Category vs. Keyword App Store Optimization

When a client comes to me with the goal of being ranked #1 in their app store category, I always discuss other strategies that may be cheaper, more targeted, and longer lasting.

Browsing vs. Search

When your goal is to reach the top of your category, you are targeting consumers who are browsing, people who may not be sure what they want yet. You also may be targeting people who are looking for apps completely different than your own. For example, in the Music category, you have a wide variety of apps. Streaming services, instruments and games from developers like Smule, recording apps, guitar tuners, and unique apps like Shazam. If you target the category, you are casting a wide net.

Search is specific. Keywords allow you to pinpoint the consumers most likely to be engaged, loyal users of your app. Think of the difference between browsing in the Music category and typing in “tuner” as your search. The relevancy of a guitar tuner app is much higher for that keyword than it is in the category generally. When you combine this with the fact that around 2/3 of app downloads originate in search, you are focusing your attention to both the source of highest probable quality and volume.

Slippery vs. Sticky

If you are at the top of your category because you are one of the giants, you are likely to stay there until the next unicorn comes to dethrone you. But if you achieve a top categorical ranking through a burst media buying strategy, your ranking will drop as soon as you stop spending money. Your rank will fall as quickly as it rose, in fact. This is because category rankings are slippery, based so heavily on volume that the organic lift alone isn’t likely to stabilize the rank.

Through keyword ASO, you can create rankings that are stickier. Why? Because keyword rankings depend on relevance. When a consumer searches for a term, they are 5-6x more likely to download the first result than other apps in the top 10. So if you are able to achieve a #1 ranking, your organic download volume relative to other apps returned by that same search, and your relevancy can lock your ranking. It’s a virtuous circle.

In the Crowd vs. Head of the Line

Over 90% of apps are classified as “undiscoverable.” This is to be expected with over 4.5MM apps across the two dominant app stores.

Apps need category strategies, but I am increasingly pushing clients to keyword strategies that deliver higher, more lasting returns as part of their holistic acquisition strategy. Being in the top ten of your category is great, but you are still just an app in the crowd. It is also not sustainable for the vast majority of apps. Keywords allow apps to be at the head of the line where it matters most, where relevancy and intent with consumer intersect.

A couple of final thoughts to consider:

  • Relevancy matters, but so do app reviews. Keep your average rating high to increase your stickiness.
  • Apple Search is a new development, but we are already seeing great success on behalf of our clients. Even though the ads appear above the search results, think of it as secondary to being #1 in the search. It is marked as an ad and so will not carry the same amount of trust as an organic result.

App Data Sharing for the Win

Data is effective only when it is shared with those who can act on it.

In the blistering pace of mobile advertising, this means it is critical to share data across partnerships. I am generally pleased to see the industry embrace this concept, with analytics central to the discussions I have with smart marketers every day.

Share What You Care About

But every so often, we encounter an advertiser who is not passing us post-install events. There are a variety of reasons this may be:

  • The advertiser believes that the data is proprietary
  • The app is tracked through a platform that doesn’t support multiple events
  • The advertiser lacks resources to set up the post-install tracking correctly
  • The app has ill-defined engagement metrics and goals

“We’ll send you our engagement metrics in 7 days,” they might say, that being their cohort. If they are recording source and sub-source IDs correctly (fingers crossed), the campaign can be optimized in a week. Optimizing creatives, CTR, or installs does not make much sense, as positive trends there might not correlate to what the advertiser really wants: the engagement represented by that post-install event.

This is how partnerships fail and budget is wasted. Share the registration, the purchase, or engagement that is the ultimate measure of success and ROI. If hotel and car bookings are more valuable than flights, separate the three and share that insight.

This allows partners to act proactively on your behalf, to shut down tests that are not working and to scale quality sources.

No Surprises

The flip side is that your partners need to provide you with everything you need – a real-time dashboard, scheduled reports, reports that feed into any analytic platform you might use, and the data points that are actionable to you. The first two contact points for data are the tracking and analytics platforms you use and what’s passed in the tracking URL.

Tracking and analytics platforms each have their own SDKs and methodologies, each of which has their own advantages. We’re agnostic as a partner, and are integrated into each and every platform an advertiser brings our way. Features and cost benefits vary by advertiser. Each platform has its advantages, from Appsflyer to Kochava to Tune. That said, one advantage of a platform like Tune (full disclosure, Adperio is a Tune client) is that it connects a pure mobile platform like the Tune Marketing Console with a pure tracking platform like Tune’s HasOffers. This allows server-to-server sharing of data too sensitive to communicate over URLs, like cost data. This is the foundation of their Tune Certified Partner program, a certification that has established best practices regarding the data and the accuracy of data passed back to advertisers.

As far as the tracking URL goes, we have a client that we have been working on a “URL audit” together for seven months, not because we are not making progress, but because we make continual progress, constantly evolving in terms of what data is critical to pass through the link. The options are myriad: source, sub-source, creative, size, promotional method, attribution elements, and so on. A key for advertisers, in my mind, is to collect data but to focus on single points of information at a time for optimization. Tests where too many variables are being analyzed only adds noise and uncertainty as to what made the campaign successful.

The takeaway is that true partnerships, which are defined by shared goals and collaboration, require shared data. Starting the relationship without this foundation sets it up for failure. If a new partner is not insisting on visibility into your goals, then you should be reluctant to launch a campaign with said partner. If a new partner has visibility into your goals and does not take proactive measures to optimize your budgets, you should terminate that relationship. We’re all in this together. With rising CPIs and more distribution options than ever before, advertisers in the crowded mobile ecosystem have steep challenges. Distribution partners have a choice between burning budgets and relationships or offering the expertise and services to establish long term relationships and rolling budgets. The foundation is the same as it was in kindergarten: sharing.

