Google Play and App Store optimization and creative best practices

App Store Optimization and Creative best practices

This is part six of the Mobile Marketing Creatives Series. In ten episodes, we aim to provide insight and inspiration on creating thumb-stopping visuals to promote your app. 

Subscribe to AppAgent’s newsletter today, and you’ll never miss future episodes where we cover: how to design compelling ads, understanding ad creative performance, A/B testing in stores and best practices we have learned while working for top publishers such as Supercell, Social Point, Gram Games and Kiwi.com. 

 

What you will learn in this episode:

–   How users decide which app or game they will download

–   That a hypothesis planner can guide your ASO efforts

–   How to make app store screenshots and feature graphics stand out

HOW DO YOU IMPROVE APP STORE OPTIMIZATION

App Store Optimization (ASO) is first and foremost a mid-funnel strategy for converting App Store and Google Play page visits into downloads

There are two main areas of ASO: search optimization and conversion optimization. The former is mostly about optimizing keywords in the app title, subtitle, keyword field (App Store) or description (Google Play). In 95% of cases search traffic comes from brand searches, much less from targeting competitors and for most of the apps a little from generic terms. Unless you serve a significant niche where a large number of users have a strong intent to solve their need by using an app, such as losing weight with a fitness app, you should focus on conversion rate optimization (CRO).

CRO is all about having a clear definition of an app’s purpose and understanding how to best position it for maximum appeal to an audience. Conversion is strongly influenced by visual elements on the store page, including an app’s icon, preview video and screenshots.

The sixth part of the Creative Series aims to provide you with guidance on how to design a compelling store listing for your mobile app or game.

Insights on the app store usage

Did you know that only 1% of users read an app’s store description? Here are some more surprising facts on app store behavior that you should know (all the data points are averages of portrait and landscape views, including data from both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store): 

  1. Average time spent on the store page is just 7 seconds (6.8 if we want to be precise). Decisive users spend even less time, for explorative users it’s 20-30 seconds. (Source: Data provided by Geeklab.)
  2. Only 1 in every 10 users (exactly 13%) scrolls through screenshots. Fewer than 18% of viewers will see a screenshot on the second slot. (Source: AppAgent’s tests and data provided by Geeklab)
  3. The average user’s attention span lasts for just 7 seconds while watching an app preview video. Only 8% of viewers will watch a video until the end. (Source: Youtube analytics, Geeklab.)

This means one thing: your app presentation must get to the point immediately. It must be clear what your app stands for from the first impression frame that users first see once they land on the store page. 

DESIGNING APP STORE ICON, SCREENSHOTS AND APP PREVIEW VIDEO

The design process starts with a solid creative strategy. Such a strategy is based on of three  fundamental inputs covered in previous parts of Creative series:

  1. Audience analysis
  2. Competition analysis
  3. Unique Selling Proposition (USP) & brand definition

With these building blocks in place, you and your design team should be 100% clear on what you want to communicate to your audience. 

When designing mobile ads and store pages, always keep in mind that the purpose of these two is different, and should be approached with different strategies and goals.

Paid UA campaigns to attract clicks should give a viewer 60% of an idea of an app or games content, the store listing should provide 90% clarity on the benefits a user will receive from downloading the app. This will deliver success in both strong, top-of-the-funnel metrics such as CTR and install rate, but also increase retention rate and increase the percentage of paying customers.

DEFINITION OF PRIORITIES FOR STORE A/B TESTS 

At AppAgent, when analyzing previous experiments our clients have performed we see they often focus too much on minor things. Inspired by Phiture’s Experiment Flywheel, we use our own guide called ‘A/B testing loop’.

Design

From our experience, 60% of positive results come from major design changes. This means you should allocate equal effort to asset production and testing volume. 

  • Design of new screenshots 
  • Icon design
  • Background color
  • App preview video and feature art design

Communication

20% of your investment should go to experiments with communication elements such as:

  • Copy of your screenshots
  • Headline in the feature art
  • Testing the impact of branding
  • Playing with iconography in video cover or first screenshot

Layout

Changes in composition generally won’t generate more than 20% of improvements. But you can still give it a try and test:

  • Order of screenshots
  • Orientation of screenshots
  • Layout of visual elements in icon, screenshots and feature art
  • Size/position of headlines in screenshots
 

To stay organized and focused on your main priorities, you can use a hypothesis planner. A hypothesis planner is a simple document where you define why you think a certain A/B test should bring an uplift. A more sophisticated planner can incorporate a scoring system to help you define which experiments to develop and execute first. You can focus on variables such as:

  • visibility of the asset, 
  • ease of production, 
  • if it’s based on a previous insight, etc. 

to get the final score of each hypothesis.

