App Store Optimization as a Service – here’s how to do it.

App store optimization is one of the best ways to grow services revenue and build a strong recurring revenue platform to help your mobile app agency grow. Here we define the key steps of app store optimization and how to offer this as a service to complement your mobile app development business.

Why is building Monthly Recurring Revenue is important.

So you build mobile apps for a living. Like most your income is tightly linked to project delivery. Billings are lumpy, and real hard to know where your cash position will be more than a few months down the road.

You’re no different from thousands of mobile app development businesses out there. But things are changing. More and more businesses just like yours have worked out there is another way. A way to build highly valuable recurring revenue services. A way to secure a retainer from your mobile app build customers, by offering complementary follow on services to sit alongside your core app build business.

One of the best (and easiest) recurring revenue service to offer is a service that helps app owners get more app downloads. With more than 60% of apps being downloaded following in store searches, offering an app store optimization service that drives downloads for your customers apps is a true Win/Win.

You win by making money on retainer monthly, offering services that help tie your app customers to you and position you for any follow on work. Your customers win by tapping into your mobile expertise to help them build a strong and growing user base for their mobile app.

One thing to say at this point is, ASO is only part of the bigger App Optimization Services that you should be offering. You shouldn’t ignore the 40% of downloads that don’t come from app store search, if you are going to maximise mobile app downloads.  But lets leave the broader topic for now and accept its good that you’re building download volume.

So let’s look at App Store Optimization as a Service in a bit more detail.

The 4-R’s of your ASO-as-a-Service offering

Think of it (and explain it to your clients) in 4 key phases.

  • Ready (or Audit if this isn’t parallel with you building the app)
  • Run
  • Review
  • Refine

The Get Ready

If you can, this is best costed as part of the build phase. If you want help to fully scope out all phases of the build, you could use this free scoping tool. It will act as a check list to make sure all phases, including post live, are covered and will show any doubting clients that it’s normal to include this in the project.

There are 8 key elements in the this get ready step. All need to be done before you’re ready to submit your app to Google Play and the Apple App Store.

App Title – Make sure it describes what the app does. Make it as concise as you can, just a few lines. (255 characters to be exact in the App Store). The app name in Google play is limited to just 30 Characters. This is the most important piece of ASO. If it doesn’t clearly say what it does, potential downloaders will just scroll by.

App Key words – 100 characters limit is all you can work with here. So pick the key words that best fit with the app and the audience. For this you’ll need to get your customer to be very very exact about the target market for the app, who the competitors are and what their likely search phrases will be.  The key skill here is to avoid the highly searched key terms, they will be very competitive so ranking top 3 is going to be tough. Make the effort to find the highly specific and under used key words that fit well with the app. It’s better to be top on 30 searches for a highly specific key word than 10th for 3,000 searches for a more generic key word.

App Description – Nailing the app description to make it clear to the audience for the app how it solves their problems. Clear concise wording that covers the key points of the app features, functions and benefits in as short and concise a way as possible is something that needs planned and though through so your listing is powerful and compelling. You get up to 4,000 characters with Android, but considerably less with Apple. It’s tempting to load the description with loads of key words. But its best not to. If it doesn’t flow and read well it will just turn downloaders off and defeat the whole purpose.

App Category – Picking the right primary and secondary category for your app is a critical decision to optimize this for search. So make sure your customer thinks this through carefully and you help them choose wisely. Getting it right will immediately serve up the app in search to highly relevant potential downloaders.

App Ratings – An app with a 4-5 star rating (as well as a high number of ratings 20+) will have a huge impact on download volumes the app will get. The social proof of this is huge. Having active users saying good things about the app, especially if you’re asking them to pay to download, is a massive endorsement. But more than that it has a big impact on your search rank. Again it’s not a one off task but a constant task that you need to be on top of. Offering a proactive rating service to your clients where you go and find fans of the app to post a review, monitor the star ratings of the reviews the app is getting and reporting this regularly to your clients, is going to be an integral part of your mobile app optimization as a service offering.

App Logo – It may sound like a small thing, but a high impact, professional looking thumbnail for the app, that communicates what the app does, will help catch the eye of the downloader browsing the app store. It may be that the icon needs to faithfully stay true to the corporate identity of the company you build the app for, but there may still be some room to be creative and make the icon jump off the screen.  There’s only seconds to get noticed, so make sure it right.

