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Navigating App

Store Ratings &


Reviews is Tricky.
BUT IT DOESNT HAVE TO BE.

Table of Contents

Dont have time to read the full guide?


CHECK OUT THE HIGHLIGHTS ON PAGE 54

INTRODUCTION

USING THIS GUIDE

SECTION 1. UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS



It Starts With Empathy

How Ratings Drive Behavior

The Difference A Single Star Can Make

The Math of App Store Ratings

Case Study: Tinder

10
11
13
16
18
19

SECTION 2. UNDERSTANDING APP STORE REVIEWS



Reviews Matter Too

The Challenge of Reviews

Whos Reviewing Your App?

The Negative Bias In Reviews

20
21
22
23
24

SECTION 3. KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE APP STORE AND PLAY STORE

The App Store Offers More Volatile Ratings and Rankings

But The Play Store Offers More Freedom for Marketers

25
26
27

SECTION 4. IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS



What is a Ratings Prompt?

What Makes a Prompt Intelligent?

A Few Best Practices

A Better Way to Communicate - A Message from the Apptentive CEO

Case Study: Urbanspoon

28
29
30
34
35
37

SECTION 5. IMPROVING REVIEWS BY GIVING CUSTOMERS A VOICE



Driving 5-Star Reviews with Better Support

Channels for Customer Communication

Managing Negative Reviews

38
39
40
41

SECTION 6. BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORE



ASO, & Other Tools for the Savvy Mobile Marketer

Our Top 10 ASO Tips

Trends in Mobile Marketing

44
45
46
51

FINAL THOUGHTS & CONCLUSION

53

TL/DR

54

CREDITS

55

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
1,500,000

Number of Apps

1,250,000

1,300,000
1,200,000

1,000,000
750,000
500,000
300,000

250,000

240,000

130,000

0
Google Play

Apple App
Store

Windows Phone
Store

Amazon
Appstore

Blackberry
World

Source: Statista

Today, there are over 1.3 million apps in the Google Play Store, 1.2 million in the Apple Play
Store, over 300 thousand in the Windows Phone Store, and 240,000 in the Amazon Appstore.
The growth of mobile apps is only accelerating, with the Play Store in particular doubling its total
number of apps in 2014.

Put simply, the mobile app marketplace is crowded.


In addition, there are over 400,000 independent app developers all fighting for the attention of the
same potential customers. The Apple App Store saw 128,000 new business apps alone in 2014 and
the mobile gaming category alone has competition to the tune of almost 300,000 apps.
As a result of the increasingly competitive nature of the app stores:
Less than one percent of apps are considered profitable. Many mobile publishers adopt an if you
build it, they will come mentality. In contrast, getting those crucial first customers- rather than
building the app -may prove to be your biggest challenge.
Continued increases in mobile acquisition costs have driven the Cost Per Loyal User (CPLU) to an
all-time high. Increased organic traffic as a result of making your app easier to discover can take
some of the burden off of paid advertising to drive adoption.

INTRODUCTION

The app market is only going to grow, with the total number of mobile app downloads
expected to exceed 268 billion and generating over $77 billion by 2017. This means that the market
is getting even more competitive and standing out in the app stores is nothing short of a gargantuan
task- unless, that is, you put an app store strategy into place early.
And, youve taken the first step by downloading this guide.

What does this have to do with ratings and reviews?


App store ratings and reviews are the
lifeblood of any mobile app.
Theyre the first impression a
potential customer has of your app,
the rare indicator of quality in an
often-blind app discovery process,
and the key to improving your apps
ranking in an app store search.The #1
way people discover new apps among
the 1.3+ million apps in both the Apple
App Store and the Google Play Store
is general browsing of the app stores,
while browsing top rated or most
popular was the third most common
method.

NEW APP DISCOVERY METHODS


General browsing in an app store
58%
Speaking with friends or family

63%

50%
41%

Browsing top rated or most popular


apps lists in an app store

34%
25%

Application(s) was already installed


when I got my phone

20%
23%

On a social networking website

19%
15%

General browsing on the internet/


on other websites

16%
13%

Searching via an internet search engine


Seeing an ad in a magazine or newspaper
Reading Blogs

14%
16%

iOS
Android

7%
4%
7%
6%

Source: European Technographics Consumer


Technology Online Survey, Q4 2012

The key to both getting your app to rank prevalently in search results and getting your app
featured in app store top charts the key to making your app discoverable - is better app store
ratings and reviews.
To see evidence of just how instrumental ratings and reviews are to an apps success, go no further
than your favorite app store. We did a little digging around in the Android Play Store to see what
sort of correlation exists between ratings, downloads, and revenue across the stores various Top
Charts, and found a few not-so-startling statistics:

98% of this weeks


top 100 free apps
had an average star
rating of at least 4.0

92% of this weeks


top 100 paid apps
had an average star
rating of at least 4.0

99% of this weeks


100 top grossing apps
had an average star
rating of at least 4.0

INTRODUCTION

SIMPLY PUT, STAR RATINGS MATTER.


So much so that many mobile app developers equate star ratings with the overall customer experience. They base their entire product roadmap off of feedback from reviews in the hopes that they
are addressing the issues noted 1-star reviews will improve the experience and drive higher reviews.
The only problem? Ratings and reviews are biased.
As you will see throughout this guide, a poorly rated app is not necessarily a bad app. Nor is an app
with exceptional reviews necessarily a good app. When it comes to assessing quality and experience,
app store ratings and reviews are, simply, not the best indicators.
The Mobile Marketers Guide to App Store Ratings & Reviews will show you not only what biases to be
aware but what you can do to control those biases and make ratings and reviews work in your favor.

The inherent biases in ratings and reviews

As funny as they are, these two XKCD comics raise a few startling points.
First, reviews rarely map to the metrics and issues you need to be concerned about. In the comic above, the app failed
to meet its single purpose yet, this was overshadowed by the more numerous reviews of secondary elements of the
app. As weve seen time and time again, reviews are often in the shape of crash reports or customer wish lists. The app
store is all too often a last-ditch channel of communication with the app publisher when all other channels are closed.

Second, a four-star rating is an exceptional feat that a very small proportion of apps achieve. Yet,
with your competitors increasingly raising the bar on app quality, its getting harder and harder to
stand out and grab market share. A four-star rating is fantastic. But if your competitor has four and
a half stars, your potential customers are going to try their app first.
Before you stress about that extra half a star, its important to realize a few of the reasons why your
app may be lagging behind your competitors. (Hint: Its not because your competitor has a better
app.)

App store ratings and reviews often suffer as a result of a few inherent biases
that can be detrimental to even the best apps in the market:
See Section 4.4 for more on the negative bias.
THE NEGATIVE BIAS.
People are 33% more likely to leave a rating or a review after a negative experience with the app
than they are for a positive experience. As a result, app store ratings are often artificially low.

THE WHEN-AND-WHERE BIAS.


When it comes to prompting customers to leave a rating, seemingly small things including the
frequency, location, and timing of prompts can make a big difference on both the quality and the
quantity of your ratings. If done wrong, prompts can even lead to lower ratings as people go out of
their way to leave one-star ratings after an irritating or disruptive prompt. As well explore later in
this guide, theres a big difference between asking for ratings and intelligently asking for ratings.

THE SELF-SELECTION BIAS.


Only a very small proportion of your mobile customers
will ever leave a rating or review. Even worse, this
proportion further tends to be a non-representative
sample. Ratings are typically left by a few vocal critics
and a few vocal fans, leaving out the silent majority
of customers who neither love nor hate your app, but
nonetheless constitute most of your mobile revenue.
On average, only one in 27 customers will ever vocalize a
complaint with the app. Most of the other 26 will simply
close out of the app without ever coming back. Yet, letting
a few negative reviews dictate your product roadmap and
customer experience priorities effectively letting the
squeaky wheel get the grease can lead to focusing on
the wrong areas for improvement.

