During the last 12 months, I have been working as an App Store Optimisation Consultant and, with great excitement, I have seen how the word ASO has become more and more popular within the developers’ community.
In the beginning, everyone seemed a bit skeptical about the importance of ASO, but nowadays everyone seems to realize that a Search function is extremely important in every single app store on the marketplace.
The interesting point is how little information is being published about app store optimisation. We still find the same concepts that were published in 2011 and many developers ignore the fact that app stores are investing heavily in improving the way their algorithms rank and behave versus certain other variables.
So today I want to break the mold and move away from the typical “five steps to optimise your app” and instead talk about the “five things in ASO that nobody is talking about.”
Everyone seems to talk about how the manipulation of the App store algorithm can only be done by purchasing or incentivising downloads, but the weaknesses in the way app stores work go beyond that.
As in any Search ecosystem, as soon as a “search engine” opens its door for new variables to be calculated in the algorithm, weaknesses will happen.
The interesting point is how these weaknesses seem to be less discussed and less implemented like in the SEO world.
The reason is obvious. As soon as an app gets caught cheating the system or manipulating the algorithm, the app usually gets banned or kicked out of the store.
This simply means: Bye bye App = bye bye all the time spent on the app.
So although this encourages real app developers not to “push their luck,” developers producing apps “en masse” to try and flood the market usually play with the system and are the same “mass-producers” of low quality apps that seem to enjoy the weaknesses of the ranking algorithm.
So for now… app spammers may be winning the battle.
Reviews Matter But Not In The Way You Think
Every time I read about reviews, I read about how important it is to get positive reviews…and then the topic seems to die.
The reality is that reviews have become one of the core points for apps to detect the “growing” velocity of an app. Similar to the famous link velocity in SEO, App stores have already implemented in the algorithm ways to detect unnatural behaviours in reviews that allow them to detect odd behaviours from apps without any clear “trust.”
If you are Rovio (an “Angry Birds” mum and dad company) and you publish a new app, the Algorithm will treat your app differently than it would treat a brand new developer. The concept of trust is not new in app stores and Apple is already learning that from Google in the Search game.
Implementing a trust factor helps to create a “sandbox” effect, where brand new apps produced by new developers may not rank until a certain buffer of real downloads, real reviews and normal growth pattern is developed.
Social Is Not Just A Nice Word
Social links matter…a lot. Just look at Google+ and how it has integrated Google reviews. Social signals are one of the factors app stores have started to implement and provide more and more weight.
Real social factors are difficult to fake and app stores have a huge amount of data to understand what represents a normal amount of social signals. Not only can social signals help ranking, but they can help identify apps that don’t follow a “healthy” behaviour. An app with a rapid spike of downloads and no reviews or zero social signals can literally trigger a red flag to the algorithm.
Huge downloads with no “real” human interaction only means the app is purchasing the downloads or artificially increasing its numbers to increase the ranking.
The Rise Of The ASO Tools
ASO tools are not the same and need to be treated as experimental tools. Although there are six different tools to compare competition levels and do keyword research, it’s important for developers to compare data from different sources before making a decision.
In the same way, you shouldn’t consider treating the Google keyword tool data as the “divine gospel.” It’s better to be a bit sceptical regarding data provided as it can give you a more accurate approach instead of being ultra-optimistic.
ASO tools provide a very smart and professional guestimate of competition levels and potential download numbers and searches originated from different app stores, but regardless of how accurate these figures are, they’re still only guesses. Comparing data from different sources and doing proper keyword analysis is not an easy task. Developers really need to understand how to utilise these tools and how to interpret the data they provide.
Not doing proper keyword research and marketing analysis before launching an app is the fastest way to fail in the App store optimisation game.
App store optimisation is new and we’re now seeing signs that ASO will eventually grow even more. We’re still in the infancy stage where we see many mistakes done by developers and app stores. But eventually…like all babies…they grow up and provide a more stable environment.
Hopefully, at the end of the day, the winner will be the developers of quality apps, waiting to be found and downloaded by future users.