How To Use ASO And Paid Search To Conquer The App Stores

As of 2018, Statista reports that Android users have the choice of between 2.1 million mobile apps on the Google Play Store, with Apple approximately the same amount. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly difficult for mobile apps to get discovered.

The only way to start attracting your target users is to nail your App Store Optimization and get paid search to work its magic for you. In this article, we’re going to explain both.

Using App Store Optimization (ASO) to boost your discoverability

ASO basically means preparing your app to be discovered on the app stores when someone is making a search query for something specific. For instance, ‘productivity’; if your app is optimised for that keyword, you would end up being recommended to this user on the first page of the store. Similar to how SEO works!


Finding the Right Keywords

Keywords are terms that people use to search for apps on the app stores. In the same way you Google something looking for a solution, the app stores function in a similar manner. This is why it is important for you to list the keywords that your target users could be making searches on and at the same time, keep them relevant to what your app really does.

When listing your keywords, make sure you follow the RDT keyword rule - Relevance, Difficulty and Traffic. Start with keywords that are highly relevant to your users so that they are more likely to download your app. Secondly, list keywords with a lower difficulty score, as you would have a better chance of ranking well for them.  Finally, out of the two lists, choose the ones with the higher traffic scores. You can discover these through an ASO agency such as Redbox Mobile or through 3rd party data providers like Mobile Action.

It is also essential to remember that the keywords are picked up by the app store algorithms and not the user’s preference which means you must pick keywords analytically, not what you feel suits your app the best.

Here are the key elements you need to focus on in your metadata to achieve a higher ranking in the app stores:

1. App Name and Title

Both Apple and Google search algorithms scan app names for relevant keywords when a user performs a search. So using your RDT keyword in the app title can actually boost your ranking by 10.3%.  It is recommended that you use all the characters available to you in order to have as many relevant keywords in the title as possible. It is also important to mention that it is best practice to create two different pieces of metadata for both app stores as the algorithms are individual for each store and therefore their weightings on keywords are different.

2. App Subtitle

Although only on iOS, this section appears right under the app name and is also restricted to 30 characters. Include some keywords here to communicate the unique value your app has to offer.

3. App Description (Short)

While iOS doesn’t search for keywords in the short description, Google does. That’s why it is a good idea to use this space to incorporate your keywords in meaningful sentences that convey your app’s proposition. If you want the reader to ‘read more’, it’s advised you make this space as interesting as possible with the 80 characters available on mobile.

4. App Description (Long)

This is the time to unleash your creativity and let your target users know all about your app. This is the place where you highlight all the key features so make sure you choose your words carefully and format the details using spaces and bullets - you want to ensure everything is easy to read. However, at the same time, also prioritise your keywords here. You don’t need to create an endless essay to fit them in, but remember to use them evenly across the length of the description. Try to be as seamless in their use as possible, the last thing you want is to come across as if you’re keyword stuffing. To achieve this, you must seed core keywords at least 4 times throughout your long description.

The top grossing apps also smartly include social proof like awards and media mentions here, along with their social links. It helps them convey how recognised and widely used their app is.

Pro tip: Keep your tone conversational and in sync with what you want your brand to be perceived as.

5. App Promotional Text (iOS)

Recently introduced on the iOS 11, this is the text that appears at the top of your app description. You have 170 characters to experiment and perfect the message you want to use for reaching users and identify what brings you the most number of conversions.

It’s key to note here that if you have a promotional event running and you go to update your app, App Store Connect will automatically remove your Promotional Text. Therefore, it’s very important to ensure it gets copied across if your event keeps running.

6. App Icon

Designing a good app icon is almost as important as designing an interesting app, keeping in mind that the first impression is what sticks. In fact, your app icon can boost your downloads by a whopping 560%. If your brand is already established, you can choose to keep your own logo. But if you’re just launching, a good idea is to create an icon that depicts what your app does. Keep it clean, crisp and have a consistent theme that links your app icon to your screenshots.

7. App Store Keywords

For a new app, it is always a good idea to choose low difficulty but popular keywords to gain initial traction. As such you should start looking for keywords that are more popular and might be difficult to compete on. Work your way up instead of trying to get there all at once!

Using long tail keywords is a smart hack to rank higher than your competitors. For example, instead of using ‘list’ and ‘maker’ as separate short-tail keywords, use ‘list maker’ as one long-tail keyword which will be easier to rank for.

8. App Screenshots

The first two screenshots of your app could make or break the deal for you. In fact, 60% of your target users won’t actually swipe past the first two screenshots and crucially these can lead to boosting your app downloads by 25%!

Ensure that each screenshot has a clear message to convey and highlights a key feature of your app with smart captions to accompany it. Other considerations should include:

  • Choose the right colors - They should complement your brand colour scheme and at the same time make the screenshots stand out.
  • Use the latest devices - Remember to appeal more to your target audience by using the latest phone mockups on both iOS and Android app stores.
  • Update screenshots frequently - Don’t follow the ‘set it and forget it’ approach. Make sure you’re updating your screenshots regularly to reassure your users of a great app experience and to stay relevant.