App Screenshots – It’s criminal just how little thought is given to what screenshots are used on the download page. Remember it’s not an installation guide, it’s an advert for what the app does. So make sure you use the biggest wow screens. Even better if those wow screens communicate the value of the app. This is your app shop window, so make it look cool, real cool with some great screenshots that are good quality, not pixelated and well cropped.

App Publisher – This could be you, to help you promote the great apps you build for clients, or if your client as a range of apps it’s important that these are all described consistently so they can be searched and other apps from the same clients business can be easily found.

Last and most important is targets. What does the app owner need to achieve. Sure they want to be top on all their most important key words. But actually that’s not what they really need. Its best to be highly ranked for a few highly relevant key words (get them to select 1 or 2 at outset) than to try to boil the ocean at the get go.

Run Phase

So you now have all the key elements in place, you’ve carefully selected your primary and secondary categories, you have an awesome description, your app thumbnail jumps off the screen. You’re set to go.

You have all the benchmark targets agreed, the analytics set up and the report formats all branded up in your livery.

Review Phase

When you review (how soon after launch) and how often you review (probably monthly) depends on a few things, but mainly volume. If you are getting good numbers of downloads, then its important to review more frequently. If volumes are falling short, way short, then its good to get ahead of the problem and figure out what needs to change.

It’s important (and to your advantage) to know that this isn’t a one off task, it’s a constant cycle of measure, analyze and change. So something that needs to be worked on constantly, and you need to be paid to do of course. This is one of the reasons why it’s a great service to offer on retainer and build that highly valuable recurring revenue from mobile app projects.

Here you need to provide your app owner client with an easy to read, and action based, probably monthly report. Make sure it’s in your brand, so it’s your name they see and not that of any tools you may be using.

Most importantly agree actions and changes and if necessary reset any targets and expectations. No matter how good you were at estimating download volumes you’re almost certainly going to be , the mark in the first few months. What’s important there is you are proactive and showing your clients that you are on top of any remedial action that’s needed. But don’t be overly optimistic, remember that ASO can be slow burn. It’ll take a few weeks to make the changes and resubmit to the store to change any listing information.

Here are a few of key things to include in your monthly review

Downloads and updates – so not just the new downloads, but also those that are updating the app each time a new version is pushed through the store. Regular updates have a huge impact on how you rank so regular updates are important.

Search Rankings – show this both for the primary key words the app needs to rank for and against the apps key competitors. This is best shown in line graph format so you can see the search rank positions change over time. You’ll of course show this for each store the app is in.

Reviews and ratings – have you had any, are you rating 4* plus. Again big impact on how you rank in search so tracking the star rank and numbers of ratings is important. Recommend a push campaign to gather more ratings regularly, look to see if ratings are improving or worsening with different app versions or different platforms.

Demographic profiles – What platforms and stores are performing best. If you have apps both Apple and Google store you can compare and contrast the performance of both.  What’s the download growth profile like for each platform? What are the install rates and updates rates like per platform, geography, country etc.

The precise mix of services you include here will depend largely on the success criteria set for the app at outset.

Refine Phase

To continually improve the performance of your download programs you need to continually optimize how they are performing against the pre-defined targets agreed with your clients. Having a clear and reasonable view of what “good” looks like is essential so you can set the agenda for what needs improved.

And then the monthly cycle resets and your mobile app store optimization as a service offering repeats Run, Review, Refine in perpetuity.  You get to regularly meet with your client, review the performance of the app, discuss and plan the changes you need to make and be in the best position possible to up-sell to the full stack of app optimization services and any follow on app builds.

Still not convinced, well…

Its a great way to add additional high value services along side your mobile app build project. What’s more, you can of course easily offer it to mobile apps you didn’t build. So it’s an awesome customer acquisition tool to help you win new customers from other app developers.

Further, that blade cuts both ways. The real question is, can you afford not to offer it.  If you don’t offer it to your app clients and another app developer does then you risk losing the client.  So in short, you can’t afford not to offer this, if you’re serious about building a growing app agency.

Convinced you need to do this, but don’t know how. No problem.

We know it’s one thing knowing you need to offer something new, it’s another thing making it happen when you’re crazy busy just with the day to day. So we try that bit harder to make it easy for you. You can join our classes and learn from others, you can even ask us to do it for a while until you’ve got the time and have the skills to run it yourself. It’s your call.

If you want help to deliver your own App Store Optimization services then check out Kumulos ASO. If you want help getting going we have a range of “Kick-Start” Services to help you,  contact us today to ask to see how we can help.