If you are in the business of making games you know how difficult it is to get discovery for your game. I’m currently actually writing an entire book on how to market your games and make money through them which will be coming out next month but recently I got a comment on my podcast from Rajesh asking me to provide some insights on ASO. I have covered this topic in great detail in my book however I’d be more than happy to share a summary of this topic here so it can help you out to get started with this. We will be talking about how to improve your game’s ranking based on title, description and screenshots for your game.
Alright so before I tell you about what is a good ASO strategy let us first understand what ASO is exactly. In a world where literally thousands of apps and games get uploaded on the Google Play Store you have to be extremely competitive in order to make your game stand out. App Store Optimisation, or more popularly known as ASO, is what helps you stand out from the crowd of apps and games being uploaded to the store. ASO for games is what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is for websites.
General principles for ASO are very much similar to SEO but with a slight twist. Let’s understand why is it so important to get this part right for your game. User’s decision to download your game is a 3 step process:
Each of these steps is crucial and your game needs to satisfy all these 3 points for the user to download your game. Your users need to search for your game, they need to discover your game after searching for it and then download it. This entire process can be termed as “User Acquisition”. Companies spend millions of dollars on acquiring users to their games.
To be able to win the battle of discovery you got to be prepared with the knowledge of how to get your game in front of your target audience. Which brings us to the next point.
Know Your Audience
In order to acquire users you first need to understand who exactly your audience is. You’ve made a casual game and you think that the target audience for your game can be literally anyone in the world. That’s not true in reality though. You need to be able to define your audience properly. You have to know their age, gender, interests and also the type of games that interest them. You must also be aware of your competition.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to know your audience:
- What is the gender of my TG?
- What is the age group of my TG?
- Where do my TG live?
- What games do your TG play?
- What genre is your game?
- What does your TG do? School student, college student, working somewhere, etc.
- What device do you TG have?
ASO generally involves a lot of factors such as taking into consideration your game’s visuals, title and description and more.
Let us dive into each of these starting with your game’s title and description.
Your game’s title and description plays a huge role in getting discovered by users. It’s true that most of your users won’t bother reading your description in the first place itself but that does not make it any less important. If anything, it is extremely important to have a proper description. For this you need to work on understand how to pick the right keywords for your game. Selecting keywords itself is an extremely important task in order for your description to be relevant and I will be covering more about it in another post.
Let’s consider your game’s name is Subway Train Surfer. In order for your game to be downloaded you will need to be in the top search results of your game’s keywords. Let’s consider your target keyword for this game is ‘subway’. So general rule is that your keyword should get repeated in your description at least 3 times and should exist in the title you choose. It’s keyword density, which means the number of times it gets repeated in excess of 3, should be around 1-3%. So if your description is of 100 words then your keyword should not be repeated more than 3 times. Otherwise it might be considered as keyword stuffing.
The title of your game is crucial for your game’s discovery. You can say it is almost as important as the game’s icon. A combination of a powerful title with a nice icon is a sure shot formula for getting downloads.
Your game’s short description allows you to write up to 80 characters in it. This gets displayed just below the number of downloads of your game. Make it a practice to include your game’s keywords in this.
This is the most crucial aspect for your game’s discovery. As of this writing you have been given upto 5,000 characters to write in your game’s long description. Utilise this to it’s maximum capacity. There are a few guidelines to follow here though.
As per Google Play Store’s guidelines you are prohibited from writing user based reviews in your game’s description. However, you are free to use HTML elements in your description. HTML tags like “< b >” “< i >” “< u >” “< a href >” are allowed in your game’s description. If you are not sure what HTML tags are then consult someone who is an HTML developer. They will help you out with the formatting part.
To give your game an extra edge you can use localised descriptions. Localisation means simply convert your game’s descriptions into multiple languages. For example, if your target country is Spain then it’d help you dramatically if you wrote your game title and description in Spanish.
This will help you in two ways:
- People who speak that language and use it to search will find your game and are more likely to download your game
- Your game will rank for a wide array of keywords in various languages
You can also use Google Translate to localise your game’s description but it’d be a very bad practice primarily because Google Translate is not that accurate. So it is recommend that you hire someone to provide this service for you because if you don’t speak that particular language then chances are high to make a mistake and the real meaning of a statement might get lost in translation.
In order to acquire your users you need to attract them to your game.
The icon of your game is where your users decide first whether or not they would be interested in your game. You need to make sure your icon is as attractive as possible and at the same time gives a general idea about what your game play is going to be.
A good idea to decide if your icon is appealing or not is by doing an A/B test with a small group of people. Create a few icons for your game and show them to people. As many people as possible. Get their feedback on your icons and then finalise the one that gets the most number of votes. There are multiple Facebook groups dedicated to get feedback from game developer community as well. Good thing about our industry is that our community is extremely friendly and are really helpful. You can always expect a good amount of constructive feedback from people if you approach them.
This is the second most important aspect of your game’s listing page if you are launching your game on Google Play Store. If you are launching your game on Apple’s App Store then this part is not necessary but Google has made it mandatory to have a featured image. So let’s understand what this featured image is exactly.
As soon as users open your game’s listing page after clicking on your game icon the first thing they notice is the featured image.
After your icon this is the most important part of your game. Your users have made it past your game’s attractive looking icon, have seen your featured image and now are excited to see what the game is going to offer. What are they going to do next? They will scroll down and check out your game’s screenshots. Yes, they would not even read your game’s description. We will explore about description in the next part but for now let’s focus on our game’s screenshots.
There’s one relief here for you. Google does not have any strict resolution for your screenshots to be of any particular fixed dimensions. You can do two things here:
- Use your actual in-game screenshots for your listing
- Create customised graphics for your game screenshots
Try to keep the image file size as low as possible so that they load quickly on user’s phone. Here’s the biggest fight now. All your efforts will go fail if the user does not find your game’s screenshots appealing. You can consider this is one of the final steps for your user to make a decision to download your game or press the back button and check for other alternatives. Or worse, check your own game’s similar listing and downloading another game listed below yours. We don’t want that to happen now, do we?
Your screenshots can be landscape or portrait or even both. You have an option to upload upto 8 screenshots in your listing. I’d suggest you upload only 3 screenshots and try to create a sort of an intrigue factor through them. If your game supports tablet resolution then upload your screenshots for tablets as well.
These are just some basics of ASO and I have covered each of these in a lot of additional further detail in my book.
Here’s the link to my book ‘How To Market Your Game Like A Pro And Make Money’:
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This is Nikhil signing off, na shledanou!