Updating ASO for the Holidays: What works (and doesn't)
The holiday season is a festive time for many, with so much to celebrate. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are some of those that people around the world celebrate, making December a busy month for all. In the US, the season is thrust upon us the day after Thanksgiving, with holiday jingles ringing through every store and radio station. Some people change their clothes for the season, some people decorate their homes and others just don’t feel like celebrating the season all month long.
There are certainly also trends that begin to take place in the App Store and Play Store during the holiday season, with developers and big gaming studios aiming to take advantage of the Christmas seasonality and stay relevant to potential customers. We’ve taken a bit of a deep dive into the topic to answer the question everyone wants to know about updating ASO for the holidays - what works, and what doesn’t?
An easy place to begin dissecting is the creatives used in app store listings: icons and screenshots. Browsing the top 200 apps and games in the App Store mid-December, only 5 of the top 200 apps and 13 of the top 200 games had updated their icon to include some sort of holiday theme. In the Google Play Store, only 2 of the top 200 apps had Christmas themed icons (Santa caller and elf yourself), but 20 of the top 200 games use either Santa hats, red and green themed icons, or winter-imagery to indicate they are aware of the season.
What does this mean? Simply, some apps update their icons but most don’t. If you are thinking about changing yours, we recommend you hold off the urge to update all your creatives and look to Google Play to run an A/B (or better yet, an A/B/B) experiment. Some of your current app users may like the change or find it refreshing, but some might think it’s contrived or a cheap marketing ploy (in our experience, apps that benefit most from a conversion uplift after updating their creatives to a more holiday-themed version offer, some kind of special holiday content or offer). Run a statistically significant test and give it some thought, and if you like the results, go ahead and make the update.
Screenshots are a little more difficult because these can be higher production value assets that are more expensive for you to update than your icon. Unless your app or game experiences some type of internal seasonal change or promotion for the holiday, it’s likely best to refrain from updating your screenshots. Icons are typically the first assets that change during the holidays because it gives your app a chance to stand out among the category top charts and keyword search results, potentially giving you a boost in page views. The screenshots in your app store listing are essential for conversion to app installs, and the best place to highlight features & value propositions. As often in ASO, updating screenshots is worth testing if you have the resources, but updating assets without a test is unlikely to grant you an automatic boost just for sharing the holiday spirit.
In short, creatives can be one of the better ways to update your store listing for the holidays, and testing something new is absolutely a good idea, though you shouldn’t expect Santa hats and winter imagery to be a silver bullet for creatives in December.
Looking to take advantage of the holiday search trends? Maybe by adding some fun holiday keywords like “Christmas”, “X-mas”, “holiday” or “Hanukkah” to your app store listing? In the last six months, keyword volumes have certainly increased for holiday keywords, but the App Store is competitive and just by including one keyword doesn’t mean your app will automatically rank well for that keyword. Even if you add a keyword to your title and you start ranking #100 for it, the further down in the search results you are, the less likely it is that your app will be downloaded. You have the best chance at earning a download if you are on the first or second screens while scrolling through search results, and any lower is very unlikely.
To demonstrate how competitive holiday keywords are right now, here are the search results from the App Store in the US for the keywords, “Christmas” and “holiday music”.
The overall consistency between top-ranking apps for these keywords demonstrates quite well that unless your app has a central focus of the holiday season, targeting keywords like “Santa”, “Christmas” or “holiday” only for exposure does not work that well. In fact, the example of search results for “Christmas music” shows that mainstream music apps aren’t at the top of the rankings despite suggesting holiday playlists and other contents to their subscribers because their overall positioning prevents them from putting too much focus on the one specific theme. In such cases, apps wanting to highlight their holiday content without sacrificing their overall store positioning can update their promotional text in the App Store and short description field, since both are the best places for your app to advertise holiday specials without majorly impacting your ASO strategy or conversion.
Ultimately, it is up to you and your team to use the best discretion while cultivating your holiday messaging, app store listing, and creative strategies. By all means, test everything and measure the results and maybe you’ll be surprised with your findings! There is no guarantee that adding holiday seasonality to your store listing will work, but there is no guarantee that it won’t either.