ASO for Gaming Apps

aso for gaming apps

Gaming apps offer the ultimate in convenience, allowing anyone to while away the hours on their phone while enduring a commute or waiting in line.  The modern world, where you can enjoy an incredibly sophisticated (or just a tile-matching puzzle) gaming experience from your device, is truly a gamer’s paradise. And hey – 2023 might even see the return of Fortnite to the iPhone!

But here’s the thing: because gaming apps have such mass appeal, they’re in demand, and there’s a lot of supply that’s been created to meet that demand. 

In Apple’s App Store, there are 984,000 games making up 22% of the total apps in the store, and while that seems a lot, a whopping 61% of revenue comes from gaming apps too! While every category has competition, the Gaming category has the most, making the importance of App Store Optimisation, (ASO for gaming) apps clear. 

Most popular App Store Categories

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So how do you make sure that your game is appearing at the top of search results in each app store?

ASO strategies for gaming apps

1. ASO keyword optimisation for gaming apps

Good keyword optimisation increases the discoverability of your app, putting it in front of more potential customers. And while keyword optimisation is fairly standard across all apps, it’s particularly important to get right in the world of gaming, due to that competition.

2. Build your keyword list

So what keyword optimisation tactics are unique to gaming? 

Firstly – and perhaps surprisingly – you don’t need to incorporate the keyword ‘gaming’. This is essentially a free keyword from the app stores for any gaming app (just as the word ‘app’ is a free keyword for any app in the stores). You’ll be ranked for this keyword whether you include it in your back-end keywords or titles/subtitles/main description or not, so don’t waste your characters!

Competitor research is also essential. Tools like AppTweak, Data.ai and MobileAction will allow you to look into the keywords your competitors are ranking for, giving you both ideas for keywords of your own and illustrating where you can have the biggest impact. 

For gaming, whilst it may be a good idea to incorporate your gaming genre into your keyword focus to drive high-intent users, you’ll do better by drilling down to sub-genres. This means you can rank for related keywords that are less competitive. For example, the Puzzle category is an incredibly competitive category on the Google Play Store (think Candy Crush and Royal Match). Many of these apps will have incorporated the ‘Puzzle’ keywords into their keyword strategy, but drilling down to sub-genre related keywords such as ‘match-3’, ‘block’, ‘levels’ or ‘tiles,’ could give you a higher chance of ranking for relevant keywords.

Once you’ve collected together a list of 200-300 keywords, you can analyse them for volume, relevance, efficiency, and the number of games that are indexed for it. Again, a keyword research tool is invaluable here. 

After all this, you should have an idea of the first keywords you can target. 

Pro tip: iOS and Android differ on demographics like income and education, geography and technology adoption, all of which can influence their behaviour. Consider targeting different keywords for the different app stores.

3. Optimise your metadata for Apple

Your game’s name and subtitle are indexed, and in fact, the former is the most heavily weighted element by Apple. That means you should consider a title that includes one of your top keywords as this will give you the best chance of ranking for that keyword.

Apple also allows you 100 characters in the keyword field, and you don’t need to include spaces in your list, just commas e.g. puzzle, multi-player,rewards. It’s also worth considering:

  • Apple ranks the list in the order you add the words, with the first being seen as more relevant.
  • You don’t need to include your app or company name, Apple already takes these into account.
  • You don’t need to add versions of the same word (roulette and online roulette, for example).
  • You shouldn’t include ‘stop’ words, like the, and, it.

4. Optimise your metadata for Google

The main differences between Apple and Google is that rather than having somewhere for you to add your keyword list, Google indexes your game’s long description (4,000 characters), giving you an opportunity to include some of those low search volume long-tail keywords. Only 5% of users click ‘Read more’ in an app description, so arguably it’s more of an ASO tool than conversion tool. 

Because gaming is so competitive, we recommend approaching your long description differently to other categories. 

For non-Gaming apps, we usually suggest finding the balance between variety (range of different types of keywords – to increase keyword distribution) and keyword density (repetition of keywords – which increases likelihood of ranking). 

But for Gaming we suggest focusing heavily on keyword density. Prioritising algorithmic success through keyword density is a better strategy here, as gaming users care less about positioning and feature descriptions than conversion elements of the store listing (screenshots, icons & video) that are more illustrative of gameplay. 

5. Localise your keywords and metadata for target markets 

The contents of your keyword list might just need translating, or you may need to research whether you need a different list entirely. For instance, if you’ve got a football game that you’re launching in Spain, you probably need to include local teams and high profile players. 

Both Apple and Google offer international keyword localisation, and different versions of your metadata for different locations. 

6. Update your list regularly

Keyword optimisation is iterative. If you find some aren’t performing, you should swap these out for others on your list. 