43%

57%

% of respondents that reported leaving


reviews after a negative experience
% of respondents that reported leaving
reviews after a positive experience

See Section 5 for more on the when-and-where and self-selection biases.

Removing the Bias


Fortunately, there are a number of things todays savvy mobile app publisher can
do to minimize the inherent bias of app store ratings and reviews. These include:
1

Giving a voice to the silent majority to achieve a more representative sample of ratings and
reviews by motivating more of your mobile customers to leave a review.

Reducing the negative bias with intelligent rating prompts.

Filtering minor bug reports and feature requests out of the public app store reviews by providing in-app channels of communication and two-way dialog between your app or company
and your customers.

Addressing and managing negative reviews to reduce customer churn and turn
critics into advocates.

Complementing your apps ratings and reviews with a more holistic app store
optimization strategy to make it easier for potential customers to discover your app, even if
your ratings and reviews lag behind your competitions.

Over the next six sections, Apptentives Mobile Marketers Guide to App Store Ratings & Reviews will
provide actionable recommendations for each of the aforementioned strategies of boosting the
quality and quantity of your reviews. In the process, we will quantify just how important star ratings and reviews are to the health of your mobile app.
We will introduce a few differences between the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store and
what those differences mean for ratings and reviews. Well also present two original case studies
and an additional resources page highlighting some of the best practices for improving your mobile
marketing efforts.
Enjoy!

INTRODUCTION

How To Use This Guide


About the Data
Unless otherwise cited, the guiding statistics of this eBook come from:
Historical data from delivering over 160 million interactions and ratings prompts within
Apptentive-integrated mobile apps, covering how engagement drives ratings, reviews, and
the collection of customer insights.
Apptentives 2015 Consumer Survey, and associated data from a diverse sample of
350 U.S. smartphone owners, covering how star ratings correlate with an individuals intent-to-download; how important reviews are for both free and paid mobile apps; how consumers discover new apps within a crowded app store; the circumstances that
motivate users to leave ratings and reviews; and, the circumstances that lead ratings and
reviews to motivate user behavior.

A Few Words on Language


PEOPLE, NOT USERS
Youll notice that the word user is rarely used in this eBook. That was intentional. One of our
core philosophies is that your app users are people. Its the genuine understanding that on
the other side of your screen is another living, breathing, thinking human being
If you humanize your customers, they will respect you more. If you listen to your customers,
they will respond by helping you with your product roadmap, alerting you of bugs and thanking you by leaving positive reviews in the app store.
THE APP STORE
Unless otherwise noted, the use of the lowercase app store is not bounded by any specific
platform. The app store, used generically, can be used for whichever marketplace distributes
your app - prominently, the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Any platform-specific
differences will be explicitly called out (See Section 3).

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE

1
Understanding
App Store Ratings

It Starts With Empathy


Lets face it: All app publishers want to see more ratings and reviews. Nothings more infuriating
than struggling to even get half a percent of the people using your app to leave a rating.
The harsh truth is that asking for a rating or a review is asking a lot of your customers.
Between being shown a ratings prompt and leaving a rating or review, there are no fewer than six
steps (as illustrated on the following page) that a person must go through including leaving the
app and signing into the app store.
The average mobile app session is roughly five minutes long, with one third of engagements
lasting under one minute. The process of leaving a rating or a review can easily take this long.
Therefore, its incredibly important to give customers an app worth rating.

If a person takes all that time to leave a review, chances are they have either a
strong positive or a negative reaction to the app. Make it a positive one.

)
UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

11

From Prompting To Rating

Step 1:Trigger the rating prompt and


opt to rate the app

Step 4: Select Write a Review

Step 2: Wait as the app store launches


with the apps landing page loaded.
Navigate to reviews.

Step 5: Sign in to the App Store

Step 3: load the Reviews page and


scroll down.

Step 6: Rate the app, write a review (optional), and hit send.

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

12

How Ratings Drive Behavior


App store ratings are crucial to driving rankings, discovery, downloads, updates,
and in-app purchases.

Driving App Store Search Rankings & Discovery


As seen in the previous chapter, ratings are an integral part of the ranking algorithm for app
searches in both the App Store and the Play Store.
In mid 2013, Apple changed its app store search algorithm to place a greater level of importance
on ratings and reviews, rewarding higher rated apps and penalizing lower rated apps. After this
update, apps with an average rating under three stars ranked significantly lower while apps with
ratings of at least 4 stars experienced a bump in ranking:

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

13

While neither Apple nor Google have revealed specifics about how they calculate search rankings,
it is generally accepted that both app stores factor in:
Rating/Review Quantity
Rating/Review Quality
Download count
App Usage statistics (How engaged are the people using your app? How frequently do they use your app?)
Uninstalls (How much customer churn does your app experience?)
Growth (How have daily download counts changed over time?)
Keyword density of the apps landing page (See Section 6 Beyond the Stars: Optimizing for the App Store)
At the time of writing this guide, no comprehensive study has been conducted on the importance
of app store rankings in driving traffic, but there are a few lessons we can learn from App Store Optimizations (ASO) older brother, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). When it comes to the correlation between rank order and click-throughs on a search engine results page, we see a few startling
statistics:
The top-ranking result gets 56% of clicks
Combined, the top 5 highest ranking results get 88% of clicks

Source: SEO Researcher

It might not seem like much, but outranking your competitor even by a single rank can make all
the difference.

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

14

Driving Downloads
After reaching the apps landing page, star ratings continue to play a big role in the consumer
adoption process.

Our study revealed that 59% of people usually or


always check ratings before downloading an app
even if everything else checks out.
Even more astonishing, only 8% reported that star ratings had little or no influence on their
evaluation of an app.

Driving Updates & In-App Purchases


Star ratings continue to have a strong influence on the customer journey long after the app is
downloaded and installed.

Our survey revealed that 33% of people usually or


always check ratings before updating to a newer
version of an app and 37% check before making an
in-app purchase.
Keep in mind that both of these scenarios require people to leave the app, launch the app store,
and navigate to the apps landing page. The more effort required to check your star rating, the
more important your ratings become.

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

15

The Difference a Single Star Can Make


We asked smartphone across the country what they considered to be the minimum star rating
theyd accept in order for them to consider downloading an app.
The results?
Only 15 percent said they would consider downloading an app with a 2-star average rating
50 percent would consider downloading an app with a 3-star rating
96 percent would consider downloading an app with a 4-star rating

Are You Reaching Your Total Market?

0%

25%

50%

75%

100%

% of consumers willing to consider downloading an app


Source: Apptentive 2015 Consumer Survey
The Mobile Marketers Guide to App Store Ratings & Reviews

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

16

This data reveals that not only do star ratings matter, but that a single star can make a huge
difference. You may be sacrificing a dramatic increase in active users by not managing your flow of
ratings and reviews,.

Jumping from a 2-star to a 3-star rating effectively


increases your app store conversion by 340 percent.
Jumping from 3 to 4 stars increases your
conversion by an additional 89 percent.
Imagine you had a two-star app with 100k loyal customers. Not bad, by any means but have you
reached the full potential of your addressable market?
According to our survey, jumping to a 3-star average could net you an additional 240k
customers. Even more astonishing, jumping again to a 4-star average could bring in another 300k
customers for a total of 640k mobile customers.

What is the Opportunity Cost of a 2-Star App Store Rating?

App Downloads

700,000

525,000

350,000

Potential Market

175,000

Current Market
App Store Ratings

Source: Apptentive 2015 Consumer Survey


The Mobile Marketers Guide to App Store Ratings & Reviews

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

17

The Math of App Store Ratings


Interested in seeing what effect a change in your average star rating will have on your app store
conversion?
Using our survey data, weve estimated the difference in app store conversion resulting from incremental changes to the average star rating.
These numbers have been validated with our historical data of working with thousands of mobile
apps, and weve seen that they hold true regardless of both platform and the brand power of the
app.
How would a change in your average star rating impact your app store conversion?

