App Store Optimization Insights (2021)

Artyom Dogtiev

Updated: July 30, 2021

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

“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!”

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.”

MoburstGilad 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 – 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.”

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 NetworkFouad 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.”

Final Thoughts

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.

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