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As it stands, Google Play and Apple’s App Store have around 700,000 live apps each, followed by Windows with 126,530 and Amazon with just over 50,000 apps. As app numbers continue to increase, so is the competition for search-friendly and visible apps.
A number of people are starting to talk about app store SEO as developers and marketers look for ways to ensure their apps can be found across the app stores.
We’ll be focusing on both the App Store and Google Play for this post, solely because there currently isn’t enough research on SEO for Windows Marketplace or Amazon's Appstore.
App store SEO
Earlier this year, the Android Marketplace became Google Play and last month Apple updated the UI of the App Store with the introduction of the latest operating system iOS 6.
This shows that app store layouts are subject to change, as are app store search algorithms. It’s important for marketers to stay on top of these changes and use them to their advantage.
Although we will never know the exact search algorithms Google and Apple are using, we can still take a guess at which factors the app stores take into account. Companies like Appco.des and MobileDevHQ look into how apps perform within the the app stores and from their research, offer good advice on optimising apps.
The App Store
In February, Apple acquired the app discovery platform Chomp and according to Appcod.es, it looks as though Apple has incorporated Chomp’s search algorithms into its newly updated store.
These search result changes mean marketers will have to rethink the way they market their apps. The good news is that all apps now have more of a chance of coming up in search results as the search icon and Genius icon take centre stage in the toolbar on mobile devices.
The Genius button will help target app searches by using data about the apps that are already on a user’s device and from previous searches the user has performed. Other features include social share buttons so you can encourage users to share your app with friends, as well as a much more image-heavy UI.
The first app screenshot now takes up the majority of the screen on a mobile device so you should use this space to describe and sell your app.
Google Play also appears to have its own algorithms for ranking apps within their store and according to Simlabs, an app’s social media and online presence outside of Google Play helps it rank well.
In its case study, Simlabs mentions the importance of adding apps to directories (like AppBrain) and also focusing on general online marketing around your app so it ranks well in traditional organic mobile and desktop search, as well as inside Google Play.
This also counts for the App Store, the more focus you put into marketing your app across a number of mediums, the more coverage your app receives, the more coverage it will get online and this will inevitably drive people to download your app.
All apps in Google Play and the App Store have their own dedicated page and this not only shows up within the store but also in organic search on mobile and desktop.
This is why it’s important to get your keyword choices right not only for inside the app stores but also for organic search listings.
For example, if you search for an app in both the desktop and mobile versions of Google, somewhere on the first page of SERPs will be a link that sends you straight to the relevant page in the app store to download it. In mobile search you will be directed straight into the relevant app store to download, this is called deep linking.
A deep link in mobile search has the ability to open native apps on mobile devices. This is one of the main reasons keyword research plays such an important role because apps can be discovered in desktop and mobile search, as well as app store searches.
By using free tools like the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, you can discover the volumes of people searching for key terms you might want to include in your app listing. Time should be spent researching relevant keywords for your app listing (its title & description) as well as websites and all other online marketing materials associated with your app. This will benefit the exposure your app gets, not only across the app stores, but also in SERPs across mobile and desktop.
Find out more on how to drive app downloads through mobile search.
A well-rounded app marketing strategy
It’s important for app developers and marketers to keep track of what’s going on across the app stores but it’s also important to remember not to focus solely on the app store and branch out outside of it.
Many of our clients are unsure how to market their apps and believe SEO across the app stores is the only way they can get their apps to rank well. It’s a combined effort of marketing inside and outside the app stores that will make your apps rank well across the app stores and desktop or mobile searches.