Three Myths of App Store Optimization

Written for Gummicube

Before we can discuss the three myths of App Store Optimization (ASO), you might be wondering, “What exactly is ASO?” There’s a lot of misinformation on the subject, such as, ASO is about “ranking keywords” or “updating icons,” however, this is only the tip of the iceberg. ASO also includes search and conversion optimization, accurate data, and paid campaigns; all of which supplement organic growth. Now, let’s delve into the details of the three myths.

Myth #1: Conversion and Creative Optimization are more Important than Search Optimization

Every part of the App Store Optimization funnel is integral for a successful marketing campaign. Yet, a lot of people in the App Store marketplace are disillusioned by the significance of search optimization, thereby spending a disproportionate amount of effort on conversion optimization. 

At Gummicube, we recoil at this approach, because how can an app convert users if it can not be found? Any opportunity to increase visibility needs to be fleshed out and acted upon, because optimizing for visibility and reach will produce the ideal environment for user capture.

This is tough to understand in theory, due to the time and scale that keyword optimization requires. However, overlooking search optimization will be detrimental in the long run. The reality is, search optimization is just as important as conversion and creative optimization. Regardless of what kind of mobile marketing campaign you’re launching—search and creative optimization should be used as foundational principles. 

Why Search Optimization Matters

A lot of marketers and developers are discouraged by search optimization, because they are looking for easy, instant gratification. Unfortunately, changing one or two keywords won’t produce an immediately verifiable result, so a lot of companies overlook the impact of search optimization on their key performance indicators (KPI).

You must understand, the search optimization and indexation process takes time and patience; and the value of consistently targeting, tracking, and updating keywords will produce an unquantifiable long term impact—rippling and merging with hundreds of terms over time. It is a long, sometimes arduous process, but the more data that you can feed the app stores, the higher your keyword(s) will rank for relevancy. 

On average, it takes 3-4 weeks to index for keywords, but consistently updating after the indexation cycle can eventually help an app rank in top positions for multitude keywords.

However, updating too soon can undo any ongoing indexation efforts, while waiting too long can cause rankings to stagnate and subsequently decline.

Use the Right Data

When a developer uses inaccurate data for their search optimization, they’re led to believe that their efforts aren’t working.

So, for search optimization to be successful, it must be based directly on mobile search data. Otherwise, developers will spend their time and marketing budget searching for keywords with little to no results.

Why Web Data Doesn’t Work

Using web search data, similar to the kind used for Search Engine Optimization, will not provide accurate keyword volume, because only 20% of web search and mobile search data overlaps. Also, users search differently on each platform, so the keywords will naturally be different.

Search Ads Does Not Track Trends

You might be thinking, “What about Search Ads? That data comes directly from the App Store, so it must be helpful for ASO.” Well, yes and no.

Apple Search Ads data provides day-to-day keyword volumes without regard for overall trends. Using this data locks an app into keywords with fleeting search volume, rather than optimizing with the big picture in mind.

Sustainable, and consistently high search volume are vital to success. Whereas the fleeting popularity provided by Apple’s Search Ads metrics won’t provide longitudinal insights.

Myth #2: Apple and Google Provide Impressions Per Keyword Data

Certain tools claim that they can show you impressions and downloads for keywords, but this is not possible, because no API can provide this data.

So, What Really Happens?

Rather than give the exact impressions and downloads per keyword, they provide an estimate based on several variables.

First, the tool looks at the targeted keywords and takes their volume into consideration—which can be flawed if it’s not using the right data—then, it looks at where your app ranks in respect to them.

So, each term is assigned a numerical value based on where the app ranks, in conjunction with the keyword’s volume (creating an estimate of impressions per keyword).

This methodology can lead developers down numerous rabbit holes, because they’re making several assumptions, with potentially flawed data, instead of pulling information directly from the stores.

What We Can See

The Google Play Developer Console provides basic data on which keywords are creating traffic. Yet, the estimated impressions per keyword only match up with roughly ten percent of the data.

This means that the estimates are flawed and cannot be relied upon for accurate optimization.

Myth #3: App Store Optimization is the Same as Media Buying

Paid campaigns can certainly benefit app marketing, but running an Apple Search Ads campaign is not the same as managing App Store Optimization (Note: Search Ads campaigns work best when built on a foundation of App Store Optimization).

To say that Search Ads drives ASO is misleading. If you’re running a Search Ads campaign for high-volume and high-traffic keywords but aren’t getting positive results, it could be due to a lack of App Store Optimization.

ASO and Paid Campaigns

App Store Optimization drives the success of paid campaigns. Using ASO to build relevancy and data within the App Store helps the store’s algorithms understand what to index your app for.

Measuring organic performance accurately and understanding conversion will give you a guide for how to structure your paid campaigns: be it call to actions, targeting Search Ads keywords, or banner assets. Without it, you’ll be in the dark.

Also, building relevance through ASO can lower Search Ads’ cost per install. A winning bid may be lower if the app has high relevance to the term it’s bidding on—so, if you aren’t building relevancy, you’re spending more on every ad.

Remember, the search and conversion optimization strategies should be built upon a foundation of various mobile marketing strategies.

The Symbiotic Relationship of ASO and Search Ads

Although Search Ads can influence organic rankings, an ASO campaign won’t be successful if apps aren’t properly optimized.

You need your keywords to have enough volume and relevance for the Search Ads campaign to run successfully. This cannot happen without App Store Optimization.

Search Ads campaigns can accelerate the indexation speed, provide additional clicks and build brand recognition. That is all beneficial to App Store Optimization, but it is not a substitute for a holistic approach to ASO.


Once you understand what ASO is all about, you can begin to map out a strategy that fits well with your app. 

To reiterate, successful app marketing is built upon App Store Optimization: including search and conversion optimization, accurate data, and paid campaigns that supplement organic growth. With these myths debunked, you can confidently begin your ASO journey.

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