A few months ago, Chetan and I decided to quit our jobs and jump into this crazy world of App development. Chetan is an experienced developer and I come from the SEO industry, we thought it was time for us to come together and build some amazing apps, we had been dreaming about it for a few months, and then it reached that point – “it’s now or never”.
Our first app, MangaKey, is a customizable iOS keyboard targeted at Manga and Anime fans. MangaKey allows you to change your keyboard background with Manga or Anime themes, send GIFs or even custom Manga Emojis (Stickers) all from a single keyboard! Pretty cool stuff!!! (at least this is what most of our users say).
The day we published MangaKey, we probably made every mistake in the book and broke every single ASO rule and of course, we paid for the consequences. The first few days we had “some” traffic, and after that we could hear the wind blowing in the desert with next to zero traffic!
This is when I decided to start researching even more seriously about ASO, since we had no budget for advertising, we knew our only chance to obtain traffic was – organically. Moreover, organic traffic is always more welcome – we think!
I read quite a few articles and found a few tools about ASO but I was still not confident or sure about the accuracy or applicabality of all the research I had made…
I come from the SEO world where I had already kind of lost hope on a fair algorithm system, so I had little hope in the ASO world to start with. However, one day listening to some podcast I heard an interview to Hugh Kimura, I thought: “this guy knows what he is talking about and the software that he represents must be useful!” so I decided to give it a chance and immediately signed up for Sensor Tower!!!
The Sensor Tower website looks nice, no adornments (read distractions), simple, quick, to the point. I am experienced using MOZ tool which is prettier, but not as straight forward. Sensor Tower is SUPER simple to use and probably the most complete ASO tool in the market. I want to share with you my experience of using Sensor Tower:
The first thing I did was to add my app and introduced my keywords which I copied from my iTunes Connect account. After clicking optimize I was shocked by the number of mistakes I was making!!! I wasn’t using all characters, I was leaving a comma space in between keywords, and worst of all I was repeating same keywords in the tittle and in the keywords area. (Facepalm moment).
I was able to see how competitive some of my keywords were. Check the screenshot bellow, I was trying to rank for keywords with iPhone Difficulty above 7 like emoji keyboard or sticker. The Traffic seemed reasonable but for a new app like ours it was an impossible feat to get decent rankings with those keywords. So I decided to redo my research and choose keywords with a decent chunk of traffic but with lesser competitiion.
For my keyword research I used the Keyword Research tab on Sensor Tower. Here I could see who are my competitors (which I got it all wrong, I will explain later) and from there I went to the tab Keyword Spy where I could see what keywords my competitors were targeting, and how competitive they were.
This way after a couple of hours of playing around I got a pretty good set of new keywords for MangaKey that I could not wait to plug into my iTunes Account with the next release version. But prior to this… I came across the most amazing feature in sensor Tower: Keyword Translation.
Keyword Translation allows you to see your keywords translated into all major languages!!! My first thought was: “It cannot be so easy”, so I went and double checked this in Google Translate, and even asked some of my friends across the globe to double check, they were all correct!! Super nice! So what I did was, I translated the title of my app in all the languages and submitted them along with the newly translated keywords to the App Store. For some languages we also went the extra mile and localized the application, description and the screenshots as well! (These wouldn’t count for ASO, but we wanted to provide our users a better, localized experience).
So after all of these changes we submitted the new version to the App Store and waited eagerly to see the outcome. The results were NICE, for the lack of a better word!
On January 3rd our app was published – after 12 excruciating days of waiting (we had to wait for the Apple guys to come back from their well deserved holidays). The long wait however was worth it! On the same day as the release of the update MangaKey was also shared in a Manga & Anime Social Network called Amino Anime by one of the community members, this post went viral to some extent in the community and our downloads exploded to x8 times!!!
It was very exciting, but we were afraid that this was not the result of the ASO improvements but only a temporary increase due to that popular post.
However, our fears were proved wrong and once the traffic from the community phased away we still retain a pretty decent traffic! On an average it’s about 4 times more than the previous version and 10 days later keeps pretty stable, we are sure this traffic is organic because the post that became viral was shortly buried in the community and had no more likes or comments. So this was all the ASO magic at work.
In our analytics we observe that the number of downloads increased in ALL countries where we translated the keywords! it was nice to see that our app was downloaded in more than 80 countries!
We immediately starting ranking somewhere around the top 100 of several of our chosen keywords, since they were not as competitive as the older ones. This also helped us to increase rankings in some of our main keywords which we were already using. For example “Manga” and “Anime”. It is very encouraging to see the growth of your app in the Sensor Tower dashboard and also get new ideas on what you could do to make it grow even further!
This was our first attempt to improve our ranking in the App Store and we feel happy with the results. However, I think that we made a few mistakes and there is still room for improvement. We plan to fix these in the next version:
1. We thought that our most important keywords should be the ones directly related to the core functionality of our app, true, but not 100%! Most of our users love our app because it is a Manga keyboard rather than because it’s another keyboard. So we must emphasize more on the “Manga” USP of our app rather than other general keyboard features.
2. When we translated the keywords, we only checked the translations provided for correctness, but we didn’t check the traffic and the level of competition of those, we didn’t fine-tune our foreign language keywords as much as we ought-to-have. Some of them have no traffic at all, others have crazy competition, so even the translated keywords we should optimize a lot more.
Some Final Thoughts
We realize that ASO can be really powerful when executed correctly, every developer that is serious about getting more visibility for their app and eventually generating revenue must endeavour to improve their rankings. Having a great software tool like Sensor Tower is essential for a successful campaign. For the next version that we hope to submit in about a week from now, we will have improved our keywords in ALL languages and made some more tweaks – many of them with the help of Sensor Tower. We are excited to see the results of these changes. Stay tuned to read part II of our story!