Matthew Balch – On Mobile – How to drive organic installs using App store optimisation techniques

Matthew Balch

If you’re a marketing person, or an operator with an iOS application swimming away in Apple’s app store, the chances are that you’ve allocated time, resources and budget to improving your app’s rank in the ‘Free Sports’ category.

For some operators out there, the answer to boosting app store visibility is Hollywood or sporting celebrities jumping onto would-be customers’ TV screens at halftime.  Or for those of you with slightly shallower pockets, the answer has probably been media placements such as incentivised install marketing.  While both are solid marketing practices that deliver the volume of organic acquisitions, neither should be executed at the expense of a sound App Store Optimisation (ASO) strategy.

With Apple’s iOS store ranking algorithm and the value it places of certain ‘tactics’ changing more often than a Football League club changes its manager, its best to keep abreast of ALL the factors that can contribute towards organic install conversions and improved ASO.

In this article, I’m going to focus on 3 key elements of App Store Optimisation and offer a series of tips that will enable you to reduce your eCPA by converting app store browsers more efficiently.   Oh, and did I mention these techniques are free?

Keywords:   Currently, Apple offers three methods to allow developers the chance to be recognized for keywords.  They are – app title, developer (brand) name and keyword field (of which there is a 100 character limit).   The most important of these is the app’s name title.  In recent years, brands in the know regularly placed keywords in their app’s title knowing that a) keywords within the apps’ title have greater weighting than those placed in the keyword field (apps with keywords in the title rank on average 10.3% higher than those without a keyword in the title*) and b) they did not count towards their key word field’s 100 character allocation.

Below is an example of Sky Bet’s app title in August 2016

 ‘Sky Bet – In-Play Sports Betting & latest odds on Football, Euro 2016, Tennis and Horse Racing Results.’

While Skybet’s title looked canny, the reality was (as anyone who has visited the app store will tell you) that all characters after 50 were truncated.  So while Skybet’s title contained several ‘bonus’ keywords that it would have ranked for outside of their strict 100 character allocation, the user only ever saw ‘Sky Bet – In-Play Sports Betting & latest odds.’  To fix this anomaly, in September Apple changed their rules and reduced the title character length for any newly submitted app to a maximum 50 characters.  So where once developers were able to stuff keywords into their title with impunity, their challenge now is to be succinct and as stealth-like as possible.

The second area of importance concerning keywords centers upon Apple’s allowance for developers to enter 100 characters of named keywords in their iTunes Connect account.  This is the developer’s way of saying to Apple ‘these words are important for my app, and we want to rank for them’.   However, in order to arrive at which keywords are best for your app, developers should ask themselves;

  1. Which keywords are my app already being ranked for? Is it worth ‘boosting’ my app’s ranking for that keyword by naming it with Apple as part of my 100 character allocation?
  2. How strong is the search volume vs. competition for each word? This is known as keyword efficiency, and there are several tools in the market which allow developers to track each word’s score
  3. Which words are likely to be most searched for in the app store in the coming 1-2 months that are most relevant to my app? For example, a bookmaker looking to update their UK app’s keywords in February is highly likely to submit words like ‘cheltenham, gold cup, champions, league, grand national, premier, football, acca, free, bets , results, racing’

Top Tips:

  • Ensure the app’s title is relevant to the app’s purpose
  • Use words your app can rank for in the top 40 that have a lower search volume over words with a higher level of competition and higher volumes that you are likely to rank lower for
  • Include the app’s strongest keywords in the title. g. [Brand name}: Best Odds, In Play and Acca Betting
  • Use your full 100 character ‘named’ keywords allowance within iTunes Connect
  • Don’t repeat words from your app name, developer name (e.g. Ladbrokes), or app category (e.g. sports) within your ‘named’ keyword allowance, as it’s a waste of your character allocation
  • Make sure your app words can be combined with each other – e.g. Premier,Football,Champions,League
  • Plural and singular words are seen as two different words, so its better to use singular versions
  • Always localise words for each territory (they may not use the word ‘Acca’ in Spain)

App Store Description:   Whilst its a common misconception that duplicated use of keywords within the app’s description boosts rank for keywords, the reality is that only those placed in the two areas mentioned above have any impact within Apple’s algorithm.  Having said this, Google does index app descriptions and there is certainly value in sprinkling high-value keywords within the app’s descriptive text to gain interest from app store browsers and would-be downloaders.  For betting operators, there are a number of simple techniques to enhance conversion using this all important real estate.

  1. Aim to describe your app’s best features within the first 255 characters (3 lines), as this area represents the first landing page within the app store beyond the initial search page. It is also advisable to include a bonus ‘call to action’ here, rather than forcing the user to make a subsequent tap read through the extended description page
  2. Use bullet points or short paragraphs. It’s likely that the user is ‘scanning’ the text looking for reassurances in the form of key words or phrases describing features that match their needs, so make each sentence succinct and easy to read at a glance. 
  3. Ensure that bonuses are highlighted. A good way of doing this is to write them in CAPITALS towards the top of the description.  Again, do not take for granted that the user has the time or desire to read your app’s entire description, so it is vital to make your key selling points stand out
  4. Change your description at least every 4-6 weeks with updated information relating to key upcoming events, features or promotions. Like sporting events themselves, consumer motivation changes frequently, so a good way of doing this is to include upcoming sporting events that are likely to dominate betting markets.  Good examples are racing carnivals or major tournaments.

Screenshots:  Currently, Apple offers developers the opportunity to insert up to 5 ‘still’ screenshot images plus a video with a submission.  These images become the app’s visual reference for users who are still in the download consideration phase.  In fact, release a new real money gambling app today, and the chances are that developers will be asked to supply a short video displaying the app’s interface and user journey with their submission for testers to view.   What some once viewed as a chore to satisfy Apple’s draconian testing procedure, others now see as an opportunity, with many app developers now seeing 15-30 second preview videos within the app store as a highly effective method to display the app’s key features, distribute broadcast commercials or even viral videos.  This tactic has quickly become a shot in the arm for boosting click to install conversion rates and subsequent organic install volumes.

Like the video, ‘still’ screenshots also play an important role in boosting an app’s ASO.  Design them well, and your earned install rates will surge.  Design them poorly, and the only installs you will glean will be from existing loyal users.  Here are my Top Tips to designing the ultimate preview screens;

  • Avoid using screenshots taken directly from the app, as their size is reduced by up to 50% rendering any text illegible when displayed in the app store. Rather, design a treatment to expand a specific feature that may be displayed clearly to the user.
  • Each screen (5) should display a feature of the app, labeled with a headline which acts as a beneficial selling point
  • Focus on your first 2 screens, as these are the ones displayed in the search results page. If you intend to use a video, this will act as the first screen, so use your first ‘still’ screen should re-affirm your welcome bonus offer.
  • Always use high res original images within your designs

In truth, no developer ever nails their ASO the first time, so treat it as an ongoing exercise with analysis every 6-8 weeks, regular testing of different keywords, design tweaks and practice….So best of luck!


Matthew Balch is a gaming and gambling media specialist, having worked in the sector for media owners and agencies since 2002.   He now runs his own consultancy business, specialising in ASO and mobile acquisition media for a range of gambling and mCommerce businesses.  


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