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How to get started with ASO and what are the most important things to consider

Sergey Sharov

Sergey Sharov, co-founder of ASOdesk and the Angle Connect agency, explained what ASO for mobile applications is, why it is needed, what business problems it solves, when it begins to bring results, who should use it and how to choose a tool for work.

This is a series of articles based on ASOdesk Academy lecture materials, where we covered all the main aspects of ASO. Now you are reading the first article – an introductory lesson. It contains the main features and capabilities of ASO. It will be useful for both marketers with zero knowledge of ASO and ASO-specialists who want to improve their skills.

What is ASO and why is it important

There are three main blocks in the marketing of mobile applications: paid traffic acquisition, work with organics and monetization of the traffic within the application.

Work with organics is usually divided into three zones: content marketing, social media marketing and work with ASO. Our focus is the App Store Optimization, one of the three blocks mentioned.

App Store Optimization is a streamlined process of collecting, processing data and making reasoned recommendations in the form of metadata and a further strategy for working with the application.

ASO involves a continuous process of improving visibility in the application store, as well as optimizing the conversion to installations from viewing the application page and application card in the search for all types of traffic sources.

It doesn’t come about that you once completed ASO, waved your magic wand and it worked. ASO means regular work during the entire life cycle of the application, because the application is changing, new geo appears, competitors come.

Why is it important to engage in ASO:

  1. There is a lot of traffic in the search.
    According to Tune, 47% of traffic on the App Store and 53% of traffic on Google Play is search traffic.
    According to Apple, in 2016, 65% of traffic in the App Store is search.
  2. High quality users.
    According to Appsflyer, in 2019, the number of organic users compared to inorganic users was 25% higher than the Retention Rate on day 30 and 32% higher than the Retention Rate at week 8. (confusing because it is theoretical information, consider including a real life simple example) Organic users are those who did not come by direct link.
  3. It is possible to stand out among other applications.
    ASO allows you to compete with only a limited pool of applications, and not the entire issuance, because the entry threshold for hosting applications is low. Every day a large amount of “garbage” is published, and there are few high-quality applications. If you go into any category from fitness to taxis, you will realize that only 10-15 applications stand out. All the rest are no name, applications that no one is engaged with.

The goals of App Store Optimization:

1. Increase the visibility of the mobile application in the search.
2. Increased conversion to installation on the mobile application page for all traffic sources.

What tasks does ASO solve:

1. Increases the number of installations from mobile app search
2. Lower overall CPI.

Why do you need to work in conjunction with paid traffic

Dark red is organic traffic, light red is paid traffic
  1. The growth of positions in search and charts depends on paid traffic.
    The screenshot demonstrates how paid traffic affects organic traffic. You can calculate how much paid traffic you need to buy in order to achieve certain positions in the search.
  2. With a joint funnel of creatives, you can reduce the cost of purchase.
    If you lead a user from an advertising network with a certain message and banner design, and then he gets to the application page, where there are the same screenshots and icon, the same design and text, the conversion to installing the application will be higher.
  3. General decrease in CPI due to increased volume of organic traffic.
    The more organic traffic, the lower its total cost from all sources.
  4. General reporting system.
    If your marketing department compiles unified reports on paid purchases and organics, this will reduce the time it takes to analyze data when setting up common KPIs, and it will also make it possible to look more broadly at the overall picture of traffic sources.

When does ASO begin to achieve results

If you are engaged in ASO, you are unlikely to have good results in the first month. It can happen, but only if the application did not even have basic optimization. At this stage, ASO is unlikely to pay its way. However, starting from the second or third month and beyond, optimization will potentially recoup costs.

Who should do ASO?

Ideally, in any company, an ASO specialist should be engaged in ASO of applications.

The main functions of an ASO specialist can be reduced to the following tasks:
1. Building the semantic core.
2. Regular iterations of text and visual optimization.
3. Measurement of the effectiveness of iterations.
4. Localization in new languages.
5. Preparation of metadata.
6. Work with search query management.
7. Monitoring search queries.
8. Analysis of competitors’ ASO strategies.
9. Preparation of reports.

What an ASO-specialist should be able to do:

  1. Have a good command of ASO tools.
    Without tools, it is difficult to systematize activities, all the work of collecting keywords, monitoring and analyzing effectiveness will have to be done by hand, and this is ineffective.
  2. Have a good command of tools for A / B tests.
    If you are engaged in visual optimization, then you definitely need to run A / B tests. In the Google Play Console it can be done for free.
  3. Have a good command of basic analytics systems.
    You need to know at least the App Store Connect and the Google Play Dev Console in order to look at the metrics and analyze what happens in the context of sources and how it relates to other data.

The ASO Lead is the head of the ASO department. The functions of any leader are divided into specialist functions and managerial functions. Several people can be subordinate: from ASO specialists to motion designers.

It’s important for the manager to build the process correctly so that when Head of Marketing comes and says, “What results does your department have?” the manager can clearly answer what task was set, what strategy you are following and what reporting forms you use. The ASO Lead must be able to complete the same tasks as a specialist does, but additionally possess management skills:

1. Setting goals for SMART.
2. The technique of delegation.
3. Feedback.
4. Indicator approach.

How to evaluate the effectiveness of ASO

Any motivation system has two directions: these are qualitative and quantitative metrics.

Quality (do you mean Qualitative?) metrics is a type of work when the company agrees with the contractor. This may be compliance with the documentation throughout the work cycle. For example, hypothesis documentation.  If you hire an ASO specialist, you should understand how his time is spent. It is important to know how many iterations or hypotheses he can test in the reporting period. It is necessary in order to analyze the results.

