Category Archives: App Store Optimization

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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.


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.


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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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.


  • 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.


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.


  • 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:


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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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.


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.


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.

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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.

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Marketing Your App for the Holidays with ASO

As the holidays approach, many developers are launching updates to take advantage of the shift in seasonal search trends. Properly researching, preparing and launching updates tied to these trends can help apps stay competitive with what’s trending, while maintaining the app’s core rankings.

End-of-the-year holidays provide a unique opportunity for apps across a wide range of categories. It’s always important to analyze how an app is performing and adjust accordingly. With the holiday season, however, comes specific opportunities for apps like shopping apps, games and even local restaurant discovery guides. These types of apps can benefit from eager users searching the app stores during the holidays, but can only successfully convert these users by incorporating ASO.

Keywords – Be Relevant for the Holidays

Apple and Google’s algorithm won’t simply index apps for search terms specific to the holidays on their own. Developers need to target the appropriate keywords, and longer-tail relevant keywords like “holiday shopping,” “holiday games,” “holiday recipes” and more.

Shopping apps in particular target keywords specific to Cyber Monday, and even deals extended into December to catch shoppers throughout the month. Roughly 60 percent of shoppers use their mobile device at some point of their shopping experience. Since so many users are checking their devices, it means that mobile app sale figures from companies have increased in recent years. Huge companies like Target, Walmart and eBay have consistently reported increases during this time of year, and are only anticipated to continue rising as the holidays inch closer and closer.

Apps need to use App Store Intelligence Software like DATACUBE to help them understand which relevant search terms have enough volume to be advantageous for the app. These keywords will then need to be integrated within their app’s metadata.

Engaging Creatives – Get in the Holiday Spirit

Simply targeting keywords specific to the holidays won’t be enough to help developers convert users. They will also need to take into consideration what is visually appealing to users and display engaging creatives that catch their eye.

Take for example the on-page creatives of Shutterfly, Ebates and Food Network Magazine.  These apps have seasonal creatives which illustrate to potential users how they are relevant for the holidays and even Cyber Monday/Week. A user searching for “holiday,” “foods,” or “Cyber Monday deals” can instantly understand how these apps are relevant for their search term, leading to a higher potential for conversion on these trending terms.

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Apps like Food Street and Farmville 2 take advantage of the winter holidays by updating their app icons accordingly as well. They make sure to incorporate specific holiday elements such as Santa Hats or decorative foods that are well-known and recognizable to users. Adding these elements can help with not only conversion on targeted seasonal keywords, but being placed in featured seasonal categories by Apple and Google, increasing their visibility even further.


Key Takeaways

There are always seasonal opportunities for keywords and creatives. That being said, the end-of-the-year US holiday season provides a unique and more widely spanning opportunity for developers of all genres to target trending seasonal terms. Developers need to monitor how users are searching along with any specific seasonal trends that can be targeted in their keyword bank.

On top of targeting high-volume keywords tied to the holidays, developers should also launch creatives that match the terms they are targeting. Keep in mind that incorporating keywords and creatives tied to the holidays means there is the potential to be featured in curated content sections on the App Store and Google Play Store for further visibility. If developers start now, they are taking advantage of the season and are one step ahead of their competition.

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5 Reasons Why Your Search Ads Campaign is Failing

It has been just over one year since Apple has rolled out its Search Ads platform, something that piqued the interested of developers interested in quality install channels world-wide.

Search Ads is Apple’s tool that helps developers bid on certain keywords at varying costs, allowing them to compete against other competitors in their market for their relative “hot keywords.”

To this date, developers, agencies and marketers have spent upwards of $580 billion, according to a recent report by eMarketers. From a marketing perspective, it would only make sense to start spending it where millions of mobile users are browsing for the next big app.

If you’ve got your campaigns all set up, how are they looking? Are you seeing the ROI you were hoping to see straight off the bat with your new investment in Search Ads?

Hopefully your answer isn’t “no.” If it is, then you may want to consider these five reasons why your Search Ads campaign may be failing:

1. Your Metadata is Irrelevant

Make sure you fine tune your app’s metadata (title, subtitle, keywords, description) to make your app relevant for your most important terms in Search Ads.

One of Apple’s first announcements was that your app would need to be as relevant as possible for all of the keywords you bid on. One of the largest pillars of App Store Optimization, relevancy can be built the following ways:

a) Including the Search Ads keywords in your app’s title

b) Including the Search Ads keywords in your app’s subtitle

c) Including the Search Ads keywords in your app’s promotional text

d) Including the Search Ads keywords in your app’s description

Your ability to incorporate these keywords into your app description helps Apple determine how relevant you are for these keywords. This is not to say that you should keyword stuff- building contextual relevance for your targeted terms will help.

The more relevant you are, the more likely you’ll appear and the more likely you’ll convert.

2. Your App Has Low TTR Compared to the Competition

If your tap-through-rate isn’t as high as you’d like it, your creative probably aren’t helping. If users aren’t compelled by the app’s creative in the overall Search Ad, they will likely pass over the add to the next app that appears in search.

Your app’s promotional text can also appear in the Search Ads. Pay attention to what’s being used in the 170 character space. An app’s promotional text appears as one of the display options that Apple provides to developers.

As these can be updated outside of a build release, start to test different messaging and monitor Search Ad Performance. Swap these out and see which one performs best.

Additionally, take advantage of the keywords that are performing well. Incorporate these keywords into your app’s creative to help with TTR on your Search Ads, and even CTR in organic search

3. You’re Relying on Search Match/Broad Match

There are thousands of keywords that you can be looking into and bidding on to help improve your Search Ad performance.

Look at what the market is doing. There are probably hundreds of additional keywords you can start to bid on if you think of your app on broader terms. Extend your overall visibility past your immediate features and work towards broadening your overall funnel.

See what keywords you’re ranked for, too! Beyond your immediate target keywords, a tool like DATACUBE can help you see what Apple is finding you relevant for- some may be outside of your original scope.

4. The Cheapest Keywords Aren’t Always the Best

Cheap keywords in the Search Ads platform don’t necessarily mean quick wins- these keywords are cheap because there’s very low competition. If no one is searching for those keywords, there’s very little chance you’ll gain more than a few impressions.

Re-adjust your budget to allow you to bid on bigger, competitive keywords. Chances are, if your app is relevant, you’ll appear and have more of a chance of gaining more visibility through those keywords.

5. Have Patience!

Search Ads is a learning platform. Give the first run-through of your campaigns at least 10 days before making any changes. Performance will always be volatile at this time as Apple learns and readjusts your app in various ad cycles. Give it time and you’ll be able to see accurate results.

Poke around and see what you can do with Search Ads. There are tons of way to get started on your app’s paid search marketing, with Search Ads being the tip of the iceberg. Avoiding any of the five pitfalls above should get you to a good place, and hopefully even seeing return on your Search Ads investment.