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8 December, 2020

How to Match Your Expectations for ASO vs SEO

seo vs aso

Download the ASO vs. SEO infographic!

Web Marketers, meet ASO. App Marketers, say Hello to SEO.

Over the last 20 years, SEO and ASO (more recently) have become legitimate marketing techniques to boost organic traffic for websites and apps. Most marketers who are even slightly familiar with ASO and SEO should know by now that they are similar, but far from the same.

ASO often gets described as ‘SEO for apps’, but it is much more than that. Conversely, SEO might be viewed as ‘close enough’ to the search optimization that ASO marketers know so well. But again – although the two optimization processes have some similarities – e.g. consisting of 3 letters, both end in Optimization, both deal with keywords – the distinctions need to be understood very clearly before signing up to either process.

Why? If you start investing your resources into ASO or SEO and your expectations rest on your understanding of the other, you may be disappointed. Like with most marketing, setting your goals and expectations realistically is essential to recognizing ‘success’. So forget your experience from SEO, and start with a blank slate when strategizing ASO. And vice versa, of course.

We’re here to guide you through some of the main distinctions in SEO vs ASO, from a strategic perspective. This guide is less about the details of the algorithms and how many characters should be used for a website title versus an app title. Rather, it’s a guide to the basic conceptual aspects that require full disclosure, so you know to evaluate the right KPIs at the right time. Save yourself the disappointment – the best is yet to come, once you know what that ‘best’ really means.

SEO vs ASO: Similarities

1. Common Goal: Search Visibility

The primary goal of both SEO and ASO is first and foremost to help your website or app get found and discovered. Both techniques focus on boosting inbound traffic to your online marketing pages – whether it’s from Google Search to a specific webpage, or the result of a search query in Google Play/Apple App Store to the app’s specific store listing.

Increasing app installs organically using ASO requires finding ways to get your app in front of the right people, those who need precisely what your app is designed to offer. The same can be said for increasing website visits using SEO. In simple terms, the goal of both ASO and SEO is one and the same: to bring you to the top of relevant search results. Getting seen is the first step to getting clicked.

2. Organic Users with High Intent

Users arriving at the webpages and the app pages in this way are all classified as ORGANIC. They arrive from a natural intention to find a way to satisfy a need. SEO and ASO help your site/app get found more easily so those ‘needs’ get answered.

In contrast to outbound marketing, neither SEO nor ASO are based on paid advertisements. People tend to trust more these more natural boosts and, because the user sought out a solution to their needs, they tend to be easier to convert and more profitable (both as website visitors and as app users).

3. Focus on Non-Branded Visibility

Because search algorithms understand the relevance of a brand’s website or app to a search for that brand, both ASO and SEO optimize specifically for non-branded searches. It is much more important for us to improve ranking positions for highly relevant, popular generic searches, since these keywords still have intent, but the user is not yet set on a specific brand of solution to match his/her needs.

4. Strategies Are Based on Keyword Research

The ability for both ASO and SEO to perform their job successfully relies heavily on strategic placement of keywords.  This helps search algorithms find and place your website or app at the top of the list. We always base our keyword optimization strategies on very extensive keyword research – checking the competition, brainstorming relevant phrases, deep-diving into longtails, etc.

While the basics of keyword research in ASO VS. SEO can be similar, keep in mind that you will need different tools to find the best keywords for each, you will be using different metrics to build your strategy, and the limitations and opportunities between the app store algorithms and the Google Search algorithms can be a world apart. Which begs the next question…

What Are the [Main] Differences Between SEO and ASO?

We have already established that the primary goal of both ASO and SEO is to increase awareness and help your website or app get seen and discovered to answer a need. But while both strategies accomplish this by using keywords and relying on search algorithms to get the job done, these marketing tools differ in some major ways. Here are just a few to consider!

Apps – ASO Websites – SEO
Soft launch X
Soft launch checks App performance overall Technical issues
Critical time Beginning of the process After a few months when we can start evaluating the SEO efforts
Decision making about the strategy First few weeks After a few months (usually up to 6 months)
Search traffic
Featured – Can a new app/website be pushed by Google/Apple in order to increase visibility? (grace period) X
Does paid traffic influence rankings? ✓ – Promotion has a major impact: non-organic downloads have an impact on visibility and organic downloads X – Promotion does not have any impact on a website’s visibility
Category rankings X
Browse traffic X
Do downloads/clicks improve rankings? It might – not as a direct ranking factor (indirect ranking factor)
Content creation (for example – a blog section) X
Ratings & reviews X
Search intent Specific apps; look to discover new apps that can serve an exact need Information; seek answers to specific questions; look for a product or a service; specific website

Download SEO and ASO comparison table

1. Visibility Factors

Both ASO and SEO success rely heavily on a quality product. If your website fails to satisfy the need of a visitor and they bounce, or your app has a high uninstall rate, the algorithm will take note and demote your app in keyword rankings and overall visibility. Quality is key. But what else influences how much visibility you can get?

