Complete guide to App Store Optimisation

Everything you need to know to get your game noticed

Complete guide to App Store Optimisation

Increasing online visibility is an artform that web users have been practising since the dark ages of the internet (as far back as the 1990s, indeed)..

As game makers, designers, developers and publishers, you’re faced with twice the challenge, as you also need to tackle the relatively new black magic of app store optimisation (ASO).


Originally, being discovered on the App Store or Google Play wasn't a problem. But obviously as more and more games have been released, the problem has become bigger and bigger. 

Your app store description was always important, but when putting together a listing you need to think about more than just appealing to the end user. You’ve also got a search engine to seduce if you want your game to climb the results ranks.

The tricky part here is that very little is known about how Apple’s, Google’s and Amazon’s internal search engines work, so ASO is a skillset you need to learn, and then keep up to. It’s constantly changing, and learning to make use of analytics, trends and competitive advantages is essential; and that’s true for updates, just as much as new releases, so don’t think the job is done once your game goes live.

Fortunately you’re not alone in the quest for ASO alchemy. There’s lots of help out there, with more appearing every day, so we thought it was high time we gathered up all the most useful app store optimisation resources.

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 Tools

    Tools logo

    Keywords are a major aspect of app store optimisation, just as they are with any search tool. Uncovering the most effective keywords for your game or app has therefore become an essential aspect of ASO, but it’s not the beginning and end of the practice.

    Keywords alone aren’t going to cut it. You need to track them, to monitor their effectiveness, and replace them when saturation makes them obsolete. So before you get started with writing your description - or even giving your game/app a name - check out these ASO tools to give you a hook you can hang your downloads upon.

    This ASO and analytics suite helps you to track yours, and your competitor’s apps, while analysing keywords.

    App Annie
    A one-stop-ASO-shop, App Annie goes beyond the stores and offers insight into the entire smartphone and tablet markets.

    Sensor Tower
    Alongside ASO and competitor analysis, this one has a nice feature that delivers a breakdown of your user reviews.

    A great data gatherer that works without registration, although it opens up even further if you do. Competitive intelligence is the name of the game here.

    MobyAffiliates: What are the Best Appstore Optimisation (ASO) Tools?
    A useful overview of the most used ASO tools out there, so you can see which one fits.


  • 2 First Impressions

    First Impressions logo

    It’s not all about keywords. There are other aspects of your app store presence that also need optimising when you’re looking to breach the consumer's defences.

    Naturally each app store has its own quirks and benefits and obstacles, which means you might need different tactics for different platforms, but here are a few pointers to help you make the most of your game’s public-facing visage, from screenshots to icons and even your app’s name.

    Sensor Tower: How to Create a Magnetic App Preview Video for iOS 8
    You can now include videos alongside your description and screenshots, so you need to make the most of this powerful and essential feature. And it's worth keeping in mind that having no video, when everyone else at least has a trailer, will be detrimental to your game or app.

    Apptamin: App Name and Keywords
    Although it looks at keywords, which we’ve already covered, there’s an important message in here about naming your game.

    Apptweak: 9 Tips to Optimize your App Screenshots
    Screenshots are one of the most important aspects of your listing, so make sure you get them exactly right from the outset.

    Sensor Tower: Google Play Store Material Design and How It Will Affect App Store Optimization
    Get to grips with the new look and style of how Android Lollipop will display your Google Play listings. In a more generic sense, this is a lesson that's very worth learning, as it'll become relevant each time the operators update their stores. You'll need to keep going back to re-optimise your listing(s) with every store update.

    Apptamin: How to Design a Great App Icon for App Store Optimization
    Getting the icon right is an important step in app store discoverability. Making it so that punters kapt keep their fingers off you icon is a great way to meet new people (by which we mean shoppers).

  • 3 Resources

    Resources logo

    The annoying truth is that there's no perfect, unifying approach to ASO. Not only is it an ever-evolving artform, but you'll find yourself regularly baffled as to why one approach worked this time and not the next time, or why seemingly insignificant, minor changes had a huge impact on your discoverability.

    The real trick to ASO, if there is one, is practice. The more you experiment and refine your own, personal approach, the more you'll come to understand its subtlties and quirks. Let it become your new hobby by keeping up with the trends you'll read about right here at Pocket Gamer, and from across the web.

    Which is all well and good, but how do you get on this fast-moving train in the first place? We've put together a library of great resources that'll introduce you to the world of ASO and give you a solid grounding for your early efforts.

    Begin here, and then build on what you learn with each new attempt.

    Appcase: App Store Optimization (ASO) – Infographic
    A visual guide to the world of ASO, and a great way to wrap your head around its nuances and dispell its jargon. This is also a useful reference guide, should you find yourself feeling confused or lost while working on your next ASO campaign. Come back to this infographic for a quick and vibrant refresher whenever you need it.

    Kyle Waring: 3 App Store Optimization tips you can't afford to miss
    A great piece on the absolute essentials of ASO, from a minimalist perspective, and how app stores 'test' your app to figure out whether or not the user is looking for it.

    Atomix Axis: App Store Optimization Tips and Tricks
    A quick guide to making sure you’ve covered all the ASO bases, and also how your optimisation efforts can form the basis of your entire marketing strategy.

    Sensor Tower: The Complete Beginner's Guide to iOS App Store Optimization
    Like so many jobs, simply getting started with ASO is half the battle. Here's a good way to overcome that first, irksome hurdle.

    Appn2O: App Store Optimization / Play Store Optimization
    Don’t forget that Google’s marketplace requires its own brand of ASO, that might not be exactly what needs doing for Apple’s. Adopting a slightly different approach for different stores can really help.

    AndroidB: 10 tools to help with Google Play Store Optimization for your app
    A useful comparison chart between all the different ASO tools available to you. Although it focuses on Google Play, this is equally relevant for the Apple app store.

  • 4 Hints & Tips

    Hints & Tips logo

    Ratings and Reviews:

    App store user reviews and ratings count toward your ASO, but it’s not something that can be directly controlled by you. The best way to get good reviews? Make sure your game or app is of the highest quality on launch day; don’t release it too early, before it’s ready, and then fix it later. Reviews and rating come in fast, so expect poor ones if your product isn’t up to scratch.

    Apple Guidelines:

    You can use Apple products in your screenshots and videos, which can be a great way to really get it across to users as to what they can expect if they buy your game. But it’s worth casting an eye over Apple’s guidelines, to avoid rejection of the app or an unnecessary tussle with Cupertino should you decide to put hardware in the picture.

    No ASO to rule them all:

    There’s a significant difference between ASO on the iTunes App Store and on Google Play, just as there are other differences between Steam, the Ouya store, Oculus Share and all the other digital retail outlets. If you want to achieve discoverability across the board, you need to apply different ASO tactics depending on the store, as well as monitoring each one independently.

    Got some ASO tips of your own, or found a useful resource you want to share? Let us know about it in the comments section below, and we’ll add it to our app store optimisation guide.

Yes. Spanner's his real name. And, yes, he's heard that joke before.