Jumping from...

To...

Is Expected to Increase App Store Conversion by...


30%
340%
730%
770%
280%
540%
570%
89%
97%
4%

Source: Apptentive 2015 Consumer Survey


The Mobile Marketers Guide to Ratings & Reviews

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

18

Case Study: Tinder


What happens to app store rankings and discoverability
when you drop 2 stars overnight?
On March 2, 2015, Tinder the enormously popular dating app developed by IAB attempted
to cash in on its rapid growth and rolled out a new paid service, Tinder Plus, to the companys
previously-free dating app.
To little surprise, customers werent thrilled to be asked to pay up for match-making features
that were previously free. Without an in-app channel to communicate their issues with the
developers, many took straight to the app store in the form of ratings and reviews. Within two
weeks, Tinder had accumulated 6,500 new 1-star ratings, dropping their average star rating
from 4 stars to 1 1/2 stars.
How did this impact how the app ranked in the iTunes App Store? Lets take a look
On the morning of March 2 just prior to the launch of Plus Tinders iOS app was the 3rd highest ranked app in the Lifestyle Apps category and the 55th highest ranked overall. Worldwide,
the app was featured 207 times in iTunes.
On March 8 after accumulating enough 1-star reviews to drag down the average rating Tinders rankings dropped dramatically to the 7th highest ranked Lifestyle App and 105th in overall
rankings. The number of times the app was featured in iTunes dropped to nine.

March 2

March 8

Tinder was the 3rd highest ranked app


in the Apple App Store for Lifestyle
Apps & the 55th highest ranked
overall. The app was featured 207
times in App Store charts.

Tinder dropped to the 7th highest


ranked lifestyle app and to 105th in
overall ranking. The number of times
the app was featured in App Store
charts dropped to 9.

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE RATINGS

19

2
Understanding
App Store Reviews

Reviews Matter, Too


Ratings and reviews are often lumped together to the point where the only
meaningful metric seems to be those coveted stars. Nevertheless, reviews
serve an important role that goes beyond the rating theyre associated with.
FIRST, REVIEWS QUALIFY YOUR RATINGS.
A four-star average rating is an indicator that your app is a good fit for most people but a
compatible review indicates that your app is a good fit for a specific person. Its necessary to
have both the social proof only achieved through a high volume of positive ratings and the more
personal recommendation that speaks to the few points someone evaluating your app for the
first time might be interested in.
SECOND, REVIEWS PROVIDE VALUABLE FEEDBACK FOR IMPROVING YOUR APP.
Mobile marketers can stress over ratings all they want; but at the end of the day, ratings dont
provide actionable insights. A poor rating gives no indication of what you can do to improve
future ratings, nor does a good rating tell you what youre doing right and what areas your
limited engineering resources are seeing the most return on their investment.
REVIEWS ARE DIFFERENT.
They provide a channel (all too often the only
channel) for customers to tell you exactly what
they want in an app to leave feedback, report
crashes, and make feature requests. Mobile
marketers and developers alike should keep a
close eye on their reviews to identify customer
pain points, which can then be used to design a
product roadmap and experience your
customers actually want.

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE REVIEWS

21

The Challenge of Reviews


Everyone reads reviews.
Reviews are deeply intertwined into the app discovery and evaluation process. In fact, 70% of
people read at least one review before downloading an app. Not only this but 75% of our survey
respondents identified reviews as a key driver for downloading an app, and 42% view app store
reviews as equally or more trustworthy than personal recommendations.
Even more astonishing, 13% of people read at least seven reviews when considering a free app.
This number jumps to 33% for people evaluating a paid app.
Beyond boosting your download count, reviews can be used to move the needle on a number of
key metrics:
APP INSTALLS
58% of people
usually or always
check reviews before
installing an app.

APP UPDATES
33% of people
usually or always
check reviews before
updating to a newer
version of an app.

MOBILE REVENUE.
36% of people
usually or always
check reviews before
making an in-app
purchase.

Considering that reviews are, by default, shown in chronological order (latest first), its important
to have not only positive reviews but also a high volume of recent good reviews. In other words, if
33% of your app store traffic reads at least seven reviews, its important to do everything you can to
ensure that your latest seven reviews are all positive.

But few people leave reviews


Getting seven recent positive reviews, of course, is easier said than done as only 36% of those
surveyed have left an app store review within the past year. Throughout the remainder of this
section, as well as in Section 5: Improving Reviews by Giving Customers a Voice, well go over a few
ways to boost both review quality and quantity.

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE REVIEWS

22

Whos Reviewing Your App?


Who exactly are these 36% of people that left a review in the past year,
and when and why are they reviewing your app?
According to our data, reviews are typically in response to one of five experiences:

49%

65%
of survey respondents
expressed likelihood
to leave a review after
a negative experience
with an app.

of survey respondents
expressed likelihood
to leave a review after
a positive experience
app.
with an

22%
of survey respondents
expressed likelihood
to leave a review to
suggest a new feature
for the app.

43%
of survey respondents
expressed likelihood
to leave a review to
report a bug in the
app.

15%
of survey respondents
expressed likelihood
to leave a review to
comment on a version
difference after an
update of the app.

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE REVIEWS

23

The Negative Bias in Reviews


On the previous page we saw that 65% of people are likely to leave a review after a negative
experience while only 49% of people leave reviews after a positive experience.
This data is consistent with what weve seen online and in-store. The propensity to share a bad
customer experience is twice as high as that for a good experience. And the bias is only getting
worse as 58% of respondents said they were more likely to tell others about poor customer service
experiences than they were five years ago, according to a 2013 Dimensional Research study.

And heres where it gets interesting


When it comes to the app stores, about half of all reviews are prompted in app. When we broke
down our data by those who most commonly leave prompted reviews and those who most
commonly leave unprompted reviews, we found:

Unprompted reviews are


56% more likely to be based
on negative experiences than
positive experiences.

Prompted reviews are only


19% more likely to be based
on negative experiences than
positive ones.

IN OTHER WORDS, PROMPTING WORKS.


But there is still a slight negative bias in prompted app store reviews. In section 5, well go over a
few tips for managing the inevitable negative review and ensuring that this bias is as controlled as
possible.

DID YOU KNOW?

It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.


Source: Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner

UNDERSTANDING APP STORE REVIEWS

24

3
K EY DI FFER ENCES B ETWEEN

the App Store &


the Play Store

The App Store Offers More Volatile


Ratings & Rankings
One of the most important differences between the two leading app stores, the Apple App Store
and the Google Play Store, is how they handle app ratings. The Apple App Store presents both
historic ratings (an average of all ratings since the apps launch) and, more prominently, the average rating for the current version of the app. Because of this, iOS apps typically suffer from low
ratings for a one-week period after launching a new update, but offer publishers more control
over boosting their ratings with a well-received update. Google Play Store ratings are more historic and harder to change without a significant volume of new reviews.
According to a study of 25,000 apps conducted by venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz, iOS rankings are significantly more volatile than Android rankings. The rank of an Android app rarely
moves more than 12 slots in a day, while that of an iOS app can move up to 50 slots daily. Furthermore, ranking volatility for Android apps is pretty consistent regardless of your apps rank
meaning jumping from the 100th spot to the 90th spot is only marginally easier than making the
leap from #30 to #20. In contrast, iOS app rankings become increasingly volatile the higher an
app is ranked.
Volatile ratings and rankings can be both a blessing and a burden. On one hand, they allow new
apps to dethrone their traditionally high-ranking competitors within a matter of weeks. On the
other, the stickiness of the top charts in the Play Store means high-rankings developers can
achieve lower customer acquisition costs by relying on customers finding them organically via
app store searches.

