Search engine optimization, or just SEO, is the process of making a web page as attractive as possible to search engines. The goal of course is having your page rank higher on results pages and in turn attracts more organic visitors. SEO for an app marketplace can make it easier for existing customers to find the features they’re looking for, and for possible customers to stumble upon and learn more about your products — thereby giving you happier customers and more of them.
While the term search engine optimization frightens off some and carries a stigma for others, SEO is an essential strategy for any brand looking to survive in the online landscape. In this guide, we’ll demystify the basic concepts of SEO for app marketplaces and send your marketplace skyrocketing to the front pages.
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Understanding SEO for App Marketplaces
To rank a web page, search engines churn through all the content they can get their hands on in the search for keywords and key phrases, which suggest that particular page is what users are looking for. Other factors search engines may look at include:
- Performance, especially how fast pages load
- User experience, such as clickthrough rate (how many users click onto your website after seeing a search result) and bounce rate (how many users leave the site after viewing a single page)
- Site reputation, like the number of external links to your website
For some, the best approach to SEO is to simply publish great content on a well-built site. While this will definitely improve user experience and, in time, site reputation, you can catapult yourself forward with a few conscious changes — the first of which relates to those oh-so-crucial keywords and key phrases.
Keyword Usage for App Store SEO
Keywords are one of the most studied facets of SEO; after all, keywords are the easiest way to tell search engines you have what users are looking for. Back during the first few years after the advent of SEO, you could quickly climb up results pages by cramming web pages full of keywords. Nowadays, search engines have grown privy to this tactic — called keyword stuffing — and actually punish you for it.
Instead, you need to use keywords wisely. And, along with those shorter, less specific keywords, you should incorporate key phrases — longer, more specific phrases which might closer represent users’ search terms. This has the twofold advantage of better differentiating yourself from the competition (since key phrases are more specific) and allowing you to mix up your language for a result that’s less stuffy and more natural.
Incorporate keywords and key phrases where possible. The classic locations, in order of importance, include:
- Site title: the title you see when you hover over a web page’s tab
- Meta description: the short description you see below a web page in search results
- Headings: the headers you use in content (which should be tagged as such in HTML)
- Content: the bulk of the content on a web page
- Images: the title, description, and alt-text parameters of an image
Keyword usage and SEO for app marketplaces: ensure the site title and meta description for a web page — such as the homepage of your marketplace and an individual app listing — are set appropriately, and take every opportunity to naturally incorporate keywords in the content and headings on those pages — such as the descriptions on individual app listings.
If you use OpenChannel, you’ll be glad to know that the site titles and meta descriptions for every listing page are set automatically, using the apps’ titles and summaries that your app developers have already set.
Including a well-written blog alongside your marketplace is an easy way to put relevant content in front of search engines. If you have the resources, we suggest you write at least one long form blog post about each of your most popular integrations — you might even find the app’s developer is willing to help out with this!
Another way to improve SEO for app marketplaces is to build up the authority, reputation, or value of your domain. The key factor that every search engine takes into account here is the number of backlinks your page has — i.e. the number of times your page is linked to from external websites.
As a similar anecdote to that of keyword stuffing, it was once possible to link to a pages from any old collection of websites and in doing so improve a page’s search engine rankings. Nowadays, the quality of the linking website is more and more important, so we don’t recommend asking for or paying for backlinks, which tend to come from lower quality websites.
Instead, you have to accept building up backlinks for the long and difficult process it is. Then, you can contribute quality guest posts to other sites in your niche (linking back to your marketplace page), or build a top-quality page that gets others talking about it on their own.
“We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, is over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and a great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect.”
Subdomains vs Subdirectories for App Marketplace SEO
A frequent SEO for app marketplace question we get asked here at OpenChannel is whether it makes a difference to host your marketplace on a subdomain, like apps.yourcompany.com, or subdirectory, like yourcompany.com/apps. In fact, this is a common question across the world of SEO — and it’s finally time to get to the bottom of it.
According to Google’s own John Mueller, Google (and presumably most other search engines) treat subdomains and subdirectories equally:
However, popular opinion — as echoed by SEO industry experts such as Moz — is that subdirectories (yourcompany.com/apps) should be used where possible, since domain authority doesn’t always carry over between subdomains. It is totally possible to achieve the same SEO results with subdomains, then, but it takes more work.
The SEO Don’ts for App Marketplaces
Having walked you through the basic concepts of good SEO, we thought we’d end this guide with a quick section on the SEO don’ts that are still perpetuated by some. We’ve already mentioned keyword stuffing and low quality backlinks (especially purchased ones), but here are a few more practices to stay away from:
- Low quality or duplicate content: Even if it’s chock-full of your favorite keywords, low quality content (with spelling mistakes, haphazard structure, and, worst of all, poor readability) isn’t helping SEO for your app marketplace, and may cause it to perform worse — like duplicate content, which is any content that appears word-for-word elsewhere on the web, it can actually worsen your results.
- Too many advertisements: We don’t expect you to be putting loads of advertisements on your marketplace — if any — but overdoing advertisements (and similarly: affiliate links) can send your page plummeting down search results pages.
- Blackhat SEO strategies: In the SEO world, individual strategies are divided into white hat and black hat strategies, the latter of which are designed to take advantage of the system. As a general rule, stay away from blackhat SEO strategies like cloaking (showing different pages to the search engine and end user) or spamming others’ websites, since these can permanently scar your search engine reputation.
In a Nutshell: App Store SEO
Search engine optimization is all about putting great content in front of the eyes of search engines, and SEO for your app marketplace should be no exception.
While some think it’s enough to create content that their users will like, we consider that just the tip of the iceberg. With the clever use of keywords and a conscious effort to grow your domain authority, you can send your marketplace flying to the front page of search engine results. And where possible, strive to use subdirectories over subdomains — by all means staying away from the black hat SEO strategies which promise results a little too good to be true.
If you can stick to these tips while creating the best possible informational experience for your users, we’re sure your marketplace will have a smooth and successful SEO journey — with existing customers finding all the features they’re looking for and new customers joining the ranks in no time!