The Ultimate Guide to App Store Optimization (ASO) for managers

Your organization has outsourced the creation of a new iPhone and Android app and after 6 months of painstaking testing and an exhausting roll-out in the app stores you sit back in your chair and exhale deeply.

Hopefully you are excited to start planning another app, or maybe you are already thinking of all the great updates your team can implement in the next version of the app. Meanwhile, a staggering fact rings in the back of your mind – roughly a quarter of all downloaded apps, are only used once. (link) Whether that is due to smartphone users app overload (link) or a symptom of too many bad developers – we’ll leave that for another article. Yet this fact makes it clear that creating a great app requires your attention long after it has entered the public sphere.

In this series of blog posts, we will try to shed light on 5 crucial activities that require special attention, in order to make your app a success. We begin by taking a look at reviewing reviews.

The Reviews – Tracking Feedback

Listen and you will learn

The customer is always right. As much as a truism that is, it is the truth. Customers, on the other hand, are not always tech-savvy. They click on the wrong links and do unpredictable things in your app and when your app doesn’t help your customers succeed in whatever they want to do, they complain.

Documenting, interpreting and categorizing your users’ reviews and comments is crucial in app optimization. The following example is an actual review from the App Store: 2 out of 5 stars. Title: LOVE, but starting to get annoyed.

“Overall I love this app. It has endless selections of music which is great. But, I wish there was a way to undo hitting the ‘I’m tired of this track’. Whenever I go to bookmark a song I accidentally hit it and I wish there was an undo because then a song I really like never plays again.” The review continues: “I know there are going to be commercials. And it used to be they were only every so often so I didn’t mind. Now every other song has a commercial! And if I skip a song, commercial!!! It’s so annoying. Go back to what it used to be!!!”

This review was posted April 24th 2014 on the App Store, reviewing the Pandora Radio app.

The 3 step process of funneling app reviews.
The 3 step process of funneling your app reviews.

Extrapolate & Categorize

What is this user telling us? We can tell that this user has been using earlier versions of Pandora and that he/she used to “LOVE” the app. It is safe to say that this user is a long time user, as opposed to a first time user. We can also extrapolate that the user finds the app useful, but is very annoyed by the volume of commercials that is playing in between the songs. The user suggests changes to the app that will make it more usable to him/her.

What can we do with this kind of information? To begin with, break down the text in very broad elements. If the user writes about issues related to how usable the app is, bundle up the users reasoning in one cell (collecting your information in a spreadsheet might be helpful). This information can be copied directly from the review or be your excerpt of the information. The goal is to get a very broad picture of the user’s feedback, mostly from a quantitative perspective. The user either writes something about how usable or not usable the app is, or he doesn’t – there is either some information to parse into the cell (1) or there is nothing in the cell (0).

Develop a keyword taxonomy

Step 2 in the review analysis is the development of controlled vocabularies (a taxonomy of sorts) so that we can structure our data better. How broad or narrow you make the taxonomy is difficult to predict – every case is different. We suggest that each category (e.g., UX: Usable) will be assigned at least 4 different categories, such as: Good Selection, Easy to Use, Happy with Design – or more narrow categories such as “Fine with commercials, Love the bookmark button” (Pandora define).  If you have 1 category per review, you obviously won’t be able to quantify the data after categorizing it, so find that balance that allows you to clearly narrow in the scope to answer the question – What are you doing really well and what are we not getting right.

Mobtimizers - Categorizing & Taxonomy Development
Mobtimizers – Categorizing & Taxonomy Development


Make your findings accessible to your whole team

The aim of the last step is to conclude what you’ve learned about your users. This information should be presented in such a way, that it is readable by everyone involved in the process of making the app – from Designers, Coders, Managers and Marketers. The issues that are being raised by your conclusion should be addressed to the appropriate department, yet make it available to other parts of the team. A solution to a credibility issue might come from the marketing department whom could alter the users expectations to better match the apps capabilities.

App Optimization, App Store, ASO, Categorize, Process, Review, Reviews, Taxonomy, Understanding, Users

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