Guest post: Alex runs marketing at MobileDevHQ, a tool to help you optimize your app for app store search. He is a Seattle native and graduate of the University of Washington.
Making the perfect app is almost impossible. No matter how smart you are or how much time you take to brainstorm, you’ll never think of everything. Even if you do somehow think of everything, the features you thought users would love might not be the ones they actually use the most (and vice versa). However, the more people you have trying to solve a problem, the closer you’ll get to the perfect solution. This is one of the reasons working in teams is so valuable. It’s also a reason why doing thorough competitive intelligence is extremely important. You can, and should, be keeping close tabs on your competitors to learn from them and ultimately beat them.
Apps offer a unique opportunity to really drill down and learn from your competitors. Here are four valuable things you can learn from them.
At MobileDevHQ, we are frequently asked about the best ways to conduct keyword research. One of the most important and most difficult parts of keyword research is compiling your initial list of possible terms. However, your competitors can actually be a great source of inspiration. If you are using an ASO tool, you can simply add your competitors and see all the keywords and phrases they rank for.
Outside of ASO software, the easiest way to get keyword ideas from your competitors is by looking at their description and their reviews. In Google Play especially, the description can be a hot-bed of keywords aimed at attracting users. Notice if you see any terms being repeated often or used in headers. Another good place to look is their reviews. It’s helpful to see how users are talking about your competitors, and not just how they refer to themselves. Ultimately, what matters most is how users actually talk about and search for your app, not how you want them to.
Compiling keywords is just the first part of keyword research, but it can also be the most difficult. Using your competitors is a great way to save you time and effort so you can focus on other aspects of your app and ASO.
You can also learn some valuable lessons from your competitors’ successes and failures. This is another place user reviews come into play. By scanning through the reviews and grouping them by star rating, you can get a good sense of what features people like, and what features people don’t like about your competitor’s app. You could find that users love a surprisingly simple feature that you overlooked or didn’t think was important. Taking note of this and adding it to your product is helpful in making the best user experience possible, and also getting top reviews, which is important to ranking highly in app store search. For example, here in eBay’s five star reviews we can see that ease of use, user friendliness, and reliability are all very important to their users.
Don’t forget about the negative reviews. You can use these as opportunities to differentiate yourself and attract customers. If users are not happy about how a feature is performing, or wanted a feature that is not there, use and apply this information to set yourself apart.
Another valuable source of information is your competitors’ release notes. Almost every update should be accompanied by release notes specifying what changed or was improved. Scan through the most recent ones to see where your competitors are focusing their efforts.
Although your competitors’ keywords can be a great place to go for inspiration as you start thinking of keywords, they can also give you a glimpse into their overall strategy. Keywords are picked for a reason; they are usually used to target a specific type of person or market. For example, a few months ago we noticed that Target’s app was using keywords related to the wedding industry. Scanning through their release notes, we also saw that they had recently added new features pertaining to weddings. That seemed to point to the fact that Target wanted to emphasize and brand their wedding selection. You can use this to inform your own app’s strategy and decide if you want to go head-to-head with your competitor, or differentiate yourself.
Any app that is competing for the same keyword as you should be considered a competitor in some way. The further you are from the number one spot, the less likely you are to be seen and downloaded. This makes picking keywords that are not too difficult for you to rank highly for important.
To determine how difficult a keyword is to rank for, you have to judge how ‘competitive’ the apps that currently rank for it are. One of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is to look at the number of ratings and what the rating is for the top 10-20 apps that rank for the search query. This gives you an idea for that keyword’s landscape. If most of the apps have little or no ratings, it will be easier to rank for than if the majority of them have a lot more – and higher – ratings than your app. If you are using an ASO tool, you can get a more accurate and comprehensive difficulty prediction to pick the best keywords.
Competitors Make You Better
Competition is what creates the necessity for a better product, and in this case, better ASO. If you didn’t have to worry about anyone downloading another app in place of yours, or if you knew you could rank first for any search query you wanted, it would be easy to become complacent. Although competition makes it harder to become successful, it’s necessary to making the app ecosystem better. One of the keys to overcoming your competitors is using them to make your app better. I hope the tips in this post can help you improve your app and your ASO.
Jennifer is the VP of Marketing at TUNE. Weekdays, she's all about helping marketers better measure their mobile campaigns. Weekends include brunch and blogging. Find all her thoughts on marketing here.