All posts by gummicube

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White Hat vs Black Hat ASO: The Do’s & Don’ts

The mobile industry is booming. Everyone has a smartphone and they’re all searching for apps that fit their needs.

App Developers and companies try to meet this ever-growing demand by producing millions of apps, flooding both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. With millions of apps to compete with, how can any one company, developer or game try and rank higher than everyone else to get the downloads they want?

App Store Optimization is always there to lend a hand in helping apps rank for relevant keywords and within the charts. But how does a developer exactly go about ASO?

There are two main tactics to consider: White Hat versus Black Hat ASO.

What is White Hat ASO?

White Hat ASO is the Gummicube-recommended approach to marketing your app. If you want the highest quality users to convert over time, it’s best to understand the basics.

Understand Your Audience

Who is your app for? What is your target demographic looking for or looking to do? Understand your immediate market’s wants and needs to help position your app’s messaging in the title, subtitle, description and creative.

Get the Right Data

Still using keyword tools based off of Google’s Keyword Planner? You could be missing out on thousands of users. Using real mobile data helps you understand user search behavior on mobile devices, helping to give you the right information for structuring your metadata. Use the keywords and insight you glean from real mobile data and your audience. Adjust metadata accordingly, reassess and iterate often with the most current data.

Be Patient

Success seldom happens overnight. Let your metadata index in the App Stores for at least two weeks. Measure against your own KPIs to see what’s working and what isn’t. Getting a lot of impressions but no conversions? Consider revisiting the customer-facing parts of the listing and revise for conversion. Not getting any downloads whatsoever? Pair ASO with another marketing strategy like Influencer Marketing Campaigns, Search Ads or Facebook Ads to get extra exposure from a highly relevant audience.

What is Black Hat ASO?

Black Hat ASO follows similar goals to ASO in that it helps you gain more exposure. However, Black Hat ASO isn’t necessarily the safest way to help your app get the users you want. Following some of these tactics could result in rejection, or even getting your app removed entirely. Some Black Hat tactics include:

Chart Boosting

Chart boosting is artificially inflating your app’s install rate to climb the top charts, whether it’s for a category or the “top apps” overall. These chart rankings are usually dictated by the velocity and volume of your installs.

With this strategy, installs are usually “bought”, whether it’s a group of users downloading the app or any of the bot-farms that exist within the industry.

Keyword Boosting

Keyword boosting is similar in theory to Chart Boosting, only keyword boosting relies on a group of users searching and downloading an app for a specific keyword.

Take for example, ranking #1 for “casino”. The top ranked apps have been in the app store long enough, using typical white hat tactics to maintain their rankings in the app stores.

Any developer who wants to rank #1 for that keyword can begin to artificially direct users to download their app for a certain keyword, artificially increasing CTR and ranking.

The downside? This is typically very expensive and hard to maintain.

Buying Reviews

Another black hat tactic is incentivizing users to download an app and leave artificial feedback, inflating the app’s average ranking and positive reviews. These reviews, by and large, typically flag to Apple that suspicious activity is happening, forcing an investigation and possibly an app removal.

Risks

If you get away with black-hat marketing, you can see some gains. If your app is truly relevant, you could possibly maintain your new ranking. Usually, Black Hat tactics only work as long as you continue to fuel them with money. Real organic growth and retention is difficult to achieve when your installs come from users who only want in-game currency for another app, immediately uninstalling your app once they’ve completed their black-hat objective; you’ll likely drop right back down to where you were before you started.

One thing many developers fail to realize is how dire the consequences are for black-hat marketing.

If Apple and Google Play starts to see suspicious behavior, they will issue warnings and app rejections for the next update.

Alternatively, either app store can just remove your app indefinitely. Developers can appeal this decision but any other indications of black-hat marketing will lead to the app staying removed.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for long-lasting marketing that will help you gain high quality users and maintain your rankings in the app stores, steer clear of black hat marketing tactics. ASO and other clean methods and channels will help sustain your app and help your app thrive in the competitive app store environment in the long term.

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5 reasons why Your UAC Strategy is Failing

On September 15th, 2017, Google shook up the mobile marketing world and announced that AdWords will be moving all app install campaigns to a new Universal App Campaigns (UAC) format.  This means that Google will no longer support standard mobile app install campaigns across their search and display networks.  If marketers want to drive mobile traffic via AdWords, they will only be able to run UAC.

