ASO for Game Developers

This is a video curation of an awesome video I found on YouTube from Gabriel Machuret’s presentation at Casual Connect, Asia 2014.

Gabriel Machuret is an ASO guy, not a coder, he has no idea how to make games, but is fascinated about how people search. Gabriel is a leading app store optimization expert, consultant, trainer and author. In the last 2 years, Gabriel has helped over 100 different app companies to achieve better ranking by implementing practical and effective app store optimization strategies. Gabriel believes that ASO should be approached in a fresh and human way, and that all developers should empower themselves to be masters of their own app ranking.

The brand new world of ASO. All of you have games, you put the games in the app store and then you suffer because no one finds these games. You wonder why people don’t find these games. I’m going to tell you why people don’t find your games. – Gabriel Machuret

What we’re going to try to learn is how we can make the same games and try to get free traffic through ASO. Games dominate the app store with downloads. The current break down of popular categories are:

  • 23% Games
  • 11% Entertainment
  • 10% Utilities
  • 7% Education
  • 5% Productivity
  • 5% Books

How do apps rank in the app stores? In iOS, its metadata, titles and keywords, you know that because you submit apps to the app store, download numbers, reviews and ratings, uninstall factor and the secret sauce that Apple will never tell us. With Android we have metadata, downloads, reviews, rating, social signals and the uninstall factor.

Every single week, every single day, apps go up and down. It’s like the stock market. They go up and down based on different keywords. Ranking goes up and down every single day, and every single day there is winners and there is losers.

Understand Your Market

Do a competitive analysis and find out what keywords they are ranking for. There are plenty of ASO services and ASO tools that can help you accomplish this.

What are people searching for? Do a little market research. Ask people who going to buy your game. If your app is about toddlers go to a kindergarten, then ask moms with kids going to kinfergarden. Ask people that potentially going to buy your app, don’t just ask people in your industry, friends or family.

How do apps really rank? This is difficult because the algorithm is the million dollar engine of the app stores.

aso for game developers flappy bird

Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird literally showcased the weakness of the algorithm. Flappy Bird is the silliest game in history. That’s it. There is nothing amazing, it’s so silly that it created something viral. People were posting reviews. It was trendy to post a review about Flappy Bird. You are laughing that you were playing Flappy Bird. You are making fun of yourself, but you were playing that game. That is literally what took Flappy Bird all the way up.

It’s not that Flappy Bird bought downloads, no, they were just taking advantage of the way the algorithm works. If you start thinking how the app store really works you can be the next Flappy Bird.

The ASO Process

The ASO process is very simple. Find a niche, define one angle of your niche. If it’s racing cars, what type of racing cars are you going to choose? Research the keywords, find out who your real competitors are. Find how much traffic comes from their keywords, define those keywords, attack, wait to see if it works, and test, trial and repeat. The question is how are going to find those keywords that people are looking for.

What we forget is that all users are not the same. A real case scenario. Ninja versus Samurai. We all know the word Ninja in the app store are everywhere. Ninja has a 6.1 traffic score based on an ASO tool. The important point here is the number of iPhone apps. There are 5,288 iPhone apps that have the word Ninja. If you make a game called Ninja and you wonder why you’re not getting any traffic, it’s because you’re competing against 5,288 apps.

Let’s change the name of our app to Samurai. Samurai has similar amount of traffic, but there are only 1,300 apps. You just slash your competition by almost a fifth, which makes it so much easier, just because you change the name of your app from Ninjas to Samurais.

You can even go a bit further and try to find long term queries with Samurai. Samurai Sword has a traffic of 4.4, but there are only 142 apps for iPhone. You can win easy victories going with long tail keyword titles. It will bring you organic traffic without doing much and just because you changed your title and/or keywords. That’s the power of ASO.

Don’t be too greedy when you go for keywords. Some keywords like Ninja is almost impossible for you to be ranking when starting out, be flexible. This can be a little difficult for developers who take pride in their work. If I tell you, to change your title of Ninja to Samurai it can be offending. A developer or app owner will say they are two different things, not really, if you’re four year old. Recently, the Power Rangers have made the word Samurai popular with kids today.

Global ASO

Now, if app store optimization in English is new, in other languages it’s a piece of cake because no one is doing it, there is a huge opportunity in German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. If you just are doing this properly you will have easy victories. It’s very easy to outsource. And you can train people to do this using ASO tools. There is almost no competition, big publishers are not doing global ASO. Cross check for the word Ninja or Samurai in Portuguese because if no one else is doing it, that creates a huge opportunity.

The Future

What’s the future? Your goal is mainly is to adapt because if you paying for traffic without doing your homework, where you can get it for free, you’re going to be losing at the end. Keep an eye on trends.  If you realize the app Flappy Bird was happening just a little bit before it started trending. You could’ve make a killing finding related keywords. Looking at the trends of queries is important. Use ASO tools like App Annie, it’s a 100% free sign up and start playing with their tools.

Happy Optimizing!

Author: Paul Andre de Vera

Paul Andre de Vera's diverse technical and creative background and entrepreneurship has led him to build successful online properties. In addition to Paul Andre's business ventures, he's formerly the SEO/SEM Manager at SuccessFactors- an SAP company and now the Director of SEO at SmartRecruiters. On his free time he is learning to become an ASO ninja.

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