Why You want to Add SEO to your App Growth Strategy

When we think of the word optimization for apps, App Store Optimization (ASO) is most likely the first thing that comes to mind. But, what about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Does SEO make an impact on app growth, and should SEO be a part of your app marketing strategy?


Answer: Absolutely!


As such a well-established organic traffic source, SEO is surprisingly under-utilized

by many app owners and developers. If you happen to be one of them, we encourage you to reconsider.


Here’s why:

  • SEO done well is a free vehicle for generating more traffic, increasing brand awareness and, therefore, more app downloads.
  • A solid SEO strategy also contributes to your ASO strategy by encouraging more traffic that leads to more app installs, users, and app reviews.


What’s the difference between ASO and SEO?


Many people describe App Store Optimization (ASO) as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for apps. And in many ways, this is true. Both are optimization processes, both are based on using strategic keywords, both strategies need to be tracked to measure success, and the goal of both is to capture organic traffic.

It’s important to note that SEO is more complex in nature than ASO, meaning that there are different types of traffic to consider with differing strategies, e.g. the link-building strategy called the Skyscraper Technique.

To help break things down (though not an exhaustive list), we’ve noted some key differences between SEO and ASO here:

  • SEO focuses on the web while ASO focuses on app stores
  • SEO is affected by on-page factors (things like UX, meta title and descriptions, H1/H2/H3 tags, etc) and off-page factors (backlinks and traffic) while ASO is affected by app metadata with on-metadata factors (such as app name and title, subtitle, description, visual assets, etc) and off-metadata factors (downloads and ratings/reviews) 
  • Some key SEO KPIs to track include CTR, organic traffic, keyword rankings, bounce rate and revenue while KPIs to track for ASO include CVR, keyword rankings, user ratings and reviews, organic downloads and revenue

Some key differences between ASO and SEO


The value of having an SEO strategy for mobile apps 


A lot more companies are prioritizing SEO as part of their mobile app marketing strategy. Why?


Because, let’s face it, paid UA is expensive!


And many industry experts agree that app developers are becoming increasingly aware of the value of leveraging the free organic traffic that comes from SEO, in addition to your ASO. During our podcast interview with Neil Patel, we asked him what the latest trends in app marketing are these days. His quick answer: SEO. 


“We’re now seeing a lot of companies do SEO to drive app installs because of the cost of app store marketing. It’s getting so expensive that companies are turning to other channels like SEO that don’t produce a return right away but, in the long run, have massive ROI benefits.”

–Neil Patel, Co-founder of Neil Patel Digital


How do users find apps?


Also, when you consider one simple question — how do people discover apps? — the value of incorporating SEO into your user acquisition and overall app marketing strategy becomes even more clear. 


When making a case for ASO, we look at Google data that shows 40% of apps are discovered through app store search (which is a very strong statistic and more proof of why ASO is so important!) 


But that still leaves 60% of apps that are found by other means. These “other” channels include word-of-mouth from friends and family, company websites, ads, and searches — out of which 27% of users discover apps through search engine results, not to mention the 24% that find apps through the brand’s website.


And what helps companies and brands get discovered through search engine results? That’s right, SEO!


How to Create an App Marketing SEO Strategy 


Now that we’ve discussed the “why” of developing an SEO strategy for apps in addition to your ASO strategy, let’s go into more details about the ‘how.”

Here are some main things to focus on when creating an SEO strategy for apps:

1. Develop a user-friendly website

In order for people to discover your app via web search engines, the first thing you need to have is a website! Many apps consider themselves a mobile-only product, so having a website isn’t always top of mind. But, not having a desktop and mobile-friendly website is a missed opportunity to capture lots of potential users (remember those stats we mentioned above?)

As people perform web searches and click through to your website, it’s a perfect opportunity to educate them about your mobile app and direct traffic to download your app on app stores with a click through to the Apple App Store and/or Android Google Play — which is exactly what the most successful apps out there do. An example is ThinkUp, a positive affirmations app, that leverages ASO and SEO to drive app store traffic.

Website landing page example from ThinkUp app

2. Find your best keywords and search terms

Similar to the role of conducting ASO keyword research for your ASO strategy, finding the right keywords is the cornerstone of a successful SEO strategy. This will include a mix of short, long-tail, generic and branded keywords. 

Incorporating the right keywords into your website copy and into your URL, app name, app title and app description helps your site rank higher on search engine result pages. 

 Example of keyword research for ThinkUp positive affirmations app


3. Create useful blog content

If you’re thinking that writing well-written, traffic-generating articles is a challenging task, you’re right! It takes research, time, and a keen sense of language to do it correctly. But, the truth is that providing useful content via informative blog articles is an effective way to increase your traffic and website authority (which affect search rankings) over time. 


The key here is creating content that includes keywords you want to rank for, addresses topics that people search for, adds value to the user by educating them and answering questions or addressing pain points.


Let’s use the positive affirmations app, ThinkUp, as an example again. They have an entire blog section on their website with articles that include keywords and information about highly-searched topics that are relevant to their app product offerings. Their blog topics cover a wide variety of self-help and self-improvement issues from improving baby’s sleep to ways to overcome stress. 


By doing so, they can rank for important keywords like “affirmations”, “stress”, “self improvement”, “self love”, etc.


Blog section example from ThinkUp

4. Invest in link building

This step is sometimes the toughest to master! But, link building is still one the most effective SEO tactics and can’t be ignored — in fact, Google considers links the #1 SEO ranking factor along with content. Google uses high-quality, relevant backlinks to establish website credibility and will affect your site’s ranking.


To clarify, in this case we’re referring to backlinks which are references from reputable outside web pages to your own. 


Some link building techniques include reciprocal linking with a relevant connection, writing guest blogs or guest posting, listing on relevant web directories, and commenting on suitable forums and blog posts.


Final Thoughts


While ASO and SEO have notable similarities, they are not the same. By just doing one and not the other, you’re missing out on capturing a lot of potential app downloads and retaining loyal users. The good news is that you can develop an SEO strategy that works in tandem with your ASO strategy and, when done right,  gives you the best of both worlds.


It’s true that keyword research and content development takes time and effort, but when you stick to it as part of your long-term app marketing strategy, your app store conversions and brand awareness reap the rewards! Another option is to work with app growth marketing specialists who can help you every step of the way in aligning your ASO and SEO efforts. Feel free to reach out and we’ll help you get the app growth results you’re looking for.


Jennifer Sansone

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