With Universal App Campaigns (UAC), marketers can promote their mobile app across multiple AdWords channels like Google Search, Google Display Network (GDN), YouTube, and the Google Play Store. The push to move to a UAC only platform was meant to simplify ad creation and optimize the user acquisition process for marketers through automation and machine learning.  In theory, all marketers must do when setting up AdWords UAC is to upload creatives (images and videos) and add different text based advertisements to a campaign.  It is recommended to add in as many creative variables as possible in order for Google to create a relevant ad for every possible combination.

However, the move towards automation and simplification has created a huge black hole in the world of AdWords mobile installs.  Most marketers were utilizing mobile app installs campaign to target specific keywords to understand the value of each term and the impact it has on their app.  The removal of exact match keywords campaign removed any insights developers had in navigating Play Store AdWords campaigns, leaving them to navigate in the dark.

On top of that ground-breaking change, marketers have to also be aware of several additional factors to ensure that they can have a successful UAC campaign.  For example, to fully capitalize on AdWords UAC, marketers must ensure that they have the content for all the requested fields to display and convert effectively on all the channels that UAC targets.  If marketers don’t have video assets to promote their app, then they won’t be able to advertise on YouTube. Unfortunately, the same thing goes for GDN – images are mandatory to run Display Ads. The ability to simply create one campaign and optimize it across various channels is gone – Universal App Campaigns (UAC) a total game changer.

Even though Google has already taken steps to simplify the ad creation process, starting a UAC campaign can be daunting. When it comes to setting up a successful UAC campaign, consider these factors before diving in head first:

1. Choosing the Wrong Type of UAC to Run

Choosing the wrong type of UAC can make or break a campaign. It is undeniably just as important as understanding which key metrics to use to track the success of the campaign. The two options are, UAC Installs and UAC Actions.

UAC Installs: The goal of this option is solely to drive in as many users as possible, regardless of the quality of the user. This subsequently means that the cost is based on per install (CPI), and users are not measured on their ability to complete an action such as registration or leveling up. UAC Install is the most ideal campaign to use if the objective of the campaign is to maximize app installs and the quality of the user is not of high importance.

UAC Actions: On the other hand, the algorithms of UAC Actions do depend on the quality of the users and whether they have the tendency to complete a targeted action. In short, this option focuses on in-app events, or what users do once they have downloaded an app. This means that the fees are cost per action (CPA) based and are reliant on how each action is valued for the advertisers.

2. Not Setting Up Conversion Tracking

This cannot be said enough: NEVER set up this type of campaign without using conversion tracking. Google uses targeted CPIs/CPAs for bidding. Hence if the conversion tracking breaks, the algorithm can’t work properly. If this happens, the campaign must be restarted and learning must take place all over again – costing time and money.

Without conversion tracking app developers are wasting their time and money anyway. Tracking provides insights on the actual campaign cost, ROI, retention rate, and much more based on the attribution tool that is being used. Nobody ever wants to see a resource wasted, so make sure to set up attribution tracking sooner rather than later.

3. Making Too Many Changes to Budget & CPA

There are a couple of factors to consider when setting a budget and a targeted CPA for UAC. Although the daily budget may be set to a certain amount, the algorithm will take that daily budget and calculate the spending totals across one month. Don’t panic if there is a single day with high or low spending. Google will readjust the budget over the course of the month to ensure you do not exceed your max spend.

Another tip for budgeting with UAC is to not be reactive and change the budget and CPA too frequently. Frequent changes impact the algorithm and cause traffic to stop flowing into the campaign, meaning the app loses visibility. The best-case scenario is that it would take longer for the algorithm to adjust to changes in the campaign. The worst-case scenario would be that the campaign needs to be paused and then re-launched from scratch.

4. Not Using Creative Assets Report

The most anticipated, and possibly one of the best features of UAC, is the Creative Assets Report. This report provides insights into how the ad texts, images, and videos are performing. Google rates each asset as “Low,” “Good,” “Best,” or “Learning.” If an image or a video is rated as “Low,” it is worthwhile to test the other assets to see if they can improve the conversion rate.

