I decided to make this post after аttending a webinar by AppFollow on what you can do if your app or game is not searchable on the App Store. I hereby present you with the key points.

1. Choose keywords depending on the number of competitors

When making yet another iteration with your text metadata, look for the keywords that have fewer apps ranking for them. In a perfect world, the fewer the apps, the better. This way, it’ll be easier to outperform those apps and rank higher in the App Store search results. I’d recommend starting with keywords that have search popularity above 6 or 10 and up to 30 apps ranking for them. Competing against a small number of apps instead of hundreds or thousands per keywords is what you should aim for to get your app searchable by the users on the App Store.

Bonus hint: the App Store tends to boost new apps by their keywords during the first 7 days after the initial release in certain countries. So make sure your first iteration with text metadata contains highly relevant keywords with low competition.

2. Localize your App Store page into as many languages as possible

This applies not just to text metadata, but to screenshots, videos, and icons as well. When done right it’ll help you boost the discoverability of your app in the store. What’s more, it increases your chances to get featured in non-English speaking countries.

You don’t need a translator when you’re collecting keywords for a locale. They don’t know keyword search popularity. A translator can translate a key phrase correctly, but it’ll have a low search popularity score. So first, you collect keywords – at least 100 per a locale – by checking store suggestions, listings of your competitors, trending searches, etc. There’re plenty of ASO tools out there that gives you data on keywords. All of them have a trial period – 7 to 14 days. It’s more than enough to make a couple of iterations and gather keywords for several locales. When it comes to the App Store, the best and most reliable ‘tool’ to work with keywords is Apple Search Ads. And remember: don’t translate keywords! Instead, prepare the list of keywords for translators and ask them to compose a text with phrases from that list.

If your app has about a hundred localization strings, it’s worth translating them in as many languages as possible, too. If you’re on a tight budget, ask for help on Facebook in groups devoted to indie games like the Indie Game Localization group. Besides, there’re several subreddits on Reddit, where you can ask to translate some short parts of the app content. And don’t forget about websites like Upwork or Fiverr. You can always found natives at a reasonable price there. Asking your friends in other countries will do too.

3. Use additional locales for the key markets

You may know that on the App Store UK locale is being indexed in every country except for the US, Japan, and Canada. Keywords you put into Spanish (MX) are also indexed in the US locale. The same works for UA and Russia locales. It means that your app will be searchable in the US App Store by keywords you have in Spanish (MX); in Russia by keywords from UA locale; and in other countries by keywords from UK locale.

This is a really cool hint I tested myself: I saw an increase in impressions on the US App Store search results, and apps I’d worked on got ranked by keywords mentioned only in Spanish (MX). It’s also a great way to utilize keywords that didn’t make it into title, subtitle, and keywords field in the US locale, for instance. Just add them into the Spanish (MX) locale and your app will be searchable by them in the US store.

There are at least 2 strategies you can use to leverage your app discoverability on the App Store. But that’s a topic for a different article.

4. Keep an eye on the app ratings

Nowadays, user reviews have one of the biggest impacts on the decision of whether to use the product or not. The same works for apps in the App Store. And even more than that, as an app rating is one of the factors Apple utilizes in its ranking algorithm. Moreover, Apple is more likely to feature an app with a rating of 4.5 or higher.

So it all comes down to a fact that if you want additional exposure and jump at your chance to get featured on the App Store, you definitely need to work with your app rating. The most powerful way to do so is to answer user reviews. But not each and every review, of course. There’re 5 types of them that require your attention:

  • featured reviews (6 reviews per country are featured in the app page on the App Store);
  • reviews with the decreased amount of stars;
  • reviews with the increased amount of stars;
  • long reviews (they’re most likely to get featured);
  • updated with the same amount of stars.

If the user leaves a negative review, it’s highly recommended you answer within 24 hours (ideally within 1-3 hours). This way chances are the user will improve his/her rating, well, given that you solve this user’s issue. They say, to reduce the impact of a single 1-star rating you need around ten 5-star ratings.

When it comes down to featuring, it’s important to have a rating of 4.5 in a chosen country. Otherwise, you won’t get featured in this particular country. It’s also important to note that true rating is the rating by reviews, not stars for your conversion and featuring. The average rating of featured reviews is another important metric Apple takes into account when considering your app for featuring.

5. Get your app featured on the App Store

There’s no magic bullet here and it’s really hard to stand out from the crowd when it comes to getting featured on the App Store. You can submit your app here. But first, you need to do your homework. Answer the following questions: Why do you need it? Is your app well-prepared for it (it should be free of any bugs; servers tested, social features working, localized into numerous languages, etc.)? Are you ready for possible outcomes (lots of irrelevant organic users, changes in product metrics)? Where did your competitors get featured in the past (today’s page, stories, category pages, etc.)? How did it work out for them? Which part of the App Store do you want to get featured in: a major update, event, new release, or a story?

Once done, it’s time to start putting all the necessary data for the submission together. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to write a compelling, touching story of your team or your product. Nowadays, it’s even more important to provide Apple with metrics and how are you planning to market your app. In other words, to show Apple that featuring is not the only option you rely on in your journey to make a successful app. In light of that, I’d highly recommend you to read Kevin Flynn’s interview hosted by TouchArcade. When I first read it back in the day, it was like a splash of cold water: back then I thought featuring will solve the problem of your app being searchable on the App Store and organic traffic. I was wrong.

What’s next?

You should never stop optimizing your app and boosting its discoverability on the App Store. It’s always an ongoing process with numerous iterations. Make a habit out of your brainstorming sessions on new icons, screenshots, preview videos, and keywords. Test on real users while keeping track of conversions before, during, and after the test. And make sure to include Apple Search Ads in your strategy as with recent updates from WWDC 2020 this tool will become of vital importance if you have apps for iOS devices. And not only in terms of paid user acquisition but also in terms of finding new relevant keywords and phrases for your ASO. I’m now starting to dig into Apple Search Ads as well, so I’ll be soon able to share my own experience. I believe there’ll be more to say here about how to make your app searchable on the App Store. Share in the comments which of these 5 steps you’re already using, whether it helped or not. And you’re more than welcome to share your own tips & tricks on the matter!

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