Tagapp store optimization

App Store Optimization (ASO) 5/5: Users

Today I finally want to finish on a series of articles I started four years ago: App Store Optimization.

Parts of this series on App Store Optimization are:

1. Keywords
2. Description

3. Icons
4. Graphics
5. Videos

6. Ratings
7. Installs
8. Users

This final part will treat the topic of a game’s most important resource: its users. Why is it considered App Store Optimization? Because ratings are really important, and on Google Play especially keywords in ratings have a high priority. Also downloads and download/uninstall ratio play an important role when it comes to your app being placed in the charts.

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App Store Optimization (ASO) (4/5): Ratings & Installs or: The Google Play Store Search Algorithm

Another part on App Store Optimization. Finally. By the way, if you are from Germany: There is an article on App Store Optimization in the current Android 360. Go and get it (if you want)!

If you are new to this series, I recommend starting from the first article on App Store Optimization. If you don’t want to read that much, this article can still give you valuable information on its own.

Parts of this series on App Store Optimization are:
1. Keywords
2. Description

3. Icons
4. Graphics
5. Videos

6. Ratings
7. Installs
8. Users

While the last articles covered Icons, Videos and Graphics, we will go more into the search algorithm of the Play Store (I still need to get used to this name), an area that probably fits most developers better. Because this article will cover big parts of how the the Play Store search algorithm (most likely) works, there will be a summarizing Play Store algorithm-part at the end.

6. Ratings

When it comes to two equal apps, the app with a better rating will receive a better ranking. When your app does not have any ratings yet, it will internally get a composite score representing the quality of the apps you published before. This means: Ratings are important. But how to get lots of positive ratings? Well, there are several methods, one of them is to buy them via certain dubious websites (I ‘ve never tried that), another way is to simply ask your users for ratings. This step is actually pretty simple but it can and most likely will improve your ratings a lot, provided that you are making it right:

  1. Ask your users using an AlertDialog. While a beautiful little button in your main menu may be nice, users have the tendency to ignore things that want something from them (like they do with banner ads) and keep them from doing what they actually want to do (explore your app). This is why a one- or n-time alert dialog will catch much more attention than a button that is just always there. Personally I prefer the one-time to the n-time version.
  2. Don’t ask them the first time they use your app. That’s pretty obvious. How should a user know how to rate your app when he didn’t even use it? Instead, wait until he used it five or six times or played through the third level or so. When a user uses an app a couple of times, this is a good indicator that he actually will give you a better ranking.
  3. Give them a chance to opt out. You shouldn’t force your users to rate your product but give them a chance to say ‘later’ or ‘don’t ask me again’. When a user decides not to rate a product but gets annoyed by repeated dialogs, there will come a time when he ranks it with very little stars.

 7. Installs

Installs are important. They are important for you, because many users equals many dollars. But they also are important for the Android Market Search Algorithm. To be more precise: The ratio of active installs to total installs, respectively the refund rate. This will have special weight when your app is published the first time and there are not enough comments to give your app a ranking and no other apps to give your app a composite score.

Since gaining installs and keeping active installs is very important, it’s important to have a well designed and tested app. Boosting user numbers by force can be a very expensive task, that’s why it’s even more important not to lose existing users. To increase the number of downloads of an app, the well known classic methods like writing blogs, creating viral content, paying for ad space or ASO can be applied.

The the Google Play Store Search Algorithm

The search algorithm of Google’s website is known to be a black box of which nobody except Google knows how it works exactly. Guess what: With the Play Store search algorithm, it’s exactly the same. Still, by try and error and a lot of observation, patterns can be recognized. Here’s what the Play Store search algorithm roughly looks like:

temporary relevance * t + keyword frequency  in the title * u + keyword frequency in the description * v + ratings * w + composite score * x + active installs in per cent * y + black magic * z

Temporary relevance here means the acceptance of the users over a small time period, or in other words the download rates in the last days and weeks. As you can see there is a little ‘black magic’ involved, this is a synonym for uncertain influences like the +1-button, the percentage of solved known bugs with every new update, the relevance of keywords used in the recent changes-description and all the other small and uncertain things.

After various observations, the following rough order can be assumed:

w >= t >= y > u > v > x

z, representing the weight of various factors, is ignored.

Now, when optimizing your app for the Play Store, you can try to improve your app’s environment based on this order, meaning for example: “Let’s put our main effort into a solid UX, a non-annoying dialog with a high conversion rate asking users to rate us high and a good description.”

 

Conclusion

You maybe noticed that the Play Store search algorithm changed a lot in the last 18 months. ASO is very dynamic. New changes need to be observed and classified as soon as possible, so it always stays exciting.

 

I’m open to your suggestion, criticism and questions. Please leave them in the comments.

App Store Optimization (ASO) (3/5): Graphics & Videos

Finally, the next part on App Store Optimization (ASO) arrived.

If you are new to this series, I recommend to start from the first article on App Store Optimization. If you don’t want to read that much, this article can still give you valuable information on its own.

Parts of this series on App Store Optimization are:
1. Keywords
2. Description

3. Icons
4. Graphics
5. Videos
6. Ratings
7. Installs
8. Users

While the last article covered Icons, we will stay in the design area for this one. This time, graphics and videos will be covered.

4. Graphics

First, when I say graphics I mean every image except the icon provided via the Android Market Developer Console. This includes the screenshots and the promotional graphic with which I will start.

Promotional Graphics
Promotional Graphics are the big graphics shown on top of your app’s screenshots and description in the Android Market. If you want to get featured, this graphic is required. So although it’s optinal in the developer console, you should always upload your promotional image. For an overview on how this graphic should look like, I recommend reading this post from the official Android Developers Blog.

