If you have an app that you'd like to rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs), it's important that you understand the relevant ranking factors. Otherwise, you're just wasting your time.
In this article, we'll go over the importance of app optimization and explain how you can make sure that your app appears in the SERPs.
Why You Need to Optimize
It's important to optimize your app for the various search engines because a recent report shows that 27% of users find apps with a web search. That's up from just 2-3% in 2014.
Expect that upward trend to continue.
Also, keep in mind that Google is putting on emphasis on app downloads from search results and downplaying Google Play. Even though, at this point in time, 40% of people still find apps by searching in an app store, it's still important to optimize your app for the stragglers who use Google web search for everything.
Finally, keep in mind that Google has gotten better at ranking apps over the past couple of years. That's good news for search engine optimizers who want to use Google's search algorithm to push their apps higher in the SERPs.
The App Pack
Of course, when people talk about "apps," they're talking about mobile apps. That's a reality not lost on Google.
As a result, Google now features an app pack at the top of mobile search results. If you open a browser on your mobile device right now and search for "photo editor," you should see the app pack at the very top of the search results.
The app pack can include one, three, or six apps. If there are more than six apps that match the search criteria, the search results will display an arrow at the bottom of the pack so that users can view more apps.
Each app in the pack not only displays the app title, but also its rating and its price. If a user clicks on the app square, the underlying operating system will open the app in the app store.
Keep in mind that app pack results are specific to the operating system. That means only apps that work on the user's mobile platform will be displayed.
How the App Pack Impacts Your Brand
If you optimize your app so that it appears in the app pack, you could adversely affect your brand presence in the SERPs. That's because for every app that appears in the pack, one web ranking is pushed off the page.
So if your website is ranking at the #1 spot right now for a specific keyword and you optimize your app for that same keyword so that it appears in the app pack, your site will be pushed down lower in the SERPs. That's something you want to keep in mind as you begin your optimization efforts.
Mistake #1: Not Using the Right Keywords
One of the first steps to any optimization effort is to determine the right keywords. App optimization is no different.
When people search for an app, they're usually searching based on a descriptive noun. For example, "travel planner" or "photo editor" are phrases that describe apps frequently search for.
So when you begin your optimization efforts, think about what your app does and come up with a few words or phrases that people might use when searching for it.
Mistake #2: Not Optimizing the Title and Description
Google treats the title of an app similar to how it treats a title tag on a web page. Google also treats app descriptions as on-page text on a web page.
That's why it's a great idea to include the aforementioned keywords in your title and description. You'll have to do that when you submit your app to the OS-specific app store.
Of course, you'll likely want your title to be branded. But if there's enough room for a keyword in the title (for example, "PhotoBomb - A Photo Editor") then include it as well.
Finally, keep in mind that standard rules about keyword usage apply here. Avoid over-stuffing keywords into your description just to rank higher. That strategy will likely backfire.
Mistake #3: Ignoring Reviews
Reviews of your app matter for two reasons.
First, Google might rank your app based on keywords from user reviews on the app page. As with traditional SEO efforts, keywords towards the top of the page are given the most weight.
Also, the star rating of your app will have an impact on its rank as well. It's possible that an app with the keyword that's only in the description might outrank an app with the keyword in the title because it has a higher star rating.
Of course, the star rating might also impact the click-through rate. If your app has only a couple of stars, don't expect too many people to click on it.
Mistake #4: Ignoring App-Specific Keywords
One of the best ways to move ahead of your competition when it comes to ranking your app is to optimize for app-specific words.
For example, use the word "app" in your title or description. While it's not likely that anyone searching for an app in the app store will include that word in the search query, people who are using Google to search for an app are very likely to do so.
Also, include the operating system of the app in the title or description. Again, people searching on Google Play for an app probably won't include the word "Android" in their query, but folks who are using Google search could do so.
Wrapping It Up Application SEO
Moving your app to the top of the SERPs is no different than moving your website to the top of the SERPs in this way: it requires acting on the right information.
Today we just touched on the most basic mistakes. There is a lot to know about this topic and many advanced strategies that you can pursue.