INFLUENCER MARKETING

ASO vs SEO – Which Do You Need for Your Mobile App?

David Morneau

By David Morneau
12 min READ | Jan 20 2023

App Store Optimization (ASO) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are similar and both can be amazing for your app. The results you achieve are similar (increased demand for your app) but the tactics are not the same. One is about optimization on app platforms and the other about optimization in search engine results like Google.

If you don’t want a mobile marketing agency to take care of everything, we’ll teach you how to get started in the article below.

We’ll discuss the similarities and differences between SEO and ASO, plus when to use each according to your marketing goals. Besides, there will be plenty of examples of mobile marketing to help you better grasp some actionable strategies.

Keep reading below.

What Is ASO?

The App Store Optimization process (ASO) refers to optimizing your app and the app store page to leverage your position in the app store rankings. As a result, you:

  • Increase visibility
  • Rank higher for your desired search terms
  • Get discovered easier by your target audience

The three factors above lead to increased organic downloads (we discuss more about conversion optimization in this article).

So from writing a catchy app description to capturing the perfect shots, ASO helps your app look more desirable on app stores like Apple or Google Play Store.

There are two ways to increase app store visibility, whether you’re marketing a mobile game or another app.

  1. Search traffic: In this case, people are specifically searching for your app using keywords pertaining to it.
  2. Explore traffic: Potential users randomly see your app while browsing the Featured section or Top Charts.

ASO helps in both these cases.

What Is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to optimizing your app’s website to rank higher on search engines by leveraging their algorithms.

SEO is a much more extensive and ongoing process compared to ASO. You must consider a wide range of factors, from the loading speed of your website, the quality of your content, and the URLs of your pages.

On the other hand, your entire website’s design and content should improve user experience (not just the bots crawling and indexing websites). SEO tackles everything from relevant information to loading speed and your website’s user experience, helping you address those bots and your human audience.

ASO vs. SEO – Differences and Similarities

The main similarity between ASO and SEO is that both help you rank higher, get discovered easier, and increase app downloads as a result. The main difference is that ASO refers to the app store optimization process, whereas SEO optimizes your website for search engines.

But there are more variables to consider:

1. Ranking Factors

App stores and search engines operate with different algorithms. These algorithms have different things that are important to them – which are called ranking factors.

Essential ASO ranking factors increase visibility in app stores and include:

  • App name
  • App ratings
  • App categories
  • Backlinks
  • Category rankings
  • Conversion rate
  • Description
  • Engagement
  • Icon
  • In-app purchases
  • Keywords
  • Non-organic downloads
  • Organic app downloads
  • Previews
  • Retention rate
  • App reviews
  • Screenshots
  • Subtitle

Essential SEO ranking factors include:

  • Backlinks
  • Content quality and relevance to the search intent
  • Content optimization
  • Content structure
  • Domain authority
  • External and internal links
  • Images and their descriptions
  • Keywords and how and where they are used
  • Meta descriptions
  • Meta title
  • Time spent on page
  • Traffic from search engines
  • URL slugs
  • Website architecture
  • Website load time

As you can see, both ASO and SEO strategies rely on keywords, backlinks, number of views, and engagement. Content quality, retention rate, and search traffic are other common elements.

However:

  • ASO and SEO use different metrics. For example, icons and screenshots are key aspects for ASO but unimportant for SEO. Similarly, website loading speed is a crucial aspect for SEO but trivial for ASO.
  • Paid traffic can make or break your ASO but has little importance on SEO. So, tap into paid user acquisition to boost your ASO marketing efforts. You can do it with micro-influencer marketing for mobile apps, paid ads, or affiliates.

Take Express VPN, for example.

The app has great app store optimization, including:

  • A title that responds to people’s potential worries: “Express VPN: Fast and Secure VPN”
  • The stellar 4.4-star user ratings across 314,000 reviews
  • The images outlining the app’s benefits
  • The app description includes keywords such as “online security,” “data protection,” and “stay private”
  • An explicit benefit: 7-day free trial
Express VPN app in the store
Source

Their website also has stellar SEO, from the website structure, colors, and content. Their website is easy to browse, helps mobile users install the app in three easy steps, and has a FAQ section.

ExpressVPN website
Source

However, their website doesn’t have a section with resources and articles. Instead, Express VPN relies on social media and influencers to increase awareness and educate its audience.

Pro tip: Social media content boosts your SEO, too, so include it in your app marketing strategy.