The promotional graphic is 1024 * 500 pixels in size, so you have a lot of space you can fill. Still, your graphic should not be packed with huge text since it will be scaled down to different sizes. Let me demonstrate this by an example used on the Android Developers Blogpost mentioned above:

Big promotional graphic

Big promotional graphic

This is the size a promo graphic has on the Android Market website.

Scaled down promotional graphic

Scaled down promotional graphic

This is the same image scaled down to the size it would have on a small phone or in one of the smaller feature places in the Android Market app. When taking a look at the image, I think they could have used a different font type since the ‘U’ is not completely visible anymore when downscaled.

This scaling is the reason why your promotional image should be used to place a high resolution graphic that fits to your app. A big writing of your slogan or app’s name is also appropriate.
It is recommended to use colors other than black or white as a background to differenciate between your image and the Android Market’s design. Personally, I like those graphics that fit into the Markets own color scheme and float over to the description and screenshots, so I think this should be treated in the way you like best. Nonetheless, your background and foreground colors should have a good contrast so that your graphic can be captured by the viewer easily.
What you never should do is reuse content that is provided by the Android Market anyway. So don’t use screenshots, icons or your app’s description in your promotional graphic.

Screenshots
Screenshots should represent your app. When your app is not beautiful, then your screenshots aren’t. This leads to the biggest problem most developers have: They are experts in programming, but not in design or usability and are not able to write beautiful apps. When this is the case, there are two ways you can go, ideally you combine them.

The first way is to hire a designer, tell him what you need and implement that design. The second way is to implement a design on your own and do some Bambi tests. Bambi tests are done in this way: You look for someone of your potential target group that never tried your app, the Bambi. You give them a device with which they can try out your app without any advice. Don’t say a word, just let them try. Be careful about the way they use your app, about what’s intuitive to them and what’s not. Improve your app and look for another Bambi to test again. Ideally, you have a team consisting out of developers and designers and some hand full of potential Bambis. Remember: Once a Bambi-User tested your app, it will never be a Bambi-User for this app again.

The term Bambi test goes back to Mohammed El Batya, creator of the Pendel Panda timetable.

There are a lot of things you can study when it comes to app design and usability, but in the end your app has to be as useful and intuitive as possible to your users. Your screenshots should look exactly like your app does and represent the functionality your app provides. Whether you show ads that are used in your app on your screenshots depends in most cases on your taste. In some app stores, like the Amazon App Store, you won’t pass the approval procedure when you don’t.

To give you an overview on the improvements a designer can make to your app, here are the screenshots of the AL Voice Recorder before and after it was totaly redesigned:

Old design of the file browser of the AL Voice Recorder

Old design of the file browser of the AL Voice Recorder

Old design of the record screen of the AL Voice Recorder

Old design of the record screen of the AL Voice Recorder

New design of the file browser of the AL Voice Recorder

New design of the file browser of the AL Voice Recorder

New design of the record screen of the AL Voice Recorder

New design of the record screen of the AL Voice Recorder

Which one would you prefer to download?

5. Videos

While screenshots are a static representation of your app, you can show the flow, the effects and the ‘WOW!’ in your videos.
Videos should have a short and clear message that describes what your app is all about and why a user should download it. They should be short (not more then 1.5 to 2 minutes) and entertaining. Long and boring videos won’t be viewed until they are finished anyway. They should have sounds and show scenes of your application the most time. They should be clearly structured with a start (e. g. a logo fading in and out), a main part (your app) and an end (e. g. an invitation to download now, an URL or else). Since many cellphone users don’t enable sound, it’s good to show what you want to tell them in your visuals, for example as a fade-in text stating ‘the most innovative arcade game you ever played’.

Personally, I watch videos especially when an app is not free, so I get to know its flow. When apps are free, I just download them and try them out on my own.
Like the promotional graphics, videos are optional. Still, they are a way for you to get some more downloads and are perfect for sharing, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t make one.

 

 

I hope you liked this one. I’d love to hear your own thaughts and experiences with graphics and videos on the Android Market in the comments.

The new Android Market design: Essentials

The new Android Market is still arriving. Some things have changed, here’s what’s essential for app developers:

The new Android Market Design

The new Android Market Design

  1. No more Just In: The Just In tab always gave developers the change to boost their apps visibility for a short time. This is gone now. If you have an important update, publish it now, as long as some people still have the old version of the Android Market.
  2. Top Grossing, Top New, Trending: Instead, there are some new categories: Top Grossing shows the apps bringing in the most money over the last time. It’s interesting to see the rise of In-App Billing here as some of the apps listed are free. Top New Free amd Top new Paid shows the best performing newest apps. Trending shows the apps that are gaining big download numbers. All these new categories are already available on the web interface for a little while.
  3. New Featured Categories: The Market now comes with a Staff Choices and an Editor’s Choice category. While the latter is describet as “Here are some of the best apps on Android Market, as chosen by our staff.”, I don’t know what the difference is (yet).
  4. Promotion Videos: Your promotion videos are now also shown on the device (Got to make some videoss soon).
  5. Five lines of introduction text: That’s important for the way you structure your Description. You now have five instead of three lines to tell the user what your app is all about.
  6. Comments: Are now a mixture of old and new comments.
  7. Two apps in a row: As you can see on the screenshot, the Market now shows two apps instead of one in a row. This gives the user a faster overview over all the apps out there (I like it).
  8. Changed search algorithm: It seems that the search algorithm has changed again as some of my apps are now ranked quiet different.

I know, there are also books and movies now, but that’s not important for developers, especially when they are not living in the US (like me).

Some of you already knew this, but if you didn’t, I hope it was helpful. Please feel free to leave any comment you want, twitter, plusone or like it.

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