App Store Optimization: The Underrated Holy Grail of Mobile Marketing


People spend a third of their waking hours on apps. With 5.8 million apps vying for attention, it’s critical that app developers and agencies deploy effective mobile app marketing strategies to win users and market share. While App Store Optimization (ASO) is key to attracting organic users, too often this high ROI strategy gets overlooked. Tom Lewis-Clare, Associate Consultant at Frog, examines the importance of ASO in optimizing mobile app marketing.

So what is ASO?

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

ASO is basically SEO for apps, replacing websites with apps and search engines with app stores. It is 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 results to ensure that more users see them. ASO has an artistic side, optimizing the “look” of the application’s product page to improve the user’s impression of it. These two elements combined can funnel more users through the app’s marketing funnel (getting users to view the app’s product page and download it).

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

Keyword optimization

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

Different sections of an app’s product page metadata fields have different ranking “weight”. Those in the title have the most weight and therefore have the most impact on the application’s ranking by the algorithm. The subtitle (or short description) has less “weight”, and so on. Depending on the app store, the relative weighting of the following metadata fields may vary.

Keyword optimization involves placing app-relevant keywords with high search volumes in strategic positions in app metadata fields. Fields are character-limited, so you need to be frugal in your choice of keyword placement. You also need keywords to reflect brand language and drive downloads. Done right, keyword optimization increases the app’s visibility in search listings, leading more users to click through 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 the page reflects audience preference, you can drive users to download .

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

Take the Strava running app as an example of a 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 gauge keyword traffic, we find that Strava chose high-volume search keywords (such as “Run,” with a search volume of 51 out of 70 possible). From a CRO perspective, Strava has product page illustration and adopts the “expanded content” style for screenshots (zooming in on specific app features), which is one of many Common creative trends that make product pages visually appealing.

The complexity and importance of ASO

The reality of ASO is complex. Apple and Google change their algorithms daily, so ASO teams must adapt by predicting and undoing the impacts of algorithm changes on app visibility. Longer-term changes are usually made public – these can have a monumental impact on app stores, with the recent iOS 15 update billed as “the biggest change to the App Store since its launch. Although this article focuses on iOS and Google Play, the global app store ecosystem is much more complex – hundreds of other app stores exist, all requiring different strategies (China alone has more of 400 Android app stores).

Over 65% of downloads come from organic search, and keyword optimization is key to acquiring those organic users. But ASO can also have a big impact on paying users. You could spend all the money in the world on marketing campaigns on social media platforms to get paid users to click on the app store, but if your product page isn’t optimized, those users may not not download. Therefore, paid user and ASO acquisition teams must work hand in hand to achieve true ROI.

Take a look on the Apple App Store now and, despite its potential for immense ROI impacts, you’ll see how neglected ASO is, with titles using 3 of the 30 available characters and screenshots without interest. This only serves to increase the benefits for app developers who take advantage of ASO; although the competition in the App Store is exorbitant, the competition in the ASO is conveniently weak.

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