Paid User Acquisition (UA) and App Store Optimisation (ASO) are two crucial elements of a successful mobile app strategy and they go hand in hand. Traditionally, UA and ASO teams have been siloed, since the KPIs they optimise towards tend to be different. Paid UA focuses on attracting new users via ads, whereas ASO is the process of optimizing your app’s visibility and ranking in app stores to attract organic users in the App Store and Google Play Store. Together, Paid UA and ASO strategies can help drive more traffic and downloads to your app, which can lead to increased user engagement and revenue. In this blog post, we’ll explore how user acquisition and ASO can work together to create a strong foundation for your mobile app’s success.
Why is combining UA and ASO important?
It can be tempting to think of app marketing as a relay race, with your UA team handing the metaphorical baton over to your ASO team as soon as users tap on the ad and are brought to the app store, and ASO handing the baton over to product teams once the user has installed the app. However, this siloed approach can cause you to miss out on the crucial connections and learnings that UA and ASO can have in common. As the market becomes increasingly saturated, it becomes important to bring together the stages of the user funnel for app success.
How do Paid UA and ASO teams work together?
User Acquisition teams work to drive down acquisition costs by:
- testing creatives and audiences
- scaling spend sustainably
- driving high-value users
ASO teams are interested in optimising your app by:
- growing discoverability through its algorithmic optimisation
- improving keyword ranking or category position
- improving user conversion from impression to install
Why is App Store Optimisation important for paid UA?
The key to a holistic app acquisition strategy is knowing that every user – whether they come from a paid ad, a landing page, an above-the-line brand campaign, or an organic search – must pass through the app store in order to download the app. Therefore, every app business wanting to scale should prioritise App Store Optimisation (ASO) to ensure users are converting to install as efficiently as possible. You don’t want to be spending the majority of your budget on high-quality ads only to lose your users at the critical conversion point of the app store listing. ASO, if done well, can help to mitigate the risk of that.
The algorithmic relationship between Paid UA and ASO strategies
The algorithmic relationship between paid UA spend and ASO is more significant than you may think. As an app agency, we work with hundreds of clients with varying paid media budgets. We know that it can be difficult to keep a steady budget set aside for ads, and if your acquisition strategy relies heavily on organic traffic, you may decide to focus only on ASO. But did you know that organic growth increases exponentially in line with scaled paid spend?
ASO relies heavily on the workings of the app store algorithms. The algorithms of both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store consider the number of users viewing the app (‘impressions’), and use this data to boost apps’ rankings. When your app’s impressions accelerate, the algorithms will boost it up in the search results, leading to a greater organic impact too. Running paid ads is a great way to get this algorithmic boost.
Think of the app stores like this: the more you spend on ads, the more users will discover your app in the app store. More visibility will lead to more downloads, and more downloads lead to more revenue for Apple and Google. So, it’s in their best interest to favour an app that has a big spend behind it. And it’s in your interest to run paid ads on your app, as it will positively affect your organic traffic.
Integrated Paid UA and ASO strategies to positively impact app growth
There are 4 key ways in which UA and ASO help each other.
- Driving high-value users
- Testing creatives
- Finding new opportunities
- Utilising advanced App Store features
Let’s explore each of these in greater detail.
#1 Driving high-value users
The early stages of UA and ASO both require:
- research into the app’s competitive space
- Thorough understanding of product performance
- positioning within the vertical
While targeting broad audiences is necessary to gather important initial learnings, User Acquisition teams want to start to refine targeting as soon as possible to decrease the campaign cost.
Similarly, ASO teams should focus on highly specific long-tail keywords, rather than aiming to get indexed for popular but competitive keywords that are much harder to rank for.
Focusing on a specific target audience increases the likelihood of attracting users who are interested in and motivated to download the app. By focusing on a high-quality and high-intent group of users, you’re increasing your app’s chance for success as they’re more likely to engage with and promote your app to others.
How to drive high-value users:
- Segment paid audiences into niches that perform well down the funnel, e.g. if you see that males from ages 21-35 are most likely to convert from free trial to paid membership, focus your efforts on this user group.
