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ASO 101: What ASO Means and Why It Is So Important

This post is a collaboration of my colleague Ido Schoonen, ASO Officer at Lab Cave Games. I asked Ido to write a post about the basics of ASO when I created my first blog, around one year ago now. Since then, ASO has become one of major areas where marketing team has been focusing on and everyone is talking or thinking about how ASO can help them reach more audience. 

As SEO has become famous over the years with the appearance of many websites that lead to the creation of Search Engines, we are now facing the same situation with mobile Apps. Apple has recently announced to have over 2 million apps in the App Store, and on the other hand there are currently 2.2 million apps available on the Google Play Store. With such a high diversity of apps, it is important to be prepared to a high level of competition when launching yours. Your app, no matter how great it is, will need a good Marketing Plan in order to acquire users on a permanent basis.

Let’s focus on what ASO really consists in. We can compare our app to a shop, towards which we want to attract new people and ensure that the people walking by notice the shop and eventually decide to take a look inside. In a same way, people across the world explore the app stores to find new apps and we should ensure our app gets visibility and incentivizes the user to install it. We can divide the different uses of the app stores in the following 3 groups:

  • People searching for a particular app they already know (Wikipedia, Quora, Runtastic, etc.)
  • People searching for an app they don’t know yet but that has specific features (weather app, news app, puzzle game, etc.)
  • People exploring the App Store to discover new apps (mostly browsing the charts)

All of these 3 groups are of great importance for the App Store Optimizers. The final goal of any app is that people already know your app and directly search for it in the app store in order to download it. This group of people will probably provide the highest conversion rate from visit-to-installs as they will find what they were looking for.

The main group of people App Store Optimizers should focus on is the people wanting to download an app they don’t yet know. They simply have an idea of what feature the app should have, without knowing which apps provide these features. They will thus proceed via the Search Bar to type keywords to find relevant Apps. Let’s take the « Puzzle Game » example. If someone already knows he wants to download a puzzle game, but simply does not know of any puzzle app, he will most likely search for terms related to « Puzzle ». These searches are the ones that are important for ASOs, as the whole idea is to rank your app for these different search terms. Let’s see some search examples around « Puzzle »:

  • Puzzle Game
  • Puzzle Games
  • Free Puzzle Games
  • Puzzle Games for Kids
  • Puzzle Games for Adults
  • Crossword Puzzle Games
  • Etc.

So if we analyze what people is looking for in the stores, we can find keyword groups with a lot of variants. In this case, people could look for free puzzle games, puzzle games with online features, jigsaw puzzles, mind puzzles, etc., for which they will get a list of apps relevant to their query. Based on that list, they will look at the Icons, Names, Ratings of the different apps, explore a few of them, and finally make a decision to install one of them.

This process should be the focus of any optimizer. Knowing what terms people are using to find apps with features yours offers too, which of these terms are more relevant and are searched more frequently, the competition of these keywords, which apps appear for these keywords, and finally, the optimization of your graphic assets and Store Listing Page.

Finally, the group of people just exploring the app stores through the charts are mostly motivated by being surprised. They are probably bored and think a new app can make them happy again, so they explore many random apps till they find something interesting and decide to install it. These people will mainly explore the Top Charts and be attracted by a nice-looking Icon and attractive Title. For this group of users, it is thus important to rank your app in the Top Charts, even though that’s not as easy as said.

After talking about the different user groups of the app stores, we know we have to focus on the second group of people looking for apps with keywords. Once we have identified the different keywords people use to find apps similar to ours, we can start our ASO strategy. Many keywords are shared through the App Store and Google Play Store, but still it is important to evaluate the differences and prioritize keywords for each of these stores. We then also have different ASO practices for each store, as the Apple Store and Google Play Store work slightly different, as well as different factors are taken into consideration for ranking the apps in both stores.

Keywords apart, there’s something also very important when talking about ASO: it’s conversion rate optimization. We have to consider ASO not as a one- stop task that you do and forget about it but as a on-going optimization process. Once you’ve been able that people finds you on the store you need to make sure all graphics (icons and screenshots) are fulling optimized to have the best possible visit-to-install rate, meaning, once the user has reach my profile page, how many of them finally download the app.

In order to correctly understand how ASO works and taking the full advantage of it, it is important to have a broad view over the smartphone & app world around the globe. Apps are international and so are the stores, you should thus be prepared to optimize your app for all the main markets around the world. This will include studying population data, smartphone penetration, market share between iOS and Google Play, language details of each country, localizations provided by the Apple and Google Play Store, finding keywords in each language, localize your app into different languages in order to maximize your user’s acquisition in as many ways as possible, taking into account cultural elements from the different countries you localize, and many more elements.

It is safe to say ASO is broad, interesting and varied. Many different aspects of ASO exist and it is important to consider all of them in order to have a good overview of what’s achievable and what’s not. We preferred to start describing the different facets of ASO before jumping into the optimization practices as we consider it very important. Soon we’ll publish additional ASO articles talking about the practices to optimize apps for the Google Play Store & Apple App Store.

This article was written by Ido Schoonen, ASO Officer at Lab Cave Games. Picture credit:

Filed under: ASO

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