What is Cannibalization in ASO and How to Accurately Measure it

Jessica Abbadia
Jessica Abbadia 02 April 2023
What is Cannibalization in ASO and How to Accurately Measure it

Mobile app stores like Google Play and Apple App Store are highly competitive environments where millions of apps are vying for users’ attention. In order to stand out in this crowded space, mobile app developers and marketers need to invest in App Store Optimization (ASO), a crucial process that aims to improve app visibility and performance in app stores. 

However, one of the biggest challenges of ASO is dealing with cannibalization, which occurs when two or more apps from the same developer or company compete for the same keywords or audience, resulting in lower app performance and user acquisition. 

In this easy-to-read article, we’ll walk you through one of the most critical issues to consider while enhancing your app’s performance through media: The cannibalization of organic traffic.

What is ASO (App Store Optimization)?

ASO (App Store Optimization) is a process of improving the visibility and performance of mobile apps in app stores, such as Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Optimizing app elements like titles, descriptions, keywords, visuals, ratings, and reviews increases organic installs and improves user engagement.

App Store Optimization (ASO)

ASO is important in the mobile app industry because it helps apps stand out among the millions of apps available in app stores, attract potential users, and increase app visibility, which ultimately leads to more app installs and revenue opportunities. In addition, ASO is a cost-effective strategy for user acquisition, as it relies on organic search and discovery rather than paid advertising. Therefore, optimizing an app’s visibility through ASO can significantly impact the success and growth of a mobile app.

What is ASA (Apple Search Ads)?

ASA (Apple Search Ads) is a paid advertising platform launched by Apple in 2016 to help mobile app developers increase app visibility and downloads in the Apple App Store. 

It works on a cost-per-tap (CPT) model, where the developer sets a maximum bid for each tap on their ad. Apple then uses its machine learning algorithms to match relevant search queries with the ads and displays them at the top of the App Store search results.

Apple Search Ads
  • ASA allows developers to target specific keywords, geographic locations, and audiences based on their interests, behavior, and device type.
  • It also provides real-time tracking and performance metrics, such as tap-through rate (TTR), conversion rate, and return on ad spend (ROAS), to help developers optimize their campaigns and achieve better results.

Why does ASA Matter to ASO?

ASA (Apple Search Ads) matters to ASO (App Store Optimization) because both are key components of a comprehensive mobile app marketing strategy.

  • ASA can complement ASO by targeting specific keywords and audiences through paid search ads, which can drive more mobile app visibility, downloads, and revenue. 

In other words, ASA can be used alongside ASO to provide a more comprehensive app promotion strategy that can help mobile app developers achieve their business goals and improve their app’s performance.

Consider this: if you’re conducting paid media for your app, your audience will, of course, have to go through your app page. As a result, if you do not have an efficient page, you will not be able to convert users.

Another key factor as to why ASO matters to ASA is app metadata:

  • An app’s name, subtitle, and keywords are crucial in defining its relevance to the algorithm. The user’s reaction to an ad also serves as another sign of its relevance. 
  • Based on this user feedback, ASA chooses to show ads more frequently, which can lead to a higher ad conversion rate and improved overall performance. 

Therefore, it is essential to have an effective ASO strategy in place to ensure maximum relevancy for app ads and improve potential ROI for advertisers.

Understanding Cannibalization in ASO

Cannibalization is a phenomenon that occurs when multiple mobile apps from the same developer or company compete for the same keywords or audience in the App Store. This competition leads to lower app performance, user acquisition, and revenue for the affected apps. 

App Store Icon

When developers create two or more apps that offer similar or overlapping features, they may compete for the same audience and potentially cannibalize each other’s traffic in the app store. Most often, the organic search is the channel being cannibalized.

The same app can also face cannibalization risk if it’s targeting similar keywords or categories as another app from the same developer, leading to an increase in organic visibility for one app at the expense of the other.

There are different types of cannibalization risks that can occur in ASO. These include:

  • Keyword cannibalization: When two or more apps from the same developer or company target the same keywords. It could lead to a dilution of the search results and a decrease in visibility and installs for all the apps.
  • Category cannibalization: When two or more apps from the same developer or company target the same category or subcategory, leading to competition for the same audience and lower overall performance.
  • Organic vs. paid cannibalization: This occurs when paid app installs and organic app installs compete for the same keywords, leading to an increase in competition, higher cost per install, and lower overall ROI. Essentially, this can happen when a user searches for the app using keywords, and it was supposed to be downloaded through organic search results, but instead, it was downloaded via the ad.

Understanding cannibalization risk is crucial for mobile app developers and marketers conducting ASO, as it helps them identify areas of improvement and ensure that app store optimization efforts don’t negatively impact other apps in their portfolio. 

Managing cannibalization risk requires a deep understanding of app store dynamics and user behavior and the ability to track and monitor keywords, categories, and organic search volumes for all apps.

What is incrementality?

Incrementality is a method of measuring an event that would not have occurred in the absence of a certain engagement, like an ad view, and which resulted in the intended outcome, such as an organic conversion. 

It might be difficult to distinguish between organic and paid traffic in mobile marketing. We may overestimate the cost of ads or even pay for downloads that we might have gotten for free. This is why incrementality is measured.

