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The secrets of App Store Optimization - Part 1

With over 2,500 new apps released every day and a total of 6.5 million apps now available across the 5 major App Stores, app discovery has never been harder. That's why ASO, or App Store Optimization, has a key role to play in the success of every app.

In today’s highly competitive app marketplace, great app development alone is no longer enough to drive a return on investment. Marketing is crucial to ensure user acquisition, retention and ultimately app monetization. For travel brands, mobile marketing is the closest you can get to your customer. Therefore adopting a robust mobile app marketing strategy is a crucial to success.

The starting point for travel brands in app marketing is ASO.

What is ASO?
App Store Optimisation (ASO) is the ongoing process of optimizing and improving the visibility of an app within an app store to increase its discovery and ranking with the ultimate goal to drive more downloads. The higher your app ranks in the App Store, the more chance it has of being found.

App Store Optimisation Travel ASO.jpg 

ASO is extremely important if you want to succeed in an app store as it is unlikely you will be found unless you do some sort of optimization. Yes, there are various ways in which users can find an app such as media or word of mouth but app search is by far the most popular way in which an app can be discovered and downloaded. In fact Google state that 1 in 4 app users discover an app through search.

For many years we have heard about SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation - optimizing websites to improve search engine rankings (mainly Google) to attract more users. However, as we move towards a more mobile world we are seeing ASO now sitting alongside SEO with desktop and mobile developing a symbiotic relationship and becoming as important as the other.

How do travel brands go about ASO?
For the simple reasons of volume and usage brands should focus on the two key app stores - Android’s Google Play and Apple’s App Store, with each having slight nuances when it comes to ASO, which we’ll go into in more detail shortly.

ASO is broken down into a number of areas:

  • App title | Description | Category | App Icon 
  • Localization | Keywords | Screenshots | Video

ASO broken down.jpg

With so many areas to delve into in this blog we will look into title, description, category and icons in more detail, with the final four areas being covered off in the second part of this blog, ASO: Part 2.

This is the name of the app that will appear in each of the app stores. It is important to keep it simple, use your brand name (where possible, especially if you are a well known brand) and do your research. Travel brands should research competitors, keyword traffic (use your own analytics to find out how people are searching for your brand on Google), your market, current users/customers of the brand as well as doing research with your own staff, as they know the brand the best.

In terms of the length of your title the App Store allows a maximum of 50 characters (but 23 is the optimum) and Google Play allows up to 30 characters.

Finally ensure you test the title on all devices, if it is lengthy you don’t want to encounter ellipsis (where you get a series of dots (ie …..) and the full name won’t be visible as it is too long.

The app description should be clear and demonstrate why someone should download your app alongside its functionality.  With only 2-5% of users expanding the description the first line is key. Ensure you make the description scannable, list out the features clearly and make sure to offer value with each point. It is also important to keep the description up to date so that when the app has new features they are added to the description.

Research keyword traffic.jpg

If the app is available in multiple languages make sure to localise the description for key markets. Each local app store team is constantly looking for the best apps from their local users, so they are more likely to choose ones with keywords, descriptions and screenshots in their native language.

The description in the Apple App Store has a 4,000 character limit, however the descriptions aren’t used in the search algorithm, the keywords are. There is a dedicated keyword section in iTunes Connect when you submit an app with a 100 character limit.

The Google Play description also has a 4,000 character count but the description here is crucial for search as the keywords are indexed.

The category refers to where you want your app to be listed within the App Store and is how the target users will search for an app. It should be where you believe the app fits naturally. For travel brands the category should be relatively simple, stick to the travel category. However make sure to do research on where competitors or similar apps are categorizing themselves.

The App Store offers a primary and secondary category but travel brands should stick to the primary category as that is where people will search naturally.

Google Play has one category choice only but there is more choice with 33 categories available.

The app icon will appear in the App Store alongside the app title. As the icon is so small it’s important to keep it simple, scalable, recognisable and stand out. Be sure to check out what your competition is doing also.

Alternative icons without updating the app.jpg

Once you have mastered the first four areas of ASO we'll be back with part 2 of this series where we will delve into more detail on the remaining four areas of ASO - localization, keywords, screenshots and video.

If you want to find out more about mobile marketing don’t forget to download the full  ‘Ultimate Guide to Travel App Marketing’  where we share our learnings in how we have helped drive 32 million app downloads for airlines, agencies and travel brands across the globe.


Aisling White - Head of Marketing

Aisling has over 16 years’ experience in marketing, brand, and PR. Prior to joining Travelport Digital, Aisling worked at Hostelworld.com and Sage Software. At Travelport Digital Aisling manages the marketing strategy, content, communications, and digital platforms, to drive customer engagement.

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