App Store Optimization at MamaBear

On May 10th in Mountain View, the MamaBear Conference will host an agenda for family-friendly technology companies. I’ve been invited to speak on the topic of App Store Optimization, and built a presentation with input from our kids’ app developer community. In case it’s helpful, I will share the highlights of the presentation in this post. If you plan to be at the conference, I look forward to meeting you. –@LorraineAkemann


What is App Store Optimization?

App Store Optimization (ASO) is the current buzzterm for SEO in the mobile marketplace, or, getting your app noticed on the app store. I think ASO has both a qualitative side and a quantitative side. If you are a data analyzer and number cruncher, you may pursue ASO with the analysis of app store ranking algorithms and the popularity of keyword search terms. For example, TechCrunch wrote about a new service from AppStoreHQ which tracks search results to provide you with keyword recommendations. Google’s Keyword Tool is another method to track the popularity of keywords. The hope is to describe your app in a way that maps to what consumers are looking for, so your app will pop up in those search results, increasing the chances for more downloads and visibility.

Some notes on Keywords

  • Is your main keyword a popular search (i.e., “spelling”) or in a niche search (i.e., “4th grade spelling words”)? You can tell if a keyword is popular but looking at the top ranked apps in the category, and seeing how many ratings & reviews they have. Tons of ratings can equate to tons of downloads, and more competition. 
  • What are some related keywords that approach the problem from a different direction? In other words, your app is the answer to which questions?
  • What are competitors saying in their app descriptions?
  • Are your keywords embedded into your app description?
  • Have you tried searches with your keyword on different platforms? Are the results different?

More things to consider regarding the visibility of your apps

My argument includes a qualitative angle as well, and centers on three principles: A trustworthy storefront, purposeful promotion, and giving yourself enough room to experiment in a rapidly changing marketplace. To make this argument, I clarify a few assumptions. First, my experience with ASO is based mainly on the iTunes App Store “education” category. Second, I believe that unless you are an App Store employee, many discussions around ASO are speculative because the secret sauce of editorial features and search rankings are proprietary. Third, the experiments we run with ASO are relative to our definition of success. So a hobbyist developer with just one app may take a different approach than a professional developer with 28 apps. In other words, our context can help shape our ASO tool set.

1) Trustworthy storefront

As a consumer, I trust brands that put thought and effort into their appearance. This applies to the app icon’s graphic design, and the clarity and usefulness of the app store description. Specifically:

  • Do the icons stand out?
  • Are the screenshots crisp, bold and professional?
  • When was the app last updated?
  • Are the ratings and reviews favorable?
  • Is there a link to a privacy policy, and easy-to-read disclosures about how the app works?
  • Does the website look legitimate?
  • Can I contact the developer if I have questions or concerns?

2) Promote with a purpose

Let’s assume that you launched a wonderful app and the testimonials are favorable. Maybe you were featured by Apple! But when the feature runs out, your downloads disintegrate, and you wonder what to do next. You consider updating the app, launching a press release, or putting your app on sale. Which way do you turn? Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t be random. Have a goal associated with your promotion, and coordinate all of the tools in your arsenal to get there. These tools include app updates, PR, blog reviews, iTunes reviews, advertising, price promotions, cross promotions, etc. 
  • Get active in your community so fellow reviewers and developers can extend the reach through cross-marketing.
  • Consider the risks for each promotional tactic. For example, if you update the app, the reviews are reset. If you go free, it doesn’t translate into an immediate uplift in sales. If you market with bloggers and throughout social media, it takes time. If you implement in-app promotional mechanisms like push notifications or rate/review pop-ups, you might come across as spammy. Strike a balance and have a strategy.

3) Give Yourself Room To Experiment

Your app is at the mercy of the App Store. The app stores change constantly. They have terms and conditions that can impact whether your app makes the cut. They have new products that launch, cannibalizing your original product. They have their own priorities that may conflict with your priorities. Yesterday developers were concerned about whether to make a LITE version of their app. Today, they are deliberating whether to make it FREE with In App Purchase. Yesterday families shared an iPad in the home. Today 10 year olds are getting their own Kindle Fires as a birthday present. The challenges of this marketplace will change over time. The question is whether you have enough time and patience to keep experimenting while doing your best possible work.

CREDITS: Thank you to our kids’ app developer community who reviewed the presentation and offered data and feedback. Specifically, the team at App Friday, L’Escapadou, Jellybean Tunes App Report, PKCLsoft, Thinkamingo, AppsKidsLove, The Blue Jackal, and the many many independent developers who strive to answer these questions daily. 

4 thoughts on “App Store Optimization at MamaBear”

  1. Hi Lorraine,

    Great article! ASO is basically taking over for mobile marketing. App Store Optimization is key to improve an App’s Search Ranking. This has become very important since according to Nielsen about 65 percent of all users find an app through App Store Search. You are right the main things developers, especially Kids App developers, have to concentrate on are having the right icons, strong and concise app description, and most importantly reviews and ratings for their apps. These things help differentiate them from other apps in their categories. You can check out for some great insight and pointers into how we run optimization for our partners.

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