For example, a good specialist will be able to qualitatively work out 5 countries and do one or two iterations during one month. If we are talking about both textual and visual optimization, then this means two or three hypotheses and their verification in the store.

Quantitative metrics that you can include in the motivational part:

1. An increase in the level of organic installations is the most important quantitative metric.

2. The growth rate of conversions for various traffic sources: from the application page to the installation, from the application card to the application page or from the application card to the installation.

3. Rating growth is also of importance because the position depends on the rating. That`s why small teams trust the search and optimization manager with ratings and reviews.

Does everyone need ASO?

Analysis of categories for brand traffic

We conducted a study and analyzed 1,500 applications worldwide in 2019. For each category, we made a layout of organic traffic (browse traffic and search traffic) and inorganic. After that we observed that there are 83% of organic users in the Business category, and 17% of inorganic ones.  In the Lifestyle category there are 75% of organic and 25% of inorganic users.

Green in the table indicates those categories which have a really large amount of search traffic. Companies working in these areas clearly need to work with ASO. In Travel and News, search engine optimization is also a must have, while paid purchases and brand development play a big role.

Organic Traffic Category Analysis

Search Brand Index research showed that the average percentage of branded organic traffic is 70%. Users are used to associating Delivery Club with food delivery, Yandex. Taxi with a taxi, and in order to launch competitors there, you should upgrade the brand first.

However, there are categories where the percentage of non-brand traffic is significant. Even in Dating, Booking and Travel, the percentage of non-brand traffic is sufficient for regular work with ASO. In such fields, ASO is one of the main tools for mobile applications marketing.

Why do we need ASO tools

ASO tools help to organize key queries, work with iterations, save all necessary metadata, and measure the effectiveness of the results correctly. Without an ASO tool, work will be unsystematic and non-scalable. Additionally if your contractor changes, it will be difficult to restore work and everything will have to be developed all over again.

What tasks should ASO-tool solve:

1. Building the semantic core.
The task is to find all the search queries which make the application visible in the search. It’s imperative not to lose the most important search queries that can give traffic right now.

2. Localization of ASO in other languages.
Localization is one of the growth points. That`s why you need tools that allow you to quickly optimize the application in any language, including those that you do not know.

3. Assessment of the popularity of search queries.
You have a limited number of characters, so the most popular requests should be the priority. If you cannot evaluate the popularity of search queries, you should pay attention to those that are popular on the web and not on mobile, but they are different. The assessment of popularity is needed in order to understand what is popular and what is not.

4. Management of search queries.
Properly structured work with search queries helps the ASO specialist to quickly and efficiently work with iterations, daily monitoring of positions for search queries and measuring results. Dividing search queries into groups, filters, search and a possibility to leave notes in the ASO tool allows you to spend your time effectively.

5. Measuring ASO effectiveness.
We will work blindly unless we measure effectiveness. It is necessary to evaluate external and internal sources. External sources are changes in the application’s position in the search, and internal sources are Impressions, Product Page Views and App Units from various sources. The correct assessment of effectiveness helps to create a further work strategy.

6. Competitive research.
Competitive research is useful while building the semantic core, as well as while localizing ASO into other languages, and even while measuring the effectiveness of ASO. For example, you see that the installation went down so you understand that you have been surpassed by a competitor.

7. Analyzing traffic sources
The ASO manager should evaluate all traffic sources, including paid traffic. That`s why he should have a tool that provides hints from the application store, from its own recommendation system, and from the competitive research. This helps to access a large number of search queries.

ASOdesk Keyword Analytics

What trends to expect in ASO

1. Paid placement in the search.
I believe that within two or three years, the search optimization manager will have to work in a very tight connection with paid traffic. This is because the first place in a search query can always be occupied by an advertisement.

The second place may be taken by a selection of applications from the publisher, you can no longer skip with the usual ASO. So you are fighting for the third position which is not as good as it was three or four years ago. Then the ASO manager looks at the link with paid traffic.

If we are talking about Apple, then this is definitely Apple Search Ads. It can also be useful for ASO iterations. You can run Apple Search Ads between iterations of specific search queries and check their relevance to your application. In this way, you will understand which queries are the most relevant.

Apple Search Ads and editorial content in App Store

2. Editorial Content
If you go to the App Store, we see three tabs: Today, Apps, and Games. These are all editorial selections, not a search. If we enter some high-frequency query in the search, for example, “air tickets”, then we are likely to see a selection of applications. Editorial content is now playing a key role.

This is a 2017 AppsFlyer study. Then iOS 11 was introduced and the App Store was completely redone. Editorial content began to play a key role, the role of paid traffic began to grow while the role of organic decreased. This means that you will have to work in conjunction not only with paid traffic, but also with editorial content.

Conclusion

ASO is necessary but you need to take into consideration a number of factors:

1. Look at the category and market niche you are located in.
Different market niches have different volumes of search traffic; the effect of brand traffic is different too. In some, it is important to engage in brand development and basic ASO, while in others it is important to set up regular work with ASO. It depends on what strategy we choose: geography and necessary human resources.

2. Provide a binding of paid and organic traffic.
The growth of positions in search and charts depends on paid traffic. At the same time, working with organic traffic helps to reduce the total cost of traffic from all sources.

You can combine the preparation of creatives and reporting creation for paid traffic and ASO.

3. Set up regular work.
ASO is not a one-time activity, but regular work to improve the position in application stores and increase the number of installations, constantly testing hypotheses and evaluating effectiveness.