App Store Optimization Beginner’s Guide: 6 Ways to Get Your App Noticed

App Store Optimization

Before we jump into how your app can stand out in the app store with this app store optimization beginner’s guide, it’s important to understand a few things. Inbound marketing has changed the way that companies behave online forever. Instead of targeting an audience across multiple marketing channels with advertisements and marketing messages, inbound marketing is bringing those customers in organically. This same concept can be applied to ASO, or app store optimization. With the millions of applications available between the App Store and Google Play, it’s difficult to stand out among the crowd. When you’re preparing your app to be listed in the app stores, it’s important to remember that, although digital, you are designing a product to sit on a store shelf.

In order to get users to download your app, you need to draw them over to your shelf to pick up your product and take a closer look. In physical brick and mortar stores, marketers design product packaging to do just this. However, unlike physical stores, browsing for a product is less common than searching for it, in fact 63 percent of app downloads are a result of a search. In the digital app store, optimizing your app’s listing will increase the likelihood that users will find and download it. After investing big budgets into the development of a high-quality product, it doesn’t make sense to put it in an ugly package. The quality of your app store listing affects whether or not your app with pick up any traction.

Here are six ways to get your app noticed:

Deciding on a name

The first step to making your product package more appealing to users is to decide on a name.

When deciding on a name for your app, not only do you want something simple and catchy, but you also need to pay attention to keywords—you want a name that will intrigue someone to click on it. However, loading your app name with more than three or four words will actually hurt your rankings in the app store.

App Store Optimization Beginner's Guide

A great app name will also hint at its purpose. One example is the growing social network Snapchat. The name “Snapchat” is genius, as it perfectly illustrates the purpose of the app: users communicating through snapshots.

Making a video preview

Using a video to show what your app can do is the best, most engaging way to get users excited about downloading your app. This is an incredibly valuable marketing tool and will either sway users towards or away from your app.

A poorly executed video is worse than no video at all. Even after checking all of the other ASO boxes, a poorly thought out video can reverse the perception a user has of your app. Fortunately for app developers just starting out, videos take time not money.

Although a free solution is great for developers just starting out in the app store, professionally produced videos are worth the investment after your app has begun to grow.

The video itself needs to showcase the best of what your app has to offer: the features that set it apart from the rest, and the overall purpose. Start by recording device footage of your app (which is easy and free), then use music or write a voice over script to match. If you choose to narrate the video, rather than relying on the text you used to fill the description boxes, new content will better narrate what is happening onscreen as well as add to the amount of information on your listing.

It’s important to note here, however, that the App Store only allows developers to upload one video for all app store locations. Narrating your video in English will be confusing to non-English speaking countries. This is why many global apps rely on music for audio rather than narration.

Additionally, adding aspects to the video that are unique to your app, like sound effects, will make it more personal. Research your target audience and focus on the features that matter most to them. If you’d like to learn more, check out TestNest’s article on how to create a killer app preview video that leads to conversions.

Designing an icon

The app icon is vital for driving clicks to your app’s listing, and the more clicks and app installs you get, the higher your app ranks in the results. Not only does the icon appear in search, but it also shows up in the app listing itself, along with screenshots, name, and rating. These are the driving factors for whether or not a user will further explore or download your app. The icon needs to match the brand of your business, convey the purpose of the app, and be visually intriguing to grab the attention of the users.

A few of the best practices in app icon design include keeping the design simple, using eye-catching colors, and avoiding using words. While these are all true, they form a very vague image of what your app icon should look like.

App Store Optimization Beginner's GuideWhat you need is an app icon that invokes a certain feeling for your user. In the case of the MyFitnessPal or Runtastic icons, not only do they follow the above mentioned rules, but they also both use an image of a person being active. This is perfect for the purposes of both of their apps, as it plants the thought of staying active in the minds of their users.

Making use of the emotional factor is especially effective in driving game downloads. Taking a look at two of the most popular mobile games, Clash of Clans and Game of War, where both have an app icon showing a game character yelling. The success of the two games has caused others to follow suit with the “action mouth” icons.

