ASO Nerdy Little Secrets 2019

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This July our founder, Fouad, held a workshop at App Growth Summit Seattle about the latest ASO discoveries and case studies: If you missed it, here is a recap :

What is a simple App Store Optimization definition? It’s the process that sets your mobile app for success because it helps your app rank higher in app store search results. You can optimize through metadata changes (title, descriptions, icon, etc), targeted app campaigns and more. Let’s go through some top industry tips and tricks!  

The Evolution of ASO 

App stores began operating about ten years ago. But, up to 3-4 years ago – due to its early and slow development – there were a few rules that allowed overnight success. 

Apps were able to rocket jump to the top of the charts just by bidding on some keywords. Others abused the power of ‘black hat’ ASO by purchasing backlinks, fake reviews, and ratings. 

This abuse did not last long, as more and more money poured into mobile development and advertising. Both Google and Apple changed its policies, restricting the abuse of ‘black hat’. We no longer see the ‘burst’ effect resulting from aggressive ad campaigns. 

At this point, the market saw a need for deeper analysis. Numerous analytical solutions came to the market, making it easier for developers and marketers to promote their apps.

Every year, we witnessed Google I/O and WWDC present the most recent updates to the game. Google provided an analytic tool of its own. This tool allows developers to compare themselves to their competitors in the App Benchmark; however, they must agree to share their own app’s statistics. Apple, on the other hand, made it possible to create apps of smaller sizes and announced an update on its privacy guidelines. This update restricts access of third party analytics and advertising tools to apps in the Kids category.

A Closer Look at Google Play ASO

Google Play store is subject to a similar algorithm as Google’s PageRank. That is why your app’s bundle id, or URL, has a slight effect on your overall ranking. 

However, your app’s URL is just one of many factors you should take into consideration when doing app store optimizations. These include:

  • App developer’s name
  • 4k char. long description
  • 80 char. short description
  • Ratings
  • Reviews
  • Uninstall ratio
  • Global success

Overall, Google evaluates your authority as a developer. If you have several apps that are already popular and have good reviews from the community, Google will favor your future apps. This factor adds to the overall visibility of your app. That being said, remember that if one of your apps gets penalized, others may suffer as well. So if you are testing something you are not sure about, it is better to have a backup testing developer account.

Something many people overlook when publishing apps is the bundle ID of your app. The bundle ID is the end part of the URL that Google takes in when searching and ranking apps. An example is one of the top fitness apps in Google Play, Female Fitness – Women Workout. This app has a bundle ID of 

As you can see, it is another great place to store some extra keywords that can help with your ASO strategy. Be cautious, however, as the bundle ID can’t be changed later – so choose wisely!

How Emojis Help Your App Listing

Emojis are all the rage. The list of available emojis gets longer and longer – and they don’t seem to be stopping any time soon. It’s easy to see their appeal; they help us describe our emotions in a fun, expressive way. A smiley emoji easily represents happiness – a real smile. That’s why we see that emojis help with conversion.

LeanPlum confirms the power of emojis noting there’s a 66% increase in open rates for emails that use emojis and a 254% increase in push notifications that include emojis.

Explore emojis within every category and find which emojis fit your app and genre to increase your app’s outreach.

Testing App Global Success & the 3 Countries That Dominate Google Play

We decided to test the global success hypothesis (success in countries globally will lead to a higher rank in the USA). We took the top 27 apps that appeared for keyword fitness in Google Play. Looking at their global downloads, we have seen a general trend showing that more global downloads lead to a higher rank in the US.

To analyze this hypothesis further, we looked at what makes up those global downloads. We found that for the top 20 apps we chose, most downloads come from 3 countries: Brazil, USA, and India. We then saw that Brazil and India are fast developing countries with a growing population of mobile phone users. Moreover, over 90% of users in these countries use Android! So if you want to dominate Google Play, consider globalizing and using these quality organic traffic hotspots.

AppAnnie confirms this trend. The top countries by downloads in 2022 will be China, India, USA, and Brazil. Similarly, for consumer spending, the top countries in 2022 will be China, USA, Japan, and South Korea. Therefore, these are the markets we think you should take advantage of.

