ASO Optimisation

Read Time: 4 Minutes 50 Seconds

According to Apple, 65% of all App downloads are generated through app store searches by users searching for a specific keyword. Research provided by AppTweak shows that 38% of these downloads came from a generic keyword and that the division between brand and generic keywords varied drastically between brands.

A famous brand such as Uber would receive as much as 80% of its downloads through its brand term. Whereas a less well known brand could receive almost 75% of its downloads from generic keywords.

So how do I optimise for the App Store?

App Store Optimisation (ASO) is similar to traditional SEO, where certain techniques are used to get your website to the top of the Search Engine

Whilst there are similarities to traditional SEO, ASO is a completely separate discipline with its own unique set of algorithms

Much like the Search Engine algorithms, the true algorithm for ranking in both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store are not actually known, and can change regularly.

However, there are certain criteria that we do know that will help influence the ranking of your App:

Primary

  • Title, Keywords & Description
  • Total number of downloads & velocity
  • Conversion Rate

Secondary

  • Quality Reviews
  • App Retention (Uninstalls)
  • Backlinks (Google Only)
  • Quality Imagery/Screenshots
  • Including an App Preview Video
  • Category Selection
  • Icon Design
  • Periodic testing

Google Play Vs Apple IOS App Store

The mobile app store market is dominated by two major players: Apple and Google.

Similar to SEO, Google Play Store works more like a real search engine, with  its algorithm often providing more precise results, whereas, the Apple iOS App Store is driven more by phrases.

Various factors are taken into account by both these algorithms with a number of similarities and differences:

App Name

The App title is a strong ranking signal in both Apple and Google stores therefore brands should always include the most important keywords in their app title.

However the actual app title serves a very different purpose within each store. In Google Play search results, only the app icon and app title show, therefore the title needs to explain to users what the app is actually about. However in the Apple App store this is less important, as advertisers are also allowed a subtitle, screenshots or video in the search results which help convey to the user what the app is about. 

In terms of character limit, the Apple App Store has a standard limit of 30 characters, and a limit of 50 characters for Android apps. The character limit for a Google Play description is 4000 characters. Unlike the App Store, Google stores use keywords in the app description as a ranking factor.

Subtitle (iOS) Short Description (Android)

Similar to the title, the subtitle and short description play a significant role in app ranking visibility. Both Apple and Google use keywords in the subtitle to index the app – repeating a keyword in the app title and short description might improve one’s chances of ranking  in the Google Play Store as keyword density is an important ranking factor. In the Apple App Store, repeating keywords is a waste of valuable space, as it will not help one rank higher.

The subtitle for Apple and the short description for Google are displayed in very different locations. iOS the subtitle appears under the app title in the search results, below the screenshots on the app page. Whereas, in Android, the short description doesn’t normally appear in the search results, but is featured in the app listing – below the screenshot above the long description. The subtitle ultimately serves a different purpose in the conversion optimisation

iOS Keyword  Field

Apple has a similar attribute to the  Meta Keywords used in old SEO strategies,  – 100 character limit, invisible to the user but offers an option to add relevant keywords that describe one’s app. Google Play does not provide this attribute, using keywords solely from the subtitle and long description

Long Description

The long description is used to convey the Apps main features and benefits. The long description is not a ranking factor in the App Store, and for the Google Play store, the recommendation is to maintain a keyword density of 2-3% for the most important keywords.

Screenshots

The Apple Store can feature up to 10 screenshots whereas Google Play is limited to 8. In the Apple App Store the first 3 screenshots are normally displayed , however on the Google play store, screenshots are hidden in the app listing

In comparison to Google Play, screenshots have a much more important role in the Apple App Store in terms of Conversion Rate.

App Previews (iOS) vs Promo Videos (Android)

You can add up to a maximum of 3 App Preview videos in either portrait or landscape mode for Apple with the first video appearing in the search results alongside the first 2 screenshots. The remaining two videos will show on the app page page before the screenshots.

Apple guidelines stipulate that the videos should be short and to the point, showing the user’s journey through the app. App previews play a significant role in conversion optimisation for the Apple Store and testing different creatives is a great way to improve downloads.

