Until fairly recently, brands’ strategies for influencing their app’s iOS App Store ranking mainly focused on app store optimisation (ASO). That changed in October 2016, when Apple launched Search Ads for apps hosted in the US App Store.

For the first time ever, US-facing brands can now pay to promote their iOS app in search results. App store advertising (ASA) can be used today by land-based casinos and social casinos across the States, along with real-money iGaming brands in Nevada and New Jersey. Advance deposit wagering (ADW) sites for horse racing in over 35 US states and daily fantasy sports (DFS) brands can also take advantage.

Although currently unavailable in the European market, that is likely to change this year. For US gaming brands with an app and for European operators preparing for Apple’s roll-out of Search Ads in regional App Stores, we look at how ASA will change app store marketing.

The Challenges of ASO

Space in the App Store is increasingly competitive – as of January 2017, over 2.2 million downloadable iOS apps exist. In this environment, using keyword optimisation alone to raise an app’s ranking is a challenge.

Even if a brand’s ASO strategy drives an App Store user to their app page, players decide whether they want to download an app or not within seconds. They also tend to favour the apps of brands they recognise, however engaging an app page’s screenshots, video previews and copy. It can be difficult for smaller and mid-tier brands with apps to build installs from ASO alone.

How ASA will overcome the current limitations of ASO

When gaming brands use Search Ads, they raise the visibility of their apps to users, as they will feature at the top of search results for relevant keywords. This increases app discovery and, by extension, tap-through to app pages, where brands’ asset optimisation will kick in.

ASA is more effective for rapidly raising installs and search rankings than long-term ASO. Let’s recall that install counts are a major App Store algorithm ranking factor, according to Moz’s research. Brands will therefore be able to use ASA to raise their ranking before reducing ad spend and relying on ASO, which is more cost-effective in the long term. As well as new and lesser-known apps, ASA also proves effective for those whose downloads have stagnated.

Higher Search Ranking

Brands shouldn’t forget that 65% of new apps are discovered through App Store searches. Keyword optimisation also feeds into ASA, which relies on an app’s metadata (title, description, etc.) to determine its relevance.

Overall, ASA allows brands to benefit from a positive feedback cycle. As their App Store ranking increases through advertising, they build more installs, which leads to a higher App Store ranking, which, once again, leads to more installs.

Targeting

When it is inevitably rolled-out in the UK App Store, brands will be able to target specific, underperforming player demographics for their apps, such as age and gender. For example, sportsbooks will be able to aim their campaigns directly at younger football fans or older horse-racing punters, or target as specifically as 18 to 30-year-old female tennis fans.

Search Ads also provides app marketers with data on specific keywords, which is not offered by ASO. Arguably, it is worth running Search Ads campaigns for this data alone.

The Affiliate Channel

Affiliates can support brands’ ASA campaigns via their own sites and through their own apps and use of Search Ads. Their own campaigns will indirectly support brands’ app installs. After all, as discussed by Kissmetrics, 16% of iOS apps are discovered via third-party websites such as affiliate sites.

As well as being key to app discovery, they will also be important for the more sophisticated marketing approach of the future, which will combine ASA with ASO.

Looking Ahead…

Search Ads will grow into a powerful marketing tool for customer acquisition and retention, as well as helping affiliates to support their partners in these fields. ASA and ASO will help brands improve their app discovery and raise installs and overall player acquisition, resulting in the brand’s app installs and reputation increasing simultaneously.

Looking to develop your own mobile marketing strategy? Reach out to our Marketing Services Team to discuss using our App Store marketing services and leveraging our Mobile App-Tracking tool