Nowadays, with the growing saturation of app stores, the volume of users acquired by paid promotions accounts for the majority of app store downloads, and the growth rate of natural app downloads is very different from the past, ASO has become an integral part of the user acquisition channel.
ASO refers to App Store Optimization, the process used to improve the ranking of apps in various app stores, market rankings or search results. Good ASO can make your app stand out in the store when users make natural downloads, and good product marketers should also have the ability to control and place the overall channel. In this article, we go through the core of ASO and analyze how to improve conversion and reach quality user acquisition.
Understanding app stores
In the process of ASO, you should understand the differences between different app stores firstly. An effective ASO strategy should be based on the structure and functions of different app stores, so when placing on different app stores, you should also understand the differences between different app stores. For example, there are many differences between Google Play and App Store. If you are placing the same budget on both stores, you should test them before you place them.
For example, if you place a video ad, the video will play automatically on the App Store, but on Google Play, it needs to be clicked before it plays. This means that most users who land on the Google Play page will probably not click to watch the video, so the image of the video "play" button on the Google Play page should be more prominent and intuitive to attract users.
This may seem like a small difference, but it shows that the placement should be different in different app stores. The placement should be tailored to its specific structure and function in order to arrive at the best placement and ensure that you attract more potential users through UA campaigns and ultimately increase conversion rates.
Of course, no matter which app store page you want to optimize, the first impression of the ad is very important. Most users do not have the time and patience to scroll through large or long ad pages, so the most important thing in advertising is to make sure that the message you are conveying is the most important and clearly shows the highlights and advantages of the app.
Understanding your target audience
Target audience is the target group for your product or service. If you have an app to promote or a service to offer, you must know who the target users are. Who buys your product? Who benefits from your services? It makes no sense to continue building a brand without first knowing for whom you want to build it.
Before we dive into the topic of how to find your target users, we need to address the importance of having a target user and figuring out who your mobile app is for.
Once you have identified the audience characteristics, combine them together to build the target audience. You should always create the referenced target audience visuals. There are several ways to do this, one of which is to create actual user personas.
User personas are the profiles that visualize and humanize your target audience. User personas will remind you of your target audience when designing, developing and marketing your application. The design should appeal to the personas. The features should be seamlessly connected to the personas. Marketing strategies should target real people who resemble the personas created.
All of this information can be found by searching the Internet. Conducting your own interviews and surveys can also be very useful. Talk to people and get their opinion about your application and its features. Record feedback and make notes on which people said what.
With real-life examples that can inspire thoughtful user personas and target audiences, you can more easily identify the challenges, pain points, needs, and goals your target audience may face. If you already have users, solicit feedback and gather information from them through surveys, focus groups, or other communication methods. Clearly defined target users are important because they are the foundation on which design, development and marketing strategies are built.
Finding the target users involves analyzing what the application is used for and what problem it solves. Then delving into what kind of people want to use your application. By having a clear understanding of your target users, you can make user-centric designs and features. As for marketing, you'll know where to reach your target audience. Based on the information you collect, you can find out what social platforms they use, what topics they search for on the Internet, and what publications they might read or watch.
A strong ASO strategy goes far beyond keyword optimization
Keyword optimization is unarguably an important component of a healthy ASO strategy, and can certainly help you achieve more organic growth through better discoverability by ranking higher in the app store search results. The thing is, keywords and creatives complement each other. When you’re familiar with the major terms that drive impressions for your app, creatives that appear in the search results page -- and appeal to your target user -- will increase your “tap-through rate” and conversion rates. The higher your “tap-through rate” and conversion rate is for a specific keyword search, the higher the search algorithm ranks your relevancy, and the higher you rank for that keyword.
Beyond that, it doesn’t really matter how many people are visiting your page unless visitors are downloading your app. And what’s even more important than visitor volume is optimizing for the number of quality installs. For that, it’s crucial to test your app store creatives. Hence, a strong ASO strategy focuses on both optimizing for discoverability and conversion rates (CVR).
A successful ASO strategy is underpinned by (Good) hypothesis-driven optimization
A strong ASO strategy is built on hypotheses of what combination of creatives and messaging will cause most users to download your app. Without (good) hypothesis testing, you risk wasting resources on unfocused experimentation.
A good hypothesis is a precise statement that can be proven or dis-proven and should be used as a starting point for further investigation.
The key is to first think broad, do research and use any existing data to hone in on ideas that can have an impact on your target users, and then create categories of ideas to test. To help you get inspired:
Put together an audit of competitors. You can use tools like the ASO Tool Box to preview (and download) the creative assets used in your competitors’ app stores or the app stores of big players in your app category. Get inspired by what’s out there and try to also come up with new ideas.
Explore your current app reviews and feedback. Learn what users are saying about your app and how they’re saying it. What is potentially drawing users in and pushing users away?
Identify which features of your app users engage with the most.
Explore what ads have worked the best for you and why.
If in an early stage, are you lacking credibility (social proof). How can you address this?
If you had 3-6 seconds to a) inspire a specific user sentiment and b) convey the functionality of your app, what would that sentiment be and how would you go about conveying both?
The biggest pitfalls we see in unguided testing are hypotheses that are based on design changes that are too nuanced or changes that do not lead to valuable insights.
Dating app visitors prefer to see a yellow background logo.
Dating app visitors prefer to see screen-shots containing UI images without the phone frame.
The issue with the hypotheses above is that either users won’t notice the changes or the hypotheses themselves don’t lead to significant learnings about your app store visitors.
Dating app visitors prefer messaging about the quality of the app user base over the volume of the app user base.
Dating app visitors prefer messaging in the First Impression Frame that relates to the “one match a day” feature (one USP of the app) over messaging that shows social proof.
Good hypotheses are precise and framed in a way that will advance your understanding of your app store visitors.
Strong creatives and messaging are integral to running successful tests
After you have a test hypothesis and you want to begin designing creatives, there’s a number of things to consider:
Visitors have a short attention span: The average app store visitor will make the decision to download or drop within 3–6 seconds of landing on an app store page. Visitors’ attention is limited at best so don’t expect users to watch your full video, browse all screen-shots, and make an informed decision. In fact, our data shows that 60% of visitors decide to install or drop without ever engaging with the page. That means, these visitors are only exposed to the creatives in your First Impression Frame (everything above the fold). So make your First Impression creatives and messaging strong and to the point.
Mobile screens are small: Remember the size of the canvas and paint accordingly. Too much information in too small a space is confusing to visitors and causes them to drop.
Crowdsource: You know your app inside out. Your average visitor does not. Therefore, what might seem like a big difference in creatives and messaging to you, could have little to no impact on the average visitor. Take your designed hypotheses, walk downstairs to the coffee shop in your building, and ask people what the main message of each hypothesis is. Seriously. If they can’t explain your app’s value based off the creatives, your visitors won’t be able to either.
A closed ASO loop composed by data
Use the findings from your post-test analyses to come up with and create new hypotheses. It’s the ASO Circle of Life. This is precisely why a strong foundation is necessary for a successful ASO strategy—each stage is informed by the previous stage.
Your strategy should be a cycle also because your market, competitors, and users are constantly evolving. Hence, you must constantly evolve. In fact, our data shows that leading apps test their creative assets at least 2-4 times before each app release. We have also found that leading apps update their store creatives 1-2 times a month.
A successful ASO strategy is more than just a game plan that will bring a one-time CVR boost. Rather, it’s about creating a strong, long-term strategy to allow for ongoing performance optimization of your app store.