Today app marketers are forced to fight two battles simultaneously – a competition with other apps on the App Store and Google Play marketplace and a competition for people’s attention on the screens of their smartphones and tablets. With so many things people need to juggle on a daily basis and giant attention grabbers like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, it’s a small wonder that they run with just a few apps to commit the bulk of their attention to. It is notoriously hard to win that small chunk of people’s attention.
App Store Optimization (aka ASO) is one of the top app marketing techniques that come to rescue app developers to connect people with apps to become their loyal users. We’ve decided to reach out a number of top practitioners in the ASO field to get their thinking about App Store Optimization in 2019.
We asked them the following questions to cover all bases:
- What are the common mistakes people make with App Store Optimization?
- How should people treat Google Play vs the Apple App Store ?
- How to create good app store assets (icon, images, videos)?
- How to pick and select keywords and meta data?
- What tools and services to work with ?
Here is what they’ve shared with us about the top App Store Optimization trends in 2019.
App Store Optimization Leaders:
- Johannes von Cramon
- Moritz Daan
- Peter Fodor
- Josh Kocaurek
- Rory Mudie
- Gilad Bechar
- Rishan Weerakoon
- Laurie Galazzo
- Peter Plachta
- Kris Aguilar
- Frank Ying
- Georgina Palau
- Angel Merino
- Fouad Saeidi
- Steve Young
I think one of the most common mistakes is to rely on the wrong (or no) tools when researching keyword traffic. There are still some ASO tools who calculate traffic with their own logic which is very far from the truth in specific countries. If you believe them, you end up with hundreds of longtail keywords with decent traffic and wonder why downloads aren’t increasing, although you achieve good rankings. Reality is that there are usually only 10-50 relevant keywords with traffic for every app, depending on the vertical. Therefore I would always recommend using Apple’s priority or popularity index for keyword valuation.
Due to the lack of reliable keyword data from Google, we’re currently also using Apple’s data for Android ASO since this is still better than betting on web search data. But in terms of metadata and conversion optimization, there are significant differences between the App Stores which must result in a unique strategy for both of them.
Competitor analysis is a good start, but shouldn’t influence you too much. Otherwise, you’ll be ending up doing the same as everyone and loose recognition value. Generally, it’s important to work with signal colors, catchy phrases, consistency and storytelling through the App Store presence.
I’m strongly recommending AppTweak and TheTool. AppTweak has many useful features that simplify your ASO workflow and is always quick when it comes to adopting new APIs etc. Besides, I think their built-in ASA suite is a very smart addition for every ASO marketer. TheTool, on the other hand, is best in class for visualizing and monitoring ASO performance and the impact of different KPIs like rankings, conversion rate, ratings etc.
Phiture – Moritz Daan, Co-founder
As the app stores and the field of App Store Optimization matures, you see companies that follow more sophisticated approaches, win.
These more sophisticated approaches range from eg. automating parts of the keyword optimization and creative optimization processes, to gaining better data insights. The latter helps companies move from vanity metrics such as keyword rankings to more evolved models to project installs and even downstream monetization on a keyword level. The rise of Apple Search Ads has had a big impact on this as well, as finally, marketers can see not only which keywords brought the most traffic, but also which had brought the highest value customers.
AppAgent – Peter Fodor, Founder & CEO
Mobile marketers should leverage 46 new storefronts in Apple Search Ads (ASA) introduced in late March. Not purely for the user acquisition but for collecting data on keyword traffic, Tap Through Rate, Install Rate and mostly LTV per keyword if using an attribution tool. Using ASA is a great way to identify the right keywords for your organic ASO strategy with quite reasonable time and money investment. It’s a strategy which we proactively offer to every new client at AppAgent to make the most of the ASO budget in the long-term.
On Google Play a new opportunity has arisen to drive traffic to pre-registration. This time the Mountain View giant follows Apple and marketers should be excited about some fresh features such as rewards to pre-register players later this year according to an announcement at Game Developers Conference. Watch out and be the first to test this new opportunity in the Play Store!
Appsposure – Josh Kocaurek, Founder
I think one of the newer things to focus on with ASO is the engagement rate and overall app quality. With the Google Play algorithm changing back in June to account for these factors, it’s not unlikely that their importance continues to grow in the future.
Beyond that, having high-quality screenshots, videos, icons, and descriptions are just as important as ever, if not more so, as more publishers are continuing to aggressively optimize in these areas.
Redbox Mobile – Rory Mudie, Founder
The ASO landscape has changed again!, here are 5 discussion points to consider.