We’ve done a lot of icon testing at TestNest. Check out some of the nuggets we’ve learned in our article on how to create an icon that gets noticed.

Choosing your screenshots

Not only do app screenshots improve the rank of your app’s listing, they are the best way to shape how users will perceive your app. It may seem like a simple task to take a few screenshots of your app and uploading them to your app page, however, it’s important to keep in mind that your screenshots are your best opportunity to display the app’s full capabilities.

App Store Optimization Beginner's Guide

It can be misleading to call these images screenshots because of the ability to overlay text and artwork to better show how the app works. While regular screenshots can show what your app does, screenshots with a text overlay can explain how your app works (like Split Pic or Tinder). This is important in shaping the perception users have of your app.

Another thing to keep in mind when optimizing your app’s screenshots is screen size. In the iOS app store, iphones no longer come in one screen size. By only taking advantage of a single screen size, users may be led to think your app has not been updated in some time. Similarly in Google Play, screenshot sizes can be confusing considering the wide range of screen sizes in the Android world. Your best approach would be to either follow the guidelines published by Apple and Google or read our more detailed post about using screenshots in the app stores.

Getting reviews

The more often and positively reviewed your app is, the higher it will be ranked in the results. What isn’t simple is getting those reviews, let alone positive ones. The good news is that having your app installed on a user’s device gives you a direct line of communication with them through push notifications and other in-app engagement tools. It’s now time to mobilize those users and convert all your hard work into reviews. Our recommendation is to start slowly, asking for a few reviews from select power users. That will allow you to validate the feedback you receive and quickly ramp the number of users that you’re asking for reviews, while managing your public image.

One thing to keep in mind when asking for a user to review your app is timing. Remind your users to review your app after sharing something from the app to social media, or making it on to the next level of the game. Doing so will increase the likelihood of them posting a review, especially a positive one.

When you’re just getting started, finding users to review your app will be especially difficult. The number of reviews and overall rating of your app plays a big role in whether or not someone will download it. To get the ball rolling, ask your friends, coworkers, and parents to post those first positive reviews.

Writing a description

The first rule to writing successful descriptions is to start off by knowing your reader. App descriptions have two main readers. The first are your users (this is where you should take the opportunity to explain your app to them in a relevant way). The second are the app store search bots that crawl and index your app for the app store search results.

App Store Optimization Beginner's Guide

The second rule of writing smart descriptions is to keep it simple. Understanding who (and what) is reading your descriptions can help you develop ideal content. The description box looks like a great place to explain all of the functions of your app at length, however, you are limited to only a few lines before a user has to click “more” to expand the rest of the text. Even though you may have a well-written and engaging description, users won’t read all of it unless you can get them to click that “more” button. So, keep the “fluff” out of your introduction and focus on writing content that will engage and deliver your apps key benefits in the top few lines. A good example is Facebook, where the app clearly states exactly what the user can expect once they download it.

Lastly, effective descriptions are a work in progress, not a one-time exercise. Balancing the desires of your readership means that you need to decide on whether to optimize your content for your user (i.e. more exciting and catchy) or for the bots (i.e. keyword rich). Adding to your balancing act are the changing preferences of your target audience and the algorithms that power the search results. For example, at the time we wrote this article, the App Store only takes into account the first two lines of your description when scanning through it. Meanwhile, Google Play scans the description in its entirety. Making controlled changes to your descriptions can affect your download rates and search placement. Luckily this doesn’t have to be a guessing game. TestNest has created tools that can help you determine how your specific target audience interacts with your app description, and measure the effectiveness of your description text.


You’ve made it this far. You’ve put time and money into the development of a great app and you’re getting ready to publish it to the app store. Don’t let your investment go to waste by failing to optimize your app store listing. Optimizing your app store listing is like putting a high-quality product in high-quality packaging.

That packaging is what’s going to drive users to your product, and help it gain traction in such a highly competitive environment.

TestNest - A/B testing platform for your app store page

TestNest can help you test the effectiveness of all aspects of your app store page. From icons and screenshots to descriptions and app video previews, our advanced analytics help you in all aspects of app store page optimization. Sign up now and get started for free!