Case Study: 5 Steps to Leverage ASO for Your Game Launch
Introduction of Tiny Tactics
Our client, Tiny Tactics, is a gaming company with a long-term focus on growth. The company aims to develop immersive mobile game experiences that engage mid-core and casual game players for years and decades. The most popular games under their portfolio are Matching Madness and Candy Corner. Tiny Tactics is built on core beliefs that challenge conventional business structures within and outside the industry.
In 2019, Tiny Tactics entered the market of Match-3 games. Given this is a very competitive sub-category they needed to find the right positioning and user base to ensure a steady stream of organic downloads. On top of that, they were determined to leverage ASO from the start for organic growth as their strategy does not depend on investors or external growth funds. Therefore it was important for them to understand what keywords users in the match-3 category are using to identify opportunities where competition was slower.
In the last 2 years, Tiny Tactics has successfully launched 5 match-3 games. To be able to compete with top players but also avoid cannibalisation within their own portfolio they have established the following methodology:
1. Understand different themes within the match-3 genre
Knowing that they were mostly going to rely on organic growth tactics, Tiny Tactics carefully researched the match-3 market to understand what kind of themes competitors go after when positioning their game. This allowed them to find those themes where competition is lower and shows a less volatile growth trend. Once they identified different themes they used AppTweak’s keyword tool to understand which keywords users use when searching for these types of games. They carefully analysed the volume and competition for these keywords to further guide them into the decision which theme to consider.
Keyword Metrics for keywords related to the ‘candy’ or ‘jelly’ theme in the Google Play Store in India.
2. Identify top 5 competitors
As a next step they engaged in strong competitive analysis. Crucial for them was understanding where the traffic for these games was coming from (search vs explore) and which keywords users used to find these games. But the competitor research also needed to identify which regions they were seeing the highest growth in. When selecting competitors, Tiny Tactics considered the following factors:
- Games with a good ARPA
- Games that mostly rely on organic traffic
- Games that are growing slowly but steadily without heavy advertising spend
Tiny Tactics used a few of AppTweak’s features to help with this research.
- Keyword Research Tool: As a first step Tiny Tactics identified very relevant and high volume keywords that users might be using when searching for match-3 games in a specific theme. Using the Volume and Installs metric, Tiny Tactics could better understand which keywords were most likely to drive traffic and installs.
- Live Search: Once they identified the core keywords they used AppTweak’s Live Search feature to understand which games were ranking for these keywords organically. The Live Search History feature was very useful as it helped them understand how volatile keyword rankings are for these keywords.
- Installs per Keyword: The unique Installs per Keyword metric really helped to quantify how many organic downloads each of these keywords actually drive towards the competitors and how this has changed over time. Doing so they could narrow down their competitor selection and focus on those games who have seen the most stable organic growth.
Download Estimates: The Download & Revenue Estimates feature helped to understand growth trends for these games over time but also identified in which countries the competitors were seeing the highest traction. This step was crucial for them as they really wanted to identify competitors with a steady organic growth and not those who rely on strong initial advertising boosts.
Download Estimates for various Match 3 Games across few conutries on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
3. Analyze competitor traffic
Once they selected the top 5 competitors they carefully researched their strategy to understand how they positioned themselves to influence both search and browse traffic.
“Compared to other ASO tools, AppTweak really helped us understand where competitors were getting most of their traffic from and which keywords were driving a steady volume of organic downloads” – Prabodh Pallu
In terms of keywords they carefully researched whether or not they were getting more downloads from ‘genre keywords’ such as ‘match-3 games’ or ‘puzzle games’ or ‘themed based keywords’ such as ‘candy games’ or ‘pet games’. This allowed them to further narrow down their focus and select top target keywords to include in their metadata. Based on this research they decided to focus on ‘match three games’ and make sure that always at least one of their games ranks in the top 5 for this keyword.
Current metadata for Candy Corner in the Google Play Store in India.
They further analyzed how these games were getting exposure in browse traffic. AppTweak’s Featured Apps feature helped to understand which kind of lists Apple and Google were featuring these games in. This helped them understand if, and how their keyword strategy had an impact on this.
Other match-3 games with the ‘candy’ theme seemed to appear in lists related to ‘puzzles’ but also ‘desserts’ in the Apple App Store.
4. Localize game for different markets
The US and UK are Tiny Tactic’s main markets but from the start they also focused strongly on localizing their game for Germany and France. With AppTweak’s Timeline feature they could easily understand how competitors were adjusting their app page for different languages and cultural differences. This really helped to understand what worked for them and what not, saving valuable time.
Before/After view of a Featured Graphic Update from Candy Charming in the Google Play Store in India.
5. Test, test and test
The team relied heavily on Google Experiments to further optimize their app page for conversion. Especially the subtitle is A/B tested thoroughly. According to Prabodh it is important to not only focus on keyword optimization within your subtitle. But you also need to make sure that you find the right wording to convince users to download your app.
6. Monitor & iterate
Once the games were launched, the team carefully monitored the keyword performance and made adjustments quickly. AppTweak’s visibility score is a very helpful feature to monitor how performance is growing over time on a group of target keywords.
Visibility Score for Matching Madness 3 in Australia over a 1 year period.
One of the primary questions that ASO managers commonly ask is: ‘How many iterations should I do for my app?’. Well, Tiny Tactics’s strategy evolved from its initially-haphazard manner of over-iteration, which did not produce clear results, to a more structured schedule. Today they are reviewing their games ASO performance every 3 weeks and implementing new A/B tests or metadata updates if necessary.
Since launching in 2019, Tiny Tactics has launched 4 match 3 games with one more in soft launch. On a daily basis they receive around 300 daily downloads per game in their tier 1 markets. An impressive track record, given they solely focus on organic growth and aim to attract users with a high ARPU.