1.) Your App is global, but people are local. Consider tailoring your listing page with both language and colloquialisms, e.g. vacation and holiday are the same thing but carry different search volumes in local app stores. For example, “休日”is “holiday” in Chinese, but is holiday the term the Chinese use for “taking a break”?
2.) It amazes me just how many people don’t combine their ASO and paid search strategies. Both Apple Search Ads and Google AC paid activity inherently boost your organic performance. To use paid tactically, boost the keywords you are trying to rank for on ASO.
3.) A simple one here, use all the characters the listing pages gives you. The description text on iOS is 4000, therefore 3999 is the acceptable minimum character count to use. Also, do seed keywords 4 times for maximum effect. Repeating the keywords that you think are important to your app is a must.
4.) Validate and report back on your organic performance using Apple Search Ads. For example, if you are trying to rank for the keyword “holiday”, make sure you buy it on Apple Search Ads and track installs. If a user searches “holiday”, taps your ad and then downloads your app, you can then answer the questions:
• did the user subscribe?
• did they make an in-app purchase?
• did they become a regular user with strong LTV?
If they didn’t do any of these, then change the ASO organic strategy to focus on keywords that do generate the events you really want.
5.) Download velocity is when your app starts to gain download momentum and becomes well-known by the app store algorithms. If you are getting featured, planning a marketing push, updating with new features or just launching an app for the first time, start with a bang! Momentum helps you increase ranking on keywords. Apple Search Ads is now live in 59 countries, which boosts your organic rankings globally when you release your updated ASO metadata with relevant localized keywords in as many territories as possible.
Moburst – Gilad Bechar, Founder and CEO
Too often people put all their focus on keywords. Keyword research is important, but optimizing your creative assets is the most important thing you can do as it impacts both organic and paid downloads. Also, changing screenshots within the App Store without testing them first on a testing platform can be very risky.
Google Play and the Apple App Store are completely different. From the length of their title, subtitle VS short description, and descriptions to the way the preview images appear and videos autoplay. It’s important to optimize for each store individually and make sure you’re doing things right for each store and its particular audience.
The most important thing is to mix your app’s branding, tone, look and feel and your app unique selling propositions (USPs). You should avoid showing features as most people don’t care about it. Instead, you should focus on the values that the app bring, and celebrate them within the design.
Picking and selecting keywords and metadata requires keyword research including:
1. Auto-complete results popping from each App Store search bar (or using our technology to do so)
2. Searching for relevant keywords and phrases and prioritize by difficulty rate, traffic, and long tails phrases.
3. Looking into your competitors, both direct and also apps that are competing for the same keywords even if they are not a competitor.
At Moburst we use our own tool that we’ve developed to help us identify the most important and effective keywords while also using MobileAction, AppTweak, SensorTower, SimilarWeb, Google Keyword Planner, AppAnnie, StoreMaven and SplitMetrics.
ASO isn’t a one-time thing. It’s important to craft a strategy, track and measure results and constantly optimize
Yodel Mobile – Rishan Weerakoon, Senior Growth Manager
There are a number of things that you need to remember in order to succeed with your ASO efforts in 2019.
To begin with, always use a data-led approach where possible to inform your decision making. There are a number of ASO data platforms on the market (both free and paid) that can provide information around search volumes, competitiveness, rank ability and much more that can help to inform your optimisation efforts.
Another important aspect is to keep an eye on competition. Learning from your competitors is key to succeeding with ASO and there is a lot that can be learned from them in terms of their optimisation efforts, positioning & app store performance. All of this can help to feed into your ASO strategy to help you differentiate yourself to your audience from the rest. Again, a lot of the ASO tools available can also help with the monitoring and analysis of your competitor apps.
Finally, optimise ongoing and regularly with a hypothesis-led approach. ASO is not a one-off optimisation but a continuous process and there is always something that can be done to improve your discoverability or download conversion rate on the app stores. The key is to optimise regularly (at least once a month) and to set forth hypotheses to test your optimizations and allow you to understand what has worked and why.
AppTweak – Laurie Galazzo, CMO
The key to a successful ASO in 2019 is to rely on the most accurate and up-to-date store data. Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store are dynamic ecosystems which constantly improve and evolve towards better user experience and higher content quality.
Additionally, user behaviors and seasonality trends change faster than ever; not to mention the increasing competition in the app space.
As an app marketer, it is therefore essential to maintain regular metadata (keywords, visuals, etc.) iterations in order to maximize discoverability and conversion rates. ASO is more than ever an ongoing process requiring daily or weekly tracking in order to identify opportunities and adjust strategies.