APP STORE LISTING DESIGN PROCESS

If your team has already completed past store experiments, you should leverage these  insights that have been proven to increase conversion rate. 

If you don’t have such information yet, you can pre-test them with existing assets before jumping straight into producing a new set. 

For example, you can pre-test:

  1. The order of screenshots to establish which key message in the first impression frame converts users the best.
  2. Remove screenshot headlines to eventually save resources on localizations.
  3. Add a brand in your feature art or first screenshot.
  4. Remove video completely to again save resources.

When developing new concepts, at AppAgent we like to use sketches that help us to align content first. This ensures that our clients aren’t caught out by details. Sketches also act as guides for designers to achieve the original vision. Below you can compare a concept sketch with a final screenshot design for Clash of Clans. 

If needed, a mockup made simply of existing game visuals in Powerpoint or Keynote can illustrate the design direction of your ads. 

Another recommendation is to keep things simple when designing new assets. Test them first in English only, start with static assets and don’t produce video. Video is expensive to produce and  should only reflect all your learnings from screenshot testing. If you assess  that your store presence isn’t positively affected by using headlines in visuals, avoid them to save resources for future localization.

The 8 tips below are AppAgent’s testament guiding the team of idea makers and designers. To better illustrate our guiding principles, see examples by our internal creative team.

1. Logical structure – A creative strategy canvas defines the purpose of each asset, from the icon to the fifth screenshot. Stick to the communication plan and only test the form by A/B testing various executions.

2. Employ a visual language – Your screenshots and feature graphics should communicate messages visually. To test this, remove headlines from any asset and ask people around what they think a screenshot is trying to convey.

3. Show your app in action – Demonstrate the app in use, show how it works, what’s happening and how it enriches the user experience.

4. Use clear content – Avoid causing confusion by stuffing too much into a limited space. Say just one thing in each asset.

5. Zoom in – Because people will see your design on a small screen, enlarge major elements, keywords or app UI to help them understand the message.

6. Simplify UI – This can be tricky due to app store policies, but try to reduce the user interface and keep only what matters when  delivering the message. (But always have backup screenshots in case of rejection by the review team.)

7. Use bright colors – If you study successful apps you’ll notice they often use very vivid and bright colors. Again, this is due to small screens and how easy bright colours make it to “read” the image in a fraction of second.

8. Embrace emotions – Mobile developers design experiences! Incorporate strong emotions in your communication, including both powerful visuals and words. Those who do it the best also see the best business results. (Think of Playrix or Tactile Games).

STORE EXPERIMENTS BACKLOG

Google Play and App Store optimization is all about testing. To avoid going round in circles, track learnings and progress. To achieve that, keep your own experiments backlog where you store all experiments. Visually mark winners, mark the conversion uplift and record the main learnings that you can use in future experimentation cycles.

CLOSING REMARKS

In order to reach a high conversion rate (which should be generally 50%+ for organic traffic), you must understand how little people care about your app. They make a download decision almost instantly. Therefore, you have to design a store page that’s consistent with your major acquisition channel/ad to avoid any confusion and drops in the acquisition funnel.

A creative strategy canvas can provide strong guidance on what you want to communicate. A hypothesis planner will help you to make decisions on what to test now and what to leave for later. By using hand-sketches or mockups first, you can quickly align with stakeholders on the content of each asset.

To deliver clear and compelling visuals, designers should follow the eight tips above when executing concepts. Once you’ve completed every experiment, the main results and learnings should be stored in the experiment backlog to help you improve over time.

In the next episode of the Mobile Marketing Creatives Series we will focus on ad creatives best practices. Subscribe to AppAgent’s newsletter to ensure you don’t miss it!

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  • How to improve Google Play and App store optimization

    It must be clear what your app stands for from the first impression frame that users first see once they land on the store page.

    1. Design App Stores listings such as icon, screenshots and app preview video. The design process starts with a solid creative strategy. Such a canvas can provide strong guidance on what you want to communicate.
    2. Define priorities for store A/B tests (design, communication, layout). A hypothesis planner will help you to make decisions on what to test now and what to leave for later. Google Play and App Store optimization is all about testing, so have a store experiments backlog.

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