In comparison, Google leverages its relationship with YouTube here with all videos required to be in the landscape format, YouTube’s default. Google refers to the videos as ‘Promo Videos’ and allows just one video per App. However, Google allows for a lot more freedom and creativity here, allowing users to showcase their Apps more freely than you can on the App Store.

Backlinks

Unsurprisingly, Google takes into consideration the number of backlinks to your app webpage. This helps Google determine the authority of your app, much in the same way it does for traditional SEO. More backlinks will indicate more authority, which will in turn mean Google trusts and rates your app.

Digital PR promotion can help improve the number of backlinks to your webpage.

Apple does not factor Backlinks into its Algorithm.

This blog was originally published on Incubeta.

The Apple Ecosystem

Read Time: 4 Minutes 10 Seconds

Amid the second lockdown, reaching your customers in the digital space is more important now than ever before. As businesses look  to increase their digital marketing coverage across all channels, they should be considering the App Store as one of their key priorities. 

Apple Search Ads only became publicly available in the US from  October 2016, launching six months later in the UK. Since then, it continues to expand worldwide but still only remains available to select markets. Similarly, iTunes Connect only became App Store Connect in June 2018. More and more companies are competing for installs every year and driving user acquisition efforts has become more challenging than ever. From 500 apps available in 2008, to over 2.2 million apps available to download today, advertisers need to align both their  ASA and ASO strategies to succeed in the app space. 

The reality is, to drive app discovery, there is no better place to be seen than at the top of the  App Store search. User engagement in the App Store is significantly higher than other search engines, with 65% of downloads occurring directly after a search. With Apple offering an average conversion rate of 50%, it’s no surprise  that competition levels are high. 

What is ASO?

App Store Optimisation (ASO) is known as App Store Marketing and Mobile App SEO. ASO is similar to traditional SEO, where certain techniques are used to get your website to the top of the Search Engine results page. The higher your app ranks in an app store’s search results, the more visible it is to potential customers.

Whilst there may be similarities to traditional SEO, ASO is a completely separate discipline with its own unique set of algorithms. Much like the Search Engine algorithms, the true algorithms for ranking in Apple’s App Store are not actually known, and can change frequently .

Apple says there are a number of factors that they take into consideration, but the two main areas to be aware of are:

  • Text relevance. Matches for your app’s title, keywords, and primary category
  • User behavior. Downloads and the number and quality of ratings and reviews

What is ASA? 

ASA stands for Apple Search Ads and is a form of sponsored ad that appears at the top of the search results page on the Apple Store for iPhones and iPads. Just like any other specialist search engine, ASAs work on a cost-per-tap (CPT) basis, however only a single ad will show at the top of the search results page. With only one auction winner, what determines your ad placement? The  chances of your ad showing are dependent on your chosen user-defined keywords and bids, as well as Apple’s algorithm. 

It is important to note that relevance is rewarded by Apple. Of course metadata matters – along with all the other factors that define Apple’s algorithm – but user response is highly valued. Apple believes that customers know best, so if a user does not tap on an ad, Apple Search Ads will eventually stop showing it to them. 

Ads are created based on the app name, subtitle, description, preview videos and screenshots you’ve already provided in your App Store product page. Therefore, it is crucial that you review your App Store metadata and keep it both updated and optimised, as this will be reflected in your ad. You can however use creative sets to offer ad variations, leveraging your assets and the platform’s testing capabilities to determine the top performing creative combinations.

Why should ASA & ASO work together?

There is no doubt that ASA & ASO come hand-in-hand, but the question we need to ask is how can advertisers make the most of this synergy? Both ASA and ASO are heavily dependent on Apple’s algorithm, which immediately puts them in the same context.  ASA campaigns are even considered to be part of search traffic – according to App Store connect.

Primarily speaking, the most critical thing to consider, is that the app’s conversion rate (CR) will directly affect category rankings. You need to be aware that low converting keywords in your ASA campaigns can lead to a reduction in organic visibility, bringing in less traffic from similar apps, and resulting in a category ranking loss. However, if you continually reevaluate ASA keywords, making sure that the overall CR remains higher than the app’s total CR, you will be able to nurture ranking growth. 

Like John F. Kennedy once said “in a time of turbulence and change, it is more true than ever than knowledge is power”. Sharing top converting keywords, competitor rankings and trends, as well as results from your creative testing will define your success. Combining the teams researching efforts on both the market landscape and your strategies will shape your app’s performance for both paid and organic. 

