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The app market is one of the most competitive spaces in the world.

And it’s crowded – with approximately two million iOS App Store apps and 2.5 million Google Play Store apps (as of June, 2016 according to App Annie Store Stats).

Between the sheer number of apps and the skyrocketing costs of advertising, successfully acquiring and retaining users is more challenging than ever. Successful marketing specific to the apps industry has never been more valuable.

As an (app) marketer, your job is to cut through that clutter and get in front of the right audiences. Increasing exposure for your app helps increase downloads, boost store rankings and ultimately drive revenue for your business.

A highly valuable strategy to increase long-term exposure is app store optimisation. App store optimisation, or ASO, can be defined as the ongoing process of testing and measuring updates to app store marketing assets, with the goal of increasing visibility and driving more downloads.

So here are eight key steps to ASO success that go way beyond keywords.

1. Keep tabs on competitors
Before you dive into selecting the categories for your app, you should first research what your closest competitors are doing.

This will help you determine the competition in that category and show how users are searching for similar apps. Choosing a less competitive category could improve discoverability for your app.

2. Select the right category to improve discoverability
It’s about fit, user behavior and your competitors. Before selecting an app category, consider your app’s most natural fit as well as how your target users are most likely to find you. For additional inspiration, look at what competitors and similar apps are doing.

Finding the best keywords means closely tracking and monitoring competitors.

3. Generate organic reviews
Pay attention to what your users are saying. Track your rankings and reviews to see how users respond to new updates and features. Remember to mine this feedback for insights. Be responsive.

In addition to addressing user feedback behind the scenes, take the time to show that you’re listening. This can be done through your blog and release notes – or through direct response on Google Play.

4. Prompt user feedback
Target high points. Improve the likelihood of receiving a positive review by asking for feedback when a user is having a great moment with your app. Approach trusted reviewers. Consider asking beta users and professional peers to provide honest reviews.

When an app goes live the review section on your app page will be barren. Rather than waiting for an unknown user’s first impression, ask your trusted network to submit reviews documenting their honest thoughts.

5. Choose keywords smartly
Pay attention to competitors: Finding the best keywords means closely tracking and monitoring competitors. By analysing how a competitor ranks for a specific keyword, or determining which other apps rank for your app’s keyword, you can strategically select keywords to help your app rank higher.

Leverage user reviews: One of the best ways to describe your app uses language from user reviews – their words may resonate better with prospective users than the ones you had in mind.

6. How to measure the impact of your strategy on your ranking
Once you’ve selected a group of keywords, it’s important to review how these keywords will impact your ranking.

The quickest way to find the app icon that will perform best is through sequential A/B testing.

In addition to monitoring keyword impact on key performance indicators (KPIs), you should also pay attention to other factors that will affect ranking, such as: rating, number of reviews, download levels and download velocity.

7. Design the optimal app icon
Keep it simple; complex icons can be difficult to distinguish on smaller devices (or when nested in folders on a smartphone or tablet) and should be avoided. The icon is going to be shown in several places throughout the platform – and at several sizes – so it is important your creation maintains its legibility and uniqueness; design for scalability.

The quickest way to find the app icon that will perform best is through sequential A/B testing; however, note that the way you can execute on this will vary by app store.

Android developers have it a bit easier, as Google Experiments allows you to easily set up tests and collect results. iOS developers will have to use a third-party option. Of course, sometimes you need to balance science and intuition in order to create an iconic app icon.

8. Use screenshots to drive home the key features and benefits
Use all available spaces. You can include up to five screenshots in the iOS App Store and eight in the Google Play Store to promote your app. Use them all to maximise visibility and sell your app’s value.

Prioritise key messages; the first two screenshots are the most visible. In fact, they even show up in search results for the iOS App Store. Make sure your more important selling points are featured in these screenshots.

Tell a story; screenshots are your opportunity to tell an engaging story to your target audience before they interact with your app. Make sure your screenshots address their needs

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