ASO: Different Than App Store SEO

January 25th, 2020

ASO: Different Than App Store SEO
David Quinn

by David Quinn

VP of Strategy & Partnerships at Gummicube, Inc.

App Store Optimization is not just App Store SEO. Whereas SEO focuses on web search engines, ASO is designed specifically for mobile App Stores. Failing to understand this distinction can lead developers to utilize inaccurate data, design App Store pages poorly or miss potential mobile marketing opportunities.

While both SEO and ASO have some concepts that seem similar, they are used in different ways and should not be confused for one another. Developers must understand what App Store Optimization is and how it’s different from Search Engine Optimization if they want to succeed in the mobile space.

How SEO Works

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps websites increase their traffic by increasing the visibility of the site in web search results. Good SEO includes a number of requirements and best practices, including:

  • Designing the site so that search engines can reach and index it
  • Providing high-quality content
  • Keyword lists
  • Link building

One important SEO practice is backlinking, wherein a site includes a link leading to the page being optimized. These backlinks signal to the web algorithms that the linked site is trustworthy and useful; think of it as an endorsement from the site with the link.

Using anchor text for backlinks helps search engines identify relevant keywords for the site. This means that, in terms of SEO, using anchor text specific to the site or keywords is more effective than anchor text that simply says “click here.”

Another commonly used SEO tactic focuses on keyword placement. Keywords utilized on the web page, as well as in backlinks, build relevance for the search engines. One way to do use keywords in an unobtrusive manner is by tagging images on the web page with them. This can also help the image (and by extension, the web page) appear in image searches for the keyword.

Websites typically must SEO best practices in mind in order to remain competitive. Page design elements to consider include:

  • Keyword usage
  • The length of the pages
  • Utilizing headers
  • Creating lists

For instance, lists or short answers are often displayed as Featured Snippets alongside the link to the web page. Pages that use this style of formatting often do so in order to improve their presence in search results.

These SEO best practices can help websites appear in searches as they capitalize on the web search engines. These use very different algorithms than app stores, so different techniques are required for App Store SEO.

How ASO Works

App Store Optimization functions differently than Search Engine Optimization in several important ways. ASO is designed to increase the visibility of an app on app store search and conversions, which requires designing its app store listings (including visual assets and metadata) for keyword rankings and conversions. This includes:

  • Keyword optimization
  • Writing descriptions designed for mobile devices and store algorithms
  • Designing and testing creative sets

For any search engine, choosing the right keywords can make or break the optimization. For iOS apps, developers can declare keywords in the title, subtitle and keyword bank. This immediately indicates to the App Store algorithm that the app may be relevant to those terms.

The Google Play Store handles keyword indexation differently. Developers do not declare keywords on Google Play. Rather, an app's description must be written with an emphasis on keywords so that the store’s algorithm can identify them.

App Store Optimization also requires creating different listings for each store. The Apple App Store and Google Play Store have different guidelines and algorithms, so developers must design app pages on each store with the distinct best practices in mind. For instance, descriptions written for the App Store won’t help with Google Play keyword indexation, while a video allowed on Google Play might be rejected on the App Store.

Getting users to click on the app page is only half the battle - user conversion is just as important for App Store Optimization. That’s why ASO includes testing and designing optimized creative sets built to maximize installs. Researching, testing and creating new iterations of the app’s visual elements on the page and in the search results can go a long way towards improving the clickthrough rate (CTR) and conversions.

ASO can also utilize deep linking, which connects an app to content viewed on a user’s mobile device. For instance, clicking on a YouTube video link on a mobile device can trigger a request to open the YouTube app, which would then load the specific video in the app using contextual data. Deep linking is a useful way to drive traffic to an app, whether through web content or advertisement-based links.

The Differences

There are several ways in which ASO and SEO diverge. Some strategies can only be used for optimizing web or mobile search performance, while others are based on user behavior.

While both ASO and SEO require keyword research, they rely on different data. Search Engine Optimization utilizes web search data, which is based on user queries on search engines. Web searches typically take one of three forms:

  • Transactional queries (“Do”)
  • Information queries (“Know”)
  • Navigation queries (“Go”)

These are often in the form of questions, things or actions, such as “what happens if I drive on a flat tire” or “how do I repair a flat tire.”

Mobile search, on the other hand, typically consists of 2-3 word searches for specific features or brands, like “roadside assistance app” or “AAA.” In fact, there’s only. 20% overlap between web and mobile search trends, so what users search for on one platform is likely to have very different search volume on another.

After identifying keywords, the way they’re utilized for SEO and ASO are also different. For instance, a website does not have the keyword bank that the Apple App Store does, so it needs to utilize the keywords throughout the page’s content. Similarly, an app listing cannot include keywords in an image tag.

There are some SEO and ASO techniques that may seem similar at first glance, but overall are very different. For example, backlinking and deep linking both involve using outside links to drive traffic. Yet they vary in how they’re utilized for keywords and their impact on rankings in search results.

Several tactics that work for one simply have no equivalent on the other. App stores do not have Featured Snippets, for instance. The App Store and Play Store do feature apps, but that is outside of the search results.

How to Unify Them

While SEO and ASO are different overall, there are still ways that Search Engine Optimization can be used to improve ASO.

Providing a website or landing page for an app can help drive traffic to the App Store, especially if the page itself is built with good SEO. Adding Smart Banners - banner ads on the top of a screen that link directly to the app’s store page - can direct users to the app for them to download.

Deep linking web content to specific app pages is another useful technique. If a user opens an app for deep linked content, the app can go directly to the feature the user needs. For instance, a recipe app would open to the specific recipe the user asked for or a food delivery app would open to the restaurant the user was looking for. This is referred to as “deferred deep linking.”


App Store Optimization is not just SEO data and best practices used on the app stores. There are significant differences between web and mobile search, from the way the algorithms work to the terms users search for. Trying to use SEO for an app’s mobile rankings will inevitably lead to disappointment.

Developers looking to optimize their apps’ pages should ensure they’re using the right techniques and data. Search Engine Optimization data and best practices will not translate well for optimizing on the App Store or Play Store. For App Store SEO, App Store Optimization is the way to go.

Want more information regarding App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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