RECOMMENDED READING:
The Data Behind Why Googles Play Is So Much Harder
For Startups To Crack Than The IOS App Store.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE APP STORE & THE PLAY STORE

26

But...The Play Store Offers More


Freedom to Marketers.
Aside from the ranking algorithm, there are several differences between the Apple App Store and
the Google Play Store that mobile marketers should take note of. When it comes to optimizing
around ratings and rankings, weve singled out these two key differences:
1

The Play Store offers app publishers the autonomy to


make changes to their apps description and listing at will.
Android developers can swap out description screenshots and videos, tweak the text of their apps meta data
and call to action, and try out new keywords to compete
on for app search.

Of course, iOS developers can do all of these same


things but, any changes made to theirapps landing
page must be approved by Apple (a process that can take
up to a week). While some adjustments to the iOS apps
description can be made without filing an official review
for a new app submission, any changes to the apps title,
keyword, icon, or screenshots will constitute a new app
version and with that, a ratings reset.

The Google Play Store places less emphasis on the role of ratings and reviews as social proof by
showing app downloads as an alternative indicator of popularity. With no other measure of quality available, competing on ratings becomes much more important for iOS apps as a new or lesser-known app can usurp a much more popular app on ratings alone.
SEE ALSO SECTION 6: BEYOND THE STARS for other differences between the App Store and the Play Store

when it comes to app store optimization and mobile marketing

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE APP STORE & THE PLAY STORE

27

4
Improving Ratings
with Intelligent
Prompts

28

What is a Ratings Prompt?


Simply put, a ratings prompt is a proactive in-app
message that asks people to rate your app.
Ratings prompts typically look like the screenshot on the right
and provide three response options:
1

RATE THE APP.


Selecting this option will launch the app store, allowing
people to sign in and leave a rating or review.

REMIND ME LATER.
Choosing this option will dismiss the prompt for the time
being and display it again at a later time. People who click
this option are typically open to supporting your app with
a rating or a review but are too pressed for time to do so
in their current session.

NO THANKS.
Selecting this option will dismiss the prompt and tell the
app that you do not want to be seen the prompt again
at least in the near future or until the next update.

And why should I prompt?


Prompting is an effective tool for excelling at two of mobile marketings chief KPIs:
1

Achieving a higher volume of ratings and reviews. As shown in the case study at the end of this
section, effective prompting can dramatically increase your ratings.

Achieving a higher concentration of positive reviews and 5-star ratings. Prompting a random
sample of people using your app to leave a rating is a sure way to get a more representative
sample and reduce the negative bias, cutting the percentage of people who are more likely to
rate your app after a negative experience than after a positive one from 56% to 19%.

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

29

What Makes a Prompt Intelligent?


An intelligent ratings prompt is one that maximizes the volume and sentiment of new ratings and reviews.
This is achieved by optimizing how, when, where, and whom you prompt.

Optimizing How You Prompt.


It may be tempting to jump straight in and ask for a rating, but think about it from the customers
perspective. Youre asking them for a favor before you even know they like your app. As a result, your
prompt may be seen as intrusive or even irritating.
Instead, intelligent prompting starts with a simple qualifying question. At Apptentive, we start by
asking a single qualifying question: Do you love this app?
If the person responds, Yes, they will then be shown a thank you message and asked to rate or review
the app. If the person responds No, they will be shown a feedback prompt or an in-app survey where
they can communicate any issues they have with the app.

The result looks a little something like this:

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

30

Pathing the ratings prompt in this way achieves three outcomes:


1

Qualifies that only those who like the app will be asked to leave a rating or review, thereby
increasing your average star rating.
Ensures that those who do not like the app are given a voice and can leave helpful feedback
for the apps developers, reducing the likelihood of that person leaving a (likely negative) app
store review as a last resort means of communicating with the development or customer
support team.
Provides a more holistic measurement of customer satisfaction in a manner that only takes a
second and sees virtually no opt-out, as opposed to jumping straight into the more timeconsuming process of leaving a rating or review.

In working with hundreds of large enterprise apps, weve seen that starting a conversation about
whether or not the customer is happy with their experience is 5 to 10 times more effective than
just asking them to rate the app.
Likewise, weve tested asking for a rating against asking for a five-star rating. The result?
Asking specifically for five- star ratings can be seen as presumptuous and actually lead to
fewer ratings, and a lower average rating. In fact, rating prompts perceived as irritating or
presumptuous have even led to rating boycotts where people have left 1-star ratings just to get
back at the apps maker.
This may seem like a matter of semantics, but the way your frame your request can dramatically
change how your customers perceive it and the way your customers spread that message and
talk about your app.
Your prompts need to be carefully designed with your audience in mind and tested for little nuances
that can make a big difference.

Optimizing When You Prompt.


When and how often do you want to ask for a rating? Should you deliver that ratings prompt
for each version of the app the customer experiences, at consistent time intervals, or just once
throughout the customer lifecycle?
As a matter of best practice, we suggest using a rating prompt once per customer so as to avoid
unnecessary interruptions or soliciting a rating from someone who has already rated your app.

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

31

Using the Apptentive dashboard, setting this time and frequency criteria is a simple matter. App
publishers can effortlessly identify not only what events trigger the dialog, but also how many
times each customer will be prompted and how that varies by version number and time since last
prompted:

Optimizing Where You Prompt.


Now its time to figure out where to place your ratings prompt. A good starting place is identifying
key moments of engagement (moments of success or completion) within the app.
Moments of engagement are milestone steps in the customers journey after the customer has
completed an action such as making a purchase, sharing an article, or watching a video. By
choosing the right moment to display your ratings prompt, you can better ensure that (a) your
request will not be seen as intrusive (e.g.,: by knowing
not to interrupt the customer when shes in the middle
of watching a video or playing a game), and (b) that your
prompt is only being shown to those who have enough
knowledge of the app to leave a rating.

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

32

Optimizing Whom You Prompt.


Last but not least, identify which segment of the people using your app you want to receive ratings
from. Do you want to maximize rating quantity by asking everyone or focus on rating sentiment
by asking your most loyal customers? For best results, wed suggest targeting only those who have
sufficient knowledge of your app through extended use (say, those who have launched your app at
least three times or who have used your app for at least five days).
With the power of modern analytics, marketers can define their intended audience as narrowly as
desired to deliver that perfect message to the perfect person. For example, if our intended audience consists of English-speaking mobile customers in the United States using an Android device
upgraded to 5.0 Lollipop who have opened the current version of the app three times and have not
been shown a survey prompt in the last 30 days, we can create audience segmentation rules in a
matter of seconds, as seen below in the Apptentive dashboard:

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

33

A Few Best Practices


And finally, a few quick rules of thumb for all intelligent rating prompts:
1

Never solicit a rating/review at the moment of launch. Your customer launched the app for a
specific purpose let them achieve their goal before making an ask.
Not only is it bad etiquette, but delivering your ratings prompt upon launch results in 50%
more app exits than asking for ratings at any other point along the customers journey.

Deliver messages at the moment a customer completes a specific task, rather than at the beginning or in the middle of the task. For example, dont interrupt or distract the customer from
whatever he or she is doing.
Tie the content to the context. This one should be a no-brainer by this point, but ensure that
your message makes sense at the time it is prompted.

The customers you message should be at a place in their experience with your app that they
have sufficient knowledge to write a review. Waiting until your customer has completed a
specific action in the app will boost your likelihood of getting a rating or a review.

Have empathy for your customers. Dont annoy people with repeated requests in a short
period of time especially if they have responded No Thanks to a ratings prompt.

