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My app is a ghost, it’s time to do SEO

Pacman ghostOne week ago it was in the end the moment of truth for (DoNotEatThat!: its debut in the App Store. It was the end of a long way that started months ago with the app concept (the idea), evolved as I worked in the design and development of all the core elements, and ended up eventually with the app submission to the virtual store.

As soon as the green circle appeared in the iTunes Connect, stating that Do Not Eat That! was ready for sale, the first thing I did was searching for it in the App Store. It was the time to see how my app was showed in the world’s biggest virtual store (with permission of Google Play). I input one of the most relevant keywords in the field of the app, hit search and started scrolling down through the search results.

Obviously, it was not in the first 10th of the list.

Neither was in the first 50th.

It was not even in the first 100th. I admit that at this point my enthusiasm had decreased by several integer values.

Scrolling down more than 100 apps in the screen of a smartphone is a quite frustrating experience. When you speed up a bit, the content is not showed (only placeholders). And if you go ahead more slowly to see the apps in the list, it takes ages. When I reached the app number 100 I started to realize about the cruel reality: my app was a ghost.

Do Not Eat That! was really for sale in the App Store, but the only way I could take a look at it was searching for its name. The search term “DoNotEatThat!” gave out one single coincidence: my app. Unfortunately, nobody will use it to search for the app, because nobody knows it yet. Maybe in the mid term, when the app hit some spread, people will do search queries using its name, and then it would be showed the effectiveness of having an uncommon name. Sadly, currently this is not useful.

The status of my ghost app is just the same as the status of thousands (millions?) of apps that live in the digital Apple’s macro-store: they are there, but nobody see them, because they are hidden behind many other apps that appear higher in the search results. This is the time to apply ASO (App Store Optimization), the SEO of the app markets.

After reading about ASO, executing some tests in the store, analyzing the competitors, and diving into some articles from the ASO gurus, I have started my own field investigation to achieve the final goal that my app stops being a ghost and get a real body in the search results. To reach this target I’ve got the support of an expert web service: Sensor Tower. It’s fair to admit that the creators of this online service have done a clever job.

No Lo Comas! ranking example

With Sensor Tower I’ve started to research the so called long-tail keywords, the search terms that are not so popular (they drive less traffic), but have less competitors (they get a low number of apps in the search results). These are the shelves hidden in the depths of the virtual supermarket, visited only by an small number of customers, but showing far less products. Most of the relevant keywords in this group are compound words (“eat healthy” or “get thin”), and though some of them have a low level of competitors, I must be careful before choosing any of them: maybe the people searching for these terms are not looking for apps like the one I provide, or maybe the traffic they get is so low that it’s no worth the effort of appearing in the list of search results.

Once I have chosen the right long-tail keywords, it’s just all about updating the app metadata, generating a new software version and publishing it. Apple’s approval process will give me time to take a picture of the current situation, so that I can compare with the status after the new version is published. I will probably have to repeat the whole process several times, making some iterations to optimize the results as I see how my app is performing for each combination of keywords. And luckily it will eventually appear in the top position of a search results, and it will end up being a ghost in the App Store.

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