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 2021.
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 2021.
App Store Optimization Leaders
If you want to contribute your view on App Store Optimization trends fill in the form here.
Growfirst – Johannes von Cramon, Co-founder
“Today, in 2021, ASO practices have changed a lot since I started in this industry 6 years ago. Back then we spend more time on keyword optimization, because in DACH markets the competition in most categories wasn’t very high and almost no publishers even really knew about what ASO was. Today it’s much harder to gain visibility, which is why we focus a lot more on performance marketing in order to drive results and improve keyword rankings with paid downloads, reviews etc. But ASO is still important in terms of CRO (conversion rate optimization), because every user will need to go through that app store needle eye at some point. Keeping the communication and design consistent between ad placements and app stores is a key to success in my opinion.
In my perception, ASO for the Apple App Store and Google Play Store can be executed much more equally these days. Sure, there are still some important differences like no Popularity Score for Google Play, far less longtail keywords on the App Store and different metadata available. But if it comes to how the algorithms work and how the user journey is designed, they got pretty close to each other. I mean, we’ll even be seeing A/B testing within the App Store very soon! There were times I thought this would never happen.
2 years ago, when this article was published the first time, I wrote the following and still find it applicable in terms of how one should approach the creation of app store assets:
“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.”
Looking at the whole keyword optimization cycle also not much has changed in recent history. As long as you are aware of how Apple and Google index and weight their metadata, you only need a proper ASO tool to source and monitor relevant keywords. We switched to AppFollow, because they deliver the best all-in-one package for our workflows, but others like AppTweak or TheTool are still good choices. In the end you can try all of them and decide which one fits best to your needs.”
Phiture – Maggie Ngai, App Store Optimization Lead
“The app stores are a user’s final destination before they actually try out an app, regardless of if they started their journey on an ad on Instagram, Google, or a direct search in the app stores. That’s why it’s important to view ASO as part of the user acquisition strategy instead of just a small or isolated tactic to acquire organic users. Google Play recently made the difference between paid UA and ASO even more diffuse by merging the organic and paid traffic metrics, and Apple will launch custom product pages in early 2022 for specific performance marketing campaigns, further blurring the distinction.
Understanding the difference between the two algorithms and platform specifics is key when devising an effective strategy to improve performance. Google Play’s algorithm is generally known to be more complex than its App Store counterpart. Google Play favors broad optimization, while the App Store relies heavily on a few key aspects (metadata, featuring, and creatives).
Keep in mind that users will generally act differently on the App Store vs Google Play. With Google Play experiments and the new product page optimization A/B testing tool that Apple will launch with iOS 15, you can and should test on each platform separately. Comparing metrics of the two stores would be like comparing apples to oranges. Competitor analysis and/or following ASO practices is a great place to begin creating effective store assets and metadata.
Tailor your store listing according to the user’s preferences and motives, and measure your success with data. If users like and engage with certain features generating revenue/ROI, showcase them in your store assets and alter the targeted keywords. Follow up with a full data-based analysis on the impact on key metrics like conversion rates, downloads, installs, MAU/DAU, and revenue/LTV.
ASO should be part of your user acquisition strategy and help you make data-driven decisions. Capture new opportunities from app stores, learn from your competitors, and embrace your potential users. This is how you grow your app with ASO in 2021.”
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!”
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 -Igor Blinov, ASO Lead, Yodel Mobile
“The future is here and businesses need to keep up with the ASO updates that are coming.
Firstly, Apple’s up and coming iOS 15 update will introduce new features that help you gain an advantage over competitors by informing users about current events in applications and games via In-app Events, for example, gaming competitions, live broadcasts, or seasonal events, and more.
Find your competitive advantage. Users will be able to see in-app events right in the App Store, In-app Events will appear on the product page and in the search results. Users who have already downloaded your application will see an event card when they search. Additionally, users will be able to search for events straight within the app, this will help you engage users immediately, and attract more attention to your app.
