The Terrible Truth About App Success (and how ASO tools can help)

December, 13 2016

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Simon Singharaj
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Simon Singharaj
ASO tools are not to be missed
As the global app market enters a new phase of growth and innovation there’s no escaping the ‘Terrible Truth” about app marketing. Amid an avalanche of apps search continues to dominate as the de facto way users will discover and download your app. Naturally, ASO (App Store Optimization) is how you can level the playing field, ensuring your app surfaces in relevant searches and search results.

But standard ASO approaches alone, as Peggy Anne Salz over at VentureBeat recently pointed out, simply “won’t cut it.”

Being an app developer is starting to look a lot like being a brand in a supermarket. You want to get your app found as users stroll down the digital shelves of the app stores. But, like a consumer brand, you face a lot of tough competition from all the other offers in the aisle. To complicate matters the digital shelves of the app ‘supermarkets’ are stocked with too many apps across way too many categories.

Our own data shows that, in 2016, an average of 2,700 (!) apps were released daily in the Google Play Store, compared with 1,800 in the Apple App Store.

In this ‘supermarket’ swamped by apps it’s no wonder few people venture past the names they know best. Don’t be ashamed, that is absolutely natural. We just don’t want to take a chance with brand we don’t know. When was the last time you ventured beyond choosing Nutella when looking for chocolate spread, or Kleenex when looking for tissues? That’s what I thought ;-)

Supermarkets or app stores — it’s the same. We tend to focus on top results and brands we know best. Everything else languishes “under the radar”. As a result, apps with low brand awareness — apps that also don’t show up high in the search results or rank high in the coveted list of “Featured Apps” — remain virtually invisible. That’s what’s known as the Discovery Dilemma.

Get discovered to make it big

This is not just a nightmare scenario for app publishers. It’s the ‘New Normal’ of running an app business — period. At Priori Data we estimate only 1.8% of apps in Google Play Store and 4.4% in Apple App Store account for a whopping 90% of total app downloads globally. If we look at the money app developers are making, the picture gets worse with 90% of global revenue (Paid apps + In-App Purchases) generated by only a handful of apps — namely 0.06% in Google Play Store and 0.15% in Apple App Store.

How far you get with your app will ultimately depend on its commercial potential. But, no matter what your app offers or enables, visibility will always be the first hurdle you have to cross in order to play in the Big Leagues.

This is where ASO comes in — and why you need to master it.

ASO has many faces and facets

You may have seen it pop up in search results when you last googled “how to succeed with an App without spending any money?”, or you may have picked it up as a growth-hacking tip in Peggy’s latest masterclass over at VentureBeat. For our purposes we think of ASO as the process of optimizing every aspect of your app store visibility across every promotion space available in order to get your app in front of as many people as possible, thus solving the Discovery Dilemma and boosting downloads of your app.

Tackling the Top charts

Supermarkets have shelves and aisles — apps are sorted by category. There are 54 categories in the Google Play Store. The situation in the Apple App Store is not so straightforward with 42 categories further divided in two types: Games (also divided into subcategories) and Non-Games,commonly known as “Apps”.

Top Charts are ranked lists of apps organized by country, category, and device. They are also divided into three groups: Top Free, Top Paid, and Top Grossing. The charts are updated multiple times per day and give a great snapshot of who is winning “right now” in the app stores.

Top 10 Free Apps is a hard list to break into, especially in Google Play Store. Indeed, our data shows the weekly average number of apps reaching the top 10 in a given category is 1.74 for a Gaming category (1.67 for a Non-Gaming category).

For newcomer app developers this means that fewer than 2 spots in the Top 10 in each category are “reachable” every week. And, even if you do make the grade, your success will surely be short-lived — lasting just days or even hours depending on the country and the category — as the Top 10 list is in a constant state of flux.

A deep-dive into the Top 100 charts, with the help of our data, reveals that only 6 new apps on average manage to break into the list every week. If we consider that the digital shelves of the Google Play Store were stocked with an astounding 2 million apps in the course of 2016 (and counting!) then clearing this hurdle — let alone breaking into the top of the Top 100 list — is a tough and treacherous uphill battle for the vast majority of app publishers.

In the Apple App Store, the picture is slightly different.

without ASO tools, you can't track organic installs

We estimate that on average, 4 Gaming apps break the barrier and land in the list of Top 10 free apps every week, while 30 Non-Gaming apps break into the Top 100 list in the same period. It would appear that it’s somewhat easier for app publishers to break into the top lists in the Apple App Store than it is to make their mark in Google Play. However, the jury is out on the forces and factors at work that account for this difference.

But there is agreement on one important point: Your app success — that is, whether you rise up the ranks or fade away under the radar — is an outcome you can do a lot to influence in your favor.

That’s where ASO, specifically keyword optimization, can give your app the biggest boost, ensuring users can discover it in relevant app store search results. It all starts with understanding how ranking for keywords can affect your category rankings.

It’s also why Priori Data has made the call to expand beyond its focus of providing app developers and publishers with actionable business intel, to assist them with a different kind of intel. The ASO Keyword Intelligence tool, the product we are releasing this week, helps app publishers pick the right keywords, allowing them to maximize their search ranks over time and thus increase their visibility in the Apple App Store. In practice, and with our platform, app publishers will then be able to accurately identify high-potential keywords, build their own keywords list, monitor their rankings over time and track their competitors performance.

(Thanks to our download estimates and search rank data, we are able to assess the competition for a given keyword based on the size of the Top 10 apps ranked for this keyword — that is, the downloads generated by the apps ranked for a specific keyword in the last 30 days — and the weekly average number of newcomer apps entering the top 10 list. We are also able to estimate the number of downloads generated by a keyword in total and for a given app, so look for our Estimated Search Downloads tool coming soon.)

The Ultimate Guide to 360° App Store Marketing

This article is part of a bigger project by Priori Data and Peggy Salz — a mobile authority, industry educator and lead author of The Everything Guide To Mobile Apps and Apponomics: The Insider’s Guide To A Billion Dollar Business— are working on: an e-book titled THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 360° APP STORE MARKETING.

The aim is to bring together a select group of recognized ASO experts and ninjas including Moritz Daan (Phiture, ex-Soundcloud), Thomas Petit (8Fit) and Charo Paredez Ortiz (DOCOMO Digital), to name a few. It’s a free resource focused on giving app developers everywhere on the planet what they need to grow their business on a budget.

Pre-register for the e-book today

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