Be sure to incorporate combinations of video or image sizes, as each one impacts performance. Sometimes landscape images and videos will perform better than portrait ones. Performance depends on what engages best with the targeted audience. Take advantage of these reports and monitor performance to get insights on how often UAC picks one asset over another when displaying ads.

5. Be Patient!

UAC is constantly learning by way of trial and error and it optimizes user acquisition through automation and machine learning. Once a campaign launches, it takes anywhere from 7-10 days to complete the learning process. It is best to wait for the algorithm to finish learning prior to making any changes. Be sure to take it slow and not apply too many changes in a short period as this can have massive negative repercussions on the campaign.

Avoiding these common mistakes can save a UAC campaign from failing and increase conversion and app installs.

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Portrait v Landscape: ASO Best Practices to Make or Break Your Creatives

App developers couldn’t ask for a better window of opportunity this holiday season to address their app’s core features and encourage users to tap “Get.” With new updates in the app stores and the release of long-awaited phones like the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2, and Samsung Galaxy Note 8, comes the perfect intersection for success. It’s more than likely that a good number of lucky recipients will be gifted a new phone before the year draws to an end – a phone that will be waiting to be filled with new apps.

If you’re an app developer, you may be asking yourself, “How can I take advantage of this situation?” Regardless of whether your app is deployed on the App Store or Google Play Store, you have the option to choose the orientation (portrait or landscape) of your preview video and screenshots.

A major question to consider is which option is right for your app? In this case, ASO doesn’t have a “one size fits all” solution. It is all dependent on what type of app you have. Luckily, there are pros and cons for each screenshot orientation:

Portrait Pros:

  • In iOS App Store search results, the first three portrait screenshots display. If a portrait preview video is included, then the first portrait preview video is displayed, followed by the first and second portrait screenshots .When using portrait screenshots for both iOS and GP, there are more opportunities to promote your app and show off its various features. Seeing more screenshots tends to increase the probable amount of time a user is likely to spend looking at your app.

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  • In the Google Play Store, screenshots display in the app page but not in search results. However, it displays similarly as iOS search results: three portrait screenshots display versus one landscape screenshot. With three screenshots, there is opportunity to showcase three features without having to scroll further in comparison to one landscape screenshot.

Portrait Cons:

  • In the App Store, since all three portrait screenshots will be crammed into a confined area on the screen, the content will be smaller and harder to see. At the same time, if the user is overwhelmed by the three options, they might skip over it if it looks too busy. If they cannot quickly and immediately digest what feature the image is trying to convey, they are less likely to convert.
  • In the Google Play Store, it is all too tempting to utilize the amount of media that is permitted. While Google Play allows for more screenshots (maximum of eight per device) than the iOS standard of five, it’s easy to include images that look similar or to call out redundant features. If all the screenshots look the same, developers lose the opportunity to explain their app in more depth.

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Landscape Pros:

  • In iOS App Store search, only one landscape screenshot or preview video will appear at a time. Landscape screenshots allow for larger screen real estate for in-app images and content versus portrait. They are especially useful for mobile games, since many RPGs, multiplayer games and more are played horizontally.

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  • In the Google Play Store, a landscape screenshot will also be larger and easier to see. Users aren’t distracted with multiple images at once and can take their time examining the one landscape screenshot before moving on to another.

Landscape Cons:

  • On the search results for the App Store, users can only see the first landscape screenshot. If a competitor has portrait screenshots and is able to address their app’s core features more effectively than you, then your app might not stand out against your competitors.
  • In the Google Play Store, one of the major drawbacks to using a landscape screenshot is the awkward layout. Users don’t just see the one landscape screenshot but also see a small portion of the following screenshot:

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Key Takeaways:

Depending on what type of app you have, it will benefit more from having a different screenshot orientation. If you have a mobile game that displays in landscape, you can opt for landscape screenshots since it will represent realistic gameplay.

If you’re ever unsure of what screenshot orientation fits your app best, you can always look at what your competition is doing or even utilize A/B testing. By weighing these pros and cons, you are sure to improve your chances of conversion.

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Apple Releases Two New Search Ads Programs

As the holidays are quickly approaching, Apple is giving developers the gift of Search Ads Basic and Search Ads Advanced, their newly released Search Ads programs.

Since Apple announced Search Ads in late 2016, they have been a vital tool for developers expanding their app’s audience and visibility. They have also greatly helped developers understand the need to optimize their app’s metadata using ASO.

