What Pros Know and Never Share: How Install Ads Boost Your Mobile App ASO

By Ran Milo

Every app marketer lives and breathes ASO (App Store Optimization). App growth is made of paid US and organic growth, and organic growth is derived from ASO. 

When I talk about ASO, I mean the art of getting selected keywords and phrases to rank high, being featured in the top chats and optimizing the conversions of store visitors to installers. All these activities are a part of what we call App Store Optimization.

As everything in mobile app marketing is dynamic, it’s difficult to stay on top of the rapidly changing ranking algorithms and the Google Play and iTunes store pages’ components. For instance, Apple recently announced major changes to their app store with the release of iOS11, including the removal of the fairly static ‘highest grossing’ app chart, a move to autoplay videos and an easier uninstall option. Alongside this, last February Google revealed that they will be changing their algorithm to reflect user experience and retention, not just download numbers, when ranking games.

UA managers and app marketers are sitting up and taking note of these developments. ASO has always been key to mobile user acquisition marketing success, but these changes bring it into even greater focus. App store optimization demands many interlocking skills, including keyword research, search terms competitive analysis, store copywriting and visuals, app preview video, localizations to multiple languages and cultures, AB testing (Google Play experiments) and more. With the shifting parameters of app ranking algorithms, professional app marketers and mobile user acquisition managers learn and use plenty of new hacks to keep ahead of the pack.

Here is the thinking behind one important tactic of mastering ASO: leveraging install ads.

Why are Install Ads a must for mastering ASO?

  1. The obvious. Boost your ASO relatively quickly by increasing quality installs.

The most obvious reason for using paid install campaigns is to do exactly what it says on the tin – increase installs and retained users. Both Google Play and the iTunes stores’ rank algorithms are still dramatically affected by the number and frequency of installs that your app enjoys, even with the recent changes.

What Pros Know and Never Share: How Install Ads Boost Your Mobile App ASO

Although installs improve your mobile app ranking, it’s not that simple. App installs which only result in swift uninstalls and bad reviews are not desirable, especially looking at Google Play rank. As mentioned above, engagement is an important parameter for ranking. Quality installs  are critical for good ASO, among other parameters. Poor quality users that often result in bad reviews can actually drag down your ranking and make your app look bad by lowering view to install conversion rates.

That’s why app marketers and UA managers often prefer using quality channels like Facebook, Instagram and Google Ads, and refuse to run incentive-based install campaigns. When they do work with multiple networks and allow incentivised install ad campaigns, they carefully check the user quality and retention of each network, campaign and even ad.

Important to know:  The effect of your install rate on your mobile app ranking does vary between the Apple store and the Google store. For example, iTunes gives much more weight to your installs frequency, increasing your rank by a large amount in the short term when the installs rate picks up. But your Google Play rank depends on a complex interplay between your installs rate, uninstall rate, download page backlinks, reviews ratings, bugs and crashes and a few other parameters. Nobody knows the exact recipe is, but that multiple indicators are calculated in.

Scale your user acquisition

  1.  Adapt your ASO materials to fit your best performing visuals and messages

Only rigorous AB testing reveals which texts, visuals, videos and layouts are the most effective for successful app search optimization ranking in both Google and Apple stores. Granted, Google now run AB experiments from within their store so that you can test specific screens, videos, etc, but their capabilities don’t go far enough.

You’ll never be able to ask Google Play to experiment with showing different story assets to different age segments, genders or interests. What’s more, what works to increase installs for Google isn’t necessarily also going to succeed for Apple, and vice versa. You need a framework which allows you to test and differentiate mobile app acquisition strategies for the different stores.

As far as I can see, only paid install-ad campaigns give you the freedom to run endless tests for both stores. With paid campaigns, you can control multiple variants and check every aspect of your install page for success in different age, gender and interest groups. Then use only your top winning assets on your store pages.

With better tailored messages and visuals, your download page visitors will hopefully convert more.

  1.  Localization

Powerful global markets present a huge opportunity for mobile app acquisition success. Besides, localized store pages help you get a higher rank in multiple stores and for localized search terms.

If you’ve already had your app’s interface localized into several other languages, what do you do now to make the most of your global opportunity? Localize your store materials to every possible language? Well, with limited resources, you’d better focus. But how will you know where to start and what attitude to have towards localizing your store assets? We know localization goes far beyond simple translation. Detailed localized search optimization requires you to start from scratch with your entire mobile app content. You’ll need to carry out local keyword research and have your app descriptions and other content rewritten accordingly. You’ll need to invest time into choosing the right screenshots and assets that appeal to your local audience’s culture and preferences. Once the installs begin to mount up, you’ll need analysis to know whether the app answers local needs and has achieved acceptable levels of user engagement.

In short, localized ASO calls for a lot of time, energy and money, especially when you consider that you need to repeat your activities for every local market on the list.

But paid app install ad campaigns can lessen the burden. They can help you decide whether to use localization as part of your search optimization strategy, and if so, which languages and cultures should be your focus. Combining preliminary minimal translation of your store page with well-targeted local campaigns brings you a better understanding of market potential, local segments, cultural fit and the optimal digital assets to use in your app store if and when you decide to fully invest in a local market. This way, you can gain insights about low-hanging fruit, local markets and the right way to approach them.

Here’s a concrete example: Let’s say that your app is already translated to languages X and Y. But you haven’t yet started ASO efforts in these local stores. You are wondering where to start and what effort to put. Running two test campaigns in these territories is very easy. This is what you can gain:

  1. Start from the better-performing territory (not only in terms of CPIs but in terms of retained and loyal users)
  2. Test a couple of messages and visuals. Based on that, decide if you need to ultra-localize your store materials or if a simple language adaptation will do.
  3. Understand the impact on your ASO. See how your rank in a given territory is improved as a consequence, and how paid media impacts your view-to-install conversion rates.  

Of course, there’s a problem with this method if you use localized install ads but your store isn’t already localized. How can you gain meaningful and valid insights? Well, this is how I run this hack: first I run a very minimal localization of my store page. I just translate the text and upload plain visuals with no texts. Then I run local install ad campaign and start collecting insights. Only later on, when the insights are gained, do I focus on selected territories and run a ‘real’ ASO process. Makes sense?

Conclusion: Install Ads can help your ASO in many creative ways

The obvious uses of install ad campaigns are well-known and clear from the name – they increase your app installs, boost your quality users, scale up your business, grow revenues and so forth.

But app install ads have further secret uses which you might not have thought through before. Now that you’re aware of them, you’ll find even more hidden ways to make paid install ad campaigns boost your mobile app ranking, I am sure of it.

We at Bidalgo  know many app marketers who leverage paid campaigns to run multiple tests, roll out pilot versions of their store page, assess the effectiveness of their materials and control variants that simply could not be properly tested in any other way. Using install campaigns in these ways might seem counterintuitive at the beginning, but once you open your mind you’ll be won over.

Boosting mobile app ASO might be the secondary KPI for paid install advertising campaigns, but it’s one that shouldn’t be overlooked.


Published on August 3, 2017
Written by
Ran Milo

VP Marketing @ Bidalgo.

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