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

34

A Better Way to Communicate


A Note From Our CEO:
Not all in-app messaging is created equal. In fact, much of it is
downright annoying, obnoxious, and even obtrusive. Would you
appreciate being asked to rate an app 30 seconds into using it for
the first time? Or being asked to scroll through a 25-question
survey in-app? I doubt it.
AT APPTENTIVE, WE BELIEVE THERE IS A BETTER WAY.
We know that its possible to communicate with your app
customers at the right time, right place, via the right medium,
to the right person, with the right message in order to deliver
an extraordinary mobile customer experience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Robi Ganguly is the CEO and
co-founder of Apptentive.
Hes on a mission to find a
better way for companies to
engage their customers one
that builds advocacy, breaks
through the noise, and extends
the customer experience. Its
on this principle of Customer
Love that Apptentive was
founded.

After working with thousands of apps, including those of over 100 leading enterprises, and powering
millions of customer conversations every month, weve learned a lot. Here are some highlights:
Just asking people to rate the app is ~5 to 10x less effective than starting a conversation about
whether or not the consumer is happy.
The actual words used in the message to the customer can dramatically change the percentage of
ecstatic customers who talk about your app in the app store and impact the percentage of ratings
that also result in reviews.
Showing a ratings prompt on launch is 50% more likely to result in the app being closed than if its
shown at any other point in the app.
Customers who are asked about their opinion with an app who are unhappy are >100% more
likely to return to the app than the average app customer. It turns out that being informed that the
company actually cares about your opinion can change the dynamic.
When you give people choices about what action to take, only about 20 to 30% of
customers will actually exit the app to do something else.
Were betting on the fact that you, and app publishers everywhere, want to treat your customers well
and with respect.

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

35

ITS TIME WE ALL GOT BETTER AT TALKING WITH OUR CUSTOMERS


Poorly implemented ratings prompts raised awareness
around how easily a mobile experience can be ruined. Its
time to re-examine all of our customer interactions and
ask ourselves what we can do better. Are there better
places in the app to ask for feedback? Are there places
where customers might need help and appreciate a
company reaching out?
It all comes down to one of our core philosophies,
its about #PeopleNotUsers. If you focus on having a
conversation with your customers in app, the customer
experience will be elevated ten-fold. If you listen to your
customers, they will respond by helping you with your
product roadmap, alerting you of bugs and thanking you
by leaving positive reviews in the app store.

Lets humanize the in-app experience, and together well all win.
#CustomerLove.
Robi Ganguly
CEO & Co-Founder, Apptentive

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

36

Case Study: Urbanspoon


How have intelligent rating prompts led a leading
Food & Drink app to see a 1000% increase in ratings?
Satisfied customers rarely take the time to rate apps. All too often it
is only the unhappy customers that share their negative experiences,
leaving a skewed impression of most apps in the app store for potential
customers.
In an effort to improve ratings and create a more balanced story in the
app store, Urbanspoon tried building their own in-app rating prompts
to help guide their happy and loyal customers to the app store.
The results were less than desired. In their search for alternatives,
Urbanspoon found a match in Apptentive.
Apptentives intelligent rating prompts provided Urbanspoon with
the perfect solution. The prompts powered by Apptentive were able
to target Urbanspoon customers at the right time and gauge what
customers thought about the app before asking for a review. These
dynamic prompts helped Urbanspoon connect with their happy
customers at the correct time to boost both their ratings and their
reviews.
Before integrating with Apptentive in March of 2012, Urbanspoon
was at a lifetime average of 3.5 stars and a current average of 4 stars.
After the Apptentive integration, Urbanspoons star rating has been 5
stars for the past four versions. They now receive over 11x the number
of daily ratings and reviews than they did previously and consistently
rank in the Top 10 for the Food & Drink category.

Urbanspoon is the worlds leading


provider of time-critical dining data,
powering restaurant information
and recommendation services
that operate in5+ countries. The
Urbanspoon mobile app reaches over
200,000 people every day.

KEY METRICS:
5 Stars

1000%

7000+

In the App Store

Increase in Ratings
& Reviews

Pieces of
Customer feedback.

IMPROVING RATINGS WITH INTELLIGENT PROMPTS

37

5
Improving Reviews
by Giving
Customers a Voice

38

Driving 5-Star Reviews by Giving


Customers a Voice
As noted earlier, there are five main motives for leaving a review in the app store:
To express delight for a positive experience with the app;
To express disappointment for a negative experience with the app;
To report a bug or crash in the app;
To suggest a new feature for the app; and,
To comment on a version difference after updating to a newer version of the app.
In an ideal world, only the first and last of these five drivers would result in a review.
Encouraging reviews after positive customer experiences is a surefire way to boost your average rating.
iOS developers and marketers carry the additional burden of an average star rating that resets after each
new update making it necessary to encourage a high volume of positive reviews any time they make a
change to the app.
The other three drivers negative experiences, bug reports, and customer wish lists are
better dealt with out of the app stores and the public-facing reviews. These three should fall under the
domain of internal communications, where they can be handled personally and privately.
But if the app stores arent the best forums for addressing these issues, why are so many reviews related
to these three topics? Because most apps leave their customers no other option.
In the retail world, upset customers can speak to staff or managers on the spot. In the online world,
customers can use live chat to speak with a representative or file a ticket. In either scenario,
customer complaints rarely make their way to a public forum because the customers are given more
effective ways to voice those complaints.
In the world of apps, most customers simply arent given a voice.
Customers dont want to leave the app, launch the app store, navigate to the apps landing page, and write
a review. This is extremely time-consuming and generally seen as ineffective when it comes to getting a
response.
For this reason, only 1 in 27 customers will put in the effort to voice their complaints. The
majority of the remaining equally-unhappy-but-silent 26 customers will simply leave the app and
never return.
Pening up a direct line of communication in app not only reduces the likelihood of unhappy
customers venting to the app store but gives you the opportunity to give a voice to the silent
majority of your mobile customers thereby identifying customer pain points, answering their
questions, and building customer loyalty and love.
IMPROVING REVIEWS BY GIVING CUSTOMERS A VOICE

39

Channels for In-App Customer


Communication
Fortunately, mobile app developers have several choices when it comes to providing a channel for
customer communication and support. Among these, the most effective are:
IN-APP MESSAGING (MESSAGE CENTERS).
Allowing for two-way dialog between the mobile customers and the app developers or customer
success team, in-app messaging is one of the most powerful ways to engage your mobile audience.
In-app messaging can be used to address customer questions, confusion, or bug reports, either in
real-time or in the form of a delayed response. Customers voicing their issues in such a manner know
that their feedback is welcome and will be heard, while the app publishers is given the opportunity to
address the issues before the customer feels the need to resort to leaving a public app store review.

Learn
more about in-app customer communication and its role in creating meaningful customer

relationships on the Apptentive blog.


IN-APP SURVEYS.
Mobile optimized surveys are a great way to get a more representative diagnosis of the customer
experience, given their high response rates when compared to app store reviews or online surveys.
With in-app surveys, you can obtain both quantitative data (e.g., market research) and qualitative data
(e.g., feature requests), identify customer pain points, and test the demand for proposed features.
Learn more about integrating and designing effective in-app surveys with
The Apptentive Guide to Mobile Research & In-App Surveys.
CONTEXTUALLY-RELEVANT MESSAGING.
Context marketing is about delivering the right message, to the right person, via the right medium, at
the right place and at the right time. With context marketing, mobile marketers can better connect
with customers by connecting analytics, customer insights, and content to create a truly personalized
customer experience. In doing so, they can segment their fans and their critics and message each
group differently encouraging fans to leave a review while identifying ways to turn the critics into
advocates.

