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Guest Post: Acquiring Engaged Users with ASO

November 19, 2015

One of the biggest challenges any mobile app marketer or publisher faces in an app's lifetime is getting downloads. Channels to cost-effectively promote your app are (or should be) identified and defined before any code is written.

Often, mobile marketers measure the cost-effectiveness by downloads. Call it traffic, users, or installs - downloads are the ultimate mobile app vanity metric. Not quite as bad as Twitter followers or Facebook fans, but close.

What most mobile app publishers really want are engaged users. Whether measured by retention metrics, or lifetime value (LTV) or sessions - engaged users are the people who find, download and actually use your app. Engaged users provide valuable usage data for optimizing an app, spend money in your app, and maybe even share your app with friends and on social networks.

Competition in the app stores is increasing fast, so the shotgun approach of acquiring users and assuming they are all equal is expensive and ultimately not sustainable. Someone who downloads your app and opens once and deletes is either not your target audience, or your app is missing the mark big time in solving their problem.

Your true audience is those who actively search for a solution to a problem and find your app as the solution.  They are more likely to see the value in your app. They engage with your app by using, sharing and spending money on it and connecting with your brand outside of the app. Finding and connecting with your audience in the app stores is more important than ever.

That being said, organic users are far more valuable than users acquired through paid advertisement. Organic users are those who either you refer via your website or email lists, or those that are searching in an app store and finding your app in the results as a possible solution to their search.

The analytics firm Mixpanel released a great study and infographic about organic installs vs paid installs and determined that over an eight-week period, retention of organic users was 70% higher than paid users. The biggest source of organic traffic for most mobile apps is app store search.

Which puts optimizing your app store listing for maximum exposure to your target audience is the single, best investment an app marketer can make if measuring a mobile app’s success by engaged users rather than downloads.

What is App Store Optimization?

Optimizing an app store listing is called App Store Optimization (ASO). ASO creates a long-term competitive advantage as spending is capped but relevant organic traffic increases the better the listing matches what your target audience is searching for, a huge part of mobile app marketing that marketers seem to miss.

Costs per installs continue to increase, but your very best users are searching for your app every day in the app stores. You're probably familiar with the general rules of ASO:

If you have been relying in a simple keyword tool, you may not be aware that both Apple and Google app store data show 80% of searches are for 2-3 word, features-based phrases. The remaining are usually branded searches (Twitter, Facebook, Evernote etc..).

To best position your app for discovery by your target audience, you need to know how they are searching in the app stores. App store search is radically different than your typical web search. Web search queries are typically longer terms that we throw into Google's search bar. While ASO is similar to SEO in theory, the way language is used is different.

In app store search, users are using shorter phrases, looking for the answer for a problem they've encountered. In web, users could be searching for "photo filters for iPhone". In an app store, users are looking for things in a feature or brand-based fashion:

Using real app store search data from a company that doesn't repurpose Google Adwords' free and publically available data, it's a lot easier to position your app to be discovered by the right people. If you have taken a set and forget approach to ASO, or have spent the last several months watching CPIs increase on your paid campaigns, remember ASO is an ongoing exercise and provides the very best ROI of just about any mobile app marketing activity.

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