Thanks to Apple’s two new programs, app developers of all types can start using Search Ads to compete against their competitors. The new programs aren’t necessarily targeting a certain demographic of app developers, but are instead trying to help them all understand how it all work.

Here are the differences between Search Ads Basic and Search Ads Advanced:

Search Ads Basic

  • Think of this as the training wheels for Search Ads.
  • This program offers developers cost-per-install, meaning they only pay for installs.
  • Developers just have to set up their account and provide their monthly budget.
  • Can start and stop whenever, and adjust the budget at any time.

Search Ads Advanced

  • The training wheels are off and developers have access to the full suite of tools.
  • They can control campaigns and audiences who see the ads.
  • Can choose keywords and explore searches with the Search Match.

Both the Basic and Advanced programs are sure to help developers, especially in territories like UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland and Mexico, which recently got Search Ads. Developers need to start looking toward additional tools so they can reach a larger audience while also improving their app’s visibility.

Whether you’re a developer that just wants to get a taste of Search Ads or you’re a seasoned developer that wants to expand your audience, you should look into these programs.

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Why It’s Important To A/B Test New Graphics

In ASO, search visibility is important, but you need to focus on converting a viewer into a user. Your app can be ranked in the Top 10 for all high-volume keywords, but if you’re converting only a small percentage of users, you’re missing a huge mark.

It’s a well-known fact that the best way to convert users is by having engaging creatives (icon, screenshots, preview video). Sometimes, however, the icon, screenshots and preview video don’t engage the audience well, resulting in decreased conversion rates.

In order to successfully convert users, you have to test your creatives to see what resonates best with your audience. You can turn to A/B testing, the process of selecting an app variable and testing two variants to see which one performs better and converts the highest number of users.

Testing your app’s creatives is an excellent way for developers to measure the impact of different variables to provide a more effective experience to users browsing the app store. Color palette, screenshot orientation, the order you position your screenshots, icon design and including a preview video are all variables that can be tested. Receiving quality feedback on which creative variant performed better than another will provide helpful insights that can save you time and money.

Icon

The app icon can make a significant impact on converting users, and even a small change such as the color palette of the icon can stand out among competitors. Your icon is the first piece of imagery a user will see on your app listing, and differentiates itself from other competitors.

In iOS search results, a user will immediately see the icon and initial app screenshots. For the Google Play Store search results, the only visual element you see is the icon. This means that the icon is exceedingly important for the Google Play Store and needs to instantly hook users.

Let’s say you have a match 3 game and want to convert more users. Try conducting an A/B test to see which designs resonate best with users. Perhaps the test comes back that your audience prefers seeing puzzle pieces, or numbers. Having this knowledge can help your design team come up with an icon that reflects these findings.

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Screenshots & Feature Graphic

The screenshots and feature graphicare the next visuals users will see after the icon. Remember, in iOS search, users can see the first three portrait screenshots or one landscape screenshot in addition to the icon, but can only see the icon on the Google Play Store. Once a user taps the icon, they will see the feature graphic positioned at the top of an app’s page before the app screenshots. The screenshots and feature graphic need to instantly give users a sneak-peek into the app to encourage them to convert.

Always ask yourself: Can users quickly glance over your screenshots and grasp the functionality being highlighted? If screenshots are too confusing or not as visually engaging compared to adjacent competitors, they are less likely to convert users. Both the screenshots and feature graphic should highlight the app’s core features in a way that is easily digestible by browsing users.

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 2.25.15 PMA/B testing can help you understand how users are engaging and determine what elements they like most. Perhaps users prefer a splash screen at the beginning of your screenshots, or not at all. Maybe you see increased user engagement when displaying warm colors instead of cool colors in your feature graphic. Conducting an A/B test will ultimately help you understand what your users want to see.

Key Takeaways

Remember, being ranked in the Top 10 for high-volume keywords doesn’t always guarantee that you’re converting users. The success of your creatives can capture the attention of eager, indecisive users browsing through the app stores. You need to start A/B Testing to identify how potential users are reacting to your app’s creatives.

A/B testing can be utilized whether you feel unsure of what creatives to go with or want to improve your conversion rates. Start gaining key insights to what app icon, screenshots, feature graphic or preview video engages with your audience best to boost not only your visibility but your conversion.