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App store optimization: the under-appreciated Holy Grail of mobile marketing

By Tom Lewis-Clare |



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July 6, 2022 | 7 min read

People spend one-third of their waking hours on apps. With 5.8m apps competing for attention, it’s vital app developers and agencies deploy effective mobile app marketing strategies to win users and market share. Although app store optimization (ASO) is key to bringing in organic users, too often this high-ROI strategy is forgotten. Tom Lewis-Clare, associate consultant at Frog, examines the importance of ASO in optimizing mobile app marketing.

frog on how marketers can make better use of mobile marketing. Image credit: Rami Al Zayat/Unsplash

Frog on how marketers can make better use of mobile marketing / Rami Al Zayat via Unsplash

So, what is ASO?

ASO is essentially SEO for apps, replacing websites with apps and search engines with app stores. It’s the process of increasing an app’s visibility in an app store to increase organic downloads. Simply put, app visibility refers to the number of times users see your app. ASO increases this visibility by placing apps at the top of an app store’s search listing results to ensure more users see them. ASO has an artistic side, optimizing the ‘look’ of the app’s product page to improve the user’s impression of it. These two elements combined can channel more users through the app’s marketing funnel (enticing users to view the app’s product page and proceed to download it).

Let’s take a closer look at these two ASO strategies:

Keyword optimization

Users input keywords into an app store search engine to find a result. The algorithm then ranks, in order, the apps most relevant to the keywords at the top of the search listing page, making those apps most visible.

Different sections of an app’s product page metadata fields carry different ranking ‘weight.’ Those in the title carry the most weight, so have the most impact on the app’s ranking by the algorithm. The subtitle (or short description) carries less ‘weight,’ and so on. Depending on the app store, the relative weighting of subsequent metadata fields can vary.

Keyword optimization is about placing keywords relevant to the app with high search volumes into strategic positions in the app’s metadata fields. Fields are restricted in character length, so you must be economical in your choice of keyword placement. You also need the keywords to reflect brand language and incentivize downloads. Done well, keyword optimization increases app visibility in search listings, triggering more users to click through on to the product page.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO)

Once your user lands on your product page, you need to convince them to download, which is where CRO comes in. By optimizing your app’s product page creatives (such as screenshots, videos and icons) and A/B testing different product pages to ensure the page reflects the preference of the audience, you can entice users into downloading.

CRO can affect click-through rate as creative assets are visible on search listing pages. CRO supports keyword optimization as the search listing result needs to appear attractive enough for users to click through to the product page.

Let’s take the running app Strava as an example of good ASO. In terms of keyword optimization, Strava takes advantage of most of its 30-character title and subtitle limits. Using an ASO tool to assess keyword traffic, we see Strava has chosen high-volume search keywords (such as ‘Run,’ with search volume 51 out of a possible 70). From a CRO viewpoint, Strava has Product Page Artwork and adopts the ‘magnified content’ style for screenshots (zooming into specific app features), which is one of many common creative trends that make product pages visually compelling.

The complexity and importance of ASO

The reality of ASO is complex. Apple and Google tweak their algorithms daily, so ASO teams need to adapt by predicting and nullifying the impacts of algorithm shifts on app visibility. Longer-term changes are usually publicized – these can have a monumental impact on app stores, with the recent iOS 15 update regarded as “the biggest change to the app store since its launch.” Although the focus of this article has been iOS and Google Play, the global app store ecosystem is far more complex – hundreds of other app stores exist, all requiring different strategies (China alone has over 400 android app stores).

Over 65% of downloads come from organic search, and keyword optimization is vital for acquiring these organic users. But ASO can also have a big impact on paid users. You could dedicate all the money in the world to marketing campaigns across social media platforms to entice paid users to click through to the app store, but if your product page isn’t optimized, those users may not download. Therefore paid user acquisition and ASO teams need to work hand-in-hand to see real ROI.

Look on the Apple app store now and, despite its potential for immense impacts on ROI, you’ll see the extent to which ASO is neglected, with titles using 3 of 30 available characters and uninspiring screenshots. This only serves to heighten the benefits for those app developers who do take advantage of ASO; although competition in the app store is sky high, competition in ASO is opportunistically low.

For more information on Capgemini Invent and Frog, visit our site and get in touch.

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frog is a leading global creative consultancy, part of Capgemini Invent. Partnering with passionate leaders and visionary entrepreneurs, we apply creativity, strategy, design and data to re-invent businesses, drive growth and orchestrate customer centric transformation.

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