App Store Optimization: How We Increased Downloads By 700 Per Cent

Gaston Irigoyen is CEO & Co-Founder of Guidecentral, a global community of makers and DIY fans who share projects on their favorite topics including handmade crafts, homemade recipes, home decor, beauty tips and more. Gaston spoke at the at App Promotion Summit in Berlin on the subject of “Appstore Optimization: How We Increased Downloads By 700%”.  What was really cool was that Gaston attended the first App Promotion Summit in London and used what he learned on his own app.  As a result, they were able to have a real impact on downloads and user growth – in fact, Gaston notes int he talk that the increase in downloads was actually more than 700%.  It’s great to hear that our little event has had such a big impact and it’s great that Gaston was willing to come back and share what he learned with other publishers and developers.  Gaston’s talk was really well received and got fantastic feedback.  It included the following topics:

  • Using Keyword Tools To Identify App Store Opportunities
  •  Tackling Meta Data – Keywords, Descriptions, Categories
  •  Driving Conversion Using Screenshots

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‘Case study: App Store Optimization’ – Gaston Irigoyen at App Promotion Summit Berlin from App Promotion Summit Conference
How We Increased Downloads By 700% Transcript
So yeah, my name is Gaston. I am the Founder and CEO of Guidecentral and we’ll go into what Guidecentral is in awhile. But let me tell you how I started with app store optimization without even knowing what app store optimization was, or even what I was doing back in the day.
So yes, James said I came in to Google back in 2006. I was one of the first five employees in the Latin-American operation of Buenos Ares. It was a really great experience because it was like a start-up within the most successful tech company out there. But the interesting thing is that I got to do a lot of different things within Google, from support to occult management to agency relations and many other things. All in all I spent the first two or three years of my career at Google looking at campaigns, helping customers sell more through ad words and stuff like that.
As you know Google’s main business is a keyword business, right? They sell keywords at the end of the funnel, but they sell keywords in the end. I had incorporated most of these concepts and I had access to a lot of tools and I knew many of the best practices to find the right keywords to optimize our ad words campaigns for our clients and make the most of their budgets.
Then in 2010 I moved over to Ireland, I transferred internally within Google. I met a Spanish guy who is now one of my best friends. In 2010 mobile wasn’t huge but we could hear some of the directors, MVPs at Google, start to talk a lot about mobile and how mobile was going to become the mainstream and how Google strategy would shift to mobile and so on and so fourth. Without being technical, we thought that maybe we should start getting our hands dirty with mobile.
So we started to do a mobile app for the 2010 Workup in South Africa. We brought in another person who is now my technical Co-Founder. We did a very simple app for the Workup, where you could see the teams and the matches and all that kind of thing. When we were ready to launch the app, this other person asked me to take care of the marketing of the app. We didn’t really have a budget, but sort of chose a key word, see icon and all that sort of thing. It was very obvious for me that I had to go back do and exactly the same that I used to do for every single one of my ad words customers.
I used a bunch of tools to come up with the best keywords, used Google Trans to understand what keywords were hot at the moment. Went in to shutter store to look for a very nice appealing icon and so on and so fourth. Long story short we launched the app one week before the Workup. Right when there’s a huge peak in traffic and where people are deciding what app they’re going to use throughout the Workup. Within two days were in the top five of all the Spanish speaking app stores globally. Not really in the sports category but across the entire app store.
One day before the Workup we actually sold that mobile application to Kia Motors, which was one of the main sponsors of the Workup. They wanted to have mobile presence and they didn’t at the time.
That’s kind of the story of how I started doing app store optimization. I really didn’t know I was doing app store optimization, it probably wasn’t even called app store optimization back then. It was mostly because I had all these concepts incorporated, and that’s what app store optimization is all about. Trying to understand how you can stand out of the crowd and maximize your organic downloads through good positioning in the app stores.
So why is app store optimization important? Obviously because of discover-ability. Roughly 60 percent of the people find their apps through searching the app stores. To finish up my story, after doing ad words I moved on to the YouTube team and I helped launch the YouTube partner here in Europe, which essentially consists of helping content creators make money on YouTube.
