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18 Oct 2013

App Store Optimization Techniques Every Indie Developer Should Bear in Mind

If you own and operate a website (or have done so in the past), then you are likely familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For those unfamiliar, it is essentially a technique used to ‘game’ Google in a sense. By using certain techniques, you can position your website to be found when people search for certain keywords in Google. For example, if you are searching for an auto mechanic in Lafayette, Louisiana, an auto mechanic in the area would want their website to be optimized for keywords such as ‘auto mechanics,’ ‘auto repair,’ ‘automobile repair,’ and optimized for phrases such as, ‘vehicle repair in Lafayette, Louisiana,’ ‘mechanics in Lafayette, Louisiana,’ etc.

You get the idea, but enough about auto mechanics, let’s talk about games – or more specifically, your games! In the same way as the auto mechanic in Lafayette, Louisiana (there I go talking about auto mechanics again) must optimize his/her website to be found when ordinary people search for an auto mechanic via Google in the area, so too must you optimize your games in the app store you are selling your game. I’m talking about a technique known as App Store Optimization (ASO), and by using a few techniques to optimize your game, it will be found easier than ever in Google Play, iOS App Store – wherever you are selling it. Because over 60% of app install are through the search function of app stores, it literally pays to optimize your game to be found easily. Thus, use these techniques below, and increase the chances of the world finding your game!

Choosing your game’s name

Of course, before selling your game on an app store, you should give it a name that really stands out. Be creative in choosing a name, and give it one that really stands out and begs to be downloaded. Besides, you will work so hard on developing your game, why give it a generic, boring name? Be proud of your game, and give it an awesome one!

Moreover, a game with a generic name will usually be overlooked when seen in the search results of an app store. It makes sense too: after all, who is going to click on a game that has a boring title? A boring title usually equals a boring/generic game in the minds of gamers, and there’s a good reason for that: more often than not, they’re right. Thus, give your game a name that will entice everyone to click on it.

For example, if you develop a space racer that is fast and fun to play like the original Wipeout, you wouldn’t give it a generic name like Space Race, right? Of course not! Instead, you would want to name your game something like Galactic Death Race or The Fastest Parsec – something that makes you see the title, notice the app icon (I mentioned the importance of an awesome app icon in yesterday’s post), and unable to help yourself from clicking on the title of the game and learning more about the game.

It is important to keep in mind that you essentially have only 32 characters to use for your game’s name. The reasoning? Because on some mobile devices, the first 32 characters are displayed in your game’s name. You don’t want part of your game’s name to be cut off in an app store’s page name, as this could keep someone from clicking on the name whereas they otherwise would have. Thus, choose a unique name, but don’t make the name of your game half a paragraph either.

Using proper keywords

In most app stores, you have a certain amount of characters you can designate for your keywords. Apple, for example, provides you with 99 characters to use for keywords, and it is important that you take advantage of as many characters as possible. Unsure about how to use keywords? Here’s a few helpful hints.

First, each keyword must be one sole word. Sure, you may be tempted to use the keyword ‘space racer’ for your space racing game above, but instead, split them in two to form the keywords, ‘space,’ and ‘racer.’ It’s simply the best way to get the most out of using keywords, and besides, whenever someone types in ‘space’ or ‘racer,’ using Google Play, Apple’s iOS App Store, etc.? Your game is competing with other apps that are using those same keywords.

Now if you found yourself thinking, “there’s a ton of apps and games that feature space and racing to some extent,” you’re right. Thus, you need to be creative with your keywords and apply different, unique keywords that your competitors are not using. does a great job with helping you to research certain types of keywords for your game and optimize them to ensure that your game is using keywords that are not only associated with your game, but are also going to garner your game hits when certain keywords are searched in an app store’s search engine. In fact, App can even provide you with suggested keywords for your game based on what other developers are using! It’s a valuable tool to be sure, so it’s definitely worth looking into.

New markets, strong keywords

Remember when we mentioned that keywords such as ‘space’ and ‘racer’ are highly competitive? In locations such as the United States and the UK, this is certainly true, yet for areas such as Spain, Israel, and smaller countries? This is not the case at all. Your game could certainly make an impact using keywords such as ‘space’ and ‘racer’ that would otherwise be competitive in other markets, simply because the competition in these areas is not stiff.

So what can you do to ensure that smaller countries can find your game via popular keywords? Here’s the hard part: you need to translate your game to the native language of the region you want to sell your game. Luckily, you can easily outsource this, but the entire process may be a bit more time consuming than you prefer. Nevertheless, releasing your game in multiple languages and having each of them use strong keywords in that market will yield a ton of new traffic for your game, and of course, that’s always a good thing!

Real quick: A keyword is strong based on how many people search for that particular word. In the example above, a lot of people search for the keyword ‘space’ and ‘racer,’ yet not a lot of people search for ‘parsec’ and ‘starship’ as these are not words you type into a search field when you want to find a space and/or racing-related app and/or game. Therefore, the more often the word is used in search fields, the more competitive the keyword is, and the more people that are going to want to be on the top of the search results for the keyword. Thus, this is why spreading your game to other regions and making each of those listings to be competitive for certain keywords is a smart move.

Bringing it all together

As my post outlined yesterday, in addition to optimizing keywords for your game correctly and by adding beautiful screenshots, a compelling description, and of course an attractive icon for your game, you are going to have a game that is going to be fully optimized to attract players from all over the world. Optimizing your game is more of an art than a straightforward technique, so if you have any optimization tips of your own, tell us about them in the comments below!

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