What Paid Search Discovery Could Mean for ASO

Partner Post - Gummicube Big Data Analytics for Mobile & ASO

Posted: May 19, 2016

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Dave Bell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gummicube. In this role, Dave is responsible for overseeing the business strategy for the company, driving growth and market development. Dave is a pioneer of the mobile entertainment industry with more than 15 years of experience publishing, marketing and distributing mobile applications and games across carrier, direct to consumer and app store channels.

Since the dawn of time in the world of search on the desktop web, organic listings have lived next to sponsored search listings in harmony. In mobile, however, this has not been the case. With a majority of users searching in the App Store and Google Play for apps and not on the web, paid search has not been a major factor. Now that Google has rolled out paid search in Google Play and Apple reportedly considering paid search in its App Store, this might potentially change – but the metrics behind paid clicks likely won’t.

First, let’s debunk the myth that if you pay to be listed at the top of search results you will receive a majority of the clicks. As any web marketer would validate, study after study has confirmed that paid search on the desktop web only garners about 6% of total clicks. An overwhelming 94% of users know the difference between a sponsored link and a truly organic link in search. Further, 86% of web searchers trust organic SEO listings more than paid/PPC listings according to this data from Unbounce.

Google Play Search Results
paid search discovery

It is highly unlikely that from a behavioral standpoint users searching in the App Store or Google Play will perceive a paid search link in a more flattering way than they would on the web. This is especially true when considering that Google Play has clearly marked the “paid listings” and it is likely that Apple will take an even more aggressive approach in differentiating their results given their historical favoritism to maintaining the integrity of organic results.

Having said this, regardless of how many users may click a paid advertisement, paid search will likely be an excellent way to create awareness for apps or brands inside the store. Let’s face it – a big part of the problem inside the App Store and Google Play is simply creating awareness for an application. PPC (pay per click search, or “paid search) just might be able to help in this regard.

At the end of the day, consumers are going to download the app that resonates with them most in search results. A big part of the equation to receive those clicks is establishing awareness of your app and also establishing trust (or at least a connection) among end users. Running paid search immediately communicates to prospective users that your app is the leader in its field (because presumably the other alternatives that couldn’t afford this aren’t doing as well). Further developers who advertise in the paid listings will be able to get their message across to end users twice.

The perception of market leadership that this engenders and the additional exposure can crank up conversion rates when users do see your app again in the organic listings. There is a reason many web marketers continue advertising on a keyword even if conversions don’t look promising – because many experience a lift in their organics that “disappears” when the paid search ads stop. Some believe this is Google somehow punishing those who spend less money – but the reality is that paid does help organic results.

With leadership of keywords in true organic search being driven, in part, by click through rates, it is possible that participating in paid search can increase your click through rate as a result of the phenomenon described above.

The other positive news, if the reports about Apple entering PPC are true, is that Apple enforces their rules much stronger when they have something to lose. When Apple was pushing the iAD standard, they aggressively targeted apps and networks that promised “chart boosting” services like the infamous AppGratis. They even went after the advertisers that used these kind of TOS violating techniques.

It is highly likely that Apple will replicate their strict enforcement against paid schemes to manipulate keyword rankings the same way that they did in the days of iAd. In fact, many developers are starting to notice apps that suddenly achieve great rankings out of nowhere get removed from Apple’s App Store.

Don’t fear however – it is important to note that truly organic ASO activities like keyword & metadata optimization and creative optimization for conversion are perfectly white-hat and encouraged by Apple and Google. Schemes that promise to boost you on a specific keyword or chart for a large wad of cash are not and the enforcement appears to already be starting. No matter how “safe” a paid advertising company tells you their methods are, buying a position of any kind violates Apple T&C’s.

Paid Search

Paid Search Discovery

As with any platform, the Apple App Store will continue to evolve. The inclusion of paid search is only the next step in a natural progression that was inevitable. Learning from the web, this format complements truly organic search listings if managed correctly. It may even serve as a trigger for Apple to clean some of those well known scammers out of the store for good.