What’s the biggest problem out there in YouTube? Discover-ability. So once again, when you go on YouTube you can search. Most people search but its hard to pick up the very good content and sometimes there is very bad content coming up on top of the search results. I had to master discover-ability once again there with YouTube. That’s exactly what happens in the app store. There’s huge discover-ability issues and you have to crack discover-ability to do well.
Without further ado, I’ll tell you a little bit about our story. To tell you about our app store optimization story, I have to tell you a little bit about Guidecentral, who we are, what we do and why we had to pay attention to this.
We’re basically a Dublin-based start up. We’re six people. It’s a mobile and more specifically iPhone app. We aim to create a global community of makers. That’s people who share DIY, home improvement, home decorations, arts and crafts projects with other people and learn from each other. We’ve raised a little bit over 600k to date. We launched a year ago, we started working on this maybe 16, 17 months ago. Being an iOS app at the moment, even though that’s the first step, we obviously needed a good presence in the app store.
Most importantly, as usually happens, one of our main competitors is a Silicon Valley very well-funded start up with a lot of budget. We thought that since we didn’t have the budget to do the same things they can do we had to find alternative ways to compete against them in the app store. Essentially this is what we thought, effort is a the road available for the under dog. We may not be able to out-spend our competitors, but we can out-work them. That’s exactly the logic behind doing app store optimization.
Our results from March through November of this year we increased our organic downloads in the iOS app store by 15. Without disclosing numbers that would be going from 10 to 150, or from 100 to 1500. That’s only by applying app store optimization techniques. Here you can see the graph of how our downloads evolved during that period of time. As you can see we had two major breakthroughs. The first one, that’s the first one, doesn’t look very huge now but it was huge at that point in time. The second one is obviously the one towards the far end, which is something we discovered recently.
All in all it took us 17 updates to go through this entire process. Every single time we submit an update I see that as an opportunity to learn, to test, to make mistakes, and to really understand how this thing works. Throughout those 17 updates there were two big step changes. The first one, the one I showed before, were changes around the title of the app. The second one is around moving away from a U.S. centric approach to a more international approach and therefore having a better ranking in multiple countries.
Let’s finalize what we did with our app store presence. The app store presence is composed by all these things here. There’s actually many things that you have to pay attention to when doing app store optimization. Some of them are more important than others but we’ll cover all of these throughout the presentation. I’ll tell you which ones are more important and why, as well as some tools and best practices for every single one of them.
Let’s start with the icon. So the icon, I put “Hi There” the icon makes a big difference and is really important. There’s no way to effectively understand how much impact the icon have, but what we do know is the icon is the first impression that you give to users when they come across your app in the app store. First impressions are really important.
I think we all agree that Angelina is a really attractive person, but she doesn’t look the same in this picture than this picture, right? There’s a big difference. The same applies to the app stores and the icons in particular.
This is part of our history and our evolution. When we started we had this very ugly blue logo icon, which as you see isn’t great. The new one does a much, much better job. We always knew this was a bad icon, but we didn’t want to spend a lot of time and resources around design when we still had a lot of things to prove around the app functionality and what users really wanted.
So we thought, “Okay, let’s start with something basic. We know it’s not really good enough, but once we crack what the app is all about and what sort of things we should be building within the app, then we’ll go through a real design process and improve it.” And that’s what we did.
We went from this icon to this other icon, but there was a lot of science and thought around the process. We gathered a lot of user feedback. We didn’t do it ourselves, we worked with a professional agency that knows how to develop brand identities. What we had in mind was whatever the brand identity was, it had to have an impact in the app store.
So we did CTR tests. With the icon what you’re looking for is the highest possible CTR. CTR being click through rate.  When you are out there and there’s say 20 or 30 apps or icons in a page, those with the highest CTR are the ones that get more clicks and therefore potentially more downloads. So you have to optimize for CTR. You can do things such as running small test campaigns where you show different icons to different people and see which ones perform better. All these things are part of the icon creation process.
We also took into consideration the iOS 7 guidelines. We did this a few months before iOS 7 was launched but we knew some things around iOS. For instance, not sure if you can see there but the icon goes from a pink to a purple and that’s very similar to the official app store and iTunes icons within the app store. So for instance, for social media we only use pink, but for the app store ecosystem we use this gradient from pink to purple because it fits better with iOS 7. While we’re still not sure some of the official data suggests that just by changing the icon we’re getting between 10 and 20 percent more downloads.
