Is ASO just mobile SEO? Or is it different? Does an app need an ASO strategy and an SEO strategy? Can you use the same strategy for both? These are all common questions on the topic of ASO and SEO because, on the surface, the two seem so similar. They share similar names, their main objective is roughly the same – to gain organic traffic (which for apps means downloads) – and they both share ranking factors such as keywords.
We’ll cover everything you need to know, from “what is ASO?” to “what is SEO?”, including all of the similarities and differences between them.
What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?
App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing an app and its app store page for the app stores. It works to improve an app’s visibility according to ranking factors determined by the app stores’ algorithms. A higher ranking leads to a higher search presence and discoverability, which in turn leads to an increased number of organic downloads. Check out our ultimate ASO guide for more info.
ASO also means that when a user reaches an app’s store page, the page is optimized to encourage them to download the app. This branch of ASO is called conversion optimization.
Whether that requires impactful app store screenshots or an informative app store video, showcasing the app’s best features in the description or utilizing every feature available, ASO encourages visitors to convert at every step as they explore the app page.
Visibility in the app stores comes from Search Traffic and Explore Traffic. Search Traffic is when a user searches for an app or keyword in the search bar and then finds an app from the search results. Explore Traffic is when a user finds an app through browsing the app stores’ Top Charts, Similar/ Related Apps, or the Featured section, as opposed to making a direct search.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing web pages to improve their rankings in the organic search engine results.
SEO can be a complex process that usually takes time, and requires constant maintenance and monitoring. A web page’s ranking can be affected by something as seemingly small as its url, which is in fact incredibly powerful. It could also be impacted by how accessible the web page is for people with disabilities, or mobile users, and beyond.
Why is SEO important? For a business to succeed, its products, services, and customer satisfaction must be shown to a specific group of people. This would usually consist of customers that you’ve identified in the market, as well as potential customers that haven’t quite decided yet about the service or product you’ve got to offer.
Like with ASO, you must strike the perfect balance between catering for the algorithms and also being readable, valuable and engaging for the human eye. Whatever is better for the user, should be better for the Google algorithm as well. Trying to “fool” users by keyword stuffing, for instance, can cause a Google penalty.
What is the Difference Between ASO and SEO?
The obvious difference, as established above, is that ASO is done specifically for mobile apps, whereas SEO is done for the web. There’s a lot more to it than that, though. There are many aspects of both SEO and ASO that set them apart from each other which we’ll dive right into below.
ASO vs SEO: Ranking Factors
The ranking factors for both ASO and SEO are the elements that the algorithms use to influence the visibility of the app or web page in the app stores or search engine results. Whilst ASO and SEO share some similar ranking factors, the importance that algorithms place on each one may differ.
The top ASO ranking factors are:
- App metadata, including title/ app name, subtitle/ short description, and (for Android) long description
- Creative assets, including app store screenshots and app preview videos
- App icon
- Downloads number
- App retention rate
- Conversion rate (general and CVR per keyword)
- In-app store quality metrics
- Crashes and ANRs
- Publisher name
- Bundle ID
- Reviews and ratings
- In-app purchases
The top SEO ranking factors are:
- Meta title and meta description
- Keywords in the title tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- Content optimization (images, text, etc.)
- Website health
- Backlinks Profile
- Time spent on page
- Click-through rate
- Page load speed
- Bounce rate
- Optimized URLs
- Content quality
- Content structure and length
- Site architecture
- Domain authority
Ranking Factors – Top Similarities
- Keywords & keyword research – SEO and ASO are both based on keyword research. The focus is on the Keywords Field (iOS) and Long Description (Google Play) for ASO and keywords in the title, header tags and content for SEO
- Views & engagement
- Content quality – the content of a web page must be of the highest quality to rank highly, just like an app needs to be of the highest quality to rank highly too
- Search traffic – the more interest people show by searching an app and downloading it, or searching for a website, the better it will rank
- Retention Rate – app retention for ASO and dwell time for SEO
Ranking Factors – Top Differences
- App metrics vs web metrics – ASO and SEO each use metrics that apply to their respective platforms
- Creative assets impact – creatives such as app icons, screenshots and videos are essential to ASO, whereas they are only often additional contributing factors to SEO
- Bounce rates
- Paid traffic – while paid traffic majorly affects ASO in terms of visibility and organic downloads, it does not impact SEO whatsoever. A paid user acquisition strategy goes hand in hand with your ASO strategy. Find out more about why the combination is the key to mobile success here
- Page/App Speed – While SEO is impacted by page speed performance, ASO is not
As you can see, there are a lot of differences between the ranking factors of both ASO and SEO, despite the end goal of both being to increase the visibility of the web page or app.
ASO vs SEO: KPIs
As with any mobile marketing strategy, you need to measure both ASO and SEO by certain parameters. These parameters are known as Key Performance Indexes (KPIs). Neither ASO or SEO are a one time fix, since they both require constant maintenance and optimization. Therefore, your KPIs indicate what’s going right and what’s going wrong depending on whether you hit your established KPIs or not. That way, you can make the best decisions for your app going forward.
