Your app is like a drop in the ocean, so optimise it

The last thing you want is for your business’s mobile app to be the industry’s best-kept secret. A great design won’t get you far at all if no one downloads it and passes on the word. App store optimisation (ASO) will get your app noticed – and hopefully downloaded. Here’s how to do it.

1. Pick the right name

You wouldn’t saddle a child with a downright ugly name, would you? And we’re assuming you aren’t a musician with a penchant for freakish human nomenclature either, as evidenced by North West, Apple Martin, Moon Unit Zappa, Zowie Bowie, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence, Fifi Trixibelle and Little Pixie.

The idea behind choosing app names is both similar – and different. On the one hand, picking a terrible name is a disaster. Can you really see Crush or Flush, Eefoof or Gubb taking off? But someone did. On the other hand, a quirky and captivating name that catches your attention and makes you curious can be the first step to gaining a customer.

Wink, the app that lets you control smart devices in your home while you’re away, doesn’t give much away in its name, but it’s catchy and memorable, as are Evernote and Angry Birds. Choose yours with care and make sure to canvas opinion before going live.

One final word: keep it pithy. Studies show that short app names (25 characters or fewer) that are read in a single screen means never having vital information cut off.

2. Put the key into keywords

Forrester Research claims that 63 per cent of apps are discovered by app store searches.

With more than a million apps all competing against one another for users, you’ve got to get people to your product as quickly as possible and away from the competition. This is done by incorporating words that distil the app’s function and focus into its title and description. You can make this go even further by looking into what words the app’s typical users will be searching with.

Look at the competition, at high-ranking apps and at what’s on-trend now. You can always change things later but seize the momentum from similar apps and use their established success to your own advantage.

Just remember to trim all the fat by taking out repetitive and irrelevant words. After all, you’ve only got 25 characters so choose wisely.

3. Assign a monetary value

Put simply, what sort of price should your business app go for?

You may think it is priceless, essential technology but will potential customers feel the same way? Market research will give you the best guidelines about price. There’s no sense in charging for your app if it’s really just a glorified advertisement for your company, or if it provides the same function as a cheaper or free app with no noticeable difference or improvement. Think about it: with Google Maps being fast, excellent and free, would you pay for an app that does the same thing with no extra features?

Look at market research and pay careful attention to the competition and the profile of your ideal user. Putting yourself in both parties’ shoes will give you a much better picture of what (if anything) you should charge for your app. It’s those views that count, not how much you spent creating the technology or what you hope to reap from download sales. Just because app sales is a multi-billion pound industry doesn’t mean there’s a slice waiting for you.

A free app that gets users interested in your company’s products and services has done its job beautifully and likely earned its keep indirectly.

4. Skip testing at your peril

So the Apple app store doesn’t allow A/B or split testing for marketers to improve the odds of users downloading a featured app. This doesn’t mean you’re left in the dark about how to drive traffic to your app.

Start by creating a landing page with an A/B test code generator (try Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer or Google Content Experiments) and send out a trial via email and social media to collect feedback. You’ll find out pretty darn quickly which screenshots and interface create the most conversions and click-throughs. From there you’ll have an appealing visual for the app store and a supply of valuable opinions to back it up.

5. Localise for greater appeal – if it suits you

It stands to reason that an app you think will be widely popular and have universal appeal needs to be available on an international basis. For example, iTunes apps are available in more than 150 countries and in 40 languages. If you suspect your app will go far, see what further tweaks are needed for a foreign audience. This means full language translation as well as the customisation of images (of dress codes, skin tones, background architecture) and any jargon.

In all aspects you need to reach a customer on their own level – putting yourself in their shoes, as we discussed above. This may be the most complex of the issues you’ll face in launching an app but your target audience will expect no less; they aren’t going to waste their time on an app that doesn’t appeal and doesn’t seem to offer exactly what they are looking for.


With a little help from the above points, getting an app discovered and downloaded doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of common pitfalls but they’re easily avoided if you know where to look. Your app isn’t likely to be the first of its kind (unless you are unbelievably lucky), so go forth and stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded you. There’s plenty of room at the top.