App Developer’s Guide to On-Page and Off Page SEO

App Developer’s Guide to On-Page and Off Page SEO

In its purest definition search engine optimization, or SEO in short, is the process to make sure that your content is easily discovered by audience through search engines. It has been one of the most important aspect of online businesses but was something of a novelty for app developers.

In fact the whole mobile app marketing world was uncharted territories for both developers and online marketer. Developing Apps require entirely different skills than traditional websites and promoting apps gave narrower avenues for promotion than traditional websites.

Why Search Engine Optimization?

A world where everyone creates content gets confusing pretty quickly without a good search engine.”
-Ethan Zuckerman

The challenge of online marketing of the app was a little daunting however the inherent problem was quite nearly an old one – competition and discovery. Your app is one among a million in Apple Appstore and against an equal number in Google Playstore, and you have to make this app visible on internet, just like a website, and on app store page as well.

But once someone came with the idea of creating a dedicated app website, and frankly it was the logical next step, App developers and marketers went back to old SEO techniques.

As we talked in our previous post on app discoverability, averages users find an app through many ways. Here in this post we are going to focus on those 16% and 14% people who stumble upon apps through internet browsing or through direct web searches. Through SEO we can directly influence these two discovery ways and by doing off-page SEO of our App we also increase the chance by which the users find the app in the app marketplace as well.

So continuing our series on App Promotion, in this post we will discuss all On-Page and Off-Page SEO techniques that can help improve your App discoverability. We will focus on traditional SEO techniques along with some new SEO concepts.

Traditional SEO Tactics to Improve App Discoverability

Though SEO may seem to be quite a complicated process but in theory the two main SEO elements that developers and marketers need to focus are content and links. Every technique that we use, focuses on these two things one way or another. The major difference between SEO for websites and SEO for apps is that for apps we need to optimize the page on which the app is present no the app itself. Search engines don’t crawl inside the app, thus the content around the app needs to be optimized. Since you have limited ability to edit your marketplace page, we create a whole website dedicated to the website and optimize it fully. That’s why you need a app website and that’s why you need to promote it.

Optimizing the application marketplace page is a very important topic and already these optimization techniques have come under the umbrella of a new term AppStore Optimization or ASO in short. We are going to discuss ASO in detail in later posts but now we are going to focus on OnPage and Off Page SEO related to your App and its App website.

The process of SEO for webpages primarily includes three things:

  • Getting your website crawled by search engine bots.
  • Optimizing the content of the web page (on Page SEO).
  • And, Building authority through links to the website pages and through social media endorsements (Off Page SEO).

Now before we begin I would like to point out that its utmost important that your create a dedicated App website for all the SEO techniques to come into effect. To know more about them, check out our previous article on How to create a dedicated App website.

On Page SEO

Alright the first thing to do is to provide a link to your app website in the app description page in the app marketplace. Your website should also link back to the app marketplace page. This not only boosts the links values but also confirms that the app is genuine.

Other than cross-linking with the app store and using specific metadata attributes, optimizing the content on the page that the app lives on is no different from optimizing content on any other page on your website. Here are a few On-Page SEO tricks

A Frequently Updated Blog with Awesome Content

Blogs gained their importance in recent years only. It was more of a domain of hobbyists than multi-million dollar enterprises. Now blogs are a necessary part of every online marketing campaign and is used to publish content, build brand value, grow audience, and build an authority in one’s field. Their importance is evident through studies that show that a company can increase its average Google organic search traffic by 51.38% just by publishing frequent blogs.

A key point here is that for blogs to be truly effective they should be unique, informative, contain visual elements like images, videos, etc, and should be easy to understand.

Google Authorship Integration

Google has released a set of guidelines that allow the search engine to verify the author of the content, curate it more efficiently, and award expertise and authority to authors based on the content they have released. You can infer a concept of author rank from this but till now the concept have not been clearly verified and google have not release any statement admitting to such. But going by past google trends we can safely bet that Google Authorship is very important from SEO point of view.
Google Authorship Example

In addition including google authorship codes in your post results in the displaying of Author’s Google+ profile picture next to the content snippet in search results. This gives the post a little advantage over others.

Optimized URLs

Instead of using dynamic or undecipherable URLs you should use keyword-rich URLs. This is especially important for CMS users as WordPress and other CMS create dynamic URLs by default. Here are some guidelines that your should follow which creating urls

  • URLs should be under 100 characters in length
  • Words should be separated by hyphens or dashes
  • Don’t make more than 3 subdirectories in URLs
  • Include location-based keywords in URLs if you are aiming to rank in local based searches
  • E-commerce websites could suffix tracking or product number at the end of URLs but without compromising with the above rules of keywords

Title Tags- Make them Wanted, Short

Title tag has been one of the most important factors that influence search engine rankings and will continue to remain so for the foreseeable future. In most search results this title tag is the ‘clickable’ text that appears in results and thus optimizing these tags remain far more critical going beyond even SEO. Not only your title should be written suitably to rank in search engines, they should be enticing enough to attract clicks.

