App store optimization can be the difference between success and failure in a market bursting with options. The good news is app store optimization doesn’t have to cost you a penny. You can do it for free with these 7 tips and give yourself the chance you deserve to get new users for your app or game.

You can check out the TL;DR at the end if you’re in a hurry!

1. Be Iconic

Your app’s icon is the very first thing that your potential users will judge you by. People judge books by their covers every day. And while it’s not an effective practice, people will continue to do it because it’s easy and saves time. So make sure they judge your app or game as being valuable and worthy of a download.


When it comes to designing your icon, simplicity is king. Here are a few rules that will help you to design a great icon.


• Avoid using words

Words in your app icon are unnecessary because there’s a place for text elsewhere on your app store page. Words also divert attention away from the visual aspects of an icon, and icons are supposed to be visual. Worst of all, your potential users mightn’t even be able to read icon text depending on the device.

• Choose one visual element

You want your app icon to have an impact on users. You should choose one visual element to make a strong impression on people, don’t try to tell them everything about your app or game at once. Pick one important element and make it the center piece of your icon.

• Use the same icon on different platforms

Some of your users are going to change platform. If they want to find your app or play your game on their new device, you need to make it easy for them to download. By using the same icon, users can find your app or game in any app store in seconds. Learn more on how to make an Android app here.

• Use the correct format and size

App store optimization often means providing your user with as much quality as possible. Making a high quality icon is part of this and means using the correct format and size. Use a PNG file and make sure it looks good at size 1024×1024. This is the biggest size needed for publishing on the iOS App Store.

• Be creative

Don’t be afraid to get creative and make something that will stand out from the crowd. There are some rules of thumb to follow but that doesn’t mean you can’t think outside the box. If it grabs users’ attention in a positive way, then it’s app store optimization. You can also use pre-made icons if you’d like.

2. What’s in a name?

Picking the right name for your app or game is crucial for app store optimization. App store search is still one of the top ways that people find new apps and games to download on both major platforms.


So how do you pick a good name? Four important rules of thumb are:


• Prioritize the first 25 characters

The name of your app has a maximum character length of 255 characters on the iOS App Store. The Google Play Store offers an unlimited character length, but they both share one trait. When searching on mobile devices, users will only see the first 25 characters of your name. So prioritize these characters to make the most impact.

• Make sure there aren’t any similarly sounding names in the app stores already.

Another consideration is the existence of apps and games with similar names to your working title. Do a quick search to see if your name’s already taken and what similar apps or games appear.

If there’s a bunch of apps or games already using your title, then you need to reconsider. You’ll have to compete with these apps for visibility and they’re already well ranked. If your search returns a lot of apps or games that are similar to yours, you might also want to rethink that name.

When everyone is doing the same thing, it’s harder to stand out from the crowd.

• Use keywords to improve app store SEO

You’ll also want to include relevant keywords in the title of your game or app. Although you should prioritize your first 25 characters, the rest of your title should include keywords that will help people to find your app or game. Take a look at the keywords similar projects are using. See if there’s a trend but also try to think of a keyword they’ve missed or use this tool to find them.

• Use URL Friendly characters

Don’t include special characters such as trademark or copyright symbols in your app name, use URL friendly characters instead. This will improve the SEO of your app or game name.

3. Polish Your Screenshots

Screenshots are an important indicator of functionality and experience for potential users. So make sure you let them know they’re going to have a good time using your app or playing your game. Screenshots are a prime piece of promotional material.


Follow these guidelines and you’re screenshots will increase your app store optimization.


• Use every available screenshot

The more screenshots you include, the more you can tell potential users about your app or game. Currently on iOS you can use 5 screenshots, and on the Google Play Store you can use 8. There’s no reason not to use every single opportunity to promote your app or game to users.

• Get high resolution images

Make sure you’re using the highest resolution images possible. Mobile device displays are improving all the time, so there’s no excuse for using low quality images when promoting your app or game. With every few months that pass, low quality screenshots become more and more noticeable.

Use high resolution images and grab people’s attention by showing them how good your app or game looks. You don’t even need to have image editing software any more, you can use web services like Pixlr. So there’s no excuse for skipping this step.

• Place your best screenshot first

If one screenshot is really appealing and intriguing, then you’ll want potential users to see it first. One great screenshot can be a fantastic advert for your app or game. You can even overlay text or highlight the action of your app in screenshots nowadays. You should have no problem creating something that stands out.