Secondly, starting on September 29th, the new guidelines from Google mean some major changes for App Store Optimization. The biggest change is that the number of characters in a title will be reduced from up to 50 to up to 30 characters.
These changes will heavily impact your ASO strategy on the Play Store. This includes only having up to 30 characters in the Title, no mention of awards or incentives that are not directly directed to the functionality of your app and limitations on using terms like “best”, “free”, or “top” in the name of the application and on the icon.
Keep up with every change in the app stores & find your advantage.”
AppTweak – Simon Thillay, Head of ASO
“ASO in 2021 is more than ever at a crossroad between multiple functions: not only do both product and marketing teams play a role in ASO, but their complementarity is increasingly relevant to determine what can make an app’s success or failure in the store.
On iOS especially, the multiple changes introduced with iOS14.5 and iOS15 are reinventing how the App Store serves as a complete marketing tool and not simply as a gateway between your audience and your product. This trend, which also applies to Android, confirms ASO is no longer simply about increasing your organic traffic through keywords or boosting the conversion of your various marketing channels with creatives. Both fundamentals remain true and necessary, however apps are finding more and more that success in the stores comes specifically from the combination and coordination of both fundamentals.
With the user being at heart of ASO, apps need to present the right product with the right value proposition to the right audience. This is where the combination of internal and external data can maximize performance, especially when considering how ASO data can bring insights to both marketing and product teams (whether from keyword volumes, search rankings or, conversion rate or user reviews to only name a few).”
Gummicube – David Quinn – Sr. Director of Strategy & Partnerships
“Like the ASO process itself, maintaining what’s working well and expanding into new areas is going to be key to success in 2022 and beyond. Strategic keyword targeting for organic visibility, supplementing organics with paid UA from the right traffic, testing creatives to convert more users and keep CPAs down, then iterating based on performance have been tried and true pathways to growth. Having the best mobile data and the experience to know how to act on it will always be important.
At Gummicube, we’ve always been proponents of building on what works and expanding to test what’s new. Experiments changed ASO for Google Play when they were introduced in 2015. Product page optimization is going to change ASO for the iOS App Store when it comes out later this year. A/B testing on iOS will finally be a direct process, right in App Store Connect.
Custom product pages are going to be a game changer too- sending different external traffic sources to a custom landing page has always been a no-brainer tactic for SEO, so of course this will be a key tool to use for ASO once it’s released.
Those are just some of the obvious “knowns”- there’s a lot going on with Apple and Google’s legal battles, how attribution tracking is going to shape up in the new era of user privacy and data sharing transparency, how developers will utilize Apple’s new features. But that’s nothing new for 2022- the app stores will always go through changes and strategies will always need to be adjusted accordingly.”
Appfigures – Ariel Michaeli, Founder & CEO
“So much has been changing with the App Store and Google play that we know two things for sure: 1. Without ASO, apps and games will quickly lose their discoverability, and 2. things are moving very fast.The way I see it, the most crucial thing ASOs and app makers need to focus on is experimenting. Be it changing keywords, A/B testing screenshots, replying to reviews, and even pricing models. Big apps do it, indie games are starting to do it, and I’ve talked to many others who are constantly testing something.Experimenting will become the way apps advance with ASO, and as App Tracking Transparency makes paid ads less effective (and more expensive), more companies are shifting resources to organic growth, which brings long-term sustainability.”So, experiment!
App Growth Network – Fouad Saeidi, Founder
“For an online business, data is king. Things are moving faster than ever and having the right data, understanding why and how things are moving in a certain direction in the app store were advantages that weren’t readily available to everyone.”iOS 15 will be a game-changer. The native A/B testing and custom product pages will give that extra edge that small studios and companies did not have—now testing will be available to everybody, setting the average bar higher.”
And so this is the essence of the leading ASO practitioners thinking on App Store Optimization for this year, on what is and will be important down the road this 2021.