The Apple iTunes App Store has to evolve. The number of apps is growing exponentially, and user behaviors are constantly changing, making it critical for the App Store to adjust. Some of the products of this evolution are long-awaited features and capabilities, playing catch-up with Google Play. Others are attempts to take creative initiative in improving the user experience in the App Store.
App Store Optimization (ASO) in 2017 demands that app publishers stay one step ahead of the competition by taking advantage of newly available features and techniques. Failure to do so and sticking to old, out-of-date ASO strategies can cost you, as a publisher, in visibility and discoverability levels.
So, which new trends and ASO features do you absolutely have to know in 2017?
1. Review replies (with iOS 10.3)
With the release of iOS 10.3, Apple will finally allow app publishers and developers to respond to user reviews in the App Store. This long-awaited update will lead to higher rankings for publishers who pay attention to the contents of their reviews.
Users are more likely to award an app a higher rating if their comment receives a satisfactory response. Currently, users who encounter an issue with an app will rarely turn to support before abandoning it and rating it as poor.
By allowing developers to comment on user reviews, Apple will be opening another communication channel between users and app publishers to help with troubleshooting and support on the App Store page itself. Publishers should make use of this ability to win back disappointed users and increase retention rates.
2. In-app ranking mechanism (with iOS 10.3)
Another important addition that can help boost app rankings through higher ratings is the ability to include the ranking mechanism in the app without redirecting to the app page in the store — thus saving the user another step on their way to give your app the five stars it deserves.
To avoid abuse of this feature, Apple will be allowing app developers to bring up the rating dialogue up to three times a year. If a user rates the app, the prompt will not appear again. If it appears and the user dismisses it three times, the developer will have to wait for another year before asking the user for their satisfaction level of the app.
3. Search Ads
Apple Search Ads have proven to be a cost-effective user acquisition channel in initial experiments and tests. Apple’s unique combination of ASO and ad bidding not only boosts app visibility and discoverability, but also boosts the app’s organic search rankings for keywords targeted even after the campaign is over.
Search ads also let you include a list of negative keywords, helping you target the users you want. For example, if you want to exclude users least likely to pay for in-app purchases, you can experiment with adding the word “free” to your negative keywords.
We expect publishers to continue adopting this tool, and Apple to expand its global availability and enhance targeting capabilities.
4. Keyword boost campaigns
Currently, the iTunes App Store algorithm evaluates the relevance of a keyword to an app based on user installs originating from search results for that keyword. Keyword boost campaigns, which have recently gained popularity, involve numerous tactics to try to get users to download the app after searching for a targeted keyword or keywords.
Since this is often considered a “black-hat” tactic by Apple, it’s important that it’s applied carefully — preferably by experienced app marketers who’ve successfully promoted apps through keyword boost campaigns in the past without being penalized by Apple.
5. Deep linking & app indexing
App Store search results are an important source of organic traffic, but they’re not the only one. As mobile apps begin to replace mobile websites, Google is working to provide users with relevant search results within Android and iOS apps. Although this ASO technique has been around since 2015, its popularity is sure to rise in 2017, especially with e-commerce and news apps looking to turn mobile web users into app users.
Using app indexing, the result displayed and promoted in Google Search results is a link into the app itself for users who have the app installed. These links lead the user directly to the product or content page relevant to the search query inside the app. Users who do not have the app installed will be directed to the app page in the App Store to install the app. If your app and mobile website have similar content, you can associate them with one another to optimize discoverability across available channels.
Even with the ever-growing competition for user attention in the App Store, ASO remains the most cost-effective method to acquire loyal, ROI-positive users. Keeping up with the constant changes to the App Store algorithms and ecosystems is the only way to get ahead of the competition in 2017.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.