- Compare paid vs organic conversion rates using an attribution tool such as Appsflyer or Adjust to understand user behaviour.
- Bid on keywords via Apple Search Ads to complement your organic keyword strategy. This can help to boost your rankings for the high-volume keywords that are competitive in your niche.
- Integrate audience and keyword learnings across Paid UA and ASO strategies. Make sure both teams are aware of what keywords are being optimised towards.
#2 Testing creatives
Both UA and ASO require high-quality creatives to ensure high conversion. But knowing which kinds of creatives make the most impact on your specific audience is an ongoing optimisation process. Audiences get saturated after seeing the same ad too many times, seasons change, the competitive space evolves, and the product itself develops, so it’s important to constantly iterate your ad creative process.
The reason for collaboration for creative testing between UA and ASO is twofold.
- Users are more likely to download your app if they have been exposed to a cohesive design, branding and message across all creative elements (that includes paid ads, app store listing screenshots and your onboarding designs). We call this ‘flow’. With good flow, you maximise the likelihood that a user will continue down the funnel.
- By bridging the gap between your paid UA and ASO teams, you will gain learnings about your audience’s preferences much quicker than if your teams work in silos. Critical learnings can come from creative ad testing (which sits with the UA team) and app store A/B testing (ASO team), which will help to shape your creative brand direction.
How to test creatives:
- Constantly iterate new creatives to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to your vertical through research and concepting
- Set aside a testing budget for new ad creatives in your media plan, and regularly A/B test app store creative assets to ensure they convert users efficiently (we recommend testing one element at a time to isolate results and reach statistical significance quickly)
- Align messaging and creative design from ad to app store icon and screenshots to app onboarding screens to create a seamless user journey for all touchpoints of the user lifecycle.
#3 Finding new opportunities
Paid UA and ASO strategies work to expand the app’s reach across new users, via ads, keyword searches and app store browsing. In order to expand into new markets, tap into new audiences, and find new angles with which to market your app, your paid UA and ASO teams will need to collaborate and share learnings.
How to find new opportunities:
- For creative assets: take inspiration from competitor ads, app store videos, screenshots and icons
- Determine which keywords and value propositions are converting users best, and use this to inform the way you talk about your app
- Analyse your app store consoles to understand whether there are any territories that are experiencing a lot of unexpected traffic, and assign some budget towards testing there
#4 Utilising advanced App Store features
The iOS App Store has introduced several new features with the recent advent of iOS 15, including in-app events and custom product pages. These features, promoted by Apple, have helped apps reach more users by driving paid costs down and occupying greater real estate on the App Store. They are particularly effective when used in combination with paid UA.
iOS 15 opportunities include:
Custom Product Pages
Custom product pages (CPPs) are customizable app store listings for specific ad campaigns. Let’s take the example of a health and nutrition app. If your app has two very different audiences, such as users interested in healthy recipes, and users interested in workout routines, you could create a ‘recipe’-focused custom product page based on nutrition keyword searches, and a ‘workout’-focused custom product page for fitness fans. Depending on which ad a user taps on, they will be sent to the specific product page that accompanies their campaign concept and is relevant to them.
In-app events are time-limited promotions of an event, challenge or new feature that will be displayed in your app store listing. They’re really important for your ASO strategy because:
- they allow you to reach new users or re-engage the existing ones
- hey take up additional real estate on the App Store in Search and Browse
- apps that use them are favoured by the algorithm (they are often used by Apple’s curatorial team to feature an app)
Your UA team can help to boost your in-app event by bidding on the keywords in its metadata, helping you to rank higher for them.
In summary, both Paid UA and ASO strategies benefit from each other, and a holistic approach guarantees that learnings are shared across both teams. Train your UA team in App Store Optimisation, and your ASO team in Paid User Acquisition fundamentals so they can spot synergies and opportunities. This will help you get results that increase exponentially as these organic and paid growth loops start gaining momentum.