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Mobile App Marketing: App Store Optimization (ASO) Primer

This is a guest post from Gerard Gordon, Content and Social Media Manager at TheTool, a powerful performance-based mobile ASO tool that helps you track and optimize your app marketing strategy.

Why App Store Optimization Is Important For Mobile App Promotion

As of May 2019, there are nearly 3 million mobile apps and games on the Google Play Store and 2 million on the Apple App Store. (The number increases if we take into account other markets like Amazon AppStore, Blackberry World, Windows Store, etc.)

You’ve probably heard the expression “There’s an app for that.” Well, taking these numbers into account, that expression becomes incredibly relevant when figuring out how to market an app.

So, how do you promote an app in a crowded market?

The most cost-effective solution to get more traffic and downloads is through App Store Optimization (ASO).

This article will share how to improve an app’s visibility organically to get more downloads before launching an app, the process to follow when it’s published, and some tips to promote it afterward.

What is App Store Optimization?

App Store Optimization (ASO), is the process of improving your mobile app or game listing to increase its visibility on the Google Play Store, Apple App Store or other app stores when users use the Search feature. By increasing traffic to an app’s listing, you increase the chances of getting more organic downloads.

ASO is a process that includes three key steps:

  1. Keyword research. A fundamental part of ASO and Search visibility optimization. (Read more about ASO keyword research here.)
  2. Optimize for search and conversion. Improving the listing on the App Store and Google Play, as well as the Conversion Rate, by using A/B testing on copy and visuals.
  3. Tracking, improving, and localizing main KPIs, such as keywords ranking and competitors’ rankings, conversion rate to install, organic installs, etc.
An example of the Starbucks mobile app store listing (as it appears on a mobile phone).

Here’s why you should focus on App Store Optimization:

  • Increase app discoverability. An optimized product page ranks higher and makes the app or game easier to discover by users.
  • Improve organic installs as a consequence of that improvement in ranking.
  • Better Conversion Rate to Install, because the more traffic, the more likely it is that the app or game gets downloaded.
  • Lower acquisition costs: By driving more organic installs, one can reduce the costs spent on paid marketing campaigns and user acquisition channels.

Keep in mind that there’s always room for optimization, so ASO is a process that never ends.

Main ASO factors

In terms of factors to take into account for an ASO strategy, those are the following:

  • On-metadata factors. Developers can control and edit them easily from either Google Play Console or App Store Connect, such as App Name / Title, Subtitle (App Store) or Short Description (Google Play), Keywords Field and Promotional Text (App Store), Icon, Screenshots, and Video. Both visual and textual assets can be optimized.
  • Off-metadata factors. They can’t be controlled directly but are influenced by developers. Some of them are Installs, Average Rating, Ratings, and Reviews.

Pre-Launch App Marketing Plan

Now that we’ve covered the basic concepts to know about ASO, it’s time to talk about your mobile app pre-launching strategy.

1. Define your goals and target your audience.

You need to be sure that your product is unique beforehand. As mentioned before, there’s a lot of competition in the app stores, so it has become a really difficult task to beat competitors.

Another important thing to consider is to set realistic goals, and also target your audience. Consider the following questions regarding your product:

  • What qualities does it have?
  • What are its main functionalities?
  • What types of people could make better use of your app or game?

2. Study your competitors.

Benchmarking similar apps or games to yours will give you an idea of their flaws and strengths. Check competitor ratings and reviews to discover what functionalities could work better in their apps. Take advantage of their flaws and highlight how your app is better in your listing. Keep in mind that this isn’t about copying them but making your app listing stronger!

3. Create a landing page.

A landing page is very useful to explain your product’s features and values, as well as to promote the app or game. Direct your target traffic into it, share it on social media, via email, etc. The goal here is to broaden your network!

4. Pay attention to your content marketing strategy.

Create rich and appealing content to build a community. Build up interest in your app and sustain it with blog posts related to your product. You’ll need to think of your target audience again to come up with what they would want to see.

In addition, you can also get in touch with other companies whose audience is similar to yours and exchange guest-posts.

5. Preview on social media channels.

Share your app’s features and functionalities across different social media channels. It will be useful to keep users engaged and waiting for your release date. Keep in mind that you don’t need to use all social media platforms, focus on those on which your target audience is active.

6. Create a video teaser.

A video should be a must in your list of visual elements to promote your app. Make sure that it’s short, straightforward, will catch your users’ attention, and includes a call-to-action!

Tracking & Measuring Your ASO Strategy

The mobile app business world is always changing, so keeping track of updates and tendencies is a must if you don’t want to get outdated really fast.

This means that your ASO strategy needs constant monitoring, too. You should keep track of the most important KPIs periodically (the ideal would be daily). Some examples would be:

  • Installs volume (both organic and non-organic),
  • Keywords rankings
  • Top charts rankings
  • Ratings and reviews.

This extends to keyword strategy, too. You should monitor them and remove those that are not performing well, while also trying new combinations.

