App SEO refers to the practice of optimizing your website to drive traffic to your app. It allows you to

  • save money on commission fees (Apple and Google both take about 15%-30% cut off app purchases and subscriptions)
  • lower paid ads spending
  • develop brand awareness about your app
  • acquire additional traffic outside app store

The high commission fees make generating organic sign-ups to your website even more critical. This can end up saving a company a lot of money in fees paid to the app stores over time. Rules on how and when they charge fees are arbitrary and can seem unfair.

It is critical to have a website for your app, to increase brand and awareness, you need to:

  1. have a content marketing strategy – how to use content to funnel users to your app
  2. use reviews and testimonials, user generated content
  3. online communities

Have a brainstorming session with your coworkers or with the marketing team, ask yourself or your coworkers the following questions so that you can develop an SEO content plan:

  1. What features are users asking for outside the app?
  2. What answers can you provide them to complimentary search topics?
  3. What other sites are good to increase brand awareness on?

App Store Optimization (ASO)

App Store Optimization usually refers to the practice of optimizing app for stores like App Store and Google Play. It allows you to rank highly in the app store. It increases your presence when looking for apps in your category or using keywords.

App’s title should include brand name and relevant keywords. A research result shows that having a keyword in the title resulted in an average ranking increase of 10%. Keywords shall be relevant, short, easy to read and unique. You want to try to utilize as much of the character space you have available as possible.

The app description is an essential part of your app’s metadata. Remember:

  1. For Apple, the description is an important opportunity to convince users to download your App. But the key words here are not relevant to your App SEO ranking. Apple doesn’t crawl your description but relies on keyword tags.
  2. For Google Play, the description is especially important for both convincing users to download your App and for the App SEO ranking.

In the description, you can add relevant social proof, say something like “We are #1 App in something with X number registered users.” which is helpful convincing users to download it.

Both app stores use engagement metrics to determine the quality of your app and where it should rank. These engagement metrics include:

  1. speed of app
  2. usage metrics
  3. uninstall rate
  4. ratings and reviews
  5. external links to your app

Monitor these metrics closely so you can find opportunities to correct them as soon as possible.

The best way to influence these ranking is by providing a good user experience. 80% of mobile users read at least one review before downloading an App. Apps with high crash rates and infrequent App updates are considered low quality and therefore they have lower rankings.

Search ranking position of an App directly correlates with the number of downloads. The higher your App ranks in the search result, the more relevant it appears to users. If you have an international presence or operate in an area where multiple languages are spoken, it’s a really good idea to localize your app. Studies show that users place more trust in apps that are in their native language, and they’re more likely to download that App.

A/B Testing

A/B testing basically means that your testing one aspect of your app (aspect A) with another aspect B. Your audience’s then split equally into which tests they see. You can see which result performed the best over a period of time. You can and should run tests for almost everything about your app: app icon, screenshots, language, color, layout, arrangement, title, video, app descriptions, and more. There are really endless possibilities.

Google can automatically segment users for you, letting you know when it has found statistically relevant data to draw a conclusion, and more. Apple unfortunately doesn’t allow testing. However you still can try to do some basic testing through measuring interactions.

To run good tests, you need a reason for why you’re running the test and an idea of the outcome you wish to get. Running tests for the sake of just running them will not help you get actionable insights that you can draw conclusions from. Start with an hypothesis to help you out when creating your test. You should have an idea of

  • what will be changed
  • what the expected results of your changes are
  • why you anticipate those results

Always question why test may have lost and look at what you can learn from it. Doing a follow-up test is important to helping you understand why something didn’t work, or may work in a different circumstance in a different type of test.

There are a few best practices when A/B testing your app:

  1. Start with research and analysis, insights gained from your users is an excellent place to start.
  2. Brainstorm variations you want to test
  3. Design those variations
  4. Launch your test, monitor it carefully and be patient since it can take some time to get statistically relevant results of your test
  5. Evaluate your results, retest or test in a different way if anything is unclear
  6. Evaluate the risk that there is still a small chance that the test results may be off
  7. Conduct any follow-up tests based on your learning

Optimizing Screenshots

Each app store allows you to upload images to feature in your app. Optimizing screenshots and videos is the first step in onboarding, they make the first impression, will provide social proof and improve conversion rate.

Studies show that a user decides whether or not they want to download your app or look at your app in the first 7 seconds. You only have this amount of time to capture their interest and convince them that your app is worth downloading.

Only 9% of users will scroll past the first two screenshots (17% of users in case of games), you must use your video and images to immediately engage the user. So make sure to place your most important image first, and they shall be appealing and eye-catching, any text on screenshots should be clean and easy-to-read.

Show off your best features and reasons to download it right out of the gate and stay on brand, you want users to associate your brand imagery and your app so that both are easily recognized. You can make your first two screenshots one longer image and add important text.