9. App Preview Video

You must have noticed apps using a quick video at the beginning of their screenshots lately. The idea is for them to be able to give the viewer a sneak peek into what the app looks like and what it does. Just like on a website, the first 5 seconds of this video should be able to hook the viewer’s attention and should be used only to highlight the key features. Using a video has been proven to increase conversions by more than 23%.

10. App Ratings and Reviews

92% of people trust recommendations from their friends, family and others like them. That’s why app ratings and reviews have a direct impact on your ASO and downloads. It is important that you maintain an average of 4 stars on the app stores and as important to address the negative reviews that make viewers feel that they will be valued.

11. App Updates

Studies suggest that updating your app frequently leads to your users feeling how you’re constantly making it better for them. This, in turn, leads to higher app downloads and positive ratings. Most importantly, it keeps your app at the top of their mind, reducing churn.

Using Paid Search To Stand Out In The Noise

While working on getting your app to the top is the first step towards acquiring your target users, the next is to boost your approach in markets and for keywords that have worked. Yes, we’re talking about using paid search to stand out from the crowd.

Apple Search Ads

Apple reported that 65% of app downloads came directly from a search on their app store. The report also suggests that search ads deliver an average user conversion rate of 50% and 30% higher average revenues from users acquired via them.

Here’s how to make your campaign as successful:

1. Select The Right Campaign Type

Exact matches show your ad if, and only if, a user’s search matches your keyword exactly. The campaign does take into account the synonyms of closely relevant keywords including accidental misspellings. While search matches let Apple decide which keywords are relevant to your app, this will now depend on what your app does, the category it falls under and the description you provide.

2. Choose Your Keywords Wisely

Remember to keep your keywords relevant to what your app actually does and what the campaign is all about. Also, pick out the negative keywords for which you don’t want search ads to display your app. For example, if you offer ‘online wedding registry’, select ‘online’ as your negative keyword or you might overlap with apps that don’t address your market.  It’s also very important to keep your keywords aligned with your app’s metadata.

3. Optimize for TTR (Tap Through Rates)

Apple is more likely to present ads that are more likely to be clicked. This maximizes your tap through rate, boosting the frequency and impressions of your search ads. That’s why you should always use content that appeals to the users and gets you a high TTR. Start with exact match campaigns to get relevant impressions, this can also help you optimize your search ads.

4. Leverage Attribution

Instead of blindly believing your search ad campaign results, focus on figuring out the ‘pre’ and ‘post’ install story. You can do this through attribution platforms such as AppsFlyer which help you determine where your users are coming from and are they just downloading your app or in for the long haul by purchasing something within your app.

Google Universal App Campaign (UAC)

Just like the Apple App store, Google Play has an active user base that tends to search for apps around trends and utility often. However, to ultimately make the stores work for you, you need to understand and play by the rules.


1. Choose the Right Campaign

In universal app campaigns, Google Ads help you generate ads that can be used across all the channels - search network, display network and YouTube. With mobile app install campaigns, you get to promote your app on one of these networks and to help ensure users remember your app, you can set up a smart mobile app engagement campaign.

2. Perfect Your ASO

In most cases, app marketers use the same keywords they used for ASO for search ad campaigns. So make sure your app’s metadata reflects the same and you have absolutely nailed your App Store Optimizations (scroll back for our tips!).

3. Estimate Your User Acquisition Cost

Instead of just setting aside a budget for user acquisition, focus on tracking the most important metrics for each of your previous campaigns. This will give you an estimation of the value of an app download across the user lifecycle and help you calculate the compound interest on your budget.

4. Create a Compelling Ad

You have the right set of keywords and have chosen a campaign that best suits your end goal. Now it is time to get to the real task of creating an ad. Your focus needs to be on creating ads that speak for themselves, that instantly grab the attention and draw a viewer to the app store page and ultimately convinces them to download the app.

5. Promote Your App To Users Across Google

Don’t just restrict your ad campaign to the Google Play Store. By setting up your ad to be displayed on the entire search network, you get to reach a wider audience and drive a higher number of installs from every campaign.

Monitor Your Search Ad Campaigns

Whether you’re running an ad on the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, data should be your best friend, which is why you need to track your campaign performances continually. This will not only provide you with information on how effective a campaign is but also where it is converting the most and the audience segment that tends to take action on these ads right away.

Making decisions based on data will help you optimize campaigns for higher impressions and conversions and at the same time, predict spikes or dips in their performance due to factors like the holiday season!

Bringing It All Together To Conquer App Stores

While app marketers and developers are able to find checklists and tips on app store optimization and how to run successful paid search campaigns, there are many that overlook the one key thing that can actually help them conquer the app stores - making the two work together.

It is important that you reach out to your target users with the same USP, or you’ll lose out on being too confusing about what your app really does. This holds true for both mobile apps and games, on both the stores.

For creative solutions that really work, or to simply find out more about Redbox Mobile  – get in contact with us directly here.

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