Title Optimization Tips

To get the most out of your title tag, you should try to place your keyword in the tag naturally and strategically. Include your company, organization, or brand name in the title of the home page and for internal pages include them in the end of the title. Also if you are going for local rankings, include local keywords as well. Ideal length of a good title tag is around 65 characters with spaces.

Heading Tags – Make Them Relevant. Precise

Google give a lot of gravity to heading titles, especially in deciding what the general theme of the content is. Optimization of headings is not that difficult. All you have to do is to make sure that your headings are to the point and improve reading experience, and optimization is already done. However there are still some best practices that need to followed to get the most out of your tags.

First and foremost, each page should have only one H1 tag. H1 tag indicates the main topic of your page and thus should be used only once so as to not confuse the search engines. The next step is to break your content into relevant chunks of contents with suitable headers. No one likes to read long essays with no subheadings to ease readability. Search engines also go by this same logic and sub heading tags help them to understand your content better. Include keywords in your H2,H3,H4 etc tags, but include them naturally in a sensible manner, don’t stuff them.

Alt Image Tags- Make Them Descriptive

Google has spent significant attention on its image search and thus have increase the importance of image’s atl tags. These tags not only help to increase the relevance of the content, they also help you in getting ranked in Google image searches. They are especially useful for those websites that have lots of portfolios images or those that are trying to connect their brand with a logo, design or a mascot.

Again naturally adding keywords in the tags will get you ranked better. If the images are not relevant to the keywords, its best to find another image than to fit it with non-relevant tags.

Keywords in Content

Keywords have been and will remain the most important aspect of your content. However they are a two edged sword. Stuffing your content with keywords will drop your rank faster than you can imagine. So the rule of thumb is to use the keywords in a natural way. There are many keyword analyzer tools available. Use them. A good keyword density is in the range of 2-3%. Also keywords should be used throughout the content, don’t stuff 3-4 lines with all the keywords. Again the more natural and informative your content is, the more search engine friendly it would be. So keep the guidelines in mind while writing the content.

Appropriate Depth of Content

Google has been steadily giving a little bit more importance to heavier content. The premise behind this shift is that anyone can put together a 400-500 word content and add keyword or two in it, but only informative articles are longer than 800 words and they should get more preference as people are mainly searching for information. Thus its best to ensure that your content especially blog posts should exceed 1000 words in length. In addition there is Google feature known as Google In-Depth Search, any good written article has a good chance of ranking in this feature easily.

Targeting content by Topics

Till now we have been focusing on keywords and use of keywords. They are important no doubt but as the search engines are getting smarter, the tone and feel of the content is also taking precedence. Search engines are also starting to focus on ‘overall topic’ of the content in addition to the keywords. That means that rather than creating pages around 2-3 keywords, its better to create pages based on topics and then using keywords in between. The trick is to use multiple keywords as naturally as possible. This not only improves your reader’s overall reading experience but also help you in SEO. As search engines are getting smarter and giving priority to organic content, topic based page creation will help you in future as well.

Off Page SEO

In general terms Off-page SEO focuses mainly on link-building exercises and social media promotion. However there are some nuances to these techniques. Here are a few Off Page SEO tricks to get you going:

Search Engine Submission- Go Submitting

Ok first step of both On-Page and Off-page SEO is to create Google and Bing webmasters account, add their codes into your website HTML, and get your site indexed by all the important search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, MSN, Alexa, etc.

Community Creation in Social Networking Sites

Online promotion used to have only two properties earlier, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Social media was part of off-page SEO, but development in social networks in last 5 years have exponentially increased the importance of social media and they are now another significant property of online promotion itself. So for effective off-page SEO strategy you need to build your presence in social networks as well. To know more about how to promote your app through social networks we suggest you to go through our previous article titled “How to Promote Your Mobile App through Social Media“.

Blogging – Go Texting

As said earlier, it is the most powerful tool you have in your tool box for ranking the website is blog. In addition blogs give you content that is interesting enough to share in social networks, blogs gives you addition content that you can share in forums, discussion groups, and other online places including book marking sites, other blogs, and question-answer websites. In short the first thing you need to do to start your online promotional campaigns is to create a blog and start adding meaningful and interesting content in it.

Forum Postings – Go Sharing

Forum posting was once one of the most important trick in the deck of an SEO. However penguin and panda updates have diminished the authority of this trick. It is now frowned upon in white hat SEO circles, but still it has some uses. Granted that you make avail of forums that have high PR and are dedicated to maintaining quality. Also most forums have started to give no-follow to the links that you would post significantly decreasing the effect, but still its still a good way to increase your site traffic. We would recommend you to follow this tactic after you have covered all the basics like blogs, social media, YouTube, bookmarking etc.

