Acquisition & Engagement

The Insider: Preparing Your New App for Launch

Becky Doles

Preparing Your App for Launch Part 1: Why App Store Optimization is Key

The lead up to the launch of an app can be a hectic time. There’s always one more thing you want to change or a last minute bug you just found that you frantically try to fix. You never feel quite ready to finally submit it, but eventually, you’ve got to take the plunge.

We often check in with new users to see if there’s anything we can do to help them with ASO. To our surprise, a fairly common response we hear is something like this:

“…I haven’t actually launched our app yet, so I’m not ready to for ASO…”

Every time I see that I cringe just a little bit. Even though you have a lot of moving parts to juggle before a launch, app store optimization should not fall by the wayside. Which is why we wrote this!

The first part of this post will hopefully convince you why you should start your ASO before launch, and the second part will give you some tips on how to prepare.

There are two themes to this post that might seem opposing at first, but end up working together in the end.

  • Theme 1: Don’t jog when you should sprint
  • Theme 2: Don’t run before you can walk

Let’s dig into these some more.

The Newcomer’s Boost: Don’t Jog When You Should Sprint

We’ve noticed an interesting little phenomenon when new apps are released (for iOS). Well calling it a phenomenon might be slightly over-exaggerating, but it is interesting. Once a new app is released to the app store for the first time, it receives a ranking boost that lasts exactly seven days.

Below are two graphs for two different apps search ranking starting the day of their launch.

Ranking for term ‘100’

Ranking for term ‘Piano’

You can see that both apps receive quite a significant ranking boost to start things off. The Piano Tiles app shoots up from the high hundreds all the way to the low 20s. However, for both apps, after exactly seven days, there is a huge drop off.

Ok – but what does that have to do with ASO?

Good question! Well let’s say you were in a 100 meter race against Usain Bolt and the winner gets a million dollars. Obviously, the odds are stacked against you, but to at least give you a chance, the great Mr. Bolt says that you can have a seven-second head start. When the gun goes off, you’re not just going to start out jogging and then run once the seven seconds are up, are you? No. You’re going to sprint as fast as you can to get as close to the finish line as possible before he starts running.

It’s the same scenario when launching an app. Apple is giving you a boost. If you’re not optimizing your keywords before launch, you’re jogging. You should be running!

Getting Your Feet Wet: Don’t Run Before You Can Walk

The section you just read might have made it sound like we think app marketers aren’t trying to increase downloads from the get-go. That’s not the case at all, we know you’re striving to boost installs and get into the top charts as fast as possible.

The problem is that you’re doing it wrong (for the most part). A common belief is that if you want to start your apps launch off with a bang, you should begin with paid ads, get your app up the Top Charts, and then start ASO and organic measures once you’ve gotten some visibility.

This thinking is backwards.

You should be in no rush to pay your way up the Top Charts. Now I’m sure in the process leading up to the launch you’ve created a great business model and forecasted the huge profits you’ll be making. But unfortunately, you won’t know how accurate (or most likely inaccurate) that business model is until you actually test it with users. You’ll need some time to study and analyze user behavior to figure out how to optimize spending and in-app purchases, you’ll need time to calculate the LTV of each user, and you’ll need time to fix bugs, enhance features, and create a general target user profile.

This is why you shouldn’t race up the Top Charts before you’re ready. Rising up the Top Charts will almost certainly give you a boost in downloads, and you’ll want to have all your revenue streams optimized and tested so you can take full advantage of the download increase. In just one app we looked at, a 51 spot increase in its category Top Chart correlated with an increase in 81 organic downloads. That could potentially be a lot of lost revenue if you’re not ready.

So I’ll repeat: don’t run before you can walk.

Completing the Circle

Now I’ll bring it all back to ASO and the newcomer’s boost. Just to make sure we’re clear, we don’t have a problem with climbing up the Top Charts from the get-go, but we do have a problem with using paid measures to get there before you’re ready.