ASO KPIs are:
- Organic app downloads (search and Explore/Browse)
- Ratings score
- Conversion rate
- Retention rate
- App store ranking
- Keyword rankings
- Top Charts rankings
- Specific in-app events (with the help of MMP data)
You can use ASO tools highlighted in our ASO tools roundup to help with tracking the above KPIs.
SEO KPIs are:
- Conversion rate
- Organic sessions
- Keyword visibility
- Keywords rankings
- Bounce rate
- Pages per sessions
- Average session duration
- Number of backlinks
- Click through rate
ASO vs SEO: Search Types
Users generally browse the app stores and web browsers differently, which affects ASO and SEO. In the app stores, users tend to search for short or long-tail keywords that relate specifically to the app, app category or functionality they’re looking for. Branded keywords are popular. Essentially, users are motivated to find a result that solves a particular problem or matches a specific need.
On the other hand, users searching on the web are often looking for more information around a particular topic, to find a certain web page or to make a transaction (or perform another action). Put it this way: how many times a day do you ask Google a question? Probably a lot. Would you ever do the same while searching through an app store? Probably not.
Users in the app stores are always looking to find or download an app, while web users’ action goals are far more diversified.
Identifying the different search intents is a crucial aspect of SEO and ASO, because both have to deliver the most relevant and high quality information that matches the searcher’s intent. In SEO, this will require search engines trawling the internet to find the best search results, and in ASO this will require app stores to find the most appropriate apps to show in the search results.
As a general rule, Google will prioritize good quality articles that provide searchers with value and answer their questions. The more helpful and organized your content is, the better. “How-to” articles are a good example of helpful content, as well as making sure your content is clearly outlined to match search intent.
ASO vs SEO: Paid Impact
ASO, although an organic means of marketing, can be significantly impacted by paid marketing efforts. The algorithms take into consideration non-organic app downloads when determining an app’s ranking, so non-organic downloads can help increase an app’s visibility. The more money spent on paid marketing such as social media ads or burst campaigns, the more paid downloads your app will reap, meaning the higher it will rank and the more organic downloads it will gain.
On the other hand, SEO is not impacted by paid ads and you cannot increase a web page’s ranking or visibility with ads.
Another important factor to consider regarding the paid impact of both SEO and ASO is the depth of available data. While in SEO we can clearly see actions caused by users using specific keyword searches, in ASO we must use a third-party tool to analyze paid traffic. This means that ASO only allows us to speculate in-app actions that were made by users searching for our targeted keywords.
ASO vs SEO: Optimization
We all know that ASO and SEO are all about optimization from their titles alone. But what form does the optimization take for each? How do you optimize for ASO? How do you optimize for SEO? We have the answers.
ASO is almost like a one-page-SEO. It’s much more limited by the specific rules of the app stores’ product page guidelines. If you break the rules, the app will be rejected from the app stores or removed, meaning it won’t show up in the search results. On the contrary, SEO allows a little more leeway. However, a website can be penalized for not abiding by certain SEO guidelines, and the worst ones may result in complete removal from the SERPs.
The limiting nature of ASO also dictates the importance of graphics. ASO is a lot more focused on visual and creative assets than SEO. It requires engaging app store screenshots, often an app preview video, a well-designed app icon and more. All of these are important because they take up most of the visible app pages’ space, and this is nearly all there is to work with.
Both ASO and SEO strategies should consider their respective algorithms. With ASO, there is a difference between Google and Apple’s algorithms. While Google Play’s algorithm is very similar to the web search engine’s one, iOS’s algorithm is much more straightforward and even offers simple white hat “hacks” that increase visibility, at least as of now (October 2021).
Generally speaking, optimizing one page (ASO) does not allow as many options as optimizing a whole website (SEO). While ASO will often include metadata changes, creative changes and text changes, SEO can utilize the many aspects of websites, allowing SEO specialists to change anything from a simple URL, all the way to the whole design, structure and code of a website.
A big part of SEO revolves around a piece of content and the website it’s published on. Not only do you have to focus on ensuring your content is the highest quality it can be, but you also need to make sure the website is doing everything right SEO-wise, otherwise it will hinder the content’s performance. That means the quickest page-load speed possible, correct website structure, hosting a bank of other relevant content, backlinking between content, offering a mobile-friendly web page version, etc. Website UX is taken seriously in SEO.
The content itself must have a hierarchical structure that makes sense. An H1 title should be used no more than once in the same article, and H2 titles have higher importance than H3. All titles should be built around relevant keywords. The meta description should also lead with the most important keywords. The content must repeatedly use the keywords the web page is trying to rank for without keyword stuffing, which Google tends to penalise. Internal links to the website’s other content, where relevant, are beneficial for helping Google understand the context of the content as well as its trustworthiness. It must consist of short, readable paragraphs and clear sections to make the user experience as smooth as possible.
Another crucial element to consider when devising an ASO or SEO strategy is keyword research. In both cases, the right keywords should be the backbone of your strategy, as they will eventually dictate the website or app’s success. Make sure to incorporate keywords that are both relevant and true to the description of your product or service.