  • BROWSING: In ASO, you have ‘Browse’ or ‘Explore’ traffic, where the app stores can feature your app in stories, category rankings, special editorial lists, and personalized recommendations. In SEO, not so much.
  • USERS’ OPINIONS: User ratings and reviews are a built-in section of every app listing – another indicator of quality that can help your keyword rankings which SEO does not have.
  • PAID TRAFFIC: How popular your app is in the app stores will also influence the algorithm – if your app has a proven track record and has lots of installs, it should be more visible to all app store visitors. If those installs came from paid advertising, the algorithms see it as equally valid. Paid traffic influences organic visibility in ASO. In SEO, paid promotion has no impact on a website’s organic visibility.
  • NEW: App stores tend to favor new apps, including them in special featured stories and sometimes giving them an advantage in keyword rankings. New websites? There’s no indication in SEO that a new page/website will be given an advantage in rankings just because it is new.

2. What Are Searchers, Well, Searching for?

Would you ask an app store a question? Probably not. Google? All the time.

In both cases, search algorithms are programmed to offer people the most user-friendly experience and most relevant content. But how people use each tool is drastically different. Web searches are often in the form of a question and are specific in nature. Top numbered lists and “how to” articles tend to rank higher because they deliver content that is accessible and easy to read – they satisfy a need for information.

In the App Store or Google Play, users are seeking to find an app they can use, not an article they can read. What people search for is one of the biggest differences between SEO and ASO. Keyword targeting practices need to adapt for the medium in question.

3. Search Popularity Scores

It makes sense, then, that you can’t necessarily apply stats about web search popularity to the app store. You need tools specifically for the app stores to understand how much a keyword is searched – AppTweak, MobileAction, App Annie, Sensor Tower, to name a few.

4. Websites Are Limitless!

Both Search Engine Optimization and App Store Optimization are focused on, you guessed it, optimization. But what you are able to optimize differs greatly between SEO and ASO – your strategy won’t succeed if it is grounded in the wrong theory.

When it comes to SEO, the world is your oyster. There is no limit to the amount of content you can create, and you have full creative control over what that content will include in terms of text, visuals, design and more.  On the one hand, this means you have more options to optimize the quality of your content. On the other hand, if you can figure it out, your competitors most likely can as well.

Unlike SEO that has a full range of possibilities to optimize, ASO has only one main arena to play in: the app’s store listing page.  No matter how big your budget is or how much influence your company has, you have just the one page to work with. All the eggs are in this basket – miss the opportunity to properly optimize, and your app just won’t get the high-intent downloads.

5. Evaluation Time

SEO and ASO are both slower, longer-term processes, especially when compared with paid acquisition. With ASO, you can usually get a sense of where you stand with keyword rankings a few weeks after making a change to your keyword targets. You can launch an app, get a sense of results and start maneuvering the strategy accordingly.

But you can’t soft launch a website in the same way and quickly measure results. SEO requires a few months of observation before starting to evaluate the SEO efforts and deciding how to adapt the strategy. Expecting to see an impact after only a few weeks would be a mistake.

Looking to the Future – Choosing the Right Strategy for You

Today, search engines serve as a multi-purposeful directory for everyday life that no one could ever imagine living without. While SEO and ASO differ in many ways, the future of performance marketing isn’t about pegging one against the other, but finding innovative ways to make use of both.

Since ASO doesn’t directly affect SEO, a pairing of the two can certainly improve the chances of an effective ASO strategy. After all, SEO is built to drive traffic to an intended destination. If you are an app developer, you can direct traffic from a website to the App Store or Google Play with relative ease. By building a website with integrated and intelligent SEO, your landing page, banners and content can drive traffic directly from the website to the app store where the app can be conveniently and quickly installed onto the customer’s mobile device.

With millions of apps to choose from and more and more searches being conducted on-the-go from mobile devices every day, having a great idea is not enough to succeed. An innovative and unique idea is important but, just like the smart kid in the back of class who has all the answers but is too shy to raise a hand, if you don’t find a way to be seen and heard, no one will ever know your great idea exists. Don’t let the differences in strategies fool you into thinking you need to choose one strategy over another. When done correctly, the two strategies, SEO and ASO, complement each other perfectly.

Try each but with the right outlook – follow these steps and you’ll know when you’ve reached success!

  1. Understand the process
  2. Set realistic expectations
  3. Communicate realistic goals to all stakeholders
  4. Create a strategy and implement
  5. Re-emphasize 2-3
  6. Measure results based on 1-5
  7. Remember the expectations [again]
  8. Repeat.

Download the ASO vs. SEO infographic!

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