ASO it’s boring … and it’s a long term process
A couple of years back, when most app publishers didn’t have App Store Optimization in mind, quick wins were there for the taking. Back then, by using a couple of ASO best practices as well as fairly simple black hat tactics, publishers were able to make one-time changes to their app pages and enjoy sustaining enhanced app store visibility.
;) I know about it because I used to spam the app store and I made a small profit from manipulating the App store algorithm ;)
To a large extent, those days are over. Yes. Sorry folks. Things are tough now.
Quick wins are getting difficult
ASO is becoming an increasingly difficult playing ground, for three main reasons:
- The competition is in: Your competitors probably have ASO in mind as well. 3 years ago, when we spoke with prospective clients, we always had to start the conversation with explaining what ASO is. These days, most people in the industry are knowledgeable about the basics of ASO, and most utilize ASO best practices to a certain degree. As your competitors take advantage of their opportunities, quick wins are harder to achieve.
- The app stores’ algorithms are getting more complex: While the iTunes App Store is still very much a mess, there is no denying that both in Google Play and in the iTunes App Store, the search algorithms are getting smarter and allow fewer manipulations.
- Increased monitoring of the platforms: Lately, we’ve been hearing of frequent instances of the App Stores hammering down on publishers for meta data violations. This leads publishers to take a more conservative approach, which is mostly less ASO-oriented. That being said, numerous publishers still capitalize on cheap black hat methods to rank well in
- This increasing difficulty to gain quick wins should bring the honest ASO marketer to the realization that ASO is not a one-time thing. It takes time to make the most of your app pages.
Even if you’re satisfied with results, keep ASOing
Looking at their own budget, capacity and ability, all app publishers need to decide for themselves how much time they will invest in ASO. However, we strongly advise anyone in the apps business to never completely neglect their ASO efforts. If you’ve already went through an ASO process, either with a consultant or by yourself, have achieved good results and think you can forget about this channel all together, you’re wrong.
If not maintained, any result achieved through ASO will eventually wear out. Here is why:
- The algorithms are changing: Both app stores’ algorithms change constantly. This means that the keywords that worked great a month ago, will not necessarily work great today.
- The competition is changing: Your competitors are not static; they also try new marketing techniques, and get stronger or weaker with time. You should adapt yourself to your competitors’ strategies as they may pose a threat or present an opportunity for your app.
- Users are changing: Different trends, seasons or external events affect your potential users, what they search for and how they react to it. By keeping the same app store listings for too long, you will not capitalize on opportunities introduced by these factors and your app page might appear outdated.
- Your app is changing: Hopefully, your app is growing, getting more users and better reviews, and making a larger profit. This generally means that it can now rank higher for more competitive keywords. Your newfound strength should be reflected in your ASO strategy.
Make sure your ASO strategy is responsive and up-to-date. Otherwise, you will lose precious organic traffic as time goes by.
From a sprint to a marathon
After realizing why ASO should be a long-term ongoing process, it is important to understand what this process entails. The first step is to gather the right data that will help you make the right decisions.
It all starts with research
Any ASO process should start with research. You need to ask yourself which keywords you want to target and why, what your competitors are doing and how you can compete.
In your competitor research, tap into your competitors’ ASO strategy — what their app page graphics look like, which keywords they target, how they rank for them, whether they do localization and how, their install trends and more. Study their strategy, but don’t copy it. Keep in mind that what works for your competitors will not necessarily work for you. Furthermore, what your competitors are doing is not necessarily the best strategy.
The other type of research you should perform is keyword research. At yellowHEAD, we do extensive keyword research, tracking several hundreds of keywords for each app. If this seems like too much, try to pick at least 50 important keywords. Other than the obvious primary keywords, try to find long-tail keywords as well — these will usually be easier to rank well for and do get traffic. In fact, targeting multiple long-tail keywords will often yield better results than aggressively targeting one primary term. According to an AppsFlyer study on Apple search ads, the average length of queries is 2.4 words, and we have found that ranking #1 for a primary keyword might induce fewer installs than you might think.
Make sure you track all keywords you’re targeting. Targeting keywords without tracking them means you will have no real way of measuring your achieved results and improving them. By now, there is a very large variety of different ASO tools you can use to track keywords– Sensor Tower, AppAnnie, Mobile Action, ASOdesk… the list is endless.
You will not get it 100% right the first time, nor the second or third time
You’ve done your research, tracked every keyword and created great app page listings that target the most relevant phrases perfectly. The truth is, even if you used every single best practice in the ASO textbook, you will not acheive every target. Once everything is set up, it is time to carefully and wisely change your app page listings based on results achieved.
