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Bost digital circulation with App Store Optimization (ASO)

Luca Filigheddu

App store optimization magazine apps

Circulation is the cornerstone of publishing but digital, and especially mobile, has transformed how people buy and read magazines. Gone are the days of newsstand only revenues as we now look to acquire users across multiple devices and nurturing them towards a purchase or subscription via mobile apps and the web. As more magazine publishers develop apps to reach a growing mobile audience, user acquisition – increasing traffic to the app store and driving downloads – has become a hot topic.

While much of the debate on app user acquisition has focused on running install campaigns, looking only at paid is ignoring a major source of highly qualified traffic: organic search. In fact, according to data from TUNE47% of app users find apps through the App Store’s search engine, while 53% of Android users do the same on Google Play.

Magazine publishers can improve organic user acquisition – and thus digital circulation revenues – by adopting some basic App Store Optimization (ASO) strategies that boost app store ranking and visitor conversion rates. But what is ASO? And how exactly can it help magazine publishers get more app installs?

What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?

Much like search engine optimization (SEO) for websites, ASO works to increase improve app’s visibility by increasing ranking in search results and appearing in top charts. Increasing your magazine app’s ranking is important as it will drive more downloads. The tactics publishers can use to optimize their app store listing are generally grouped into two categories 1) keyword optimization and 2) conversion rate optimization.

ASO Magazine App Ranking

Keyword Optimization

Keyword optimization involves finding the right keywords to drive qualified traffic to your app preview, monitoring their impact on your traffic, and benchmarking your ranking against competitors. Keywords can be included in the keyword field, as well as your app name and description to help the search engine rank your app. Luckily for publishers, there are a host of free/paid tools to get started on keyword research and monitoring, including AppTweak, Sensor Tower and MobileDevHQ.

To get started with keyword selection, compile a list of keywords by relevance and competitiveness with tools like Google Keyword Planner tool, Keyword.io, SensorTower, Ubersuggest or WordTracker. You should also check the suggested search results in the app stores to see what people are actually searching for when looking for your brand or magazine category.

Keep in mind that you have 100 characters for keyword selection so be sure to use them all by using the singular form of words and focusing only on the keywords you can truly can rank for. Also, even if it’s tempting, avoid using the names of competitors or trademarks as keywords – Apple frowns on any “black hat” tricks. And finally, if your app is in different markets, be sure to localize your keywords for each store.

Converting traffic to downloads

Your keywords have helped you move up the ranks and you’re app is showing up in search results, but how can you optimize your listing to get more downloads? Conversion rate optimization is all about ensuring that your preview inspired people to download your app. So what elements of your app preview influence conversion?

App Description

When people arrive to your app store profile, give them your best app pitch in the first couple of lines of your app description. Focus on your unique selling proposition (USP). For example, explain to your potential users what content they can expect or what exclusive benefits they can enjoy by buying your digital replica.

ASO Magazine App Description Keywords

Besides capturing people’s attention and making them want to download your app you will also want to include some of the keywords you selected (as mentioned above). While keywords in the app description don’t seem to influence Apple App Store results (app name and keywords count the most), for Google Play the first couple of lines (167 characters) of your description is vital for keyword optimization, both on the store and web search.

Lastly, the updates section of your description is where you can highlight your most recent improvements, but don’t be afraid to add an additional call-to-action – after all, after reading all the great things your app has to offer, users will be even more receptive to being told to download your app!

App Icon

Your app icon is the first visual people will see when searching for your app. Your app icon should be well-designed and reflect your brand. Overly complex designed should be avoided since they do not render well on small devices, not to mention once the app sits inside a folder.

Simplicity works! (Source: TheNextWeb) Simplicity works! (Source: TheNextWeb)


Your screenshots should portray realistic usage of your app while highlighting the most important features or exclusive content in your digital edition. Many magazine publishers will update their first screenshot to the cover of the latest issue, which is a great strategy to show users that they can purchase the newest issue.

ASO Magazine App Screenshot

With Apple, you can upload up to 5 screenshots, with the first screenshot appearing in search results (if no app preview video is available). Google on the other hard allows you to upload up to 8 screenshots. Regardless, if your app is for various markets, you’ll also want to localize your screenshots (if required) to ensure best results.

App Previews

App previews are videos that showcase you app in action. Much like screenshots, your app preview should focus on your app’s unique selling proposition. Your app preview will be used across all stores in various markets, so unfortunately localization is not possible. For this reason, it’s important to focus in on key features, keep it simple, and avoid using voice-overs (unless truly 100% necessary). For a great tutorial on DIY app previews, check out this blog post from Tapdaq.

Reviews and Ratings

Having a highly rated app will help you rise in rankings and stand out from your competitors, but the opinions expressed in ratings & reviews also plays an important role in converting app store visitors.  Positive reviews act as social proof, motivating users to take a chance on your magazine app. However, if you don’t have any ratings or reviews – or worse if you only have negative reviews – visitors will be unlikely to download your app.

Asking loyal readers for reviews is key to your success on the app stores. Target your subscribers via email, push notifications or in-app messaging, and ask them to provide an honest review. Also, don’t be afraid of a few negative reviews. Honest feedback can be a great learning opportunity and, if you’re on Google Play, you can actually reply to feedback, showing that you’re proactive about solving user problems!

More downloads = higher ranking = more downloads…

And just like that, your conversion optimization strategies have paid off and you’re acquiring more users, which means your app will also rise in the rankings thanks to increased popularity. But the thing about ASO is that it needs continual upkeep, so be sure to check in on those keywords, monitor you competitors and look at your reviews for evolving insights that will help you drive more downloads.

Do you have any other #ASO tips or tricks? Share them in the comments below.

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