Blog Combining ASO and paid UA is the key to mobile success

Combining ASO and paid UA is the key to mobile success

In our latest guest post, Gilad Bechar, CEO & Co-Founder of mobile app marketing agency Moburst, explains the importance of seamlessly combining app store optimization (ASO) and paid user acquisition (UA). By developing a holistic strategy, both can be optimized in tandem to increase the visibility of your app and drive high-quality installs.

With over 5 million apps in the app stores, how do you get users to download yours? The competition is fierce, but the best way to get your app to the top is by combining paid user acquisition (UA) with ASO.

Strategizing for paid media buying campaigns and ASO simultaneously can be tricky work. You’ve got to consider the risk of cannibalizing keywords, figure out how to keep the cost per install (CPI) low and return on investment (ROI) high, identify which aspects of paid media impact ASO and vice versa. Many mobile marketing agencies have separate teams that work on ASO and media buying. However, the best agencies encourage both teams to work together - the more they communicate and combine their efforts, the smoother the journey to mobile success will be.

The state of paid UA in 2020

Typically, paid user acquisition takes a highly targeted approach - where ads are displayed to the most relevant audiences with the highest potential to convert and to keep the ROI as low as possible. However, 2021 has been full of tumultuous industry changes, including changes regarding iOS 14. Third-party user data is no longer available without requesting permission, meaning the way paid UA functions, and the way marketers tailor their approach to getting the opt-in, has had to pivot.

Where we’re at with ASO

Despite what its acronym might suggest, ASO isn’t just about improving your app’s visibility in search results. You need to optimize your app’s store listing so that when users find your app store page, everything is geared towards them downloading. For top-tier ASO, show off your app’s best features in the first few screenshots, because the likelihood of users scrolling the whole way through is slim. A/B test an app store preview video and see if it generates a higher conversion rate than not having one at all. Say everything you need in the app description before the fold (the point at which the text cuts off).

User acquisition spend driving organic installs

App downloads

The more installs you generate, the higher your app will rank, leading to better presence in the search results, top charts, categories, and browse tabs. The better search presence your app has, the more people will find your app store page organically and download your app - and the cycle continues. The app stores don’t differentiate between paid or organic installs in this context, so it doesn’t matter where these installs are initially coming from. That’s why if you’re spending more money on paid user acquisition, it will help boost your ASO.

If you’re not showing up in the search results organically, you have no choice but to send paid traffic to your app. Then, while you’re increasing your paid installs, you’re also increasing your chances of showing up in the search results to encourage organic installs. More app installs lead to a higher app ranking resulting in higher visibility in the app stores and more organic app store page visitors. More organic visitors ultimately lead to more organic downloads.

Burst campaigns

The best way to gain more app downloads is via a burst campaign - or an aggressive way of exposing your app’s ads to the largest possible audience over a 24-28 hour period. A burst campaign falls under the paid user acquisition umbrella. Yet, it impacts one of the most important ranking factors in ASO.

Branded search

Running ads on multiple platforms can have a positive effect on your branded search. Users are being exposed to your brand name where they’re already hanging out and may search for it in the app stores later. Although this will be attributed to users that come via branded search (organic), often they only come because of the brand awareness generated by the ad campaign. As such, ASO and paid UA can not always be clearly distinguished, and this is in fact just one more example of how heavily they’re intertwined for ultimate success.

ASO’s impact on paid UA

One of the main KPIs the paid UA team of any agency must meet is a low cost per install (CPI). The main obstacle here is often a low conversion rate on the app store page. Since the ASO team is responsible for optimizing the app store page for optimum conversions, we’re once again struck by the co-dependent nature of ASO and paid UA. To get the most value out of your UA campaigns, your creatives and other features need to be up to scratch to continue the conversion process.

It’s important to A/B test to identify which audiences respond best to the page. Assess which campaigns and platforms are driving the highest converting users. When you can segment these, you can then direct more of the same high-potential audiences to the app store page - where your CPI will reduce and your ROI will increase. It’s also advisable to match the creatives used in social media ads with the creatives on your app store page to create consistency and familiarity in the user journey.

The relationship between ASO and ASA

Despite existing at opposite ends of the spectrum, ASO and Apple Search Ads (ASA), Apple's own acquisition channel, need to work in tandem to drive growth for your app. ASA allows you to build a keyword database where you can see which have the highest click-through rates (CTR). Keywords with a positive CTR generally lead to more conversions. So if you run an ASA campaign using keywords with only positive CTR, you’re inevitably going to boost your app’s ranking. What’s more, App Store Connect considers ASA campaigns as part of search traffic, which is organic.

Cannibalization

When you combine ASO and ASA, you’ll run the risk of cannibalization - when you pay to market to a user that would have likely downloaded your app organically anyway. An example of a time you might be cannibalizing is an ASA campaign that bids on a keyword you’re already ranking #1 organically. Branded keywords are also high risk in this respect. If users are searching for your brand name and are met with both a paid and organic result for your app, is it worth spending the money on the paid result? They had a high intent to find your particular app when they started, so the chances are they’ll ignore the top result and just head where they intended (your app) anyway.

On the flip side, it’s unideal to have another brand appear when a user searches for your app. If they’re a competitor they could be stealing valuable users from you, and even if their offering is different it still acts as a distraction and shows that they’re outbidding you.

How do you know when to bid and when to avoid it? Generally speaking, when you’re organically ranking #1, #2, or #3 in the search results for a particular keyword, you’re at risk of cannibalizing yourself if you also bid on that keyword. So, bidding on keywords that you’re currently ranked low for is often a better tactic.

Final thoughts

It’s clear that no matter which part of the mobile marketing funnel you’re zooming in on, app store optimization and paid user acquisition are both essential to achieving utmost success for your app. Whether it’s the cyclical nature of app downloads from social media ads improving your app’s ranking, or a well-optimized app store page finishing the job of a paid ad helping to reduce CPIs, you can’t reach mobile success with one and not the other.

The most successful mobile marketing campaigns come from agencies like Moburst, where communication between the ASO and UA teams is intrinsic in their day-to-day.

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