app store optimisation

Uniting Development and Marketing to Design Successful Apps

App design and app marketing work best when they operate together.

Making a successful app often doesn’t just mean building a good app, it also has to actually be downloaded. Designing a good app is the essential foundation.

hedgehog lab is a digital product studio ranked #1 globally for mobile and web app development. Ayima is a results-driven digital search and marketing agency powering some of the world’s biggest brands. The focus of both is to build the best digital products possible to meet their clients’ business goals.

Ayima and hedgehog lab have teamed up because we believe that, to make a truly successful customer-facing app, your app designers and marketers need to be working together at every stage.

In this post, we take a look at how app design and app promotion overlap. The two should not be treated as closed silos if you want your app to achieve app store success.

Promoting an app starts with building a good app

App stores are ultimately designed to promote the best apps. Reviews, slick promotional features, and better retention all drive success.

Good apps drive reviews

Ratings and reviews play a large part in app store rankings. The best way to gather large amounts of positive feedback is to build an app that your audience loves using. 

When hedgehog lab developed the iOS mobile app for Deliciously Ella, user needs were a top consideration from the design to the system architecture.

This high-quality app development boosted the app into the Apple App Store’s top 10 food and drinks apps within days of launch. Deliciously Ella had an industry-leading 94% subscriber retention rate following a free trial period.

Deliciously Ella app screenshots

Slick apps produce quality adverts

A similar approach is needed for the media elements of your listing. Screenshots, icons, and videos should clearly showcase the features, benefits, and USPs of your app.

Screenshots should profile the features that will resonate most with your target users and show how the app will work on a range of devices. hedgehog lab’s UX/UI designers have created dummy screenshots for their mobile banking app clients so they can showcase the features of their apps without breaching data protection regulations.

Icons should work in small formats and stand out from your competitors, while a video can be an important tool in attracting new customers – Apptamin claims that a video can increase app install rates by 25%.

You can also use your adverts to feedback to the app design process. You can A/B test two versions of your listing to app store users to assess which approach is most effective. 

Google’s store listing experiment feature, for example, lets you test variants to your graphics and text for seven days and for up to 50% of your audience. This gives you a mountain of data to refine your app design and ASO. 

Retention boosts the value of your advertising

In app design, a large proportion of time is spent profiling potential users, to map their behaviors, wants, and needs. 

hedgehog lab translates those insights into app features that will engage them, as with their work for insurance companies. That can mean delivering a fantastic user experience or serving up brilliant features that keep users coming back to the app.

For app marketers like Ayima, user retention is vital to creating additional value.

Greater app usage gives advertisers more data points and stronger user profiles. Ayima designed a campaign for a nutrition and fitness app which built audiences from what present app users were engaging with. By understanding these personas, they could then use algorithms to push ads to similar-looking users. Not only this, but they could also use bespoke creatives to resonate with those specific audiences.

If a major part of your app strategy is in-app purchases, retention is vital to creating ads that nudge your users towards these events.

Retention is a two way street for developers and advertisers:

  • Well-targeted ads at users at risk of lapsing can improve retention
  • Focus on driving higher quality users, rather than simply more downloads. For example, consider optimizing your campaigns to total duration of app usage, rather than downloads.

Building a unique a website to capture web traffic

Keep in mind that potential users may search the web for your app or similar apps. Therefore, creating an engaging website and optimizing it for your top keywords is crucial to your success, much like the educational app 11 Plus Blocks has demonstrated.

Building a solid tracking structure is a key foundation for marketing performance

Having a granular and robust tracking setup is crucial to later success. Your marketers and app developers should work together closely to track the things that matter. The benefits are numerous:

  1. Having access to granular insights lets you closely monitor user experience. Monitoring usage allows you to improve your app. A better app is more likely to resonate.
  2. Building tracking around key usage events lets your advertisers optimize towards them. For example, knowing which potential users are most likely to be engaged with the app, or to purchase the most in-app.

A good tracking setup integrates with multiple platforms, requiring less code that could potentially slow the app. 

placing the firebase SDK within the app

We would recommend using the Firebase SDK. Firebase integrates with Apple’s SKAdNetwork, so it automatically updates to match iOS privacy policies.

Firebase also feeds directly into Google Ads. It provides the platform with detailed and real-time tracking of performance on ads run across the Google Ads Network, such as YouTube, Google Play, and Universal App Campaigns.

Building an app with App Store Optimization in mind

App Store Optimization starts before the app has even been released. It works best when the developers and marketers are working in tandem. 

What is app store optimization?

App store optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the discoverability of your app in the Google Play Store, Windows Store, and Apple App Store.

It focuses on optimizing all of the content associated with your app – including metadata, graphics and descriptions – to increase its ranking in an app store’s search results. The higher the ranking, the more people will find it. 

Running in tandem with improving rankings, ASO also targets returning more positive reviews, and therefore also has an impact on brand exposure

With 3.14 million apps on Google Play Store and 2.09 million apps on Apple App Store, it’s essential to have an ASO strategy that will get your app at the top of search results.

The crowded app marketplace

Core App Store Optimization factors

App store optimization should be a key element of your thinking even whilst building your app, which requires traditional keyword research. 