It is important to recognise that to fully understand your app, a holistic collaboration between ASA & ASO is essential to achieve optimal performance, and that undermining this relationship can cause detrimental effects on organic coverage. 

5 Top Tips for Universal App Campaigns

Read Time: 3 Minutes

When one is looking to acquire new mobile users the first place they should be looking is Google’s UAC (Universal App Campaigns) as a great means by which to drive downloads and in-app actions for your brand. UAC – leverage Google’s landscape and place your ads across numerous networks, including the Play Store, Display and YouTube all within one campaign.

Unlike what you may be used to with traditional Google Ads campaigns, let UAC do the heavy lifting for you by leveraging machine learning to reach conversion goals, whilst testing copy and creative combinations to find the best performing solution.

So what should advertisers consider before diving into UAC? Brands should be considering the following five points to optimise UAC and drive performance:

  1. Tracking
  2. Event Selection
  3. Budgets
  4. Creatives
  5. Audience Strategy

Tracking your performance 

As with any paid activity, it is vital to track your campaigns, especially if you’re running UAC alongside different platforms, so you can accurately assign credit to the relevant sources. You can choose from Firebase, Google play (Android installs) or use a third-party app analytics provider, but it’s fundamental that you have a source of truth to track and measure your campaigns so you can make the right decisions based on the right information. 

Choose your event selection wisely

Based on machine learning, App campaigns need a minimum of 50 conversion in order to optimise, so make sure you balance your KPI’s and choose an event that will provide enough data for the campaign to work effectively. We  recommend starting with installs and then expanding into in-app actions (such as purchases). If you are revenue based, ROAS campaign goals can then follow on from this. 

Budgets 

If  you haven’t run App campaigns before and are unsure of where to start with budgets, Google recommends a budget of at least 50x your tCPI or 30x your tCPA goal. When managing budgets and bidding, note that Universal App Campaigns run using machine learning and extreme changes can affect campaign performance. Campaigns have a 7 day learning phase as they gather enough data to optimise, making smaller more consistent changes allows you that control without restarting or resetting the learning phase. 

Creative is Key 

With there being less levers on App campaigns to work from, the main capability we have is creative refinement. It is crucial  to have a wide set of ad assets (ranging from text to video) in order to allow your campaign to succeed. Google recommends 4 text ideas, 3 videos and 2 of your top 10 images. Google has said that adding video to your ad groups assets can drive an extra 13% uplift in conversions. If you don’t have video assets available, there are plenty of tools we can use to transform your static imagery into compelling video. Take time to think about your creative strategy when starting up with UAC. Good practice includes ensuring your key headlines, Call to Action and brand are communicated first. Google Play allows you to localise videos so consider using this and localising language and device based content if it differs between markets. Also take into consideration videos are often not watched with the sound on so make sure it’s just as effective when it’s silent. 

Enhance your strategy with Audience work 

Think you’ve got the above sorted? There’s plenty more you can do in terms of audiences, and Google has a set of Beta’s which can get you on the right track to effective re-engagement. 

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Want to learn more about Apps? Have a read of the first blog in our App Series with Google’s Pietro Bagnasco who discusses everything from strategy and budget investments, to re-engagement and Q4 Predictions.

This blog was originally published on Incubeta.

Are you Overlooking the Value of Apps?

Read Time: 5 Minutes 30 Seconds

As we draw closer to Christmas, and the inevitable influx of consumer spending that accompanies it, we caught up with Google’s Head of Mobile Apps Partnerships, Pietro Bagnasco to find out why Apps should be at the forefront of one’s marketing strategy.

Why should brands consider app campaigns for Q4?

People will probably be tired of reading and hearing this, but we are definitely living in exceptional times. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that people’s desire to stay healthy, connected, productive and informed has only increased. And that smartphones and Apps are now, more than ever before, the closest and most-used access point for users to all of that. 

In fact, worldwide, the average weekly time spent in Apps grew 20% year over year in Q1 2020, suggesting that Apps are making a difference in how people navigate through this unprecedented time.

Our Director, Lowell Doppelt, recently spoke about this, during the peak of what’s now been referred to as “the first wave” and discussed how Apps can deliver helpfulness. 

