The importance of the app store description

Hi everybody!

This is the first article for the new “Indie Dev Insights” blog section we decided to start to give some insights to indie developers out there, to help you solve issues we already faced or to have a “in production” point of view on some topics.

In this first post we just want to give you some insights you might find useful if you decide to approach the mobile market, in particular we’ll talk about ASO (App Store Optimization, more on Wikipedia: ).
Our thoughts could sound trivial to somebody with more marketing experience than us, but you surely know that for a developer this is quite a new territory and some knowledge in this field can really make the difference.

When we first released Dealer’s Life one month ago, we put a lot of effort to write an exhaustive description of the game that explained as clearly as possible all major features and mechanics, having in mind just the reader (which is of course a potential player) and focusing on concepts rather than on words.

That’s a big mistake.
We later found out that choosing the right words makes the real difference between being visible or not. You should not consider the description of your game just as an explanatory text (which is, of course, what “description” means, isn’t it?), but instead as a group of keywords that the Play Store utilizes to place you in the right spot, especially if we talk about textual researches made by users (the so called “organic searches“).

For your game to be discovered by people looking for that kind of content, you’ll have to use specific keywords in your description (and in your title, if you manage to do so).
Run a brainstorming session, try to imagine what words a potential player would use, find valid synonyms and separate them in terms of their difficulty score by answering simple questions like “How common is this word?” or “How many Apps is this search returning right now?”. Remember that synonyms are very important as it’s almost always better to be higher on an easier search (the so called “long tail“).
After you have your ideas then look at your competitors, analyze their game descriptions, find other inspirations and broaden your point of view.

Now that you have a list of keywords, look for the specific app store guidelines.
We currently are only on Google Play Store so we looked for every information about it; let’s recap what we found out:

  • The “short description” (which is less than 80 characters) is of course very important.
  • The first 160 characters from the description are the most important.
  • A specific keyword should not be repeated more than 5 times otherwise it is not taken into account.

With all this information you can now begin to rewrite your app description!
Of course be honest and don’t overuse keywords (remember that players, not just search engine algorithms, are reading this too) and you’ll see that every “search” you’ve refined this way will return an higher ranking.

There are also some tools out there that could help you decide which specific keyword fits best for your game and monitor your game’s ranking in keywords searches.
Most of those tools are quite expensive but there are some free alternatives that can help you out. We used the basic free tier of App Annie: we are not, in any way, affiliated with them, but it was very useful during this process and we’d like to suggest it.

And if you do this job right and if your game stands out from similar apps, you’ll surely see some results!
Here you can see a graph that displays daily downloads for Dealer’s Life Lite, with the blue arrow pointing to the day when we introduced some ASO concepts in the game’s description.

And that’s all for our first “Indie Dev Insights” article!
If you have any question or feedback, be sure to tell us in the comment section and if you like it, feel free to share it!

Meanwhile inside Abyte headquarters…

Hi there!
Those were some very busy days filled with news and events, I am sorry if we were a bit missing but hey, let’s recap everything that happened!

Of course the first bad news was the unsuccessful end of our Kickstarter campaign.
We kind of saw it coming, I think the main issue here it’s that we are good developers but terrible sellers, it’s just simply not our line of work. We have a solid product with very good feedback from our testers but we lack in marketing skills and consequently our campaign lacked in visibility.

I also deeply overestimated Kickstarter internal campaign exposure: it turns out that the main source of traffic for a campaign is not from Kickstarter browsing but from views from outside links and leads. Marketing is a key factor for this, so we decided to start some talks with a couple of agencies and friends to get some professional help on this topic (and relieve me the pain of thinking about tweets and FB posts instead of being able to develop our game full time 😉 ).

With the failure of the campaign the morale was not so high, not to mention a cold that was spreading among us (I am currently its next target…), so we decided to take a small break to breathe and recover from the last month and our working long hours.

Then during last Friday and Saturday we attended the Codemotion Milan, a great annual conference I know from years with dedicated speeches for game development topics.

We spent two very intense days, the speeches were very interesting and we talked with a lot of guys, things that were fuel for our mind with an explosion of a lot of great ideas.
I strongly encourage all of you to find similar events around you and places to share ideas and experiences, those are really important for our minds and our jobs (in game dev, software dev or whatever dev you are!).

So… what’s next?

We still completely believe in Dealer’s Life, we know it is (and will be) a great game and despite having not reached the funding goal on our Kickstarter campaign we will go on developing and building it! Monetize our work in order to keep developing and keep bringing you an even better game is of course one of our concerns. We are evaluating our possibilities and you will surely have some news if you follow us here!

We have also just recorded a gameplay video so that you can all see a couple of days of Dealer’s Life, its core mechanics and the current state of the art of the Beta version.

It’s nice, isn’t it? 🙂 The next step will be to record a couple of small videos where we explain some key features, but those are really time consuming, we are trying to find a time frame for them.

Speaking about development, we are now currently working on end game and win/lose conditions, we are also doing another balancement pass (this time on player characteristics) and further graphics improvements with more polished sprites.
So, as you can see we are still working hard and we’ll keep working hard till we can bring you our game!

Last but not least, I want to send a huge THANK YOU to all our Kickstarter supporters and our friends, we are working for you and your faith in us will be rewarded!

See you soon and don’t forget to follow us here, on Twitter and on Facebook!