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Understanding the Differences Between ASO & SEO: Why Marketing an App Requires Both

Digital Marketing, Search Engine Optimization - 7 Jun 2021

Understanding the Differences Between ASO & SEO: Why Marketing an App Requires Both


Over 3 million. That’s the number of apps currently available on Google Play, while apps available on the Apple Store have grown to over 2 million. And as the market for mobile apps becomes increasingly competitive, so does the need for strategies to help your app get noticed.

App Store Optimization (ASO) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are both widely used digital marketing techniques aimed at increasing organic traffic for mobile apps and websites. However, while ASO and SEO share a similar goal, they are quite different in function and approach – and in today’s crowded playing field, an effective app marketing strategy needs to employ both. Here’s why.

SEO and ASO Drive Traffic from Different Sources

SEO has been around for over two decades, making it in digital years like the grandfather of digital marketing. SEO employs various techniques to increase website traffic and had has a long history of proven effectiveness. How effective? Over 50% of marketers say their SEO strategies have been very effective in helping achieve marketing goals, and 70% have said that SEO has been more valuable than other digital marketing tactics for increasing sales.

ASO is a newer optimization strategy that strives to improve an app’s ranking and visibility in app store searches through keyword and other optimization techniques, with the ultimate goal of enticing a user to download the app. Given that 53% of Android users and 47% of iPhone users find their apps by searching in an app store, ASO is far too important to ignore.

SEO and ASO Capture Different User Intent

When searching for something online, people tend to use longer, more specific search terms to help them find what they are looking for in a massive sea of information. A good SEO strategy focuses on capturing more of these searchers by improving SERPs through the use of strategic keywords that provide answers to common search queries.

People who search for apps directly on the app store tend to use much shorter, sometimes even a single keyword, or search for an app by name. Unlike SEO, ASO keywords need to focus on a specific feature or function of the app rather than long-tail keyword answers to web searches.

So, while both SEO and ASO use keywords to help boost traffic, the strategies will differ.

SEO and ASO Have Different Ranking Factors

One of the most significant reasons to incorporate both SEO and ASO as a part of your more extensive app marketing campaign is they have very different ranking factors. And to add to the mess, iOS and Android have some considerable differences in how they rank apps.

SEO has evolved in the 20-odd years it has been around. There has been a significant shift away from optimizing for search algorithms to optimizing user experience. This means producing more engaging websites, writing higher-quality content, including links to other trustworthy sites with relevant content, and decreasing load times. Yes, keywords and content are still crucial, but how they get used and how search engines rank them have changed. Your SEO ranking priorities should include:

Using the right keywords in title tags, headers, and content
Focusing on high-quality, relevant content
Optimized URLs and meta tags
Improving load times
Incorporating links to trusted sources
Reducing bounce rates
Engaging users to increase time spend on a page and improve CTR

ASO involves a much shorter list of ranking criteria, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Much of ASO goes back to SEO basics, revolving around appropriate keyword use. How do you find the right keywords? It takes a little skill and a lot of research. To improve your app store ranking, your focus should be on:

Keyword placement in the app name or title (iOS and Android)
Using keywords in the app subtitle (iOS) or description (Android)
Writing quality long-form description (both iOS and Android, but only Android uses the description for filtering search results)
Maximizing the keyword field (iOS)

But it’s not all about keywords when it comes to ASO (wouldn’t that be nice); other factors that will impact your ranking include:

An app’s total number of downloads and download velocity
Usage and quality metrics
Download stats
Uninstall rate
Reviews and ratings
Crash rate
Number of backlinks (Android only)

Measuring ASO and SEO Performance

No matter how strong your marketing, advancing your ranking and drawing in more users is a long-term strategy. Some SEO and ASO tactics may provide a short-term boost, but to really improve your ranking and the overall success of your app, key performance indicators (KPIs) need to be continually monitored and tweaked over time.

Your ASO metrics to watch include:

Visibility in the app store
Organic installs
Conversion rate
Reviews and rating

SEO metrics are equally as important. You should monitor:

Organic search traffic
Session length
Click-through rate CTR
Bounce rate
Keyword rankings
Page speed
Domain authority
Total number of backlinks

ASO and SEO are both essential tactics for promoting an app; focusing on only one will severely limit the overall success of your marketing plan. ASO helps an app rank higher in the app store while SEO increases your app’s discoverability online. Together, app store searches and web sources account for more than 70% of all app downloads. Don’t limit your audience by limiting your marketing.

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