Digital Publishing
7 mins read

Top 10 App Store optimisation tips for digital publishers

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Increasing numbers of publishers throughout the world have caught on to the power of magazine and news apps. These apps offer opportunities to reach more online customers online while improving users’ reading experiences.

Nonetheless, simply creating a mobile app and releasing it isn’t enough. There are approximately 2 million apps in Apple’s App Store and 2.9 million apps in the Google Play store. The opportunity is there, as there are more than 3.5 billion smartphone users (and growing), but the near-saturation of app stores makes it difficult to cut through the noise.

Because of this, it’s critical to develop a plan to stand out in such a crowded field of competitors. In this article, we explore app store optimisation (ASO). Specifically, we discuss what it is, why it is important, and 10 tips on how to optimise your app.

What is App Store Optimisation?

App store optimisation is similar to search engine optimisation (SEO) in that you are trying to maximise the visibility of your app in app stores. The goal is to become more visible in both search and when users browse certain categories. By becoming more visible, you will see increased traffic to your listing and more total downloads.

One of the best parts of app store optimisation is that it is free. Compared to expensive social media or other marketing campaigns, ASO is extremely cost-effective. That said, even though it is financially inexpensive, it isn’t completely free. ASO requires a deep understanding of how app stores work. As a digital publisher you also need to understand the target user base. Finally, you must know the potential keywords that your targets are using when searching for magazine and news apps.

Ultimately, all of this takes time. You can’t ignore this work or skate by in the hope that everything will work out.

Why is App Store Optimisation important?

From these app store optimisation basics, you may still be wondering why ASO is so important. Essentially, it comes down to the fact that ASO is an efficient way to leverage user behaviour.

All we need to do is look at statistics from Google. According to one study from Google, 48% of users discover apps through app store browsing. They open the Google Play Store and browse for an app that provides value for them. Because of this, browsing and search are extremely important methods for discovering new apps. ASO can help your magazine or news app stand out from competitors’ apps, making it more likely that new users will discover your app through simple browsing.

You can see other top methods of app discovery in this screenshot from the report:

App discovery statistics by Google

App Store Optimisation checklist

Now that you understand why app store optimisation is so important, here’s a checklist that can help you with your ASO work. In this checklist, we have included our ten favourite ASO tips.

I encourage you to use these tips as you focus on ASO. While you may not see a boost in your app store rankings right away, following this checklist will go a long way in helping potential users find your magazine or news app.

#1: Focus on the title

Focus on your title for app store optimisation image

The title of your app is extremely important. You must ensure that you have a title that reflects several things. First, it must reflect the core keywords that are used to describe your app (more on this below). It also must reflect the value that you are providing to your users.

While both of these objectives must be met, there is a problem. An app’s name cannot exceed 30 characters. In the past, app developers had up to 255 characters for a title. Because of this, developers hired SEO specialists stuffed keywords into the title. While you can’t do this anymore, the subtitle is an area where you can still include relevant keywords.

The rule of thumb? Use a unique title that is descriptive and perhaps includes one keyword. You can add additional details and keywords in the subtitle.

#2: Incorporate relevant keywords

Incorporate keywords for app store optimisation image

Like SEO, keywords are an extremely important part of ASO. To improve your search rankings in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, you must have a good understanding of your audience and the keywords that they are using. There’s no way around this.

Luckily, there are several tools that can help. For instance, TheTool and App Annie are two digital tools that will provide some targeted keyword ideas. You can also use long-standing keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner.

When you gather potential keywords, you also want to use them strategically. As just one example, there are differences in the number of available characters in the two app stores. The Apple App Store allows for 30 characters in the app name, 30 characters in the subtitle, and 100 in the keywords field. The Google Play Store allows for 30 characters in the app title, 80 in the short description, and 4,000 in the app description. Also, keep in mind that Google indexes almost all of the text in an app’s store listing, while the Apple App Store is less like traditional SEO.

#3: Create a standout icon

Your visual icon is an extremely important part of standing out. This is because a potential user is quickly browsing through many different apps at one time. Essentially, your app’s icon should be eye-catching, unique, and engaging.