Here’s one of their most recent posts (at the time of this writing) outlining what a VPN does and its importance:

ExpressVPN instagram post
Source

And here’s one of the most known YouTube influencers, with 3.6 million followers recommending Express VPN. Note that the app sponsors a very wide range of content creators across industries to put the word out about their product:

ExpressVPN ad placement
Source

2. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs allow you to measure the results you get from ASO and SEO. These parameters are like a compass telling you if you’re on the right track.

KPIs for ASO include:

  • App downloads, both from direct search and from browsing
  • Conversion rate
  • Download rate
  • Download velocity
  • Traffic to downloads
  • Profit
  • Rank on the app store and top charts
  • App ratings
  • Retention rate
  • Positive reviews

KPIs for SEO include:

  • Average session duration
  • Backlinks (number and quality)
  • Bounce rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Keyword rankings
  • Keyword movements
  • Keyword search volume
  • Number of organic sessions
  • Number of pages browsed each session
  • Page rank
  • Profit

ASO and SEO have common KPIs: profit, ranking, and conversion rate. However, they use different KPIs to measure specific metrics essential on these channels.

3. Search Intent

App stores and search engines (should) offer you the same excellent browsing experience, although they use different search algorithms.

App store search queries are about:

  • A specific app (e.g., branded keywords)
  • The app’s category
  • A particular functionality they need

Search engine users search for:

  • Relevant information answering questions they might have
  • Specific websites
  • Info on performing specific actions

So people on app stores search for specific apps, while people on Google search for diverse information.

Good news: You can leverage both these user behaviors, tapping into your audience’s search intent. Here’s how:

  1. ASO: Ensure your app has a catchy design and ranks higher on your app store’s Explore page.
  2. SEO: Ensure your website content answers your audience’s questions and needs through relevant content about your very useful app.

For example, you may search “weight management apps” on the Google Play Store. Notice that in this case, the Noom app is the sixth:

Noom app in the app store

While it is definitely good that this app ranks high enough for this search term, its icon and title aren’t extremely catchy or intriguing,

But Noom has a thorough marketing strategy comprising of PPC and social media.

If you search on Google “how to lose weight according to your body type,” Noom appears as the first paid ad:

Noom app ad placement
Source

4. Paid Impact

The number of app downloads is a significant metric for ASO. The more app downloads you have, the higher that app ranks in app store search results.

Why?

App stores believe that this shows people deem your app useful and relevant. So, they increase their visibility and discoverability.

Here’s how to leverage that:

Use a paid strategy, leveraging ads, influencers, or burst campaigns to increase awareness and engagement. Of course, you will need third-party software to help you analyze data about this paid traffic because you can’t see it directly on the app store.

Remember: You can’t improve SEO with paid acquisition strategies.

Here’s a very interesting ad from the STRETCHIT app. The ad features user-generated content from a real person who started using the app in her 30s:

Stretchit app ad
Source

Pro tip: User-generated content can build your credibility and increase downloads, which is why a UGC strategy for mobile apps is a great place to start.

Conversely, the Conflict of Nations mobile game uses content creators to talk about their app:

Conflict of nations ad
Source

Whatifalthist is an excellent partner for this game because this channel’s main topic is history, analyzing alternate courses of action in the past and making future predictions. In turn, Conflict of Nations is a strategy war game for mobile phones and desktops. That’s what makes this a perfect fit.

Remember: Always choose reliable influencers that your audience listens to. Use a fake follower checker to ensure they’re not buying fake profiles and an engagement rate calculator to ensure they’re connecting with your target prospects.

5. Optimization

ASO and SEO use different optimization strategies with different results. However, both rely heavily on keywords, so conduct top-notch keyword research to take care of that aspect.

Pro tip 1: Use different tools for keyword research. Remember that app stores and search engines have different algorithms and metrics to rank apps.

ASO tools:

  • AppFollow
  • AppTweak
  • MobileAction
  • SplitMetrics
  • StoreMaven

SEO tools:

  • AHrefs
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Google Search Console
  • SEMrush
  • Google Tag Manager

Pro tip 2: ASO has more rigid rules that you can find in your app store’s guidelines. Failing to follow these rules leads your app to rejection.

Luckily, SEO rules are laxer, though you should avoid blatant unfair practices like plagiarism or keyword stuffing.