At AppTweak, reactivity & data accuracy are our first priorities. We have for example already added Apple’s daily Search Popularity in all the 46 new Search Ads supported regions to help marketers make smarter keyword decisions globally. Our keyword intelligence tools also provide insights and keyword performance indicators (difficulty, chance, KEI) that are driven by Data Science using up-to-date store data.
ARPU Brothers – Peter Plachta, Founder
The subject of App Store Optimization is quite vast and it would be hard to o summarize it in a few words. If I have to sum up the advice for 2019, in order to succeed in App Store Optimization it is necessary to keep the good visibility of the application by optimizing metadata (titles, subtitle, short description, full description and keywords) in App Store and Google Play together with conducting paid campaigns. It is also useful to put some effort and carry out tests A/B on icons and screenshots while increasing the conversion of application installations.
Moreover, one of the most important issues concerning the App Store Optimization is to interact with the user in the application or game reviews, regardless of whether the review is favorable or not. And last but not least, creation of a great application or a mobile game is always crucial for App Store Optimization. Then the optimization becomes much simpler.
Gummicube – Kris Aguilar, Business Development Associate
Data, Data, Data. We said it before, and we’ll say it again, (the right) data is needed to be successful in ASO. Many are realizing that after using free ASO “platforms”, that they are not seeing any return on investments tied to their impressions or installs. That said, it’s not just the data alone, it’s also that bad data leads to bad processes.
Appfigures – Frank Ying, Head of Growth
Good ASO requires an iterative approach and is a means to an end (converting and retaining users), not an end in and of itself. To achieve this, you need to 1.) Identify the right keywords, 2.) Position them for maximum impact, 3.) Optimize assets (icon, screenshots/videos) to convert impressions into downloads, and 4.) Iterate and refine.
The right keywords are popular enough, have weak competition, and show intent/are actionable. Correct placement means distributing the most important keywords across the app’s name and sub-title/short description, and assets should highlight the app’s main benefits/features succinctly.
We frequently see cases where substantial time and effort are invested into identifying and integrating the right keywords. Then, all is wasted with a lack of follow through in the form of continuous tracking, testing and refinement, or other conversion focused activities such as prompting for ratings, responding to reviews, periodic app updates, etc.)
While the iterative optimization approach works across both stores, the metadata that helps improve rankings is a bit different:
For iOS apps, make sure to place your most important keyword in the name of the app. For example, Doordash is the #1 result for “food delivery” and the app’s name is “DoorDash – Order Food Delivery”. Other important keywords should go in the keywords field in App Store Connect.
Bonus tip: Break apart multi-term keywords and list the words separately. Don’t repeat them. For example, if you want to rank for “food delivery” and “alcohol delivery” your keyword list should read “delivery, food, alcohol”.
Google Play puts a similar weight on the name, which is why DoorDash is the #1 result there with the same name. Unlike Apple, Google doesn’t offer a place to list keywords. Instead, they get that from the app’s description. Place your most important keyword at least once in your first and last sentences, and other important keywords throughout your description.
Bonus tip: Google offers the ability to A/B test, which makes iterating fast and instantaneous. Iterate by experimenting, but don’t draw conclusions until you have at least 5,000 – 10,000 sessions for each variation.
Optimizing assets serves a different purpose than optimizing keywords, which is important to remember. You optimize assets to convert impressions into downloads, so you’re really optimizing for human attention.
Study the competition and make yourself stand out by using different colors. Make a short video for your first asset. Keep in mind that most people don’t watch past 5 seconds and be sure that it makes sense muted. Simplify as much as possible – focus on one feature per asset and highlight features that drive conversion.
And, as with everything else, experiment and iterate.
There’s a lot of content out there about keyword research but continuous tracking of keywords and competitors’ ASO strategy should be a core part of your plan.
1. Make a List. Begin by listing words that describe the problem your app is solving. Look up which (relevant) apps rank well for your keywords and analyze what other keywords they leverage.
2. Keyword Research. Use a keyword research tool to assess popularity, competitiveness, and the performance (downloads and ranks) of the current top results. A great keyword would be popular and relevant, with a low competitive score; apps that rank well for it have the number of downloads you’re aiming for.
3. Continuous Iteration. Your app doesn’t live in a vacuum – app store visibility is a relative concept meaning where you land depends on how your competitors are positioned as well as how and when they adjust their strategy. Use your peers to benchmark and determine which keywords make the most sense to be competing in.
As you start out, compete among keywords that are somewhat less popular. As your optimization improves you can target keywords with higher popularity.
Appfigures offers tools for monitoring keyword performance and ranks, and for researching keywords and competitors.
