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Mastering App Store Optimization for the Mobile App Lifecycle

By Faith Price | July 18, 2022

Faith Price manages user acquisition at DoubleDown Interactive as Director of Growth Marketing. Faith fell into marketing and games. She landed her first job at a small company marketing tabletop games. Faith then moved into e-commerce, managing affiliate programs for drugstore.com, Expedia and Hotels.com. She returned to her gaming roots in 2014 to join Big Fish Games. It was an exciting time in the industry, with F2P games and mobile UA still in their infancy. At DoubleDown Interactive, her team encompasses UA, ASO, SEO and Ad Monetization.

Learn more about Mobile Hero Faith.

Whether your app is in the early stages of development or has been in the store for years, App Store Optimization should be a key component of your marketing strategy. App Store Optimization (or ASO) is the practice of testing and updating the product store page to increase traffic and improve conversion rates for the app. This supercharges the efficiency of paid marketing spend by lowering CPIs. It also increases the organic traffic to the store listing to help generate organic app downloads.

ASO is generally divided into two aspects, factors that improve conversion and factors that improve traffic. Improving conversion rates comes from developing compelling creative and copy for the store page. Both are equally important but should be focused on during different app lifecycle stages. Increased traffic comes from ranking on a combination of keywords with high search volume. data.ai and similar vendors offer limited, free subscriptions that include basic metrics and are helpful tools for ASO. 

To maximize the benefits of ASO, always align your marketing strategy to the needs of your product. In what follows, I walk through some best practices and suggestions for ASO through different stages of an app’s lifecycle. 

ASO during product development

You don’t need to wait until your app is live in the stores to begin optimization. Collaborating with the development team early in the design process can help set the app up for organic success. ASO research can help answer a few questions during app development that can impact conversion and ranking. These include: What genre or category should the app be in? How difficult will it be to rank in those categories? How will app size impact conversion? What should the app be named? 

The theme, genre or category, value proposition, and competitors of an app all contribute to app development. For example, if your app is a Match 3 game with a sweets theme, it might seem natural to use Sugar in the title. But a quick app store search shows that the top 25 results are a mix of dating, lifestyle, and social media apps, with very few games apps. The likelihood of a user looking for a game app when using the search term Sugar is low and negatively impacts organic conversion. Feedback on appropriate keywords for the app title during the product development stage improves app conversion once the app is live.

Optimizing During the Soft Launch

Soft Launch is the perfect time to start A/B testing the store page creative and the metadata (subtitle, short description, long description, etc.). Use it to determine what images and keywords resonate best with users. Research similar apps in the stores to see what types of creative competitors are using. Review the features, popular colors, callouts, and icon styles to determine a starting point for app screen, video and icon development. 

It is also essential to consider the best approach for each store. The App Store favors assets that show a more literal representation of the in-app user experience. The Play Store allows for more creativity—a chance to showcase characters and tell a story. This is the time to experiment with different styles, tones and directions to determine the best-performing assets ahead of the worldwide launch.

ASO for Mature Apps

App store optimization benefits can be challenging to achieve once the app has been on the market for several years. The product might also have a defined brand look and feel, limiting the number of changes that can be made to assets such as the icon. Some ASO factors, once optimized, can be removed from the testing process to maintain brand consistency.

In addition to the creative and metadata testing, this is the time to focus on other factors that impact keyword ranking, such as reviews and Android vitals. Reviews can provide useful customer feedback to the product team—they can also be mined for keyword insights. Discovering specific terms most used to describe the app will help you develop new keywords to test in the metadata. 

For Android apps, monitoring and improving vitals such as crashes and ANRs should be a point of focus throughout the app’s life. They are key to a superior user experience and factor into the Play Store’s keyword rankings. Ensure that app vitals fall within the accepted range before testing new keywords and metadata—otherwise, testing may be compromised. 

Finally, App Store Optimization is a continually evolving process. The stores add new features, update algorithms, and reprioritize factors for ranking. There are also many additional elements of ASO not mentioned here that should be a part of scheduled optimization tests. Understanding which factors to prioritize and when should be a part of any holistic marketing program.