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App Store Optimization 101 | A Simple Guide for Mobile Games

How to make your game stand out from the crowd

As a mobile game studio, you know the drill: creating a game is one thing, getting it into players’ hands is another entirely. On average in 2023, nearly 3,000 new apps are added to the Google Play Store and over 1,000 to the App Store–every single day–so getting noticed is an understandable challenge.

But it’s also vital, because outside of China, Google and Apple combined hold a 95% app store market share, meaning everyone looking to get a piece of the pie puts their games on one or both of them, while often not giving due consideration to a powerful, essential, and free way to get noticed–which is, of course, ASO. 

So buckle up as we share insights on how to make simple changes that can dramatically impact visibility, downloads, and ultimately, revenue.

The power of ASO and why it works

So, what’s the big deal about ASO? Well, ASO is about helping your game get discovered in an ocean of apps. It’s about optimizing your game’s app store listing so that when a potential player searches for something, your game shows up in the results. In fact, almost 60% of app downloads come from app store searches.

It’s a crucial tool for any developer, and it’s one that we at Yodo1 have used with great success (with over 3.5 billion players to show for it).

Let’s take our game, Rodeo Stampede, as an example. When we first published it, we knew we had a fun, unique game on our hands, but we also knew that wasn’t enough. We needed to make sure players could find it. So, among other things, we worked very hard on ASO

The result? Rodeo Stampede soared up the app store charts (over 50 million downloads on Google Play). And while it wasn’t the only factor, ASO was a vital part of our strategy. It didn’t require a big budget, just a deep understanding of our audience and a willingness to learn, adjust, and optimize continually.

That’s the power of ASO. It’s not a magic wand, but it’s a crucial tool that can help your game reach the right audience. And the best part? It’s a level playing field. That means the biggest studio on the planet isn’t able to do much more than anyone else can when it comes to the game icon, the description, the creatives, or anything else in your game listing. That’s good news for developers and studios of any size!

Get started with these three ASO tips

You might be wondering where to begin with ASO. The key is to focus on a few core areas that can significantly impact your app’s visibility and attractiveness to potential players. Let’s break these down into three actionable ASO tips:

1. Keywords are the backbone of ASO

The use of keywords in ASO is akin to using the right bait when fishing. You need to attract the right players — the ones who are already interested in what your game offers. Finding unique but relevant keywords is pivotal to this process. A good starting point is to consider the genre, main features, themes, and mechanics of your game.

For instance, if your game involves puzzle-solving in a medieval setting, words like “puzzle,” “medieval,” “strategy,” and “adventure” could be good picks. But don’t just stop there. Try to think about less obvious but still relevant keywords. Maybe there’s a dragon in your game — there’s another keyword for you.

Tools like App Radar can significantly help with this process; they analyze app store data and suggest keywords that have a good balance of search volume and competitiveness. A tool like this can be an extremely useful aid but don’t neglect the human touch—being in tune with your game and audience can make all the difference.

Once you have your keyword list, the next step is to incorporate these into your game’s title, subtitle, and description. But remember, this isn’t about keyword stuffing. It’s about integrating keywords in a way that makes sense and delivers a clear, compelling message to potential players.

2. Your game’s visual identity matters

“Creatives” are the visual elements that represent your game in the app stores, including your game’s icon, videos, and images. These elements must be visually appealing and also convey—clearly and easily—what your game is about.

Your game’s icon serves as the first visual touchpoint for potential players. It should be unique and eye-catching, immediately conveying the essence of your game. Look at your successful competitors for inspiration — what makes their icons effective? How can you apply similar principles while ensuring your icon stands out?

Similarly, when a potential player clicks on your listing, the images and the videos should tell a dynamic story that pulls them in. These elements provide a sneak peek into your game’s world, showcasing the best features and hinting at advanced parts of the game to show progression. Remember, your creatives can be the deciding factor between a user downloading your game or scrolling past it.

3. Player-focused language

Reviews are a treasure trove of insights directly from your players. They not only tell you what’s working and what’s not, but they can also significantly inform your ASO strategy.

Start by identifying common keywords, features, and phrases that players mention in their reviews. What do they love about your game? What unique features keep them coming back? Use these insights to your advantage, integrated into your game description—perhaps worded as actions to give potential players a sense of immersion before they even play the game. Opening sentences with verbs is a great way to do this.

For example, we’ve used descriptions starting with verbs (imperative sentences) to create that dynamic feeling  that makes players want to get in on the action in Rodeo Stampede’s App Store listing:

  • Ride through the wild stampede on the backs of buffalo, elephants, and all types of exotic animals
  • Dodge and avoid obstacles in your chase for high scores
  • Travel across the savannah and jungle, with more exciting landscapes to come!
  • Catch and befriend animals of all shapes and sizes to show off in your Sky Zoo
  • Travel back in time to explore the Jurassic Age and catch dinosaurs

In short, work to incorporate feedback from reviews into your ASO strategy. Use the keywords, features, and phrases that resonate with your players in your app store listing. This shows that you’re not just listening — you’re acting on their feedback.

ASO is an ongoing process

Remember, ASO is a continuous process. Stay tuned to your reviews, adapt your strategy based on your players’ feedback, and keep your ear to the ground when it comes to trending best practices, and you’ll be well on your way to enhancing your game’s visibility and success in the app store.

We know how much of a challenge it can be for a game studio to find the time needed to hone a solid ASO strategy. You have so much on your plate already, but that’s where Yodo1 can help.

With our roots in game development and a strong history of publishing successful games, we’ve done it all when it comes to ASO—and emerged with insights and tools that can streamline the process for you. Yodo1 is the one-stop partner to grow your games, from monetization to publishing to IP licensing services. When you need help with that next stage of growth, get in touch