Still Thriving after All the Years

I was pleasantly surprised to find Adperio featured in Built in Colorado’s 15 Colorado Tech Companies Thriving for More than 15 Years this week. That honor actually sells us a bit short though, as we will celebrate our 22nd year this July. But what does it mean to have this kind of longevity as a company?

Experience

First, the stats: Over 70% of our team have been with us for more than three years. Close to 30% have been with Adperio for over seven years. Impressive retention, sure, and a lot of years under our belt. That’s not just digital experience that benefits our clients, it’s also a team that has worked and grown together over the years. We’re a family tested and conditioned to leverage all of our individual strengths and insights to make a whole that is stronger than its parts.

Adaptability

Less than 1% of all businesses last 22 years. We’ve beaten the odds through adaptability and learning from each new phase of our industry. We were at the dawn of digital advertising when there was only desktop. Now we are a mobile-first company delivering acquisition to some of the most disruptive brands and addictive games in the world. We rode every wave of evolution in digital marketing, and each – especially the boom of Facebook gaming in the early part of the decade – informs how we approach mobile.

Diversification

The years have also meant time to develop new products and services, and this may be our greatest advantage as we work with our advertiser and publisher partners. We understand our advertisers’ needs because we have been and are an advertiser ourselves. Same on the publisher side of the business. Years mean developing technologies and teams that support our mission to deliver quality installs, such as custom compliance tools. In addition, we have spun off wholly new divisions to meet the complex ecosystem of advertiser needs, like Ignite, our OPM, and Adperio Media.

Perspective

While Adperio has always been an active participant in the evolution of digital media, we also know that each subsequent wave moves faster than the last. Each is embedded with the accumulated knowledge of what came before. Combined with new tools and technologies, we have insight into engagement and retention metrics like never before. We are mobile experts not only because we were in mobile from the beginning, but because we were here before mobile. And all the advancements and the speed of the industry means it never feels old. It never feels like 22 years. Every day feels new.

Matthew Lord, Chief Strategy Officer, Adperio Talks Mobile Acquisition

What is Adperio and how are you positioned in the market?

Adperio is a mobile acquisition partner. We plan and build customized programs for our clients by putting ourselves in their shoes. What are their goals? Is it an app launch? Full-scale acquisition? What are the post-install goals? What do the next six months look like? The next year? We use all of that information to decide what channels and strategies to test first. Our Account Management team is great and have a phrase they live by, which is that they operate as an “outsourced internal team” for our clients. It’s that kind of perspective that differentiates us.

Some other players in the ecosystem act like people on Tinder. We are in it for the long-term relationship.

 

What types of clients do you work with?

We work with all kinds of apps, from the big names to smaller indie devs just getting started. Our clients span a wide range of app categories, but have certain qualities in common. A desire to acquire new and engaged users, an openness to testing in order to find the right media balance, and a strong emphasis on protecting their brand while scaling.

I personally enjoy working with lifestyle apps. From the perspective of acquisition, you can be a little more creative. Who needs a travel app? Well, you can build consideration just by targeting people getting hammered with a rough winter. For one of the sports betting apps, we found we could drive the highest engagement through that app’s affinity with the casino game category.

What geographies are you focused on and where are you seeing the most growth?

We’ve see success in all the big markets, but the US and Europe continue to dominate, driven by our clients’ budgets and growth strategies. Australia’s been great for some app soft-launches. We’ve also had success in Latin America, India, etc. The exciting thing is, we have the supply for any geo around the world.

What are your main tips for successful mobile user acquisition?

Set goals and track everything. Don’t be afraid to test, but test quickly. Find the stories in the data. Treat channels and sources distinctly: compare, but set pricing and goals appropriate to each. Work with people you enjoy. Acquisition is a 24/7 business and if you’re not having fun, you’ll get burned out.

TUNE announces second round of Certified Partners

Mobile marketing company TUNE announced its TUNE Certified Partner Program in August 2015 and added the first wave of certified partners. Designed to make it easier for advertisers to find partners who support industry mobile marketing best practices, TUNE noted a 30% improvement of best practice adoption within three month of the launch of its programme.

The company says it has received over 75 applications from ad partners wanting to become Certified Partners.

A second wave of partners was recently announced, certified and ready to help marketers acquire, retain and engage app users. They include:

  • Adperio
  • Chartboost
  • Fyber
  • IconPeak
  • Opera Mediaworks
  • Phunware
  • Pocket Media
  • Surikate

Digital advertisers Adperio bolsters anti-fraud toolkit with AppVault launch

Digital advertising company Adperio has boosted its anti-fraud toolkit with the launch of AppVault. Currently in beta, it joins Adperio’s existing PixelVault fraud prevention technology, which was launched last year.

Designed for mobile developers and brands, AppVault watches over active app install campaigns to ensure the data collected is accurate and trustworthy. It does this using a variety of tools, including those which single out aggressive ad tactics, watch for rebrokering, and finally, control sources which the system suspects of blending incentivised traffic.

Matthew Lord, VP of product and tech at Adperio, said:

“Adperio has always given our clients a wide variety of brand safety and fraud protection services. AppVault is an exciting new product that allows us to share this compliance-focused data directly with mobile advertisers.”

David Porteous, director of global sales, added:

“AppVault saves our advertisers valuable bandwidith by policing campaigns for them. It’s one more way Adperio can help protect their marketing spend.”

Adperio has worked in online advertising for 20 years, and specialises in buying media for companies listed in the Fortune 1000, particularly in mobile, social, and display.