There is no such thing as a perfect app page. There is always a better performing keyword to try or a better converting piece of graphics. Your job is to find them.
Texts — iterate, iterate, iterate
When it comes to texts and keyword rankings, you need to understand which of your keywords serve you best and what can be improved. After careful evaluation, modify your store listings accordingly — but not too soon! Both app stores, especially Google Play, take some time to absorb store listing changes so results will mostly not be visible overnight. We recommend modifying listings once a month.
In iTunes, go over your keyword lists and titles, keyword by keyword, and check how each keyword is performing in rankings. Keep in mind that, even if you don’t rank well for a particular keyword on its own, you might rank well for it as part of a long-tail query. If you don’t rank well for a certain keyword nor for any important phrase that contains it, try replacing it with something new.
In Google Play, we recommend looking at high-traffic keywords that your app ranks for at positions 5–60. Pick a few of those and integrate them several times in your listings. Make sure not to spam your description by repeating a certain keyword too many times to a point that it makes no sense. Keyword stuffing your description might result in a penalty from Google.
Graphics — experiment, experiment, experiment
Graphics are crucial for your conversion rates. In Google Play, you want to make sure that your icon stands out from the competition, as this is the only graphic asset users see in search results. In iTunes, search results include screenshot previews so it is important to make sure that the first screenshot (if horizontal) or two screenshots (if vertical) are compelling.
While there are best practices to follow, you will often be surprised by which graphics actually convert better. Test your graphics on an ongoing basis with Google Play’s Experiments tool. You can AB test any graphic aspect of your store listing (as well as the description) in any country your app is available. In iTunes, you can use third-party services such as Store Maven or Split Metrics, keeping in mind their limitations. Read this blog post for additional information.
If your app gets thousands of daily installs, you should be able to reach statistical significance rather quickly using these tools, which means you can afford to test small iterations of your current graphics. Start by testing other captions, adding certain elements or changing the background color of your screenshots. You will reach completely different graphic assets in a matter of weeks. If your app gets less than 1,000 daily installs, try testing completely different ideas to save time, as each test will take a much longer to reach the significance level.
Track your progress
As time goes by, you would want to see where all this is going. Check that your changes help increase your organic installs, while also improving conversion rates on paid installs, thus reducing your CPIs.
Tracking your progress with keyword visibility is a bit more complicated.As keyword rankings change daily, some of your keywords will go up in rankings while others will go down. Aside from tracking each individual phrase and making sure that your rankings for the most important phrases are rising, you will probably need an easy-to-calculate KPI to track your progress on longer-tail phrases. We usually track the number of medium-high traffic phrases for which our clients rank at top 10 positions. Read this blog post for additional information .
Keep other marketing efforts in mind
Your other marketing efforts will influence your ASO progress. For example, if you’ve just uploaded a massive paid campaign, you are likely to see an increase in keyword rankings and in organic installs accordingly. Vice-versa is also true. Be aware of those external changes as you measure your ASO success over time.
In other words: You need money to make money
Set realistic expectations
ASO is a great marketing channel, but it is not a standalone marketing strategy. If you think you can take a 10 daily installs app and turn it into a 10,000 daily installs app solely by ASO, you are probably in for disappointment. You are likely to see a significant increase in organic installs following the first round of optimization and a more moderate increase when you modify your listings. However, as previously mentioned, if you do not modify your listings following the first round of optimization, your organic installs are expected to drop over time.
Have an awesome (or at least a proper) product
While this article did not mention the app itself, this is probably the most important thing. Think of ASO as a marketing multiplier that shows users the way to your app. If users walk down that route, find your app and install it only to realize that it’s poorly made or a 5 cents reskin, they will probably uninstall it and might even rate it badly. This sort of behavior will give the app stores an indication that your app provides low value and should not appear in search results, regardless of the app page content. Having a good, or even decent app, that users will keep installed in their phone and rate 5 stars is crucial for any ASO success.
Never give up (unless you have no money)
ASO is not a magic wand that will work every time. Just like any other marketing effort, there will be times when you will not be fully satisfied with results. However, keep in mind that, more often than not, hard work pays off BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE ALSO PAYING FOR TRAFFIC…..
So if you are doing other marketing strategies…. + ASO… then keep looking at your competitors, modify your text listings and test your graphics — your goal should be constant, steady improvement, rather than winning a race.