Search Engine Optimization and App Store Optimization are not the same thing and should not be approached the same way. While they are based on organic traffic, user searches and keywords, getting a website to rank on the web is vastly different from getting an app to rank in the app stores.
In spite of that, many app developers continue to apply SEO techniques to their ASO strategy, expecting it to work just as well. Their inevitable disappointment highlights the necessity to understand the nuances between ASO and SEO.
1. What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, as the name suggests, is optimizing a website for specific keywords to help it show up in web searches on search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing. When your website includes keywords that your audience is searching for, Google will determine that your site is relevant for those keywords and will display it in search queries tied to them.
While that’s a simplified summary of SEO, it is the concept upon which Search Engine Optimization is built. You’ll need to find keywords to focus on and build your content around them in order to optimize your page for relevant searches. The structure of your website, how often you update content and having other sites refer to yours can all impact your SEO success.
Even for small pages, Search Engine Optimization is important. Landing pages, Facebook pages, any page on the internet can benefit from SEO – but app stores work differently.
2. What is ASO?
App Store Optimization is essentially the app store equivalent of SEO. Instead of building content around keywords so web searches can find your site, ASO involves understanding how users search in the mobile app stores, then implementing metadata and creative based on that understanding to help improve your search discoverability and conversion on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
A cover-all ASO strategy is also something developers should avoid. Just as ASO requires different techniques than SEO, so too must each store’s ASO strategy be fine-tuned to the specific platform being optimized. Beyond the different character limitations to consider on each store, the iOS App Store allows for a declared keyword field whereas Google Play does not. Though there are similarities across the two, their differences should be carefully considered.
Beyond keyword targeting and discoverability, ASO also encompasses other ways in which an app store listing can be optimized. This includes creatives such as the screenshots and video, marketing tools such as Search Ads and more; almost every piece of the app store listing is important for App Store Optimization.
3. What’s the Difference Between SEO & ASO?
Users have different search methodologies on search engines and within app stores. For web, searches are more research based, where mobile is more feature/e-commerce based.
For example, users tend to search for apps using 2-3 word feature based phrases. On the app stores, a user looking for movie times or tickets would search for “movie times” or “movie tickets” rather than “showtimes for despicable me 3”, “insidious in theaters”, or “black panther movie showing near me” as they would on web. As such, the SEO that would help users find a movie website on a search engine would not be nearly as effective on the app stores, where users search in vastly different ways.
The App Stores have vastly different creative display presentations than search results on the web as well. A page title or banner ad that works on the web may not work – or even be compliant – on the app stores. As with keyword metadata, the store listing presentation on the App Store and Play Store are vastly different as well and must be taken into account when optimizing for each platform.
4. Why ASO is Important for Organic Scale
App Store Optimization is essential for app developers. When your app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, a properly optimized listing will help ensure it appears in searches for relevant keywords and ranks highly among its competitors. Whether on iOS or Google Play, the metadata fields such as the Title, Subtitle (iOS), Short Description (GP) and Description should contain keywords relevant to your app. By doing so, developers are ensuring that they are doing their best to not only index well for relevant keywords, they are optimizing their page in a way that can help with converting users once they secure those rankings.
5. How SEO Can Contribute to Mobile Growth
An online presence can still greatly help an app grow. Search engines can still contribute up to 27% of an app’s discoverability, as long as the app is present online. For example, having a landing page with proper SEO can help find users and direct them to an app’s listing on the app stores. Another strategy is to add backlinks to your app’s store listing page on your website. Similarly, including backlinks in other related sites such as social media and press sites can help increase the app’s overall domain strength. Not only does this provide users more avenues to download your app, it helps with indexing better in Google search results.
Overall, it’s key to remember that knowing SEO does not guarantee that one knows ASO, as the two practices require different data sources and execution. Understanding mobile trends and how users search is vital to a successful ASO strategy. What works on the web does not translate to the mobile app stores, so while they are two pieces that can work in tandem with each other, you cannot use one in place of another. Some of the best things you can do is ensure that your app is designed for a good user experience, research keywords tied to mobile data and then work to improve your indexation for those terms.
Dave Bell is an entrepreneur and recognized pioneer in the fields of mobile entertainment and digital content distribution. He has been featured in and is a frequent contributor to Inc. Magazine, Newsweek, VentureBeat, Website Magazine, Mobile Marketer, Mobile Retailer and numerous other publications. Dave is currently the Co-Founder & CEO of Gummicube - the leading global provider of data, technology, and services for App Store Optimisation.