How to Measure Incrementality to Identify Cannibalization

Measuring incrementality is an effective way to determine the extent of cannibalization risk and identify areas that require optimization. 

Here are the general steps you can take to accurately measure incrementality and identify cannibalization:

1. Establish a control group and a test group

To measure incrementality, you need to create a control group that represents the users who would have found your app organically without any ads or promotional efforts. The test group should consist of the users who downloaded your app after seeing an advertisement or similar promotional material. 

You can do this by exporting the number of first-time App Store Connect downloads, sorted by Source and Time Period (which should be the same as the ASA campaign). Then, you’ll require first-time Search Channel downloads, as it includes ASA. 

Export the same data as before the ASA campaign (within the same period). For instance, if the ASA campaign lasted one week, choose the previous week. You’ll also need the Search Channel first-time downloads for this. You’ll get the New Downloads Metric from the Apple Search Ads Manager from that specific campaign.

App Store Optimization Report

2. Define the organic uplift

After you’ve exported the relevant data, simply remove the paid traffic share from the overall number of downloads coming from Search; this yields the number of organic downloads during the campaign. This will give you the overall number of organic downloads.

  • First-time Downloads from Search Channel minus New Downloads from ASA = Overall Organic downloads.

3. Calculate cannibalized downloads

Take the results from the previous calculus, the overall organic downloads from the ASA campaign period, and subtract them from organic downloads from the period before the ASA campaign. This will give you the number of cannibalized downloads.

  • Overall Organic downloads minus Organic downloads from the Search Channel from the previous period = Cannibalized downloads.

4. Calculate incremental downloads

Subtract the cannibalized downloads from the new downloads from ASA. This will give you the number of incremental downloads.

  • Cannibalized downloads minus New Downloads from ASA = Incremental downloads.

5. Calculate the incremental rate

Divide the incremental downloads by the number of new downloads from ASA, then multiply that number by 100. This will give you the incremental rate.

  • Incremental downloads divided by New Downloads from ASA * 100 = Incremental rate.
App Store Download

6. Determine cannibalization risk

Use the above data to calculate the level of cannibalization risk.

  • On the one hand, if the organic uplift is lower than expected or negative, it could indicate cannibalization, i.e., the paid promotion is resulting in users who would have found the app organically anyway, leading to a reduction in organic installs of the app.
  • On the other hand, a high incremental rate is a sign that you’re at low risk of cannibalization. 

7. Optimize App Store listings

  • Use the data to optimize the app store listing, targeting more specific keywords, unique features, or audiences to minimize cannibalization and maximize incrementality.

Key Takeaways

Measuring cannibalization and incrementality is a complex process that requires expertise in mobile app marketing and ASO. To do this successfully, app owners should consider working with a mobile marketing agency that specializes in ASO and can offer dedicated services to measure cannibalization risks and optimize their app store listings. 

  • With a data-driven approach and advanced analytics tools, an ASO agency can help you identify incremental installs, avoid cannibalization, and ensure maximum ROI for your mobile marketing efforts. So, if you’re an app owner who wants to stay ahead of the competition and achieve better app store ranking, don’t hesitate to hire an ASO agency today and optimize your app for success!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is cannibalization in ASO?

Cannibalization in ASO occurs when multiple apps from the same developer or company compete for the same keywords or audience, resulting in lower app performance and user acquisition. It can have a negative impact on organic traffic and app visibility, ultimately leading to lower revenue opportunities.

How can you accurately measure cannibalization in ASO?

You can accurately measure cannibalization in ASO by analyzing the organic traffic of each app and identifying overlapping keywords, audience segments, and other ASO elements. 

What are some effective strategies to mitigate cannibalization in ASO?

To mitigate cannibalization in ASO, you can prioritize your app portfolio by focusing on each app’s unique value proposition and target audience. You can also optimize your ASO elements like titles, descriptions, and keywords to differentiate your apps and target different user segments. Furthermore, you can use paid media channels like Apple Search Ads (ASA) to drive traffic and conversions to specific apps while ensuring maximum relevancy for app ads through effective ASO strategies.

Why is ASA important for ASO?

ASA (Apple Search Ads) is important for ASO because it provides a paid media channel to drive traffic and conversions to specific apps while optimizing app metadata for maximum relevancy and improved overall performance. ASA can also complement ASO by targeting specific keywords and audiences through paid search ads, which can drive more mobile app visibility, downloads, and revenue. Therefore, combining ASA with ASO can provide a more comprehensive app promotion strategy to achieve better results and improve overall app performance.

Jessica Abbadia
Jessica Abbadia
Jessica is Moburst's ASO & CRO Specialist. She specializes in enhancing organic performance for apps and games all over the world, while actively developing innovative methods for increasing app visibility and conversion, as well as offering her vast knowledge for the benefit of the mobile community. She graduated from law school and now serves as an animal rights activist who also loves reading books while sipping a strong coffee and holding one - or more - of her three cats.
Sign up to our newsletter

Looking for something else? Growing together is so much faster!
Choose Service(s)(Required)

Related Articles