If youre asking for reviews, both how and when you ask matter:
Weve found that both timing and prompting play a big role in review likelihood with 60% of reviews
occurring within one week of downloading the app and 57% of reviews occurring after being
prompted with an in-app ratings prompt.
Learn more about contextual messaging with
The Apptentive Guide to Mastering the Five Pillars of Context Marketing

IMPROVING REVIEWS BY GIVING CUSTOMERS A VOICE

40

Managing Negative Reviews


Comments provide great feedback about your app.
Positive comments tell you what people like about your app and what you are doing right. They
make you feel good about your work and offer encouragement to keep going. At their best, they
are both inspiring and validating: giving other potential customers in the app store a reason to buy
or download your app.
Negative comments, however, are a different story.
They make you second-guess yourself, and your app, and can give you a biased representation of
quality. The reality is this: you will get negative reviews and feedback.

10 SUGGESTIONS
FOR DEALING WITH THE INEVITABLE COMPLAINTS:

VIEW ALL FEEDBACK AS AN INDICATION OF CARE


Its important to recognize that a customer who chooses to engage with you is a rare gift,
because they care enough to invest time in sharing their opinion. The vast majority of
customers come and go without saying a word to you having enough passion to engage is a
sign of someone who cares about your app in some way.
When you view all feedback, regardless of disposition, as a statement of care, embracing the
feedback as an opportunity becomes much easier. Look at negative feedback with respect and
amazement how often do you take the time in your daily life to reach out and tell businesses
about how theyve made a mistake? For most people, the answer is, not often at all; itd take
too much time.
Your app customers are the same way the ones who take the time to complain are special.

AVOID BEING DEFENSIVE


A natural tendency for all of us when we get criticized is to get defensive. When youre
defensive, you stake out a position to defend instead of truly embracing the customers point
of view. In the world of customer service, this is a disaster being on the opposite side of an
issue with your customer results in antagonistic relationships rather than cooperative and
collaborative ones. Observe your own reactions and emotions in order to tamp down any
natural defensiveness that arises.

IMPROVING REVIEWS BY GIVING CUSTOMERS A VOICE

41

ACKNOWLEDGE
One of the most powerful ways to deal with negative feelings and feedback is simply to
acknowledge the validity of the customers feelings in the first place. By first communicating
that the person whos upset is valid in feeling upset, you can diffuse the tension that many
people bring to a frustrating situation created by feeling like they need to fight to be heard.
APOLOGIZE
In your daily life, have you ever found yourself worked up and ready to argue with someone
and then, upon hearing the words Im sorry felt a massive sense of relief and decompression?
Apologizing goes a LONG way with most people. It reminds them that youre another human
being and that you care about their feelings. When a customer is upset and frustrated, leading
off with a sincere apology does wonders for turning a potential argument into a conversation.

MAKE IT RIGHT
Sometimes an apology simply isnt enough. Taking the time to go the extra mile and take care of
your customer in a way that resolves their issue or delivers them unexpected value is usually
well worth the cost to you and your company.
For example, if your app has in-app purchases and someone is complaining, offering them
free credits might cost you a bit, but its a simple and straightforward way to put meaning
and commitment behind your words. We see app developers routinely gift virtual currency
to frustrated customers, resulting in increases in retention and spend from the unhappy
customer over the long run. Taking the stance that youll fix problems and make customers
feel special pays dividends over the long run as they tell their friends about your approach and
generosity.

HEAR THEM OUT


In communication, the most important skill has nothing to do with what youre saying. The
most important skill is listening.
Remembering this fact when a customer brings negative comments your way will ground you
in the importance of truly listening and understanding why theyre upset. Let your customers
vent and express their feelings and concerns to you. You might be surprised about what you
learn as a result of truly listening and asking questions in order to deepen your understanding.
Sometimes problems external to your app (iOS beta releases anyone?) are impacting your
customers experience. You might find that a problem youre completely unaware of is
impacting the user experience.
Hearing a customer out doesnt mean that you have to give in and accept their negativity, it
means seeking a better understanding of where theyre coming from and how you can be on
the same page.

IMPROVING REVIEWS BY GIVING CUSTOMERS A VOICE

42

AVOID THE TROLLS


Sometimes, negative comments simply come from people who enjoy creating a stir when
they can remain anonymous. They love the attention they get from causing controversy.
This type of feedback is exceptionally dangerous because it can draw you into
an argument that undermines your credibility. It adds no value to your product
or community. While ignoring trolls isnt always an option, if youre going to
engage with an obvious troll, dont let them draw you into their level of discussion.
Be polite, be nice and draw the line on how much time youll spend with trolls.

SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT


While you certainly dont want to get into a comment war with an unsatisfied customer, you
dont have to subject your company, your product or yourself to negative comments that are
downright false.
If you run across comments that are not accurate, address them while giving the commenter
the benefit of the doubt. Assume they didnt know any better. Take this opportunity to educate
them, and the rest of your community.
Once you resolve an issue, you should take the opportunity to let your community know that
things are all copasetic as well. To earn and foster Customer Love, let your customers know
that they have a voice and that you are listening with a simple comment like this:
I am glad we had the opportunity to fix this for you, please let us know if there is anything else
we can do to make your experience with us a pleasurable one!

LEARN FROM IT
Take what your customers are saying and see how you can incorporate the feedback to create
a better product. If it is features they want, work with to evaluate and add them. If the app is
buggy, sort out your bugs.
Developing a great app is a journey and every piece of feedback, negative or otherwise,
presents you with information that can be used to better your app. Embrace this opportunity
to keep your community involved in the process of making something great. Making your
customers feel as if they have some ownership in your app is a fantastic way to build your fan
base and turn frustrated consumers into evangelists.

10

TAKE THE CONVERSATION PRIVATE!


Public discourse with customers is often a poor way to handle complaints and
problems. It lends itself to more black and white statements, a lack of empathy and
speaking for an assumed audience. We highly recommend taking conversations
private, which is one of the reasons why our in-app feedback tools are built to create
1:1 conversations with your app customers. Private in-app feedback is an exceptional
tool to increasing the level of conversation you have with your frustrated customers.
IMPROVING REVIEWS BY GIVING CUSTOMERS A VOICE

43

6
BEYOND THE STARS:

Optimizing for
the App Stores

App Store Optimization


& Some Other Tools For the Savvy Mobile Marketer
Ratings and reviews aside, there are a few more tools in the mobile marketers toolkit for driving
apps to rank more prominently in the app store. Over the next few pages, well explore three such
tools: App Store Optimization, Mobile SEO, and In-App Deeplinking.
Just as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a websites visibility in a
search engine results page, App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the
visibility of a mobile app within an app store. ASO drives your mobile app to a more prominent
position in an app stores mobile search results, prompting easier discovery and increased traffic in
a crowded market place.
And while its still a relatively new concept, with the term becoming standardized in 2012, ASO
takes many of its best practices from its older brother, applying many of the tips and tricks from
your SEO toolkit to the app marketplace.
Like SEO, App Store Optimization starts with an understanding of your target audience who they
are and what theyre looking for in an app. Once you have this basic customer intelligence, you can
begin to grasp what sort of language best resonates with your customer base and what keywords
will be top-of-mind in their search for an app like yours.
Unlike SEO, you have a very limited number of keywords to target. When it comes to optimizing an
iPhone app, youre restricted to 100 characters of keyword tags and the name of your app. For an
Android app, it comes down to the apps name and description. As such, picking the right keywords
is essential and requires a high degree of customer and competitive intelligence.
App Store Optimization is a highly recommended strategy for an app on any platform (iPhone,
iPad, Android, Windows Phone, etc.). For the sake of simplicity, however, well focus on iPhone and
Android apps and their corresponding app stores, the Apple App Store and Androids Google Play.
Over the next few pages, this guide will go over why ASO is becoming increasingly necessary for
mobile publishers, where its headed, and a few tips from your existing SEO repertoire that can be
used to increase your apps discovery and downloads.

BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORES

45

Putting ASO Into Action


So just how do you go about optimizing for better discoverability in an app store? Weve put
together a list of our ten favorite ASO tricks, many of which have their roots in well-known SEO
strategies.
1

UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMER & YOUR COMPETITION

What language do your customers naturally use? How would they define your app? What are their top
reasons for downloading and using your app?
What language do your competitors use? Should you go head-to-head with your keywords or target
a different set of customers with keywords that better speak to your unique offering and points of
differentiation?
If youre just starting out and dont have all the answers, there are out-of-the-box solutions like
Apptentive that provide customer insights indispensable in the process of creating the framework
around your ASO strategy.
Its equally important to survey your competition to identify which keywords are being targeted by
apps similar to yours. You can then determine whether or not it makes sense to target these same
keywords or a separate set of keywords unique to your individual value proposition.
Similarly, youll have to decide if it makes more sense to rank in the top 10 for a few highly competitive
keywords or to rank in the top spot for keywords with a lesser search volume.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT APP NAME

Coming up with a unique name for your


app isnt just a matter of branding. For best
results with ASO, include relevant keywords
within your title as this text heavily factors in
to app store search results.
But keyword inclusion helps with more than
just discoverability. Our friends at
MobileDevHQ did a study of the top 25
ranking positions and found that apps with
a relevant keyword in their title ranked, on
average, 10.3% higher than apps without a
title keyword.

Are Keywords in the Title Worth It?

Average Ranking

10.3%
Ranking
Increase

No Keyword in Title

Keyword in Title

Source: MOBILE DEV HQ

BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORES

46

Titles in the App Store can be up to 255 characters, allowing for plenty of keywords or keyword
phrases. However, dont take this as an opportunity to stuff every keyword you can think of as your
apps name is, first and foremost, your first impression to a potential mobile customer.
Youll also want to shift your most descriptive text to the front of the title, as only the first 25 or so
characters will appear in search results.
Many apps take the approach of Urbanspoon, where they first give their app a brand-friendly name
followed by a short, but keyword-heavy description of the app:

Source: Apple App Store

Title keywords are less common in the Google Play Store, where titles are restricted to 30 characters, although many apps still try to fit in one or two.
Its also important to use only URL-friendly characters in your title, particularly in the iTunes App
Store. Special characters or symbols will detract from your ASO strategy and cause iTunes to refer
to your apps numeric ID, rather than its name, to scan for relevant keywords.

MAXIMIZE YOUR KEYWORDS

While many of these strategies apply across the board when it comes to the different app stores,
the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store have two very different approaches when it comes
to ASO keywords.
The iTunes App Store has a 100-character keyword field and exclusively uses your apps title and
whatever keywords or keyword phrases you include in these 100 characters to
determine which search strings your app will show up for. With this in mind, its important to use all
of the allotted characters and carefully research your keywords to maximize your organic traffic.
For best results, consider using less competitive keywords for which you can rank high and avoid
including your apps name as a keyword as is already indexed.
On the other hand, the Google Play Store takes an approach more similar to modern SEO. Google
does away with the specified tags and scans your apps description to extract relevant keywords. In
this scenario, youre given 4,000 characters to describe your app in natural,
customer-facing language. Without trying to jam as many keywords into this text as possible at the
expense of your messaging strategy, try to sprinkle relevant keywords where they
logically make sense. Best practice holds that keywords you really want to be targeted should be
repeated five times throughout the description. Additional mentions have
little to no effect on ASO and turn off potential customers if your description appears
intentionally repetitive.
BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORES

47

CREATE A COMPELLING DESCRIPTION

With the exception of a few of the aforementioned, strategically placed keywords, your apps
description should be targeted toward your customer base, rather than a search engine index. Your
description should be viewed as a call-to-action for potential customers. Describe what your app
does in simple and concise language, list the unique benefits your app offers, and compel the reader
to download your app. Youve already convinced the app store that your app is relevant to a specific
list of keywords, and now its time to convince your potential customers that your app meets their
needs.
Wed recommend focusing the bulk of your energy on the first three lines of your description
to immediately grab your readers attention. Given the ever-growing number of apps in the
marketplace, customers are sure to have a few if not several alternatives to consider when
evaluating your app. Make their decision easy by immediately communicating what your app does
and why they should use it.
In the remainder of the description, consider including social proof, such as excerpts from reviews
of your app or awards your app or company has won, and a list of the unique features (and derived
benefits) your app offers.

STAND OUT WITH A UNIQUE ICON

As your potential customers browse a nearly endless list of apps, your visual icon is the first
impression theyll have of your app. And its important to make it count.
Stand out from the clutter with an icon unique to your app. Icons should be clear enough that they
immediately convey what your app does, even in its scaled-down form within your apps menu. As
such, dont overcomplicate your icon with unnecessary words or logos that demand extra time
from your customers.
To get an idea of what works historically, simply browse the top rated apps in your category or
Google/Apples top picks:

Source: Google Play Store

BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORES

48

Across the board, youll see a trend toward bright colors, unique shapes, and simple imagery. Few
icons use words and several incorporate some sort of border or drop shadow to make your icon
pop, regardless of its background.
And once again, its important to do a little competitive research to ensure that your icon is
differentiated enough to avoid having your app confused with a competitors.

INCLUDE SCREENSHOTS & PREVIEWS

Like icons, screenshots in your apps description may not have a direct effect on search rankings,
but they do drive downloads. Images convey more about what your app actually is and bring your
descriptive text to life, allowing potential customers to visualize using your app before they make
the download.
Typically, your first 2-3 screenshots will show in the gallery on page load, so take special care in
ensuring that these screenshots speak to your biggest customer benefits and dont fall into the trap
of showing off a generic splash screen no matter how nice it looks.

LOCALIZE YOUR APP LISTING

When it comes to global marketing, a one size fits all approach wont cut it. If your audience
goes beyond the English-speaking world, invest in translation services to localize your apps title,
keywords, and description to the most popular languages spoken by your customer demographic.
Both the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store allow you to localize your apps listing to
make both discoverability and readability easier for your customers. And it works taking just
a couple minutes to localize keywords has been seen to increase downloads by as much as 767
percent!
According to OneSky, only 31 percent of global app revenue is generated by North America and 72
percent of consumers prefer to use their native language when shopping, even if theyre fluent in
English.

INCREASE TRAFFIC WITH OUTSIDE PROMOTION

At the end of the day, its important to remember that on-page optimization is just one tool in your
mobile marketing toolkit. And this is where your SEO knowledge really comes in.
Apple recently revealed that their iTunes search algorithm factors in your apps total page visits
when determining your search rankings. Simply put, the more traffic you drive to your apps
listing, the higher it will score in the iTunes App Stores search algorithm. To drive traffic, build an
online presence around your app with social media and content, soliciting press and reviews, and
investing in online advertising.
BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORES

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Regardless of whether or not other app stores take a similar approach in its search algorithm,
moving beyond the app store with your marketing strategy is an important way to drive traffic and
downloads for any app.

UPDATE FREQUENTLY

Mobile customers are looking for apps that are constantly improving, with regular updates based
on customer feedback. Apps that are frequently updated are seen, by both the app store and the
customer, to be of a higher value and more customer-centric. Additionally, app updates highly
correspond to better reviews as each new and improved version of the app should naturally
receive higher ratings than the version before.
When updating, its also important to maximize the Whats New field to outline new or improved
features and include a compelling call to action for updating the app.

10

ENCOURAGE FEEDBACK

Last but certainly not least, a consistent flow of positive reviews serves as the highest possible
validation of your apps quality.

The apps with the highest review counts are those that keep their customers engaged and
proactively solicit customer feedback to shape their product roadmap and future updates. Its
important to keep in mind, however, that app store ratings provide just a myopic view of customer
satisfaction. Typically only your vocal minority those who either love or hate your app will take
the time to write a review. In reality, most of your customers lie somewhere in-between these two
extremes and require that extra engagement or prompt to give their feedback.
As an ever-increasing number of brands and startups are going mobile first, differentiation in
the app store is crucial. Apps that hope to make it big need to put just as much thought into their
marketing, acquisition, and engagement strategies as they do in their development. And those that
do will be rewarded in spades in the form of more downloads, higher reviews, and Customer
Love.

BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORES

50

Trends In Mobile Marketing


Guest column by Reinder de Vries
ARE MOBILE SEO AND IN-APP DEEPLINKS
THE FUTURE OF MOBILE MARKETING?
With over 300 new apps launching every day, its getting a bit
crowded in the app stores. By the end of 2015, Google Play and
the iOS App Store will together contain more than 3 million apps,
all begging for the attention and time of smartphone users. How do
app publishers keep their users engaged in this rapidly expanding
market?
DEEPLINKS: ITS THE HYPERLINK REVISITED

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Reinder de Vries is an
entrepreneur and app
developer, who believes that
there are not enough app
makers in the world. He has
developed 50+ apps and his
code is used by millions of
users all over the globe. When
hes not coding, he teaches
aspiring developers how
to make their own apps at
LearnAppMaking.com.

Deeplinks are for apps what hyperlinks are for the internet.
Technically, the internet is just a big pile of web pages interconnected
via hyperlinks. One page links to the next, often in a contextual way. Thanks to search engines, we
can find what were looking for by making use of web page meta data. A search engine categorizes
the web and gives us relevant results, based on previous searches and collective data.
For apps, such a thing doesnt really exist yet. The app stores are just flat long lists, broadly
categorized into Games, Productivity, Health, etcetera. An app publishers only means of
attracting attention within the app stores is to get featured, or to fight its way to a Top 10 or Top
100 position. Many publishers simply dont have the means to get there and fade away into app
store oblivion.
App deeplinks can change all that. Deeplinks look like normal URLs, but instead of linking to a
web page they link to a resource within an app. Such a resource can be anything: a user profile,
an article, a shop item, and so on. One app, or a web page, can link to another app, as long as its
installed on the device.

DISCOVERY: PINTEREST, TWITTER AND FACEBOOK


A great solution for app publishers to make their apps more discoverable, is to add it to their
respective pages on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Quite recently, Apple joined forces with
Pinterest to allow users to install apps directly from within Pinterest with so-called App Pins. Any
user can add an app to a board on Pinterest, and combine it with native Pinterest content. That
means you can create pins, like recipes for pies, and mix them with a recipe app, for instance.

BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORES

51

Similarly, a publisher can create a Twitter App Card and introduce an app native to an already
happening Twitter conversation. In the same way, Facebook allows advertisers to push their apps
directly from a Facebook page or ad. Its a great way to introduce an app in a contextual stream that
already exists and is native to the platform, making the barrier to interact with a user to evoke an app
install considerably lower.

DEEPLINK OPPORTUNITIES ARE ON THE RISE


Recently, company Deeplink.me launched AppWords (not to be mistaken with, but quite similar
to Google AdWords). AppWords is one of the first platforms to directly advertise deeplinked
content. Similarly, Branch.ios platform uses the famous tell-a-friend mechanism to enable User A to
recommend deeplinked in-app content to User B, in a frictionless fashion. AppLinks.org takes
deeplinking cross-platform, and integrates with Facebooks Index API to bundle web content with
native app content.
How can you benefit from deeplinking?
Push your apps natively via already existing conversations, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Integrate with relevant services, such as paid deeplink advertising and tell-a-friend referrals.
Connect your in-app content with their web counterpart, so search engines can index and expose it.
Ultimately, dont focus your effort on getting into a one-size-fits-all app store list. Instead, look for an
opportunity to make your content more contextually discoverable.

WILL SEO OVERTAKE ASO?


A recent study shows that 15% of Google search pages contain deeplinks to Android apps. Google is
actively indexing the native content within apps through deeplinks, bringing App Store Optimization
(ASO) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) closer together.
In the future, theres going to be a time where a native app experience is indistinguishable from the
former internet, all thanks to app deeplinks.

SOURCES:
http://blog.similarweb.com/an-amazing-seo-trend-for-android-apps-deep-app-links/
https://developers.google.com/app-indexing/
http://www.statista.com/topics/1002/mobile-app-usage/

BEYOND THE STARS: OPTIMIZING FOR THE APP STORES

52

Final Thoughts & Conclusion


According to Gartner, less than 0.01% of consumer mobile apps are considered profitable. And its
not hard to see why mobile marketing is a tricky business.
But it can be made a little less tricky with this simple equation:

More Star Ratings

More Glowing Reviews

Better Rankings

Success
Ratings and reviews are the single most important indicator of your apps quality, yet theyre all
too often biased by a misrepresentation of your most vocal critics. With a few easy-to-integrate
improvements, in the form of rating prompts and in-app customer communication tools, you can
make your ratings and reviews work for you rather than against you.
AND ALL IT TAKES IS THREE STEPS:
1

Give a voice to the silent majority by encouraging ratings and feedback with proactive
prompting.
Create more appreciate channels than the app store for providing in-app customer support
to filter minor bug reports, feature requests, and customer questions out of your otherwisepositive reviews.
Manage and respond to negative reviews to reduce customer churn and turn critics into
evangelists.

We hope you find this guide helpful as you navigate the app stores, and we wish you all the best in
your mobile marketing endeavors. Give us a call if we can be of help.
Best wishes,
Team Apptentive
FINAL THOUGHTS & CONCLUSION

53

TL & DR
Not enough time in the day to read a 60-page guide? Its okay. Were not too hurt.

Here are the nuts and bolts:


App store searches are the #1 way people discover new apps.
And ratings and reviews are integral to getting your app to rank higher in the app store.
Ratings and reviews are biased.
Less than 1% of customers will ever leave a rating or a review and this number is overrepresented
by those who had a negative experience with your app. But there are several things app publishers
can introduce (including rating prompts and in-app communication channels) to limit the bias.
A single star can make or break your mobile app.
Only 50% of people will even consider a three-star app. Dont write off traffic and downloads
simply because you havent optimized for ratings.
A high quantity of high quality reviews is the best way to drive app downloads.
Its important to not only encourage loyal customers to leave a review but to provide alternative
channels of communication for issues better dealt with in a personal, private manner.
Ratings and reviews are just one tool in the mobile marketers toolbox.
App store optimization, mobile SEO, and in-app deeplinks are increasingly powerful vehicles for
increasing an apps ranking and discoverability in the app store.
Were here to help every step of the way.
Apptentive is in the business of earning customer love and loyalty.
Try out a free demo today to see how we can increase rankings, ratings, and reviews for your app.

TL & DR

54

CREDITS
Written By:
Alex Walz
Content Marketing Manager, Apptentive
@alexmwalz
Robi Ganguly
CEO & Co-Founder, Apptentive
@rganguly

Did you know 60% of apps are deleted


within a month of being downloaded?
Customer acquisition
is just half the battle.
Check out our Guide to
Customer Retention for
Mobile Apps for tips on
keeping your customers.

Designed By:
Josh Tuininga
Design Director, Apptentive
@TheMediumStudio

About Apptentive:
Additional Contributors:
Emily Carrion
Head of Marketing, Apptentive
@emily_carrion
Rachel Harrington
Marketing Coordinator, Apptentive
@rharrington0527
Reinder de Vries
Founder, LearnAppMaking.com
@reinderdevries

At Apptentive, were the experts in mobile customer


experience and in-app communication. We help app
makers boost ratings, drive downloads, increase
loyalty, and earn #CustomerLove.
Thousands of mobile apps including AllRecipes,
Concur, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Overstock,
Nordstrom, and UrbanSpoon, use our software to
communicate with their customers. The company is
based in Seattle, Washington.
For more information,
visit us at www.apptentive.com

ABOUT THIS GUIDE

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