It is also important to remember that Google is clever and is fully capable of understanding if your content was designed for the algorithm and not for humans. This is an absolute no-go in the SEO world. Always ensure you are creating your content for humans first, while keeping up with SEO guidelines in your work.
ASO vs SEO: Tools
The tools you’ll need to use for ASO and SEO differ entirely. Both require extensive keyword research for an app or web page to perform well, but you can’t use a tool that works well for suggesting relevant keywords for the web and expect similar results when looking for the best app keywords. It’s vital to use different tools for each type of optimization, as app stores and search engines are completely separate entities with different algorithms and ranking systems.
ASO tools include: AppTweak, MobileAction, AppFollow, StoreMaven, SplitMetrics, and more.
SEO tools include: Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Tag Manager, Google Keyword Planner, aHrefs, SEMrush, SEOquake, Optimizely, Hotjar, Answerthepublic, MozBar, and more.
The Relationship Between ASO and SEO
First and foremost, App Store Optimization and Search Engine Optimization are both organic forms of marketing. They bring users to an app or visitors to a web page via organic means. A key component of their success is the relevance of search results in relation to the search. Both ASO and SEO algorithms rely heavily on keywords when determining the relevance of the search result and ranking your app or web page.
The organic nature of SEO and ASO often leads to more conversions due to customers’ high trust level in them compared to paid ads, where customers generally exert more caution. When something offers a solution to your problem in an organic manner, whether that’s answering a question on Google or showing an app that suits your needs on the App Store, users are more likely to trust it and convert to paying customers.
Another way the two are linked is by the URL every app has that gets indexed and ranked by Google in the SERPs. As such, ASO acts as an indirect way of conducting SEO for your app.
The main objective of SEO is to bring more organic traffic to a web page, usually for the purpose of growing an online business. Similarly, the main objective of ASO is to increase the amount of organic downloads of an app, usually for the purpose of growing the app.
ASO and SEO share a common goal, which is to boost an app or website’s visibility and bring traffic (downloads) to them. Even though SEO uses Google and ASO uses the app stores for this process, their goal is largely the same. Both aspire to increase the viewership of an app or a web page, and for it to be shown to the right people in order to promote conversions, and both do so by increasing the ranks in their respective platforms. Also, Google’s algorithm is pretty much the same on the SERP and Google Play Store.
Which Strategy Should I Choose to Promote my App?
As part of your broader app marketing strategy, you should have both an SEO and ASO strategy. When aiming for app success, ASO is non-negotiable. There’s no way to reach the level of consistent success for your app without it. SEO may seem a little less intuitive in this respect, but it can also do wonders for your app.
Firstly, 27% of all organic app downloads come from users who have discovered and installed apps from search engine results. That’s one in four people! Except, you’re not going to catch the attention of search engine users if you’re not even showing up near the top of the search results. That’s why you need SEO as well as ASO.
SEO can also impact your organic app downloads on two more levels:
- Direct installs from the SERP as part of App Packs, as well as URL rankings.
- Branded searches in the app stores as a result of an increase in brand awareness.
Secondly, building a bank of content surrounding your app category can introduce your app to thousands of potential users who are browsing Google for something your app can provide them with. For example, let’s say you have an app that compares restaurants in cities around the world, with photos, reviews, ratings, etc. Then, a Google user searches for the “best vegan restaurant in New York City”. You’ve already optimized your article titled “Top 5 Vegan Restaurants in New York City” and it appears on the first page of the SERPs. Your branding is all over the web page, within the content itself, and you probably have a link to your app store page in there too. You just might (read: probably will) be able to grab a significant number of those Google users for your app.
As you can see, SEO and ASO are not mutually exclusive. You shouldn’t be choosing one over the other because you don’t believe you need both. They fill different boots when it comes to marketing your app. One will bring you web users, and another will bring you mobile users. Arguably, ASO is the least negotiable of the two, but both should be part of your app marketing strategy regardless.
As a mobile marketing agency, we have a big bank of resources when it comes to ASO. If you’re looking for more information to help you, why not check out any of the following:
ASO is the process of optimizing an app and its app store page for the app stores. It works to improve your app’s visibility according to ranking factors determined by the app stores’ algorithms. A higher ranking leads to a higher search presence and discoverability, which in turn leads to an increased number of organic downloads. ASO also means that when a user reaches your app store page, the page is optimized to encourage them to download your app.
SEO is the process of optimizing web pages to improve their ranking in the organic search engine results. It requires increasing the volume of traffic a web page receives as well as the quality of that traffic.
There are many differences, including their ranking factors, KPIs, user behavior, tools, relationship with paid ads, optimization methods and more. Then there’s the very basic fact that one is the optimization of web pages for search engines (SEO), and the other is the optimization of apps and app store pages in app stores (ASO).
Both have a shared objective to increase the ranking and visibility of an app or web page to increase its traffic (downloads). They both revolve around optimizing content to ensure it is prioritized by algorithms and encourages engagements and conversions.
Yes, your mobile app will benefit greatly from SEO because it can introduce web users to your app, which is actually how 27% of organic users discover apps.