It’s also worth updating your list throughout the year to capture both seasonal and event-based traffic. Events are particularly relevant to sport-based apps, who are most likely to see an increase in downloads around events like the FIFA World Cup (football apps), Ryder Cup (golf apps) and Six Nations (rugby apps).  AppTweak analysed the download data for a range of football-related apps during the World Cup and saw a halo effect benefiting many of the apps in that category.

Football related apps during world cup

Conversion: app stores creative

It is undeniable, the icon, screenshots and video you choose to accompany your app store listing can make or break your game. If your creative promises a technicolour gaming experience and then you deliver a black and white version of that (figuratively speaking), your engagement will fall and so will your position in the app store. 

Here are our tips for gaming app creatives:

  • Show in-game footage – using video footage to illustrate game play ensures that potential users understand exactly what they’re getting when they download your game.
  • Highlight unique features – whether it’s the way gamers collect rewards, the type of challenges you set or something else, make sure your creative includes what sets you apart from the competition.
  • A/B test – we’ve talked about this a lot: the most successful apps are the ones that test obsessively, rather than going with their gut. On Google Play you can use Store Listing Experiments to test which version of your graphics performs best, and for iOS you can set up experiments for screenshots and App Preview videos in App Store Connect
  • Obsess over the first three screenshots – Apple lets you upload up to 10 screenshots and Google eight, but it’s the first three (portrait) screenshots that appear in search results, so it’s these that really need to draw your potential customers in. Make them visually attractive as well as informative to increase your downloads.
  • Localise your screenshots – consider whether you need different creative for different territories. At the very least, any currency displayed in the creative should be changed, but it’s also worth A/B testing whether different markets respond differently to different colour palettes, photography or product benefits.
  • Consider orientation – Only 5% of the top apps use landscape screenshots in their listing, but when it comes to gaming apps, that number is a massive 63%. That’s because a lot of gameplay happens in landscape mode, so for many developers, it makes sense to use that orientation in the listing. The most important thing is to accurately portray gameplay for your app, so choose accordingly. 
  • Do your research – find out what your competitors are doing and how they appear in search results. This goes for colour palette, imagery, and don’t forget your logo. Tools like ASODesk will show you your competitors’ logos, so you can identify any overarching themes, and crucially, make sure yours stands out in the crowd.
Logos of competitors

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In-app events

Apple’s launch of in-app events was particularly welcomed by game developers, as the format lends itself so well to these types of promotions. Apple suggests seven types of in-app events, but these in particular work in the world of gaming:

  • Challenge: Activities encouraging the user to achieve a goal before the event ends (popular among language learning apps)
  • Competition: Activities in which users compete against one another for the highest ranking or to win rewards
  • Live Event: Activities that occur in real-time that all users can experience simultaneously
  • Major Update: Introducing significant new features, content, or experiences 

In-app events are a great way of gaining visibility in the App Store as they’re often highlighted by Apple’s team on the Today page, and also take up a separate spot on the search page, pushing your competitors further down the page.  

You can set up an event in App Store Connect, where it’s just a case of creating the event, adding your metadata and creative, and specifying any geographic restrictions.  Both your event name and your short description are indexed, so that’s where you should include any keywords you want to target. 

A word about kids games
The Kids category allows parents to easily find apps designed for children, meaning  that to be included, your app should be specifically designed for younger users. It must not include links out of the app, purchasing opportunities, or send personally identifiable information or device information to third parties. Finally, you can’t include third-party analytics or third-party advertising. If you can comply with those restrictions, you can find out more about the App Store’s Kids section here.

How to measure ASO success as a gaming app

Evaluating the success of an ASO campaign becomes much easier if you employ one of the  ASO tools we mentioned previously. You’ll be able to compare your results against your baseline i.e. your performance before you put your strategy in place, and clearly see which keywords you’re ranking for. But beware of celebrating too soon – ranking 100% for your whole list might just mean that you’ve chosen low traffic, non-competitive keywords. Again, an ASO tool will be able to show you if this is the case. 

Generally speaking, you’re likely to see results in the App Store before the Play Store, because Apple’s algorithm updates more often, while Google’s compares lifetime data and combines your ranking with things like crash reports. If you’re struggling to figure out which App Store Optimisation metrics to track, you can always check out our blog on key ASO metrics here.

Overall, a good ASO strategy should see your app appearing more often in search results, and as a result, you should get more downloads. But like any type of optimisation, it’s an iterative process – so you should regularly evaluate what’s working and what needs improving. 

But with a vertical as competitive as gaming, it’s a process worth investing time in – and you can be sure that your Activisions, Nintendos and EAs most definitely are…

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