Why ASO is not SEO (but looks like it)

Laurie Galazzo by
Chief Revenue Officer at AppTweak

Last updated: 4 min read

App Store Optimization is absolutely essential in any app marketing strategy. It can drastically help apps to stand out from the crowded App Store that today counts more than 1.5 million apps. The principal goal behind ASO is to increase app rankings and organic downloads.

ASO is often compared to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), aiming at optimizing the website’s visibility in search engines. However, if both of these rely on the same core principle, they do not work in the exact same way and some particularities need to be pointed out.

The mobile app ecosystem is eating the world

Since 2008 and the arrival of the first smartphone, the iPhone, along with the Apple App Store, we have observed an increasing shift from desktop and mobile web to mobile applications.

Mobile applications are surrounding us. They are part of our daily routine and often make our life much easier. The app ecosystem grew, grows, and will keep on growing considerably, faster than any other ecosystem has ever before.

On average, there are 41 apps installed on a smartphone. According to Flurry, apps usage continues to increase. In 2014, users spent 86% of their time on mobile apps while 14% was dedicated to mobile web.

Plus, Tim Cook announced at the WWDC15 that a new milestone has been reached: the App Store has passed 1 billion apps downloads. And the App Store is growing by 1,000+ apps a day.

Consequently to this, the market is suffering from an increasing saturation. Nowadays, there is almost a mobile application for everything. Actually, there are hundred of apps of the same type. How is it therefore possible to stand out and actually succeed?

Using a strong marketing strategy that will implement App Store Optimization.

Having a great app is not enough anymore – although it is compulsory. Now, developers and marketers not only need to come up with a unique concept and a perfectly crafted-app: they also need to focus on optimizing each of its ASO elements.

ASO was born after SEO

iPhone Screen

The goal of ASO is the same as SEO’s: to increase apps’ visibility and organic downloads. This will improve the quality of the users and hopefully increase app retention.

Almost ten years ago, search engines were built to simplify web experiences by providing valuable answers and content to any questions or requests.

Search engines have two main functions. First, their robots crawl all the interconnected documents on the web. The purpose is to create an index in order to sort web pages and to be ready for the next step.

Then, they provide answers to users’ requests. To respond to a query, search engines like Google scours their monstrous amount of data and only return relevant information. What’s extremely convenient to users is that this information has also been ranked: results will be listed in order of popularity.

Search engines work with algorithms comprising hundreds of variables, all having a certain weight. Over the years, engineers worked hard on these ranking factors in order to give more and more relevancy to search results.

This is how Search Engine Optimization was born. SEO has revolutionized the way companies optimize their websites’ visibility.

A few years later App Store Optimization became the “SEO of apps” but works differently. With 63% of apps that are being discovered by general browsing or search within the App Store, working on app store discoverability and visibility became a high priority.

How does ASO work?

As we previously mentioned, search engines’ algorithms are composed of multiple elements called “ranking factors”. Each of these factors has a certain impact on a website’s ranking in the search results.

Since mobile apps and websites come from two different universes, they both deal with different data and information. Therefore with different algorithms and variables.

Also, just like various search engines don’t work in the exact same way, different app stores have their own algorithm. Thus, app store search engines and algorithms differ based on the platform.

It is important to note that, unlike for the web, where everything is now pretty much transparent (especially for Google), general app store search results mechanism remains quite a mystery. Therefore, we can only try to “guess” how the algorithms work.

If the exact equations will probably never be publicly revealed, some factors have been proven to influence the algorithm. Keywords are, just like for SEO, one of the key elements to gain traction.

Mobile applications have on-metadata and off-metadata ASO, which can be compared to on-page and off-page SEO. On-metadata (or on-page) factors are factors over which the app publisher has total control. On the opposite, app publishers don’t have control over off-metadata (or off-page) factors but can still have a certain influence on them.

On-Metadata factors

  • App Name

_Definition:_The app name is an important ranking factor in the app store. Its SEO sibling is the

Laurie Galazzo
by , Chief Revenue Officer at AppTweak
Laurie is Chief Revenue Officer at AppTweak and joined the company in its early stages (2014). She's passionate about new technologies, growth and mobile marketing. Oh, and also about sushi.