What you should do is use organic measures (like ASO) to take full advantage of the ranking boost and rise up the Top Charts that way. You can also implement some paid marketing as well to help keep your new app visible. Having a strategic mix of paid marketing and ASO is always a smart decision. In the end, you’ll then have more users to help test and optimize your app, and it costs you little to nothing. Voila!

Wrapping It Up

Alright, let’s review the highlights:

  • Don’t jog when you should sprint: You want to implement ASO before launch to take full advantage of the ranking boost Apple provides.
  • Don’t run before you walk: It’s better to climb Top Charts organically to test your app and business model in order to not waste ad dollars and fully take advantage of any paid campaigns you run in the future.

Preparing Your App for Launch Part Part 2: Pre-Release ASO Tips

If you’re convinced that ASO should be part of your launch strategy, check out part 2 of this blog post to get tips on how to best implement app store optimization tactics before launch.

The second part of this post will cover the three steps to pre-launch ASO (and one post launch step). If you want a more in-depth source on how to prepare, make sure to check out this keyword research guide we recently released.

Step 1) Picking A Proxy App

Because your app is not yet live, the pre-launch ASO consists almost entirely of performing keyword and competitive research. To do this, you’ll need to use an ASO tool. The first thing most ASO products ask for is your app. In this case you’ll need to pick an app to use as a proxy for keyword research until yours is live.

We recommend choosing the most direct competitor you have. This way, when you enter the initial list of keywords you’re interested in, you’ll be able to see which ones they are ranking for (and therefore are targeting and care about). You should really be adding all your competitors so that you can see if any of them are ranking for the keywords you’re thinking about targeting. (Hint: if they aren’t ranking for at least a few words in your list, you probably aren’t thinking of relevant search terms).

Step 2) Adding Keywords

The first step was easy. Here’s where things get a little tougher. You now need to create reports on as many search terms and keywords as you can think of that pertain to your app. Go crazy, don’t hold back. You can’t add too many keywords. These will provide the base from which you end up picking your final terms, so it’s important to be exhaustive.

If you’re having trouble thinking of some terms, try scanning your competitors’ titles and descriptions. Chances are they’ve included a few terms that can get your brainstorm started.

For ideas on more keyword sources, check out our Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research

Step 3) Picking Keywords

Now that you’ve added keywords, it’s time to start picking some. The main places you’ll want to include your keywords are your title, keyword field (iOS), and description (Google Play). One mistake we often see from new apps is the lack of targeted keywords in their title.

Just because you have a branded title or name, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include keywords that are important to your app. You rank higher for keywords you include in your title than for terms you use in your keyword field or description, so utilizing it is especially important if you’re a newer app. You will be at a disadvantage to start because apps that have been around longer will have had more of a chance to increase some of the key metrics impacting ranking.

Use keyword specific metrics like relevance, volume, and difficulty to rank the keywords in order of importance, and then pick the top 3-5 terms to use in your title (in a natural way, don’t just plug them in there). As a newer app, it’s important not to overreach at first. Pick solid keywords you think you’ll be able to rank highly for at first that also aren’t too competitive

One quick way to determine how competitive a term might be (beyond just using the difficulty metric) is to look at the top 10 apps that rank for it. Does the top 10 have huge well known apps and look something like this?

If so, you should consider it a very difficult keyword. It will be hard to compete with huge brands like you see above, especially as a newcomer.

After picking the most important ones for your title, put the rest into your iTunes Connect keyword field or your Google Play description.

Pro Tip: If you really want to get fancy, you can pick two sets of keywords to use in your title and A/B test them. Input one set for 2-3 weeks and then try the other set for 2-3 weeks. See how your ranking for each set of keywords changes, and how your downloads are impacted.

4) Post Launch!

Tracking and monitoring your keywords is an extremely important part of app store optimization. Make sure to note how you’re ranking for keywords over your first few months (and beyond – but for a new app these are the most important). Pay special attention to the terms in your title to see how your rankings for those keywords and your downloads change as your try new ones. Always measure, test, and improve, by constantly upgrading your keywords as your base metrics start to improve.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ASO! If you want more detailed information on how to perform keyword research make sure to download our Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research (see link at the top).

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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