PickASO – Georgina Palau, ASO Specialist
They key to App Store optimization is to keep testing and tracking changes. ASO is not something that you do once, it is a continuous process of researching, testing and analyzing. Also choose your keywords right and take advantage of localization if your app can operate worldwide. Finally, pay special attention to user feedback and engage with your users in the review section.
Lab Cave – Angel Merino, ASO Lead
The ASO landscape is constantly evolving. It is very important to pay attention to each one of its fronts and know how to act accordingly. With several algorithm changes per year, both in Google Play and in the App Store, it is a must to keep testing and aiming for better performance and quality traffic. On top of that each store has its own ecosystem with many differences, however where should we focus our efforts in 2019?
1. Search Ads has recently been made available to 46 markets becoming an excellent opportunity to boost organic traffic. However, creating campaigns without having optimized our metadata first would be a huge mistake.
2. It is necessary to have each localization with the keywords that work best on that specific language/country. For instance, the traffic and competition that a word has in Brazil is not be the same to its equivalent in Russia. Working towards long-tail keywords, instead of focusing on the individual level is another key differentiator in 2019.
3. Once metadata is covered the focus needs to shifted towards A/B Testing. Additionally, we need to account for changes on the requirement both on icons and screens that Google and Apple have in their guidelines.
4. A great new feature this 2019 is the opportunity to release games both in Pre-Order (Apple) and Pre-Register (Google Play). The higher the quality of the game, the more downloads it will accumulate and therefore higher expectation will be generated amongst its prospect users. On top of that Instant Apps are now available on Google Play, a new feature that allows developers to obtain better qualified users which in return will increase retention and consequently their ROI.
5. In order to integrate all these aspects accordingly, it is mandatory to work with powerful analysis tools that allows a deep analysis of keywords, conversions, paid campaigns, trends, tests, competition and so on. This way, we can keep applying changes and iterations aiming to increase the revenue of our application. A common mistake is to make statements without contrasting them with data. You always have to dig deeper to draw conclusions.
From Lab Cave, we take care of all the elements related to ASO, allowing us to have a large portfolio of clients who trust our work and expertise. They are not only obtaining more downloads but they reduce as well their UA spend (ASO has a positive effect on it) or even deciding to cut their entire UA investment given the organic results achieved.
App Growth Network – Fouad Saeidi, Founder
ASO is an ongoing effort. It is a combination of art and science. People often think that releasing some metadata to the App Store and changing a few keywords will be enough to make them successful; however, that is not the case. There is an absolute cost to ASO which is investing in improving your ASO or in other activities since a strong ASO strategy always has media backup and never works 100% alone.
The key to success is constant learning and keeping up to date with the App Store’s algorithm changes. Google is a search engine, therefore, the algorithm relies more on signals than on Play Store asset variables. Even the bundle iD in the URL and Developer names are signals for Google, same for quality anchored backlinks. When it comes to iOS and Apple, however, we are dealing with quality, trend, and velocity which is mainly the metadata, visuals, and ratings. To focus on storytelling is one key element of success with winning the ASO for iOS. Google, on the other hand, will need an agile testing mechanism in Google play. This way, we can easily focus on globalization and the rollout of short & long description metadata. You can master the automation by supplying yourself with quality tools such as Searchads.com,
Apptweak and Splitmetrics. Furthermore, you can join different community groups to be on top of the trends.
Never think of ASO as a separate channel. Instead, think of it as an app optimization tool that is heavily CRO focused. This can include an onboarding process, a healthy product that everyone loves and shares, an elegant UX to understand the product economics, and LTV before spending money on paid user acquisition correlating with organic growth.
App Masters – Steve Young, Founder & CEO
App Store Reviews are one of the areas people make mistakes when it comes to App Store Optimization.
For iOS, the sheer number of reviews will help you rank better for highly competitive and traffic keywords. Definitely implement the built-in iOS prompt and be aggressive with asking for a review. I would say on the second open.
We’ve seen apps double their ratings just by asking for a review more aggressively.
On the Google Play side, the number of reviews along with your targeted keywords in the reviews will help. For example, if your users say “best invoicing app” in their Google Play reviews and you have done a good job of optimizing for “invoicing app”, then that review will help you increase your keyword ranks.
Lastly, on Google Play don’t forget to build backlinks. It’s time-consuming, but it can pay huge dividends. For this to work, you will need high domain and page rank websites to link back to your Google Play listing using your targeted keywords.
And so this is the essence of leading ASO practitioners thinking on App Store Optimization for this year, on what is and will be important down the road this 2019.