The Future of App Store Optimisation (ASO) – Findings from the ASO Conference, Berlin, May 2019

An insight from Lauren Park, ASO Manager, and Max Morgans, ASO Executive, M&C Saatchi Performance

App Store Optimisation (ASO) is a relatively nascent skillset within digital advertising. Moving from app store to in-person, experts in the field joined together for the biggest ASO dedicated conference hosted by ASO Stack, with over 20 speakers and 200 delegates on May 22nd in Berlin. The ASO Stack is a publication by ASO agency, Phiture. It looks to help marketers, founders, and growth practitioners develop and evolve a strategy for growing the user base of a mobile product through App Store Optimisation. From the history of keywords to the rapid rise of apps in the brand economy, our team reveal the top takeaways from this specialised event.

Fig 1 – 2019 ASO Stack Guide

The rules are being reset

In the opening remarks, Moritz Daan and Gabe Kwakyi of Phiture and Incipia, discussed next steps for The ASO Stack and the evolving App Store Optimisation landscape. Since the app store launched, The ASO Stack has been a valuable resource for marketers and this year, Phiture have updated the framework to reflect the ever-changing algorithms of Apple and Google. The updated framework for this year was previewed at the conference and can be viewed below. The advancements to the structure include a greater focus on supporting insights and app performance; measured by a variety of metrics within the Google Play Developer Console known as Android Vitals. ASO strategies change week-to-week, and the development of this crucial framework shows how far the approach has come it’s last iteration two years ago. From focusing primarily on keywords, the updated framework now has a more holistic view of the elements impacting ASO, particularly around newly available data and the insights around feature visibility and app performance.

Traditional methods of being visible are insufficient

The visibility of an app is essential to ASO and was a key focus area of conversation at the conference, as speakers analysed the value of different methods to make an app seen. One of the opportunities discussed was the ‘Featured’ section on the App Store. If an app has been featured, the visibility has different levels depending on which placement it is featured on. The ranking of placements follows this pattern:

1: App of the day

2: Featured banner

3: Banner collection

4: Icon collection

Moritz Daan and Gabe Kwakyi described how featured placements lack the impact they used to achieve and cannot guarantee the drive of downloads that they did in the past. Previously, apps were featured on iOS for a whole week in prime position, however, now being featured for a day in a more competitive marketplace doesn’t have the same effect. While there remains value in the ‘Featured’ section, marketers must look for other opportunities to be noticed.

Targeting features is still relevant, but ASO practitioners are looking for more creative ways to get their apps seen. This means committing to decrypting the algorithms from both Google Play and the App Store. The conference revealed the following clues about how they operate:

  • Algorithms use machine learning to analyse keywords and determine relevancy
  • Relationships are built between keywords through natural language association
  • Recommended apps are suggested based on what the user has previously downloaded

Fig 2 – Features are a quick way of getting noticed on Google Play and the App Store. Source, Apple

How to tackle personalisation

A more recent update impacting ASO is personalisation which came into effect on Apple with the iOS 12 update. Based on install history and storefront, personalisation creates a more specialised app store homepage for users, dependent on several factors including their search history. Since iOS 12, developers have reported more browse impressions on their apps than search impressions. One reason for this is the shift to editorial content, with the likes of the Today Tab, and the change in placement of the ‘Search’ tab in the bottom bar of the app store following iOS 11. Even though users are browsing more in the app store, the intent to download is much higher when a user has originated from a keyword search compared to a browse placement, and this is being confirmed with data as developers are seeing more search app units than browse app units. This highlights that marketers cannot prioritise conversion over discoverability, but that both need to be considered in order to maintain a successful ASO strategy.

Google play has gone even further than the app store in making personalisation a priority. Collections are both selected and influenced by the google editorial team and generated automatically using Google algorithms. It was revealed that search results are also personalised as tested by the Phiture team. While it is difficult to influence personalised results, as a developer has no control over most of the known factors impacting the algorithm, the Android Vitals of a marketer’s app, such as crash rate, will impact its visibility in the store. Therefore, developers always need to have app performance in mind.

Anticipate and stay ahead

Sat at the centre of the event was an appreciation for how far ASO has come since its inception in 2008. From no accurate measurement to a level of granularity where installs can now be attributed to keywords, App Stores and Play Store have certainly evolved but there are still countless opportunities for the publishers to advance their insights. With new testing, updates, and algorithms constantly appearing, optimising is never a perfect science and marketers face new challenges every day. However, the future is for ASO is bright and being at the forefront of the industry, our team are proud to lead on the latest and most exciting additions to ASO strategy.

To hear about how our ASO team are redefining how we approach app promotion, and integrate this vital tactic within your marketing strategy, get in touch today.


M&C Saatchi Performance is an award-winning performance marketing agency focused on driving measurable results for organisations in all industries.