Mobile apps – just like websites, landing pages or marketing content – need SEO and a search marketing strategy if they are to be found by a target customer audience.
Research shows that little more than half (53 per cent) of Android users discovered an app on Google Play. Just under half (47 per cent) of iOS users found one on Apple’s App Store (TUNE mobile marketing analytics company).
In 2017, an estimated three quarters (71 per cent) of UK small business owners said they relied upon mobile or web-based applications, according to accounting software group, Intuit QuickBooks.
But no matter how smart, useful and user-friendly your instant, problem-solving app looks and feels, to stand any chance of being found an app has to be search optimised.
But is SEO for mobile apps that important?
The total number of iOS apps on the App Store currently stands around 2.2 million. As might be expected, there are many more Android apps on Google Play.
Half as many again or 3.3 million, to be precise, according to Statista. Plus, there are more than 300 app stores worldwide. But looking just 2-3 years down the line, this is still only the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
The total number of mobile app downloads across the entire planet is forecast to jump by nearly three quarters (72 per cent), from 205.4 billion in 2018 to 288.2 billion in 2022 (Statista).
Today, most businesses owners recognise and understand the importance of SEO marketing as an essential process in helping to ensure they get their brand message out there, and to drive traffic.
Whatever type of marketing campaign package is chosen, pushing visibility in mobile search as well as in app stores – known as ASO (App Store Optimisation) – should not be neglected.
App keywords exactly matched to search intent
Where ASO involves the ranking of an app in an app store, SEO for an app is focused on factors aimed at organic ranking in search engine results.
As well as app design, app name and URL, critical “on-page” factors should include, app keywords, short and long descriptions. Meanwhile, “off-page” factors will focus on analysing ratings, number of installs and reviews, and the all-important backlinks.
Relevant, targeted keywords should always be exactly matched or closely related to search intent.
The game-plan should be to select keywords which will attract the highest possible search traffic and, if possible, the lowest competition from similar products. This means the use of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).
Google’s ever smarter algorithms increasingly use LSI
LSI continues to play a huge role in Google search results. LSI keywords are closely related to exact match keywords. Google’s ever smarter algorithms increasingly use LSI to underpin its understanding of product or service content.
LSI uses longtail keywords, which are more specific and often less competitive than the standard, most common keyword terms.
It’s not enough to create an app name that is short, snappy, fits on a smartphone screen and is totally on-message with a niche audience.
Ranking is determined by how Google indexes for actual relevance and by intended real value.
Top 3 Essentials – at a glance
- App name
An app name should contain the keyword of the services or product, for which it is trying to be ranked.
Accompanying descriptions must also be clearly understood as to what the app does, i.e. solve a specific need.
Not only understood by human users but by Google too. Two additional keywords should follow immediately, which precisely describe the app.
A major strategy of SEO is the development of backlinks, crucially from high ranking sites. The more “authoritative” a site, the higher it is likely to rank.
The first step is a download link to an app’s home website or landing page, which links back to the app listing. Next step, is to analyse competitor backlinking activity by using one or more backlinking tools to identify relevant URLs, domain rating, and keywords used.
- A/B Variant Testing
Constant tracking and monitoring is essential to analyse and understand SEO performance.
There are proven techniques, such as A/B variant testing, which can clearly identify the most effective strategies. Each test variant can help to pick out vital components such as, keyword positioning.
There are also a number of online tools available including, Google Search Console, which can be combined with Google Play and App Analytics via iTunes Connect.
“1 in 10 searches generates an App pack result”
The outcome of an app-specific search is for Google to return an “App pack”.
This is usually a short number of apps related to the SEO keyword. A “featured snippet” can also appear within a search related App pack.
It’s also a frequent result from an app search. A featured snippet includes a summary of the answer plus a link, title and URL.
Every one in ten mobile searches generates an app pack result, according to Searchmetrics marketing consultancy.
Branded versus unbranded apps
In 2017, a study by TUNE of the 500 top app store keywords found that 9 out of 10 top keywords (86 per cent) refer to “brands”.
This means that users simply search app stores for brands they are already aware of or hear about elsewhere.
The top 100 “non-branded” keywords were mostly focused on games or simple utility apps. Common keywords included, games, free games, photo editor, music, calculator, weather, VPN.
The “few exceptions” were mostly very basic, non-branded keywords.
It’s a further reason why a new app needs to be fully SEO optimised if it’s to stand any chance of being found and installed by intended target users.