Directory Submission

Many people may say that directory submission is dead. As far as I’m concerned it is still alive. It is purely based on how effectively we are selecting those directories and how efficiently we are choosing the category for submission. Of course, directory submissions returns quite delayed results, but it is worth doing it. Submit your websites to the topmost quality directories like DMOZ, Yahoo Directory, ZoomInfo, One Mission, Pegasus, etc. Nowadays many web directories may offer paid listings but don’t go for it.

Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking is yet another powerful way of promoting your website, but nowadays most people are spamming social bookmarking sites without knowing how to use them. Since content in these websites update frequently, search engines like these types of sites and often visit them (this is commonly termed as Tagsonomy & Folksonomy in Web 2.0). Do some social bookmarking in popular bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Propeller, etc. You should be very careful while doing this and you must properly handle the tags which are very essential to broadcast your news on a wide area network. This may increase your website traffic based on how effectively you have participated.

Link Exchange

Exchange links with service-related websites (this is commonly termed as Thematic Link Exchange) that can help increase your link popularity, which is a major factor of Google’s PageRank algorithm. Beware of Black-Hats while doing exchanges.

Cross-Linking

Link to internal pages within your site wherever necessary (this is commonly termed Internal Linking). This increases your internal link popularity, which is another major factor of Google Page Rank algorithm. The best known example of successful internal linking is Wikipedia. Also try to get a content link from websites/blogs that are related to your site theme. Try getting a link from within their site content using a targeted keyword as anchor text (much like Wikipedia does). We know that this strategy can often be hard to implement, but these types of links have more weight from a search engine point of view.

Photo Sharing- Go Social

Publish/share your website product pictures and make them public. Let your friends see them and comment on them too, which will help drive traffic towards your website. Do this in major photo sharing websites like Flickr, Picasa, Photo Bucket, Picli, etc.

Video Promotions – Go Animating

Like with photo sharing, you can publish/share your product videos, expert opinions, and reviews of your product and make them public in YouTube, Metacafe, Dailymotion, etc.

Business Reviews

Write reviews about others businesses or ask your friends/clients to write a review of your business in major business review sites like RateitAll, Shvoong, Kaboodle, Stylefeeder, etc. Even Google local Listings now have a feature that allows users to rate a business. We recommend strongly to leverage this feature.

Local Listings & Yellow Pages – write history

Instead of going global and facing huge competition, make your website local so that search engines can easily view your website and fetch the content. This will help you to reach a targeted audience. Submit your website to Google Local Listings, Maps, Yahoo Local, Yellow Pages, Superpages, Hotfrog, etc.

Article Submission

Write articles of your own and submit them to popular article sites like Instructables, Squidoo, Ezine, Go Articles, Now Public, Buzzle, etc. This will help you to attain some deep links for your website (though it’s usually a slower process).

Press Release Promotion

If you are a business/service provider then go for PR submission in popular PR websites like 1888pressrelease, Open PR, PR Leap, etc. This will help you to publish your site in Google News.

Classifieds Submission

Do some classifieds submissions to advertise your products for free. Try Craigslist and other major classifieds sites like MySpace, Locanto.com, Classifiedads.com, usnetads.com, adoos.com, etc.

Social Shopping Network

If you own an e-commerce app, this is a good strategy for advertising and easily branding your products for free. Submit your products to Google Product Search, Yahoo Online Shopping, MSN Online Shopping, and other major social shopping network sites like Kaboodle, Style Feeder, Wists, Five Limes, Buzz Shout, Ohmybuzz, etc.

Questions and Answers

Participate in Answers by asking and answering relevant questions and placing a link to your website in the source section if necessary. If you don’t spam, this is another great way to increase your link popularity (Yahoo Answers, Cha-Cha, Answer Bag, etc.)

Document Sharing

Share your website documents like business documents, information brochures, and slides in Google Docs, Slide Share, etc. This will help you brand your website.

CSS, W3C & RSS Directories Submission

If you have a web design site or offer services related to web design, submit your website to CSS and W3C website directories which may drive traffic towards your website. Also submit your website to RSS feed directories which, again, will help you attain more traffic.

Widget / Gadget Development

Develop some interactive and innovative widget/gadget applications (such as an online poll or game widgets) for your website and publish them on your blog/website or in other popular social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Let your friends and others vote/play/use the widget/application, which will help you increase your branding and website visits.

PPC Ad Campaign

When none of the above strategies work for you, go for a PPC ad campaign with your targeted keywords. Remember that you have to pay to drive more traffic towards your website through PPC.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, all you need to worry about is what content you have is what the users can benefit from, and how that content is placed in an organized fashion encapsulating all the little details shared in this document.

Your app may be one in a million, but good news is that racing to the top 3 in search results would not be much difficult now. Not after following the above shared guidelines that are indeed a proven hit!

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Ambuj Tayal

Ambuj Tayal

Director - Consulting Services
In the past, Ambuj has held consulting roles with various global technology leaders, such as Infosys, Fiserv and Xchanging in India. He holds a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.
Ambuj Tayal

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