Create An App Project Roadmap

It’s crucial to plan your campaigns. That is why we suggest creating a project roadmap. It’s important to segment your audience by language/country. Start with your main countries. If you choose English speaking countries, the USA, Canada, and the UK may be your target audience for creating keywords. 

Two weeks after creating your keywords, you should update them and repeat this process every two weeks. At the same time, during the third week, you should look into publishing the keywords for your next block of countries. You will update these just as frequently as your main ones. Three weeks later, move on to the next block and so on.

Uncovering the Backlinks Dilemma

Over the past few years, there have been different opinions about whether backlinking improves ranking in Google Play. 

In 2017, Daniel Peris (Medium) experimented with a small app, concluding that there is likely a correlation between backlinks and app rankings. While Doron Wolffberg (Yellowheadinc) carried out a 4-month test concluding the opposite, saying that the results are inconclusive.

We thought it was worthwhile to test this hypothesis ourselves. We looked at the top fitness apps’ no-follow and do-follow ratio and how it looks against the apps’ ranking. The trendline we got had a gradient of 0.05, which cannot be seen as significant and attributed solely to backlinks.

We further decided to check more complicated metrics for the app’s URL such as Citation Flow, Trust Flow, and URL rating, which measure the quality of websites. This time there was a better trend of 0.3, but again, not that impressive.

We believe that backlinks do have a slight effect. However, if your app is popular, it will receive organic backlinks from various editorial boards. These features will help build up your presence and let Google know to trust you. But, there is not a clear correlation.

Seasons Affect App Conversion

While we had some data to play around with from Apptweak, we decided to look at the conversion % moving average for the past 6 months. We saw that there are clear trends where certain categories have higher traffic at different times of the year. 

An interesting finding was that Health&Fitness picks up at the end of March and not in January when people make their New Year resolutions. The Weather apps don’t perform as well once summer rolls around, probably because the weather is more predictable and people no longer need to check conditions as often. 


Universal App Campaigns

Universal App Campaigns is a marketing channel provided by Google to manage your ads throughout the Google ecosystem (YouTube, Google+, etc). When creating a campaign, you can choose from 2 goals, increase install volume or certain in-app actions. This way, you can target specific users to maximize conversion and thus reduce your CPI.

Signals & Solutions for iOS 2019

The Apple App Store is has a different method for ranking its apps. Some of the main differences are that Apple has a keyword field and promo text that you need to fill out directly. It also allows you to add a long description. The interesting fact about long descriptions is that only the first 255 of the total 4000 characters matter for optimization. Ratings and reviews are another way to get user feedback and have a representation of how the community rates a certain app.

The download velocity metric is losing its importance throughout the years; however, uninstall ratio and general conversion for the app do count. Apple looks at what the bounce rate is for your app.

ASA Benchmarks

Apple prioritizes ads by showing them natively in a prime position – on top of your screen while searching. It is a keyword-based channel, making it more targeted at people who are already looking for apps like yours. 

Their native look and keyword targeting makes Apple Search Ads an effective channel for acquiring new users. On average, campaigns on Apple Search Ads achieve a 50% conversion rate while keeping CPA as low as s $1.90.

Source: by Mobile Action

Just like with Google’s App Campaigns (formerly Universal App Campaigns), you can set up different goals; however, this time you have more options. Choose target CPA, ROAS, CPI, and many more. Allow yourself to get the most for your marketing budget.

ASA Automation

After you set up your campaigns in Apple Search Ads, try connecting them to your favorite mobile measurement partner (MMP). This will allow you to evaluate your campaign performance more precisely and localize for optimization. 

In addition to the conversion rate and CPA provided in the Apple Search Ads dashboard, with MMP, you will be able to track the retention and monetary value of users coming from these campaigns – on a keyword level!

By analyzing those keywords, you will quickly see which keywords are wasting your money and should be stopped immediately. You will also see which keywords are bringing you the most valuable users. To save time, you can now set up automated rules to increase/decrease bids based on your goals to increase profits.

Source: SearchAdsHQ


In summary, experts suggest

  • Focus not only on meta but on every tiny feature of your app – ASO depends on it
  • Look at iOS and Android differently
  • Automate your ASA
  • Go global & localize: leverage India, Russia, Brazil & China
  • Test, test, test!
  • Backlinks: stick to quality, consider cross devices
  • Get featured within the App Store/Google Play


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