4. Be Categorical

Along with the other tips on this list, choosing the correct category for your app or game is considered a best practice. Choosing the right category makes it easier for users to find you on app stores.


However it also means competing against other apps or games in that niche.


• Find the least competition

If you have a choice of category or sub-category, enter whichever has the lowest level of competition. Look at the estimated app worth of the top apps or games in your prospective category to judge the competition. You can do this on sites like Sensortower.

• Enter accurate categories

Something that you’ll want to avoid is putting your app or game in a blatantly wrong category. It might be tempting to enter your app or game into any category with low competition, but such action is punishable on both the iOS and Google Play App Store.

The iOS App Store have been known to turn away apps or games submitted in a false category. On the Google Play Store, users can flag games and apps that they feel have been wrongly categorized.

5. Be Descriptive

An authentic description that shows the value of your app or game is one of the best ways to improve app store optimization. Although some will argue that description text doesn’t factor into app store SEO, your potential users are still exposed to it. And anything that they’re exposed to should be optimized.


There a number of things you can include in your description to improve app store optimization.


• Prioritize the first 3 sentences

A description that shows the value of your app could be all you need to compel undecided users into choosing your app or game. But you need to be direct and prioritize your description space. Only the first few sentences will be featured on all platforms.

So begin by saying what your app or game does best.

• Social Proof

Adding social proof to your description means showing potential users that your current ones are enjoying their experience with your app or game. If you’ve received any recognition or attention from blogs or reviewers, you can also include this here.

Sometimes users just need to hear that someone else found it useful or enjoyable too.

• Benefits and features

Use your description to tell people what they’ll gain from using your app or how they’ll enjoy your game. The reason to choose your app or game needs to be clear to them. You can also list all of the great features you’ve worked so hard on.

Some people need to know a lot about something before they’ll download.

• Sell yourself

You can also use the description to tell users about who you are and why you worked on your app or game. Include your contact information so users can get in touch with you. They might want to offer feedback or else just connect with you about future projects.

6. Reviews & Ratings

Positive reviews and ratings can be a big help in convincing undecided users if they’d like to download your app. It’s not the be-all and end-all of app store optimization, but it’s a good help.




• Ask family and friends

So where do you start getting reviews and ratings? Use word of mouth and get your family or friends to review your game. However you need to make sure they actually use the app or play the game for a while before doing so.
Reviews and ratings are good, but an honest review or rating that seems authentic is much more powerful for app store optimization.

• Engage with current users

Another way to get reviews is to reach out to users at appropriate times. You can use push notifications to do this. You need to be careful with this though as sending too many notifications can seem pushy and lead to bad reviews.

If a user seems to be using an app or game a lot, ask them if they’re enjoying it rather than asking if they want to rate it. If they say yes, then you can message them to give a positive rating. If they say no, you can ask them for feedback and try to improve their experience.

7. Analyze and Test

As soon as you’ve completed the above steps it’s time to start with the real app store optimization. It would be great if you could just do all of these steps once for app store optimization. But the reality is, once you have everything in place, you need to analyze performance and test ways to further improve your app store page.




• Test different elements

You’ll learn more about app store optimization from analysis and testing than from anything else. Maybe that screenshot that you liked isn’t converting into downloads. Or else there are some better keywords to use in your name.

All of the tips mentioned here can be improved upon again and again through testing.

• Analyze results

Track your performance in the app store. If you’re not experiencing the results you’d like, change things up and analyze the new results. While many of the tips seem like one-time actions, the reality is that app store optimization is an on-going process.

Check out App Annie for advanced insights into app store optimization.

Learn to make your own app with this Qt Training for mobile apps

Resources for Successful App Store Optimization

These sites and tools can help you to further improve app store optimization:

App Store Optimization


1. Use a simplistic icon to make an impact
2. Choose a unique name that also includes keywords
3. Make as many high resolution screenshots as possible
4. Submit your app or game to a low-competition but accurate category
5. Write a description that explains the benefit of your app or game
6. Encourage friends to give honest reviews and ratings
7. Analyze results and test new ways to improve app store optimization

Follow these steps and embrace app store optimization. App store optimization can give you the boost in users you want and it doesn’t need to cost a thing. If you enjoyed this article and you think someone else would too, share it with them! You can use the buttons below.

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