Dave Bell

As a co-founder of Gummicube, Dave Bell is an entrepreneur who is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the fields of mobile entertainment and mobile marketing. Dave’s career spans more than two decades, and he is credited with launching the first generation of mobile multiplayer games, introducing directtoconsumer mobile content distribution in partnership with major record labels, and co-inventing the marketing practice that later became widely known as ASO (app store optimization). Dave has been featured in and is a frequent contributor to Inc., Newsweek, VentureBeat, Mobile Marketer, Mobile Retailer, Business of Apps, and more. 

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app store optimization

App Store Optimization: Defining ASO and Its Significance

App Store Optimization: Defining ASO and Its Significance

Dave Bell, Co-Founder • Gummicube • February 13, 2024

app store optimization

Reaching the forefront of a crowded marketplace is a goal digital businesses strive for, aiming to grasp the attention of users browsing online. However, reaching the top spot in search rankings requires understanding the nuances of the platform your business is appearing on, whether it be the web or in app stores.   

App store optimization (ASO) is the foundation of mobile app marketing and sets the stage for complementary strategies down the line. In this article, we’ll dive into the intricacies of ASO, contextualizing it through SEO while noting the significant differences to consider. 

The Ecosystem Involving ASO

ASO consists of refining app store listings for increased reach, downloads, and engagement within the major app stores. Today, we’ll primarily focus on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Each marketplace contains its own algorithm, distinct user behaviors, layouts, and features that app developers must familiarize themselves with in order to succeed. 

Strategies such as keyword and creative optimization, A/B testing, and conversion optimization are all required within the stores to be able to perform in the most efficient and effective way possible. 

The Fundamentals of App Visibility and Downloads

Several factors gauge app store success. Primarily, improvements in your app visibility and conversions are what will dictate how well your mobile marketing strategies are performing. To increase their reach, rankings, and downloads, app developers must grasp what affects them in the first place. 

  1. Keyword and metadata optimization: This involves the analysis, modification, and continuous refinement of your app listing fields, such as the title, subtitle, and keyword bank for the iOS App Store and the title, short description, and full description for the Google Play store
  2. Creative optimization: This is the enhancement of visual assets found on your app listing, including icons, preview graphics, app preview videos, and screenshots.
  3. User engagement: Marketplace tools such as Apple’s In-App Events and Google’s Promotional Content help promote user engagement and discoverability in the stores. Developers can leverage native tools like the ones mentioned to target both new, existing, and lapsed users.
  4. A/B testing: No matter how polished your app store listing might appear, there’s always room for improvement. A/B testing involves preemptively editing specific assets through different variants to see how users respond before implementing them to your primary app listing. 

ASO vs. SEO

Contextualizing App Store Optimization: SEO Similarities 

Keywords are a staple of both app store optimization and search engine optimization. Providing the framework for the rest of your mobile marketing strategies, keywords help guide your efforts in reaching the right users through relatable and relevant terms. Both ASO and SEO require understanding how your audience performs search queries and what features or products they are looking for so you can develop a relatable and effective keyword strategy. These keywords act as a general starting point for further iterations, paid search initiatives, and A/B testing. 

User engagement is also critical for success in both ASO and SEO. When optimizing for search engines, the bulk of your engagement lies in the content found on your website, with the objective of helping the page in question rank higher. In ASO, you can also leverage app store listing elements like preview videos, screenshots, and copy to help increase conversions and, thus, rank higher. Additionally, you can use native tools like iOS In-App Events and Google Promotional Content to encourage engagement through highlighted events, offers, and activities found within your app. 

How App Store Optimization Differs From Search Engine Optimization 

Although imagery is important in both ASO and SEO, how they affect performance can differ greatly. The role of creatives in SEO is to ensure the images complement the content on the page and contribute to a favorable position when indexed by the algorithm. This means they can often play a more contextual and technical role than a commercial one. In ASO, screenshots and preview videos help provide context, as well, but serve as powerful conversion drivers. Visuals in an app store listing inform users of potential app benefits, provide a glimpse into what they can expect, and help increase downloads through engaging imagery that resonates with the features they are looking for in an effort to secure a download. 

Another area of contrast is the direct impact user feedback has on app store performance. Ratings and reviews, whether positive or negative, influence how app store algorithms “see” your app and determine how it should rank. For example, an app with a 3-star rating and increasingly negative reviews likely has a high drop-off rate post-download. Because the rating and user retention are low, the app won’t be considered favorably for search rankings or potential featuring opportunities. 

Last but not least is the data used when measuring the impact of ASO. SEO relies on web data to accurately pull metrics and gauge performance, whereas ASO depends on mobile data — or at least it should. Some developers and app marketers make the fatal mistake of using the wrong data to guide their ASO efforts. Considering the majority of app users discover new apps directly on the app stores, you should be using information derived from the platform it is actually operating on. 

Unifying ASO and SEO

After illustrating the differences between ASO and SEO, it can be tricky to pinpoint how we can use the two in tandem to craft a mobile marketing strategy that works harmoniously. The first step is to find similarities and distinctions in the behaviors of your audience on web and mobile. The results garnered from this digital audit can then guide you in crafting a journey for your potential users depending on where they started. 

For example, a user may perform a Google search with the term “shop clothing deals.” If your SEO strategy is optimized to have you ranking among the top search results, users can click the link that leads to your website. However, your priority is to not only sell a product, but also increase your app user base. After landing on your site, the user may then discover a promotional offer — “Additional 30% off when purchasing through the app.” Now you’ve got yourself a potential sale and a new user in just a few taps. 

Searching for the interconnected possibilities of web and mobile can yield much better results than looking at each individually. Instead of dividing SEO and ASO, businesses can find the opportunity to merge both into one consolidated digital marketing plan to reach their goals. 

Want to brainstorm how you could see more results from your ASO and SEO?

Dave Bell

As a co-founder of Gummicube, Dave Bell is an entrepreneur who is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the fields of mobile entertainment and mobile marketing. Dave’s career spans more than two decades, and he is credited with launching the first generation of mobile multiplayer games, introducing directtoconsumer mobile content distribution in partnership with major record labels, and co-inventing the marketing practice that later became widely known as ASO (app store optimization). Dave has been featured in and is a frequent contributor to Inc., Newsweek, VentureBeat, Mobile Marketer, Mobile Retailer, Business of Apps, and more. 

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