Keep several things in mind when designing your icon. First, try to avoid text in your icon. Stick with shapes and images. Second, be sure to use vibrant colours and clear shapes. Harmonising colours are also great. Finally, embrace testing. A/B testing can show you which icon resonates best with your audience.

#4: Create a compelling description

Your app’s description is like a landing page. And like designing any landing page, you want to be simple and concise. Explain the unique features of your app and try to pre-emptively answer questions that a new user would have. For instance, make sure the user knows what your app does, the problem it solves, and why it is worth the price.

There are some other pro tips you’ll want to use. Don’t be afraid to brag about your magazine or news app. Be clear on the value that it provides to your users’ lives. Also, embrace the short paragraph. Don’t overload your description with a huge block of text. Finally, create a strong call to action.

#5: Include high-quality screenshots and video

Include screenshots for app store optimisation image

While they may not have a direct effect on downloads, high-quality screenshots and videos can show users the value of your app. The first two to three screenshots appear in the gallery on page load. You can also upload additional screenshots (five for an iOS app and eight for an Android app). These screenshots should show off the value proposition of your app.

Videos are also a great way to show off your app. In the Apple App Store, you can upload 30-second videos that act as App Previews. They should showcase the benefits and features of your app, but you can follow your creativity here. Step into the potential users’ shoes and show them why your app is so compelling.

#6: Choose the appropriate category

Categories may not be top of mind, yet they are an important way for users to find you. Placing your magazine or news app in the proper category for both app stores is helpful for your users and helps your app rank well.

Obviously, you will want to pick the category that best represents your app. However, you can still be strategic here. See how many apps are in each category and select the most appropriate category that is least competitive. It may take some time to browse the categories and view your competition. However, it is an easy way to rise up the rankings.

#7: Seek out reviews

Decanter reviews screenshot

Simply put, reviews go a long way. Positive ratings and reviews can elevate your app up the rankings. You want to focus on quality and quantity here. Ultimately, however, you want to get as many reviews as you can.

So how do you do this? You can ask users for reviews through push notifications. In-app popup notifications are another option. That said, there’s a fine line here. You don’t want to be too pushy or annoying. It’s often best to have a notification appear after the user opens your app several times. This is a signal that they may be more likely to offer a positive review.

#8: Consider outside promotion

Bikes unlimited banner advertising screenshot

On-page optimisation is just one tool in your toolkit. You may also want to invest in outside promotion to drive traffic to your app page. It can also increase your visibility in app stores and generate more digital sales.

Before doing this, however, you’ll want to consider several things. Make sure that it is easy and rewarding for app users to share app content on social media. Word of mouth is something that is overlooked, yet it can be an extremely powerful way to promote your app. Also, promoting your app before launching it can create some significant momentum.

#9: Embrace analytics

I recommend that you use a tool like Google Firebase to track your app’s performance in both app stores. Google Firebase is an outstanding tool that provides a wealth of data. For example, you can see where your app stands compared to the competition. With that information in hand, you can further boost your app store ranking.

Ultimately, Google Firebase can reveal the errors you’re making when marketing your magazine or news app. I encourage you to rely on these cold, hard facts as you continue to market your mobile app.

#10: Frequently update your app

Finally, I encourage you to frequently update your app. The simple fact is that mobile customers are looking for apps that are constantly improving. Apps that are frequently updated are thought to offer more value. This feeling leads to more positive reviews after app updates.

Add new features as necessary. While encouraging customers to download the update is a separate question, app updates can help you rise up the rankings.


App store optimisation is critical because it can be hard to distinguish your magazine and news app from other apps in the marketplace. Ultimately, it is an ongoing process. Not only are there new apps constantly being added to app stores, but app store algorithms change.

However, by following this checklist, you’ll be in a good position to increase app store ranking. Implement these tips and keep iterating.

Timo Lamour

AboutSPRYLAB was founded in 2007 by Stephan Heck and Benjamin Kolb. The company now employs more than 50 people and supports publishers in creating and distributing digital content. Clients include major media houses such as Axel Springer, TI Media, News Corp, Bauer Media and Aller Media. Find out more here.

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