In December 2017 we wrote an article on app store optimisation. A lot has changed since then, particularly in the Google camp, and App Store Optimisation (ASO) techniques now follow entirely different patterns. Read on to find out what our CTO, Tom Colvin, has to say about it now…
“In the web world, any half-intelligent search engine optimisation consultant will tell you there’s no gaming the system any more. Your website will rise to the top of the search engine listings only if it’s actually the most useful match for the user’s query. The site has to be high quality and well respected. Well, the same applies to apps in the app store.
“In my view Google Play is the best app store on any platform because it naturally promotes the best quality apps to the top. Users get the best apps with very little searching, and the best app developers get rewarded for their efforts. But how specifically does Google measure the “quality” of an app?
“Right now, it’s all about retention. Google believes that if a user is still using an app after a month then they’ve had a good experience. So your app is rated – almost exclusively – on how many new users are still using it days/weeks later.
“It used to be about updates, ratings and reviews (inc responses to reviews). These things are no longer all that important. Sure, they’ll probably feature somewhere in Google’s formulae, but retention trumps them all. Even, perhaps counter-intuitively, star ratings.”
So, how do you improve retention?
Make it EASY to use
This is in many ways fundamentally obvious advice. But how to go about making software easy to use is a massive topic. Suffice to say a good UI/UX which makes it totally clear how to use the app will reduce drop-off in retention.
A common mis-step is to provide a couple of initial instructions on how to use the app. If your app needs instructions, you’ve designed it badly. If you really, really have to tell your users something then use tooltips or similar, but only at the point at which the information will help them.
Set the right EXPECTATION for first use
Users will give your app listing very little time; mostly looking at pictures (screenshots) rather than what you’ve written. They usually have a very specific task or experience in mind and will give your listing a very brief glance. If it suggests your app will meet their needs, then they’ll give it a go.
But if your app doesn’t immediately provide what the description tells them to expect then it’ll get uninstalled or never used again. (For the sake of retention figures, these two outcomes are equivalent).
Keep it FRESH
If your app is content-based, for example a level-based game rather than a utility, then keep adding new content. Users are more likely to revisit apps when they expect to see something new each time. You can visit the BBC News app 5 times a day and it’ll show something different every time; this drives reuse.
Improve USER EXPERIENCE on first use
If you need users to sign up, ask as little as possible from them. If signing up is complex, or if it feels buggy or asks too many questions, your app will get dumped. Some of our most significant gains in ASO have been had through small tweaks, making processes more straightforward and removing complication in first use.
INVITE users back
Use push messaging to re-invite users back to your app. Keep push messages personal rather than generic – so for example if I’ve bought a product from you before, tell me when there’s a special offer on something that goes with it. Don’t tell me you’ve started stocking a new brand of cat food, because I haven’t got a cat.