The first is the app title. The title is an extremely important ranking factor in the app store: Ayima has run tests where simple changes to the app title have led to a 10.3% increase in average positions. Keep in mind that you want people to be able to easily find your app title. Make the name easy to spell and easy to remember. Consider initially including your core keyword in the app title.

When submitting your app into app stores, the subtitle, keywords (in the Apple Store), and description are also major ranking factors. You will need to hit a fine balance between user experience and ASO when crafting these within the character limits. 

  • Find your core keywords, include them in your text
  • But don’t overdo it. Make the copy attractive and easy to read 
  • There is no need to put the same keyword multiple times: this will not make it rank any higher.
Image showing where the app title, app description and app category are located within the Google Play store

How to attract more app reviews

Reviews are another crucial ranking factor – build in the ability to review your app easily. But don’t push this aggressively and at the expense of UX.

Google Play now has an In-App Review API to prompt users to submit a Play Store rating without leaving the app. This can be triggered at any stage of the user journey within the app and invites a 1-5-star rating with an optional comment. 

Apple App Store also provides code enabling you to request an app review from users.

Before tools like this, developers would have to code this feature into the app manually, so it’s a great way to save time on ASO activities.

Example of an app review request

Building deep links into your app

What is deep linking, and why is it important

Deep links allow you to direct users to specific locations within an app. This means that when they open the app, they go directly to the section that triggered their interest.

Example of a deep link in action

Deep linking is incredibly important for future performance in digital advertising because they create a seamless experience. The fewer clicks a user has to make, the more likely they are to take the action you want.

If a user has already downloaded your app, you can direct them to the relevant section of your app rather than your mobile site. 

If the user does not have an app, you can serve them a “deferred deep link”. A deferred deep-link prompts the user first to download the app. Then, when they open it, it takes them to the specific section they were after.

How to build deep links

Deep linking requires developer support to enable them, and they work slightly differently on iOS and Android.

In Android, for example, you add intent filters with three elements: <action>, <data> and <category>. You can learn more about how to set up deep links in Android here. Apple’s “Universal Links” similarly require specialist development support.

Working together to build the right deep links

To get the best campaign performance out of deep links, your marketing teams and app developers must collaborate closely. Key considerations include:

  • What campaigns or audiences would benefit from being led to a particular place in the app?
  • Are there any exceptions to this rule? Which audiences would actually benefit from visiting your site first?
  • Is your deep linking strategy the same across both Android and iOS?
  • Do you want to provide deferred deep links for those who have not yet installed the app?

App Indexing on the search page

App Indexing on the search page is the practice of letting Google index your app and therefore allowing the content to rank on search results.

To set up app indexing, you begin by connecting your app to your website. You will enable the app to handle HTTP URLs and match to links on your website. Ultimately, Google needs to be able to match each web page to the app URL.

You also need to log user actions. This tells Google what people went on to do after opening your app.  These signals help Google to rank your app more appropriately. Users engaging well with your app, for example, will indicate to Google that they should be ranking you higher, for example. You can find firebase’s instructions for app-indexing here. 

App indexing can be extremely powerful if your app is heavily content-based. For example, if you are a publisher or if you list all of your products on your apps. Your conversion or engagement rates on your website will likely be much lower than those on your app. 

Examples of successful ecommerce apps

The Guardian, for example, made their SEO click-through rates increase by a whole 4.5% by app indexing around 95% of their relevant searches. Therefore, you’ll want to send users to the app by preference. This is what app-indexing allows.

Launching best-practice App Install Campaigns

Once you’ve launched your app, you then need to push it. Download velocity, meaning the rate at which your app is downloaded, is a key ranking factor for ASO. This means that building initial momentum is crucial to your organic rankings.

The best way to do this is to launch app-install campaigns. To make these campaigns effective you need a combination of push and pull advertising. 

The push campaigns are those you would place directly in front of relevant audiences, for example on Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

The pull campaigns are those that pick up on user demand, triggering an ad when the user searches the app store for relevant terms. These campaigns would run on platforms like Apple Search Ads, Pinterest, or Google Ads.

Strong app-advertising agencies use constant optimizations to hone their strategies and target efficiencies. It was this combination that enabled Ayima to drive 55% more downloads than the client’s target for British Red Cross’s first aid app, winning a Drum Search Award in the process.

As your app becomes more widely used, using your audiences in app campaigns becomes your strongest asset. Key strategies include:

  • Lookalikes – Use your SDK tracking to find your most valuable users, and target similar users
  • Retention – Use your data to target the users most at risk of lapsing

Working closely with app developers to fuel new iterations also helps app design. Marketers should feedback to your developers on which users are engaging best with the app. By understanding these users’ wider interests, the app can be made to match them even more.

App designers and App Marketers need to work together

We’ve shown in this piece how many benefits there are when app developers and digital marketers collaborate effectively. From building a good initial app with a solid tracking setup, making the app more visible on both the app store and the search page, and finally promoting it with effective ads.

hedgehog lab and Ayima both work on the premise that we drive our clients’ needs to their absolute peak. 

Working together drives better results. For this reason, we call for app publishers to unite their developer and marketing functions to create the most successful app they can.

Interested in learning more or looking to build or launch your own app? Our experts are on hand if you’d like a more in-depth personal analysis or a bespoke strategy. You can get in touch with the team at hedgehog lab here, or Ayima here.