One of the biggest challenges for indie developers is getting their apps and games into the hands of customers. It is truly a David and Goliath scenario where every month the little guys goes toe-to-toe with the giant gaming studios. These mammoth companies like Activision, EA, Bethesda, and more, pump millions of dollars into advertising to get their games to the top of the charts of the app stores.
Keywords are a word or phrase that people use to search for an app or game they are looking for when on the app store. The idea is that you want to find keywords that have lots of searches but little competition so that when people do their search, your app or game pops up! Sounds easy right? But it’s not. Especially when you have no idea what people are searching for.
You see, both Apple and Google’s app store databases, search traffic, and trends are top secret stuff and are closed to the public. If you knew what they knew, you could easily find the gold nuggets, target those keywords and “BAM!” your app would be found.
So how do you found out this kind of ASO information?
ASO or App Store Optimization is the process of choosing app titles, keywords, and descriptions that will rank your app in the various databases for Apple and/or Google. To help developers find out the best ways to optimize their apps, developers turn to services like AppCodes.com, SensorTower, SearchMan, Straply, and others.
These companies each try their best to guess what the current search traffic and keywords are, as well as what the competition is for each keyword and how every app ranks on the app store. I say they guess, but maybe a better word would be hypothesize or even an educated guess. You see they don’t know for sure what the hot keywords are for any given app or what the search traffic is like for an given phrase, unless a developer tells them what their keywords and traffic are.
Each company uses a different technology to help them with their analysis and for the most part all of them are really good at what they do. Usually each company requires access to your app portal, your keywords, traffic and description. The deal is they will give you insight to other apps traffic data and keywords anonymously if you let them share your data. Couple that with every companies own special sauce and they can do a good job of figuring out how the app store search engines work. Each company provides a slightly different insight with slightly different results from their services to help app developers… and at different prices.
Straply is most notably the newest kid on the block and is technically still in beta. Their information is not as robust as the biggest player like Searchman or SensorTower as far as the amount of information they provide, but right now, as of the this writing, they provide some pretty good data and are still free! The biggest drawback to using Straply is that it doesn’t return really low search results. If your app is not getting much traffic at all, Straply might not even find it. But what Straply will do is provide you a great resource for finding some great keywords that you may not have thought of. There interface is very simple, enter a competitor of your app and you may find some nice little keyword nuggets to help you with your own ASO for your app.
App Annie is another new player in the ASO game. App Annie has been around for a while and provides an amazing amount of app market data but they have recently started to venture into the ASO world providing app developers some tools and insights to help them rank their apps better (or so they say). App Annie’s FREE service provides things like number of downloads, revenue, ranking and reviews. They advertise they also help with keywords, app titles, descriptions and other ASO services, but I have yet to find this area of their website. I’m not sure if it’s just me or if its buried in some obscure part of their website hoping you will opt into one of their more expensive services. So for me this doesn’t quite have the value I would like to see.
Searchman is an excellent service especially if you are targeting the Android market. Searchman does a great job analyzing your apps descriptions and keywords to give you a really good picture of how well your app will rank on the Google play store. They also provide keyword suggestions for both the app store and for Facebook. This is really helpful if you are target those markets. They are also a great resource for keyword data for Apple’s app store too. The only drawback I have is that Searchman can get a bit pricey depending on how you manage the service. They currently charge $25 per app per month. Which is fine if you only have one app… but if you have 4 or more apps this can really add up and makes this the most expensive service in our lineup.
Here’s a thrifty tip: Since Searchman lets you upgrade and downgrade any app at will, my suggestion is to just pay for a single app. This way you can focus on one app to really fine tune the ASO. Then when you’ve got your meta data where you want it, down grade and move on to another of your apps.
Searchman is a fantastic tool and one that you should seriously think about adding to your ASO services toolbox.
Appcodes.com is another great tool but it not as well laid out as many of the other services, and for some may take sometime to get used to. Appcodes.com has the best prices of all of the other providers, only $14.95/month, but again it may not present the data in a way to make it easily understood. If you can get over this and understand how to use their service, Appcodes can provide some great insight to all of your ASO needs.
Finally there is SensorTower. SensorTower is must have tool in your ASO toolbox. SensorTower provides a nice array of tools to help you with just about all of your ASO needs. Keyword rankings, keyword optimization, keyword competition, keyword spying, keyword suggestions, keyword translations for localization in other languages, category rankings, competitors tracking and a lot more. With all of these tools you might think whats the catch. Well depending on what your need are, they might not be the cheapest out of the group. At $79/month you get to track and optimize 5 apps. This is the lowest pricing model they have and will work for most all of your needs. Compared to some of the other services this isn’t too bad. But many indie developers who are struggling to get by may have a hard time swallowing even $79/mo. But having access to this data can make or break whether you app makes an money at all… so with this in mind it is TOTALLY worth it!
To help give you a good idea of their services they even provide a 14 day free trial to help you get started.
Thrifty tip: To get started, sign up for a free 14 day trial, and for two weeks optimize as many apps as you can, even optimize some of them twice if need be over the span of two weeks. The idea is that after two weeks you should be able to get one or more apps to start bringing in some money which will pay for the service!
If you can only afford one service out of the entire list of ASO services companies I would suggest SensorTower. They provide the best tools for optimizing your keyword meta data, keyword discovery, competitor keyword discovery and localization. They also have an amazing blog with some of the best tips available for app developers.
If you are targeting more apps on the Google play store or can’t afford the $79/mo fee, then the second runner up would be Searchman for their great insight into descriptions and ranking on the Google play store. You would just have to settle for optimizing one app at a time.
So what are your thoughts? Who do you like best? Did I miss anything with each of these services? Are there any aspects of these services that you find helpful? Leave a comment below and share your experiences with ASO services.