate the idea by an example: using "Rio" and its related keywords during the Olympics 2016 would greatly help the exposure of your sports apps. Your app would also have a better chance to get into the app store's feature lists too.


App Keywords - Selecting Your Keywords

With your initial set of keywords, you have to pick a strategy on how to filter for the right keywords. There are some keyword research tools that help you with this filtering process. They provide the difficulties (or chances) and traffic of your keywords. In any case, choose about 25 keywords carefully for the next release of your app.

App SEO Pro Tips:

App Keyword Filtering Strategy
For a new app, choose keywords with low difficulty and reasonable traffic. They help your app gain the initial momentum. After gaining the initial momentum, start using keywords with higher traffic and reasonable difficulty. They help your app stack up more downloads. Work your way up gradually as your app gets more popular.

Use Long-tail App Keywords Use longer keyword phrases (aka long-tail keywords) to outrank the competition. For example, it is hard to outrank Zynga Poker by the competitive keyword “Poker” (high difficulty). But you have a better chance to outrank it by the keyword phrase “Poker Casino”. It is because “Poker Casino” is less competitive (lower difficulty).

Retiring Poor App Keywords If you have already released your app with your target keywords, check your current app ranking of these keywords. Keep those keywords that your app ranks within top 10, and replace the rest with new keywords in your next release.


App Keyword Optimization

Now that you have chosen the keywords, you are ready to use them for your app. app seo increase app downloads keywords

For iOS developers: Fill in the keyword metadata with your selected keywords. This metadata decides how your app gets discovered. Follow the rules below and make every character counts!

  • Use all 100 characters

  • Separate every keyword by a comma and avoid space

  • Use singular OR plural, the easier one to rank for

  • Don’t repeat keyword

  • Use numbers instead of spelled out words

  • No need to include the words in your company name, app name and app category names.

App SEO Pro Tip: How To 5X Your iOS App Store Keywords
Do you want more keyword space for your iOS app? You can get up to 500 characters for your iOS app store keywords using this hack. That is five times more!

For Android developers: Google Play doesn't have the keyword metadata. Instead, Google pulls keywords from your description to be your app’s keywords. Incorporate your keywords in the description in natural and sensible sentences. As a guiding principle, do not use any keyword more than 5 times or Google will likely treat the keyword as a spammed word.


[Go to Part 2]

Note: this is the first part of a 3-part article about App Store SEO. You can also read the full article of App Store SEO here.

Marcus is the founder of Meatti - a platform that helps mobile game developers increase app downloads and revenue using data science. Find him on TwitterLinkedIn and his blog.


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