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App Marketing Plans Need App Store Optimization

Bobby Gill | November 24, 2015

The percent of your mobile app budget allocated to marketing should exceed that of app development and design combined. For many who invest in a mobile app, the marketing budget is not 50 percent or more, it is zero. Google recently shared that in their Google Play app store 60 percent of apps have never been downloaded. Not once.

Apple and Google each have in excess of 1.5 million apps in their app stores. How will your target market going to find yours?

Mobile App Marketing Channels

Not being able to connect with your audience has very little to do with the problem your app solves, or its quality. The problem is one of visibility – how do people discover how amazing your app is, or the unique problems it solves? Visibility can come in a variety of different forms, but most are extremely rare or extremely expensive:

Is your new mobile app a mobile version of a successful web service?

– Spotify, Pandora, Mint, Facebook, Twitter

Do you have an extremely engaged following in a different outlet TV, YouTube shows or a podcast?

– Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood, 60 Minutes, Marc Maron

Are you confident that the lifetime value of user acquired through paid acquisition will exceed $4 per user?

– Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, Game of War

Most new mobile apps don’t have these “assets”. So why and how does anyone build an app and get traction in the app stores? Most people don’t discover mobile apps from TV commercials or ads in their Facebook news feeds, they discover mobile apps by searching in the app store. App store optimization (ASO) is the practice of building and optimizing an app store listing for maximum visibility and installs from a relevant audience. If you’re looking to release an app any time soon, then ASO is where your mobile app marketing efforts should start.

App Store Search

Multiple studies have shown that the vast majority of apps are discovered and installed from app store search. Users browse and search through the app stores using 2-3 word phrases to help find an app to solve any immediate problem. Our data shows 80 percent of these searches are for features, with the balance being for brands. 80 percent of the time users will search “cheap hotels”, “hotel deals in San Diego”, “discounted room rates” or other 2-3 word, features-based phrases, and 20 percent of the time will be for “ app” or “Priceline”. The way to get installs in the app stores starts with increased visibility for relevant keywords and phrases used by your target audience. To get this coverage, we need to understand how Apple and Google index our mobile app.

App Store Indexing

Just like searching the web, or Amazon or Etsy, Google and Apple have algorithms that to index mobile apps and rank them in any app store search results. There are app metadata elements from the app listing that are used to index and rank an app, like the app name or title, and the keywords field and descriptions. Then there are “off-app” metrics such as downloads, number of ratings, quality of ratings, conversions from search results to install and even app usages stats like time in app and retention. As an app publisher, making an app that users love helps and does impact several variables that affect search rankings. The search terms your app is ranked for, however, are largely defined by your app listing – which is a primary focus of ASO.

ASO Basics

You are building a beautiful app that solves a real problem, you are sure users are going to love it or see value in it. Based on how ratings, conversions from app store views to installs, engagement and retention impact rankings, a great app is a good place to start. But for which searches does your app appear? Both Apple and Google largely use the app listing (or app metadata) to determine what an app does, who its for, its features and ultimately, which searches of the App Store your app is a relevant result for. Apple primarily uses the app name and keywords fields to determine which keywords and phrases are relevant to this app. The keyword field is a private or hidden field viewable only to the publisher and Apple. Together with the app name, a keyword matrix is created. Google Play is a bit different in that Google does not have a hidden keywords field in their app listings, and instead uses the public fields of app title, short description and full description. Although app store search and web search are very different in user intent, the way Google indexes mobile apps in Google Play is similar to how they index websites – where the app title is the page title, the short description is the meta description and the full description is the page content. Taking what we know about how users search the app stores, use your app’s most essential or differentiating features in the app name/title, keywords field and descriptions.

Making the Most of ASO

To make the most of the opportunity of app store search traffic and organic user acquisition, it takes more than adding a few keywords to your app name. Each of the app listing elements described above have their own character limits and restrictions. To create a target keyword and phrases list, you need to understand how your target audience searches for specific features in the app store. With this list, which combination of keywords provides the best, most relevant coverage given the limited space available in these fields?

An investment in ASO should include:

  • Access to app store search data
  • Focus groups for testing app name, icons and screenshots
  • Software to assist finding the optimal use of the limited space available in various app listing elements
  • A plan for measuring and adjusting for ongoing incremental gains


App store search traffic is not increasing as fast as new app submissions, which means the app store is getting more competitive. Publishing an app without a marketing budget just doesn’t make sense in today’s app store environment. The good news is there is a proven method for increasing visibility and downloads in the app stores that is accessible to publishers without a celebrity partnership or $100k daily ad spend budget – and that is ASO.


Gummicube is a leader in providing App Store Optimization and App Store Intelligence software and services to growth marketers and app developers.

Bobby Gill
Co-Founder & Chief Architect at BlueLabel | + posts

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