At the end of the day as I said, it’s all about standing out from the crowd. From this creation here you could easily delete some of these apps that their icons don’t do a great job in terms of calling your attention, and hopefully a few others do a better job. It’s about causing a very good first impression and getting people to click your icon instead of other ones.
My suggestion here would be users are your best designer. Leave egos aside. If you are the CEO whatever you think might not be right. Even your designer might not be right. Do the tests and let users guide you in terms of what the icon should look like.
Let’s move on to the name. The name also has a very high impact in terms of app store rankings. This dinosaur here actually shows the theory of the long tail. I’m sure you’re all well-aware of the theory of the long tail. Theory of the long tail says that people usually search for a limited amount of words that are rather generic, and those drive a lot of traffic. Then more specific keywords drive less traffic but tend to convert a lot better.
This is what we did with our title. As opposed to simply have Guidecentral, we added a short description of what the app does or what you can find in the app. We added that phrase there “deal with projects, craft tutorials and how-to ideas”. All those words would be within the head of the dinosaur, right? Those are generic keywords that have a lot of traffic.
The strategy we’re following here is adding those generic keywords to the title of or the name of the app. This has been working very, very well, this is the reason why we had that first step change in downloads. In recent updates some other players out there also discovered that those words made sense. So you can see there other players have been following in terms of what to put there in the title. My recommendation there would be, do your homework before other people do it.
Here you can see the evolution of our rankings for the word “how-to” which was one of the ones in the app title. All those spikes there are tests that we did adding and removing the words from the title. As soon as we removed the word from the title we went down in the rankings dramatically, and the opposite works as well. Now we’ve had that word in the title since August and as you can see its been improving, and apparently we’re the number one app for how-to at the moment. My recommendation for the name is follow the dinosaur and more specifically focus on high-volume key words as the first part of the long tail theory.
Okay, keywords. Keywords, some people may argue they are real important. They are certainly less important than the ones you put in the title, so I put them as medium. What you should know about keywords is you have 100 characters. You should use all 100 characters leaving no spaces, using only commas in between to save some space, and avoid duplication. By this I mean don’t use the same keywords in your keywords as in the title. The app store looks at all of them so it’s a good chance to increase the number of keywords that you use.
I use this tool, SensorTower, it’s a really good tool to do your homework around keywords. What you can see there is some of the terms that we use. They can tell you what the traffic is, what the iPhone default is, how many apps are out there, and what’s your current ranking. So I keep a spreadsheet where I do these sort of analysis all the time. Throughout my 17 updates I’ve been using this spreadsheet to understand what to do. You can pull the difference between traffic and competition and you can sort and look for the biggest gaps, right?
Usually the biggest gaps means opportunity, but you can also sort them by ranking, how are you ranking for those specific keywords. You can play around with all these things. I usually prefer to use ranking because I always want to see my app within the first ones. Even though other keywords might give me bigger gaps, I’d rather be in the top of the results. That’s the scenario that I’m looking for.
The combination here is do your homework, use tools like SensorTower. It will take you some time to really understand which ones work and which ones don’t, but there are tools out there to help you throughout the process.
The description of the app is not so important, at least for us. The key thing there is to show value. You have to explain to users very quickly what your app does and why it is unique. My suggestion there would be to use the first three lines wisely, and include a call to action.
Our description there, as you can see the first three lines are critical because there is more on the bottom there. So unless users expand it, they won’t read it. So the first three lines there are critical and you always include a call to action at the very end. Call to actions are important and they drive behavior.
When you hit “more” now we have an additional phrase there “for a better experience please register through Facebook or Twitter”, optional and “accept push notifications”, optional. So, here’s another call to action. I want users to download the app but also to register to accept push notifications so I can engage with them moving forward.
We’ve had descriptions that were a lot longer, would include all the blogs that we were featured on. We would include a list of features and so on and so fourth. I have no significant evidence that those descriptions work better than this one, so I’d rather keep it sweet and simple with clear call to actions. But test your unique selling points and explain very briefly why you are different.