Here’s why that matters to you:

  1. ASO relies more on images: The stricter ASO rules focus your app store optimization on images, such as app screenshots, preview videos, and icons. After all, those elements are the most visible ones and the ones you see first. Conversely, these visual assets are not as important with SEO.
  2. ASO’s algorithms are easier to hack: Strict rules imply straightforward tricks and hacks you can apply. By comparison, SEO takes more time and more work to implement.
  3. ASO is faster: You have fewer elements to optimize with ASO relating to metadata, text, and images. SEO has to consider a string of variables, from URL to page design, website architecture, code, and more.
  4. ASO relies less on content than SEO: To improve SEO, you must focus on content quality, relevance, and your entire website’s SEO. Even the best content can fail if your website loads slowly, has a poor structure, and isn’t mobile-friendly.
  5. ASO relies less on on-page architecture: By comparison, an SEO-friendly website should have clear headings defining an optimized structure. This structure relies on relevant keywords, meta descriptions, and internal links. Of course, the paragraphs should be short and straight to the point – much like you see in this article :)

Which One Do You Need?

If you’re here, you understand how both ASO and SEO work. The theoretical background and real-life examples you read will help you build your strategies.

But which one do you need?

There is no black-and-white answer to this question because everything depends on your marketing goals. Let’s review some of the most important below:

1. Increase Visibility: ASO Wins

You can increase app visibility directly on the app store and search engines. But if you focus solely on SEO, your in-store visibility will suffer.

Here’s one example:

Let’s say you want to purchase a fizzy drink. Coca-Cola is already a renowned brand that everyone knows about. So regardless of where it is in the supermarket, you will find it.

Things are not the same for no-name brands, which rely heavily on shelf placement and accessibility.

It’s the same with your app:

  • If everyone’s heard of it, thanks to awesome SEO and advertising, you don’t need top-notch ASO.
  • If you’re the new kid on the block, you need ASO to increase that visibility.

2. Rank Higher: SEO Wins

Ranking higher first depends on where you’re trying to rank. If it’s on search engines, you need SEO. If it’s on app stores, you need ASO.

Here’s the catch:

Good SEO can increase your app store rankings, but ASO cannot increase your search engine rankings.

Let’s see how it works:

If your website is thoroughly optimized and filled with quality content, more people learn about your app. The result is increasing your organic searches and downloads in the app store. These factors boost your app ranking, making it appear higher in the Google Play Store.

The reverse of the medal: More people learning about your app from the app store may lead them to search for your app.

The problem: If your app’s website is irrelevant or poorly built, those app users won’t spend much time on it. They also won’t return to it or recommend it to their peers.

As such, that initial boost in user searches won’t improve your SEO too much.

3. Get Discovered Easier: ASO and SEO Tie

App discoverability leads to more downloads, which increases your ranking, leading to more social proof and organic mobile searches. Thus, the cycle repeats itself.

If app discoverability is your primary goal, you must push both acceleration pedals. SEO gets you higher on organic search engine results, leading to more relevant searches and increased organic traffic. Additionally, good ASO helps more people see your app within the app store.

4. Get More Downloads: ASO and SEO Tie

An Apple study shows that 65% of app downloads stem from app store searches.

However, good SEO makes people aware your app exists.

Those prospects may not immediately download your app. However, discovering your app accidentally on their app store’s Explore Page corroborates with that initial awareness. So, they will be more likely to download your app than one they’ve never heard about.

Put it like this:

  • Having your audience choose between two apps they’ve never heard about leaves the process to chance (and how good your app store screenshots and icons are).
  • Taking the rein by improving your SEO and paid acquisition strategy tilts the balance in your favor once people end up on the app store.

Implement ASO and SEO for Your Mobile App

Implementing ASO and SEO for your mobile app will increase your app’s notoriety, engagement, and downloads. As a result, your company will continue to grow.

Of course, it’s essential to have a well-thought strategy that helps you incorporate both approaches in your marketing efforts. From conducting extensive audits to tackling the tiniest details as icon colors, inBeat is here to help.

You can use our free ad mockup generators to perfect your paid ad strategy. Our free influencer database features the top 2% of creators and will help you choose the best influencers to boost your app’s visibility.

If you’re interested in influencer marketing for mobile apps, you can read some of our case studies.

If you need more in-depth help outlining your entire strategy, book a free strategy call directly with us. We’ll discuss your goals, best marketing tools, potential KPIs, and more.

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