You should also experiment with your graphic elements, by using A/B testing to decide whether those changes are good or not.

Users’ feedback can also provide valuable insights. They can help your team detect issues regarding your app’s performance. It’s important to provide the best user experience possible, so reply to negative comments quickly. A bad review can become a good one if addressed properly! Positive sentiment can result in an increase in conversion rate, which also helps ASO.

Now let’s take a look at the top on-metadata ASO factors for both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

Android App Marketing for the Google Play Store ASO Factors

The Title should include your top keywords, as it is one of the most crucial text fields. It allows users to find the app or game, and it is 50 characters long. It’s complemented with an 80-character Short Description, and they affect ASO in terms of search and conversion rate. Lastly, the Description allows you to write up to 4,000 characters, and the keywords used there will help to improve rankings.

In terms of visual assets, the Icon is a fundamental element. It is the first impression the users get of the app, so it needs to stand out. Another vital visual asset is the Screenshot Gallery, that lets you place 8 images, as well as videos.

iOS App Marketing & Apple App Store ASO Factors

The App Name is the first field you should optimize. It contains 30 characters and needs to contain important keywords. One of the differences between the App Store and the Google Play Store is that the first includes a 30-character Subtitle, which should contain some keywords. Then there’s the Description field, which can have up to 4,000 characters, which is not relevant for Search ASO, but it is essential for marketing purposes. Lastly, the App Store also has a Promotional Text Field that can be used to inform about changes, updates, or special events. The last text field is Keywords Field, which is private and includes the keywords that you want your app to rank for (maximum of 100 characters).

In terms of visual assets, they are relevant to the conversion rate. The icon is also very important in the App Store, although the major visual is the Screenshot Gallery, which can show up to 10 screenshots. It presents how the app works and can include a video that plays automatically.

Post-launch App Marketing Ideas

After your pre-launch and app store optimization strategies are complete, there are some other things you can do to promote your mobile app or game more.

1. Word of mouth.

It’s an obvious one, but be sure to make the most of it! Reach out to everyone you know: family, friends, etc., and ask them to promote your app or game by posting it on social media or talking with others. You can also include a social component to your app or game, such as asking users to share features or achievements among friends, running contests to give rewards or encouraging them to invite friends to win a prize in exchange.

2. Reach out to the media or other relevant partners.

Get a press kit ready. Then, get in touch with the media and journalists to help reach a larger audience. This is the information that you should have prepared includes:  

    • An App Guide: A walkthrough of the app, its functionalities, and its target users.
    • A Press Release: An article that explains the benefits of your app, such as what problems it solves. Make a good story about it to make it appealing for journalists.
    • Visual Assets: Screenshots, icon, logos—every graphic that will help promote your brand.

Share your product at conferences that will have relevant users in attendance. Consider writing a blog post highlighting your features and functionalities and posting on other companies’ blogs too.

3. Influencer marketing.

Reaching out to influencers is a popular tool for promoting products—and it can also be used for your mobile app or game. Users tend to try influencer recommendations, so they are a powerful source of users. If you want more visibility and the chance to get loyal users, try it out. (Note: some will require payment for promotion.)

4. Run paid app campaigns.

Investing in ads on social media is one of the most cost-effective ways of getting users to your app or game. You can manage your campaigns for both Facebook and Instagram easily on Facebook Business Manager, and it has lots of options regarding segmentation. You can also measure all kinds of actions, such as in-app purchases once users download your app.

Source: Nanigans

There are lots of mobile display networks, such as social media channels (Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Snapchat Ads, etc.), already mentioned above. But there are also others specialized in mobile games (Unity Ads, Chartboost, Ada Colony, etc.), or other great networks like Applovin, Epom Apps or Appnext. User acquisition costs are usually higher, though. Nevertheless, it’s good to test them, as it can get you a boost for a time.

Google’s equivalent is Universal App Campaigns (UAC). Google uses all the data from the app’s listing uploaded to the store, including keywords and descriptions. It’s also possible to use videos for YouTube and several graphics for your display network. Those ads appear on Google SERPs, associated search networks, and YouTube.

5. Cross-promotion via other apps.

If you have more apps or games on the market, you can use cross-promotion to drive users you already have into your new app. It’s effective and free, so it’s a great way to promote and grow your mobile app. You could also talk to other developers to exchange users; there are several developers’ associations around the world that do this.

Source: Business of Apps

Ongoing Mobile App Marketing & ASO

It’s important to remember that ASO—and mobile app marketing in general—need constant monitoring in order to consistently grow your user base.

Furthermore, ASO isn’t magic! Don’t expect to do all the work for you. The app itself has to be good—otherwise, all of your efforts will be in vain. It takes a lot of time to develop an app or a game—and even more time to make it great. A mobile A/B testing tool like Taplytics can make improving your product easier and faster.

So, to sum it up, keep working on ASO and mobile app promotion, as there’s always room to do better!