In today’s short attention span marketplace, words are at a premium. We’ve gone from infinitely long blogs to Facebook-style snappy posts, and then taken things even further with Twitter, Vine and Snapchat. This has implications in the copywriting world, with brevity now king. If you can’t get your message across in 100 characters or less, you are in danger of being dismissed as “too long winded.” Nowhere is this more important than with app writing.
Though catalogue writing has never lent itself to volumes of words, online catalogue writing is a lot more competitive. In a traditional sense, all products are being sold by one shop, so competition between items is unlikely. But on Apple’s App Store, or the Google Play store, every app is fighting every other app for downloads. There could be hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of competitors out there, so writing the right content is a case of sink or swim.
So how can you best go about it? Well, here are some tips and pointers that can give you the best chance of surviving in this overcrowded market place.
Know your marketplace
Much like how there would be differences between advertising in a kids magazine and advertising in a financial newspaper, there are key differences between the App Store and Google Play. Here are some of the fundamentals:
- App names can be 255 characters on the App Store, but only 30 characters on Google Play
- The Apple’s App Store has a keyword field, whereas Google Play does not
- You can use five screenshots on the App Store, and eight on Google Play
- Both allow video previews but Google Play’s (max. two minutes) is longer than the App Store’s (max. 30 seconds)
- The App Store uses categories (one dominant, one sub) for each app (three for games), but Google Play uses only one
- Google Play allows for social likes, via the Google + “+1” system, but the App store has none
The key difference to understand is that keywords in the description have no effect on ranking in the App Store (hence the inclusion of the Keyword Field), but they do have an effect on the app’s ranking on Google Play. Keywords are still important on the App Store, of course, as Google still indexes iTunes pages (and keywords within the content are a ranking factor), but it is a finer balancing act on Google Play.
Know when to fold ‘em
The “fold” in ASO (App Store Optimisation) speak refers to both the cut-off point of a description and the app name itself when looking from a mobile device. At some point, for the sake of compacting the screen, both will be cut off. That means that the first one or two sentences, or even the first few words, are critical.
As you can see from screenshots, you don’t get much. Generally speaking, 225 characters is the limit for iTunes description cut-off point, whereas the title will be cut off after about 30 characters. In more accurate terms, the title or description won’t exceed a certain amount of pixels. Make sure you preview everything to make sure you fit within these vague limits.
So, while you don’t get a lot, there are effective ways to work within these boundaries. To maximise effect, you have two choices – either sum up the whole app in this short space, or push the unique selling point. Hopefully, you’ll be able to give a complete description of the app in this short space. If your game app is simple, this is easily achievable.
If, however, your app can’t be described so succinctly, you have to change gears and focus on its USP. What does your app do that others don’t? When users are browsing, giving them a killer hook will usually be enough to at least warrant a closer inspection. Then the other characters in your description can take over.
Reeling them in
To use an ocean analogy, the above fold text is the bait on the hook you have cast off from your little boat. It’s designed to tempt the potential user, before you reel them in with the other tools at your disposal. The title and short description might be the combo that gets them hooked, but it’s the longer description that finishes the job.
Both stores have a 4,000-character limit in their descriptions. That’s a lot, and it’s important to use it all, and use it well. Users these days don’t want a lot of “fluff” content. Give them details, give them stats, give them reviews, and then get out of there. Obviously, you should do your utmost to dress this content up professionally, but don’t waste characters on something that won’t matter in the user’s final decision.
Otherwise, the best advice we can give is to use tried and tested short advertising guidelines. Short sentences, short paragraphs, smart lines breaks and useful bullet points will all combine to get the message across effectively. It is very important to get it right, therefore you should consider using a professional copywriting agency.
Finally, it’s important to be honest. The internet is not a great place for corporate “white lies” – they have a tendency to be found out. Overselling your game may pay dividends in the short term, but the truth will come to light sooner or later, which could have catastrophic effects on both the current app and any you as a developer launch in the future (due to lack of trust).
If including stats, don’t make them up. Don’t make up reviews. And don’t make your app out to be something it isn’t. But DO mention everything good about the app. If it cracks one million downloads, great. Tell new users about the large user base they would be stepping into. If a major reviewer gives it a great score, fantastic. Include snippets in the description. You may find it a struggle at first, but the possible pay off for the honest way outweighs the potential pitfalls of being deceitful.
So, in conclusion, the “art” of app description writing lies within a few simple disciplines. Know the differences between app stores. Be succinct and punchy. And above all else – accentuate the positives.