iOS 8.0, Apple’s latest mobile operating system, brings quite a few interesting updates and new features to the table that app marketers cannot afford to ignore. Specifically, the changes in design and interface in the App Store search functionality and their implications on ASO (App Store Optimization) efforts.
Many of the new App Store features are actually “borrowed” from other companies on the market, mainly Google. Although there is still much to be done to improve the functionality of the app store, the features introduced in the iOS 8 App Store clearly mark Apple’s intent to improve the processes through which users discover and select apps to install.
Apple wants to help users find in the App Store the app that answers their need, even if they don’t know exactly what keywords or terms to input into the App Store search engine. This is why the App Store app in iOS 8 shows above the search results a list of related terms and keywords that may help the user refine their search. Note that this does not replace the suggestions displayed as the user types in the search query, but appears after the search was conducted, above the search results.
This feature has been observed previously in the iOS 7 App Store, but with the iOS 8 update it was made a permanent component in the display of search results on iPhones and iPads. For app marketers this is a comfortable tool for keyword research, alongside tools like MobileDevHQ, SensorTower and others. This tool can be useful in discovering new search terms and keywords to use in your ASO strategy and give a glimpse into Apple’s definition of term relation and relevance. In addition, this feature may increase the level of competition on popular search terms and phrases that tend to appear in the “Relates Searches”.
Inspired by Twitter, Apple adds a “Trending Searches” section that shows users the top 10 most searched phrases and keywords in their region. This list appears as soon as the users tap on the search tab in the iOS 8 App Store and before they type anything in. It is still unclear how often the list will be updated but it will undoubtedly provide developers and marketers with insight on the market demand for apps. It may even provide inspiration to developers to create new solutions that cater to popular needs.
It is still unknown what the relationship between the Trending Searches and the Top Downloaded charts is, but we will most likely see a mutual influence. Apps that relate to popular search terms will likely get higher download rates, which will boost their ranking in the popularity charts.
App Store Scrolling Results
With iOS 6 Apple changed the way search results are displayed in the App Store and switched to a tab-based design with sideways swiping to browse through search results.
This change caused prominent and popular apps that appeared high in search results to continue gaining users, while apps that appeared lower in the search result list got only a handful of views to their app page in the App Store. In an attempt to change this, Apple has brought back the vertical scroll in search results and made it continuous.
For app marketers this is a relief of a sort. The new search results display will probably expose more users to new apps in the app list, even when they are not listed as the first result for their search.
Dual Screenshot Display
The app details displayed in App Store search results in iOS 7.0 showed a single screenshot that attempted to attract users to click through, see more screenshots and install the app. In the iOS 8 App Store two screenshots of reduced size are shown in the search results, and it’s crucial that you adjust your app listing accordingly, if you don’t want to appear “lagging” after other developers.
This may be a small change in the interface, but it provides an opportunity to use more graphic components in telling the app store and communicating its value to the user right from the search results display.
Another slight change to the search results display is the addition of an “Editor’s Choice” badge to appear under the names of apps recommended by the App Store editors. With hundreds of apps that have achieved this status, the addition of the badge to app listing in the search results adds a kind of “Seal of Approval” from Apple, encouraging users to choose the recommended apps over others.
It’s clear to app marketers that being featured by Apple or picked for Editor’s Choice is a major achievement with influence on user trust in the app and of course its download volumes. The addition of the badge to search result listings is just yet another reason app developers and marketers should strive to have their app noticed by the App Store editorial team.
While Google Play relies mostly on algorithms to aid users in discovering new apps to install, Apple employs an editorial team that creates featured app collections on a variety of topics, subjects and events. Some of these Featured Categories, along with the standard category list, can be found on the App Store home page and in iOS 8 are also displayed when clicking the “Explore” button in the middle of the bottom button row, which will be replacing the “Near Me” button located there in iOS 7.
Video App Previews
We’ve been wondering for a while now about when Apple might come around and adopt the Google Play and Amazon App Store approach of displaying videos alongside the screenshots on the app page in the App Store. This feature was previously observed in the UK App Store with an app named “Clumsy Ninja” but with iOS 8 it’s coming to all apps. If you have yet to do so, you should hurry up and create a video preview of your app for the App Store, according to the guidelines published by Apple.
According to these guidelines, the App Preview videos should be composed primarily from device capture footage and serve as a preview and not a product ad. In terms of format and length:
• Videos should be up to 30 seconds long
• Device specific (different videos needed for iPhone and iPad apps)
• Resolutions: o 640×1136 (or 1136×640 for landscape mode);
900×1200 for the iPad o 1080×1920 (or 1920×1080 for landscape mode)
• One localization only
In order to help developers create these videos, Apple added real-time capture features to iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Apple recommends using QuickTime player to capture the device screen and iMovie or Final Cut Pro X for editing before uploading the video to the app page using iTunes Connect. It’s common knowledge that Google Play prioritizes apps with a video preview in the Google Play App Store search results. It’s safe to assume Apple will do the same.
For developers selling their apps on the App Store, Apple has revealed a new option for selling multiple apps with iOS 8.0: App Bundles. These bundles allow developers to sell a number of apps aimed at a similar audience at a discounted price and with a single click to buy and install. Notice that App bundles have their own unique names.
This can contribute to ASO by allowing the addition of relevant search terms to the bundle name.
Apps in the Spotlight
The Spotlight search is the native search field in iOS that appears when the user swipes down on the device home display. The user can use Spotlight to search for documents, media, contacts, messages and installed apps from a single interface. In iOS 8 Spotlight search results include not only installed apps, but also relevant apps from the App Store.
For app developers and marketers this a huge opportunity, as it offers another method for users to contextually discover apps even when they are not actively searching for apps to install.
App Store Analytics
Another feature in iOS 8 that shifts more attention to ASO is the long awaited App Store Analytics service that allows app developers and marketers to track the number of visitors to the app page in the App Store, the percentage of users who installed the app and how long they’ve used it. Up until now Apple avoided supplying developers and marketers with this information and the only measurement tools available were third party solutions capable to tracking mostly in-app activity and engagement.
This analytical data allows app marketers better insight into the results of their ASO efforts, providing them with a measuring tool of its success. In addition, it provides better measurement of A/B testing of the various components of the app page.Conclusions
As with every iOS update, it’s important to refresh your ASO strategy and update the app page in the App Store to reflect the new capabilities and features of the App Store. In a competitive space like the App Store, the apps that will leverage new opportunities to be found and stand out will benefit from additional organic downloads, which will further strengthen their ASO and give them a competitive advantage. Leading brands and major popular app developers didn’t wait long, and prepared an iOS 8.0 optimized app and App Store page long before the OS update became publically available. Considering the opportunities offered by this update (multiple screenshots, video previews and more), delaying the App Store page update of one’s app is almost certain to damage app ranking and download volumes.