3 Quick Steps to Optimize Your App Without Spending a Dime

There are currently 1.5 million apps in each of the leading app stores (Android and Apple). With that level of competition, it may feel overwhelming to consider how you can promote your app with little to no budget.

There are currently 1.5 million apps in each of the leading app stores (Android and Apple). With that level of competition, it may feel overwhelming to consider how you can promote your app with little to no budget.

The answer lives in the Nielsen report which found that 63 percent of app users find apps through app store search. Furthermore, search makes up the vast majority of app installs because users searching have the intent to install what they are looking for. Therefore, optimizing your app to show up in relevant app store searches is essential to its promotion.

1. Choose the Right Keywords

The backbone of any web search campaign (SEO or PPC) is targeting the right keywords. This also holds true for app store optimization (ASO). The key to targeting is understanding what keywords will lead to the highest volume of engaged app users.

While the app stores do not provide actual search query data, there are ways to compare relative demand and competition. ASO tools such as Search Man offer free versions that allow you to see relative search volume and competition scores of relevant keywords; they also inform you on what keywords competing apps are targeting. Utilize this data to find the most relevant keywords with high volume scores and low competition scores to unearth your most opportunistic keyword targets.

Unlike a website, which can have virtually unlimited pages that all targeting a different keyword or set of keywords, apps do not provide that luxury. An app gives you a single asset to optimize and target keywords to. Therefore, you have to be very selective in what you target.

As a best practice, you should prioritize your keywords into main targets and secondary targets. When considering the main targets, ask yourself “if the app can rank for one keyword phrase, what should it be?” The demand and competitive data you collected should play a large role in answering that question.

The reason for segmenting main keyword targets is that there is the lack of space available in the most important app store elements described below (i.e. the app title) for including keywords. Other areas, however, such as the description, can be leveraged to target a wider variety of keywords secondarily.

2. Make Use of All App Store Elements

There are a number of elements in each app store that can be used to showcase and promote your app. Because space is limited, it is essential to take advantage of the full space allocated to each of these elements and optimize them for app store search.

App Title

The App’s name is the most important element of your app for optimization purposes. A well-optimized title helps position the app in search results for target keywords and entices users to click-through to the

download page. Simply including the target keyword in the app title has been shown to provide a 10 percent improvement in ranking according to a MobileDevHQ report. Furthermore, more than 60 percent of apps ranking in the top five positions for a given search query have a close variation in their title.

Aside from the title’s implications on ranking, it is also the first impression users get from your app. Therefore, it is extremely important that the title is compelling and relevant to what they are looking for. Think of the app title as your sales pitch, much like a title tag for SEO or an ad headline for PPC.

Of course, for branding purposes, you must have the actual name of your app in the app title. Though there is an alternative to including the brand name in the app title – display it in the app’s icon image, thus leaving more space in the title for keyword targeting.

The biggest challenge for writing your effective app title is fitting your messaging into a finite character limit. This is especially challenging in the Google Play store with an app title limit of only 30 characters. The Apple App Store on the other hand allows 255 characters, which provides much more flexibility as you can include more keywords and describe the app in more detail.


How description impacts search results varies based on app store. In the Google Play store, the description provides an opportunity to target additional keywords that would not fit into the app title to help rank for them. Try to fit as many high-opportunity keywords into the 4,000 character limit n without compromising the messaging. In other words, utilize the description to effectively describe how the app will benefit users while working in as many keywords as possible.

On the other hand, Apple’s App Store description has not been shown to effect rankings for the keywords included, so this area should be used primarily to communicate the benefits to the potential user. The keywords section described below is where additional target keywords should be included.


The keywords section is specific to the Apple App Store and not available in Google Play. This is where you can include your most opportunistic secondary keywords (remember, main keywords go in the title). Like the other elements, you have to be very selective with the keywords you choose because there is a 100 character limit.


The images you choose to display (or not display) can have a huge impact on whether or not someone installs your app once they land on your app store page. The Apple App Store allows up to five images, while Google Play allows up to eight, so be sure to include the maximum in each. It is best practice for all the images to be in portrait (vertical) format, as opposed to landscape, for the best viewing in the app stores. You can also add a brief text overlay to the images to better describe what is happening in the image, but don’t go overboard with text.


Of course, to best showcase your app with a video, you will want to invest in a professionally produced clip. You can, however, create an app store video of your app without spending any money using free apps like Rec. for Android which allows you to screencast while using your app so you can record a video of your app’s functionality.

3. Measure and Refine

Similar to the ability to track web analytics for free with Google Analytics, Yahoo offers a free analytics platform, Flurry, to measure and track app performance. With a simple installation, you can track many key performance indicators around acquisition, usage, retention and more. This data can be very useful in refining your optimization strategy.

By following these tips, you can successfully optimize your app without breaking the bank.

Marc Purtell is Director of SEO & Content Promotion at Matomy Media Group. He can be contacted at mpurtell@matomy.com.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.