Metrics for SEO


KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. KPIs are smaller metrics you can use to show progress along the way, even though you’ll ultimately be held responsible for the ROI (Return of Investment) and the value of the work you bring in. Since SEO takes time to build value (compared to other channels), KPIs are a great way of showing that your project and the work that you’re doing is seeing initial results and that more value will come later. Basically, KPIs should be the important steps you track leading up to delivering ROI.

It’s important to understand why you’re tracking a certain metric. If you can’t clearly tie a KPI to a business goal, then it’s probably not a valuable KPI to track. You want to focus on what’s most important rather than trying to chase after too many things. You can’t know if a KPI is performing well or poorly unless you know how it was performing prior to your SEO efforts. Always benchmark your data, so you can compare before and after a project.

KPIs are best understood when in comparison to one another. If month-to-month comparison can not always be accurate if your business has a lot of seasonality fluctuations, comparing year-over-year is generally a more accurate and more acceptable way to show growth over time.

The common and obvious KPIs include:

  1. organic traffic – users, new users, sessions, etc.
  2. unbranded traffic vs branded traffic
  3. keyword rankings – keywords fluctuate a lot, but good at showing trends over time
  4. backlinks – the most important ranking signal
  5. organic click through rate
  6. site performance

ROI stands for Return On Investment. At a high level ROI is used to determine if a project is profitable. You can calculate a simple ROI using this formula, which can be changed on your needs and goals:

ROI = (Final value - Initial value) / Cost

SEO, however, is a long-term investment so it can take a while to start seeing actual gains. There are many different ways to calculate ROI from SEO depending on the projects you put in place and your company’s specific revenue model.

Forecasting SEO Impact

When pitching a specific SEO project or a service to a new client, if you can forecast the gains you’re likely to see and then tie that to the monetary value. It’s easier to get buy-in and investment for that SEO project that you’re pitching. Forecasting offers many things, it is the main tool for value creation, and provides a road-map for how to create that value.

Unlike paid marketing campaigns, forecasting for organic traffic is inherently difficult. Organic traffic has many variables that impact it. However, keep in mind that a great forecast doesn’t need to be completely accurate. It’s just an estimated projection. Keeping a record of how your actual growth stacks up to your projected growth, with reasons for what succeeded and what didn’t, all help deepen management’s understanding and value of SEO. In addition, always provide information on what factors could impact your SEO forecast. Again, always remember to communicate.

A good forecast should include:

  1. projection of upcoming resources needed
  2. context of your industry
  3. market size and share
  4. competition

SEO Campaign

Before you begin working with a client, you will first need to sell the client your services and price your service appropriately. You can charge at an estimated hourly quote or a project cost. Pricing will usually come into play when you are working as a consultant. However determining how long a project takes is also valuable information to a client or agency:

  1. determine the scale, complexity of the site
  2. identify top pages that provide the most value for clients
  3. crawl the site to determine its size
  4. check title tags for keyword focus, and meta description
  5. visit the site and check on-page content
  6. document areas that need optimization
  7. separating quick wins from complex issues
  8. provide an idea of hours needed and price range for project

The most common opportunities for improving a siteโ€™s performance:

  • Keywords that are too broad
  • Lack of content
  • A lack of keyword direction
  • Too much duplication
  • Incorrect keywords

Once you have determined some of the issues impacting the site. You can have a more productive conversation with potential clients, as well as show the value of what you can provide. It is important to manage your clientโ€™s expectations regarding the results of the project. Some clients may not know what to expect or why they should pay for your services. More importantly, some clients may have unreasonable expectations about what is possible. It is important to manage these expectations early so that all parties view your work as meeting expectations.

It’s important to note that SEO requires constant attention. While a lot of the initial work occurs at the beginning of an SEO engagement, it is up to the client to maintain that momentum.

Once a client has signed on, the first meeting should be set up to discover more information about the business, any history they have with past SEO firms, and what their goals are. It’s a good idea to begin with some quick wins that will demonstrate the immediate value of your expertise.

While there are common metrics to track across varying campaigns, you will need to come up with specific goals to achieve for each individual client based on their unique business needs. You can determine what goals are best attract for a client by looking at the SMART goals. The goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. For instance, suppose the original goal was “generate more leads from our website”, now it can be SMART “increase leads generated from our website through organic search by 25% per month by a specific date.”

In addition to tracking SMART goals, you should track other metrics to help determine how well your efforts are improving the site. Site traffic is one of the most important metrics to track and is generally tightly aligned to one of the clientโ€™s SMART goals. If possible, you should collect data from before your work on the project. This provides benchmark data that can be compared to data collected after your interventions.

It is important to educate your client that keywords are just one part of the overall picture. While they can provide some insight into how well your site is ranking for certain terms, they are prone to change due to

  • fluctuations caused by algorithm updates
  • changes to the site
  • whether or not any topics are trending
  • personalization
  • localization, and more

You want to make sure that your reports indicate progress toward the goals that you and the client articulated.

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