ASO – APP STORE OPTIMIZATION
There are many discussions and blogs through the web on the ASO topic. Some are helpful, some are a bit confusing, some are very generic and some are (of course) pretty useless. In this article, the main focus will be on providing valuable content based on the exact examples, as well as conclusions and learnings we got during Karate Do testing. Before we go to the essence of the article, some brief theoretical knowledge would be helpful for a better understanding.
Please note, that the further observations and examples are examined for Karate Do game in Google Play store. But some principles may be considered for App Store.
What is ASO?
As Wikipedia says App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the visibility of mobile apps in app stores (App Store, Google Play, etc.). Additionally, ASO also stands for improving the conversion rate (CRO – Conversion Rate Optimization).
So, we could divide the process into two main topics: Visibility and Conversion Rate
There are many parameters that affect game position on the store – the game’s visibility. No one knows what is the exact magic formula brings the most traffic to your game/app, but some parameters show that may affect it:
In-game metrics: Google and Apple want good games to be discoverable (as they have 30% platform fee – obviously)
Title, Descriptions, Company name (some case studies shows that URL / Packages also affects on game’s ranking)
Rating / Reviews
Screenshots, featured graphic and promo video
After “Playmagedon” on Google Play, the wide-known event in the indie game dev world when Google changed the visibility (ranking) algorithm in June 2018th and great drops in the number of organic downloads, it is very difficult to talk about organic traffic and organic visibility.
Following the above mentioned, our focus in the article is going to be on actions you can take to directly control and gain organic downloads.
Basic terms overview
Before we continue, let emphasize a few terms important for further observation:
Store Listing Visitor – A user who visited your game’s / app’s store
First-Time Installer – A user who downloaded your game/app for the first time
First-Time Installer Conversion Rate – A ratio of people who visited your store and downloaded the game for the first time
Store Listing Experiment – An AB test – an experiment where you could test different variables on a different user sample
Icon, Feature Graphics, Screenshots, Promo video are store’s visuals that directly affect your ASO
The following picture represents the First-Time Installers and buyers report for a certain period of time of Karate Do:
So, there are 23.2% of people who visited the store and after that installed the Karate Do in this report.
Let the control be in your hands
Conversion rate benchmarks are based on the performance of popular apps in your category. Our is an Action game category. Here are 2 examples of First-time installer conversion rate:
What does that mean?
Let’s talk hypothetically – you are running a marketing campaign (no matter what kind, paid or organic, but let’s say that you are bringing users to your app / game store) and drive 100,000 store-listing visitors for the campaign, you will get
11,200 downloads in the first (bad) case with 11.2% conversion rate
24,900 downloads in the second case with 24.9% conversion rate
So, with the same product, with the same marketing budget, you will get more than two times better results in the second case.
Yes, we got your attention now.
How can you improve organic downloads number?
Our practice showed that the best way to do it by focusing on Screenshots (when we talk about conversion rate improvement for games).
Some basic tips:
Screenshots should describe the action and the essence of the game
Share the story of your game
Add titles (Localisation is a bonus)
All titles should be a call to action (usually starting with a verb)
Test the colours
Test the screenshot order
Let’s take a look into an AB test we made (for an older version of our game):
A – sample: Darker screenshots with more details
B- sample: Lighter screenshots with less details
The test was running for 11 days with a 50% sample distribution. At first glance, screenshots are almost the same. The B sample has slightly fewer details with brighter and warmer colours.
The picture below shows that they are not the same! The B option had better results in the range of +6.5% to +22.7%.
“Details make perfection, and perfection is not a detail” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Let’s test the icon
The icon is the first impression of your game. It is the strongest motivator to open the game and so the first step in the player’s journey. Furthermore, it will never be good enough. That means that you should constantly run AB store listing experiments for icons (and screenshots too) looking for the optimal icon.
We’ve been running a lot of experiments. One of the most interesting is the following one:
We tested 3 icons and we will give them A, B, C names respectively.
What do you think, what is the best icon?
We showed all samples and asked the same question to a group of 30 students, while we had a university presentation. And the results were almost the same likewise we initially thought:
17 people said that the A is the best,
12 said that the C icon is the best,
and only 1 student said that the B option is the best one (but without any explanation why).
The AB test on Google Play console showed totally different results: the B icon had almost 2 times better results than the other two options.
Conclusion: do not rely on intuition – always test!
Conclusion for icon design:
Show the action (of your game)
Facial expressions are crucial
Too many details are not so good solution for the design – remember that icons are very small visual assets on your phone
Test the background colours