What’s your philosophy on how brands should approach their Apps?

In my experience, brands should always start by asking themselves why they built the app in the first place, and how they can use it to deliver value to their customers. 

For the many brands who might have an App but aren’t necessarily leveraging it, investing in it or using it as a customer touch point, should circle back, and revaluate their strategy. Apps are proving to be invaluable, and compared to all other channels, have a higher retention rate, a higher average order value (whether retail or food delivery) and better brand loyalty over the long term.

As mentioned earlier, now more than ever, consumers are turning to Apps to satisfy their needs. Think of the increased adoption of food and grocery delivery Apps as an example, which played a key role during the lockdown globally. Additionally the boom in video conferencing and fitness Apps in 2020, which helped everyone stay fit, healthy and connected with their families. 

The time users are spending in front of a smartphone is surpassing 2019’s figures. Customers’ attention is on Apps, and those advertisers who are not there now, risk losing their market position in the coming 2-3 years. 

How do you recommend brands get started?

When we talk about investing budgets into user acquisition for your App, there are three things to consider: 

  1. Having a clear goal and strategy for your app
  2. Having the right measurement in place
  3. Having a solid creatives strategy and capacity

1: Always start with defying the goal and the strategy for your App user acquisition. 

Why? Because this will allow you to then translate this into actions and specific implementations on our Google Ads platform, leveraging the right product at the right time. Are you looking for new users? Google App Campaigns for Installs will help you find new users at the cheapest possible cost per install (CPI). Are you looking for users to complete specific actions, for example a purchase or a signup? Google App Campaigns for Actions will let you set a specific Cost Per Action (CPA) that your brand is willing to pay for a new user to download your App and complete said action –  leveraging over 300 million signals thanks to our machine learning. Are you looking to re-engage with existing users, who might have lapsed or stopped using your App? Google App Campaigns for Re-engagement will allow you to define the audience you want to reach out to (for example people who have the App installed on their phones but have not opened it over the last 30 days, or people who have added an item to cart but not purchased) and bring them back to the App.

2: Measurement is instrumental to this all. 

Having the right measurement means being able to provide our machine with the right signals that will lead to a performing optimization. But right measurement also means, on your side, the ability to look into the data and accurately measure the performance of your investment.  Google Analytics for Firebase is our analytics solution that will open you the doors to a detailed measurement, as well as a performing optimization of Google App Campaigns. For those of you more familiar with the Web side of things, this is our Google Analytics product, built specifically for Apps.

3: Finally, good creatives are imperative to the success of a campaign. 

Capture the user’s attention, convey your unique selling proposition, entertain, intrigue….leverage AdGroups to group your message and cater it to different audiences (for example if you are a Food Delivery business you could group your creatives by food type) to increase your chances of success. It’s important that you have the right bandwidth to produce creatives, test them and iterate on what works. My recommendation would be to assess whether your design team has the capacity to sustain a continuous effort, and if not, identify a strong partner in the market.

Do you have any predictions for what we will see in Q4?

I believe Q4 will provide an even further acceleration to the above mentioned trends.

Given the world’s current situation, Apps provide a unique way for users to keep socializing and entertaining, whilst also shopping and consuming content and services in a safe, protected and convenient way during the holiday season. A staggering stat, reported by TechCrunch indicates that “consumers will spend more than 1 billion hours on Android devices alone during the fourth quarter, a 50% increase from the same time last year”. As user trends accelerate towards Apps, they become even more ingrained into user habits, substantially redefining the user journey across a continuously increasing number of businesses beyond the usual suspects. 

What advice would you give to brands starting app campaigns now?

Get started, measure & iterate. Because our product leverages the power of machine learning to help bring you the best results, keep in mind it’s a learning journey. Therefore, get started: test, measure the right KPIs and scale what works. There is no magic behind what our algorithms do, it’s all based on data and iterations. 

Define your strategy and plan, launch it, give it time to optimize, then measure results and start iterating on creatives, bidding strategies and bidding amounts. Most importantly, if you are just getting started and do not have the full skillset in house or the bandwidth to follow and successfully deliver on your App strategy, I would encourage you to look out for the right partner that can help you capitalize on this opportunity.  

AppOn!

This blog was originally published on Incubeta.