Screen shots. Screen shots, I put them down as medium. Some people will say they are very, very important. From our experience they make a difference but not huge. I don’t really know whether it’s better to use real screen shots or curated screen shots. We have had both and I have mixed feelings, but the trend right now is towards curated screen shots. If you look at games most of them will have curated screen shots, if you look at social networking apps, Facebook, Twitter, Path, they tend to have real screen shots. So you have to understand your space and understand what’s better for you.
Either way if you use curated screen shots, explain what your app does. Even if they’re not curated use the screens that explain what your app does. Use all five screen shots. Apparently now there’s been one app who’s already using videos. Seems to be a test by Apple, but I can see that potentially being rolled out to more people. Showcase your best views or your best content and include a clear call to action.
These are our first three screen shots. We are using curated screen shots in this case. Just so that you understand the level of detail that we put into this, every picture there has been put there for a reason. These are not real views from the apps. But for instance that view there with all the cupcakes, the cupcakes have been put there because they are very, very effective. I put the cupcakes in a specific order because I know how popular every single cupcake has been in the last few months. That’s the level of detail that I look into when I do these kinds of things.
Those are the last two, and as you can see the last one has a clear call to action. So if you think in terms of how the people browse the app store, I want them to see the last screen shot and the next thing they do is download the app. That’s why we included that call to action there. Your screen shots should actually deliver your elevator pitch, OK?
Reviews. Reviews are very, very important. They are becoming more and more important. There’s a lot of versions saying all app stores are actually gearing towards reviews a lot more. The social recognition, communicative feedback, and so on is becoming more and more important so embrace reviews, even if they are negative. Now, if they are negative there are tools that you can use to filter them but they are still good because you can learn a lot and you can react to those reviews. I ask for everyone, please don’t be evil.
Those are our reviews there. Out of the five one-star reviews, three of them are from our competitors. It’s simply unacceptable and unbelievable. We are all putting a lot of hard work into this so there’s no point in giving other people a one-star review if they don’t deserve it. I’ve wrote five stars to some of our competitors who have done an outstanding job. So please only use a one-start review if it’s really a one-star application.
Apptentive is a really good tool for filtering negative reviews. What they do is essentially they ask you if you love the app or not. If you love the app, you can rate the app. If you don’t love the app then you can send an e-mail with feedback. So you make sure you filter out all the people who aren’t 100 percent happy with your app.
Appurify put together a nice blog post or a white paper with significant evidence of to why better ratings mean more momentum and also how ratings can affect rankings. So you can go search for that Appurify study and have a read because it’s really interesting. The key take away here is, let others do the talking, embrace reviews, and let the community work to your advantage.
A few other factors that I consider are low-priority but still important is the frequency with which you update your apps. You now have to take into consideration that with iOS 7 there is auto updating, so you can fix bugs and all those kinds of things easily. At the same times you’re starting to pay attention to the ratings for the most recent version of the app. So at the same time don’t push too many updates because then you won’t have enough time to a lot of positive reviews and that has an impact.
Developer name is also taken into consideration as a keyword. Bear in mind the iOS compatibility. If you only develop for iOS 7 then people with iOS 6 wont be able to download the app and therefore you will lose out, which has an impact in the rankings as well. Try to keep your binary file below 100 megabytes, which is the maximum allowed for 3G. Pick your app store category well.
Here’s an interesting chart there with the numbers that you need to hit the top of the app stores for different categories. So if your app could fit in two or three different categories, look at these numbers and look which categories has the least amount of competition because that means with the least number of downloads you can make it higher up the charts. So pay attention to detail.
Finally, it’s great to maximize downloads, but that’s not the end goal. Apps are all about engagement. So build a great app and everything else will follow, okay? Downloads are only the first part and there will be a lot of talks about engagement later today.
Here is a clear example; we launched the new version of the app maybe 20 days ago with a new logo and a huge redesign. Even though we’ve been growing consistently and steadily throughout the year, this new version of the app, it’s a much, much better app, is driving a lot more engagement. You see how the trend there is going up. So the most important thing is to build a great app and everything else will follow.
If you like this presentation, please scan this code, download the app, and give us a five-star review. That’s the way you can pay me back. Thank you.
Thanks to Gaston for doing such an interesting talk.  You can find out more about App Promotion Summit here

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