One month of indie game marketing – ASO (part one)

In my series of posts on marketing my latest indie game

ASO (App store optimization)

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Simplest way to explain it: App Store Optimization (ASO) is all the marketing refinements on the elements of a game (or app) related to app store listings.

ASO is such an obscure and sometimes misunderstood practice that is often ignored or poorly implemented. Some even say ASO is worthless and has little or no impact in the app stores.  I think it deserves some attention and time since it is fairly easy to apply with all the free information readily available. A lot of installs are the direct result of a search right in an app store. You really want everything to be in your favour when you publish a game, right?

With my research I have found there are no simple answer, no clear one-time solution, just best practices to implement. You will see a lot of proposals from experts and receive paid offers, but I would recommend trying out the free tools and sites so you can understand some of it and maybe work it out for yourself. Also ASO does not generate instantaneous results. I have started to work on it a few months ago and I still have some work to do on my game.

Here are some resourceful sites with ASO tools and services:

I have used all of them to learn, compare results, and I revisit my game status from time to time. They all have their pros and cons, free tools and premium services, charts, scores, rates and all. I have not used their paid services yet. And of course don’t stop there, search for “app store optimization” and do your homework. I’m just here to give you some of my thoughts and a list of things to check out!

The main marketing elements of your game related to the app stores you will want optimize are:

  • Game name
  • Game icon
  • Game short description (on Google Play)
  • Game full description
  • Keyword list (on iTunes)
  • Ratings and reviews
  • Screenshots
  • Videos

Other elements affecting your game visibility and reach to consider:

  • App price
  • In-App purchases
  • Leaderboards and achievements implementation (Game Center for iTunes, Game Services for Google Play)
  • Store category
  • App permissions
  • App updates
  • Content rating
  • Localisations

Just a quick word on keyword search, an important concept. I’ll go more in-depth on ASO in another post.

Keyword search

As soon as you have your game idea, you should do a bit of brainstorming and come up with as many words related to your game as possible. These words will be the base of your keyword search for your game name, descriptions and keywords list. Here is where the sites listed above will be helpful. Use the free keyword search tools. Compare results from all the sites. Use all the features: some sites are good at suggesting additional words; others are good at looking at your “competitors” listings similar to your game. You will get lists of words with 2 factors: word traffic and word difficulty. Each site will have its own way of naming the lists. Some sites will combine the factors and give it an arbitrary score. But you’ll get the idea.

Keyword traffic: Word search popularity or how often this particular word is searched for in the app stores. To determine if it can get you traffic.

Keyword difficulty: Word usage, or how prominent this word is with other published apps. To determine how difficult it will be to stand out.

With these results you can choose optimal words for your game name, descriptions and keywords. You are looking for high traffic and low difficulty, simple as that. Sounds easy, but it will not instantly put your game on the top of the charts. But it will certainly refine your visibility.

Results are not that easy to measure and it does take a few days to see the outcome of your optimizations, but you can use the same sites to measure your progress over time. When your game is up and running, it is also a good idea to check the ASO stats maybe a couple of times a month to see if anything changes in the market and app stores.

What are your best practices with ASO? Did you get any results after you put it in action?

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