Apple allows in-app purchases to appear in app store search results, but are they really the new “gold mine” for ASO? Our host Peggy Anne Salz welcomes back Dave Bell, CEO of Gummicube–a company offers a suite of software and services to drive decision making around mobile product development, mobile marketing and app store optimization–to talk about new developments impacting ASO. This episode looks at how you can optimize in-app purchase copy with relevant and enticing keywords and why Dave is convinced granularity and personalization are poised to be “the next big thing” hitting the app stores.
It’s always fun to be here, Peggy.
It’s an ongoing thing, we’re in our groove, that’s why you’re back because it’s about ASO but it’s more than that, you know. I mean, I’m calling it app market optimization, I’m calling it everything – is that the way you’re seeing it at Gummicube because I mean that is where you have your pedigree, you started in an ASO but I’m sure your clients are asking for much more now?
You know, ASO has a lot of different legs to the stool and I think with any industry, it starts out with kind of one element that sparks a broader discussion. Search is a very big element to ASO but when you look at the broader implications of what you’re trying to do, you’re really trying to make all of your marketing more efficient, right? The more better you do in search in the stores, the greater percentage of organics you have and the lower your effective CPIs or CPAs are, the better you have your app converting and you’ve optimized conversion, the more efficient all of your paid marketing is and then when you look at, you know, other aspects like paid search and all these other things that now tie into ASO, it’s definitely become a much bigger topic.
So I’m just curious, it is a bigger topic indeed but is the wider industry you speak a lot at events, you’re at a lot of events – have people understood that ASO is broader, bigger and more important than before, that it feeds into all of these areas of marketing?
I think companies are starting to understand that it’s very important, I think, you know, honestly one of the changes is that people tend to think of ASO in whatever context they first kind of engaged in that form of marketing. So you have people who think of ASO and their minds immediately go to search optimization, you have other people whose minds immediately go to conversion optimization and really aren’t experts in search, and then you have people on the paid side that just simply look at how do we improve yield on our media spend and the reality is it’s really a combination of all of those disciplines and I think kind of popping people out of their kind of groove, so to speak, and helping them understand how these things interact with each other to create better results in really important.
And that’s why we have you on the show, Dave, is because it’s also very important to understand what is myth, what is reality, what can you buy into, what should you maybe take with a grain of salt. So, we’re going to go through a couple more because you and I, we’re out there, we hear them all. I’m going to try a couple of things out on you that I’m hearing and then you’re going to tell me your perspective because it’s one thing to be looking from the outside in, it’s another to be embedded in it as you are, Dave, at Gummicube. So, let’s just think about a second about featuring because it started out actually the golden ticket, it was get your app featured and you’re set. And still, a lot of my colleagues, a lot of companies out there saying, you know, this is the way you can do it, this is the way you need to interact with the app store editors, at Apple App Store. I mean, it’s a big deal. Should it be that big of a goal for us, should it be our stretch goal in 2019, I want to get my app featured, then I’m home free?
So, you know, certainly from a brand perspective and from a perspective of you know being able to raise money and attract attention, if you’re a start-up, being featured is attractive. I think that for new apps, apps that consumers haven’t been exposed to before, if Apple or Google chooses to feature you, certainly you’re going to get a lot of exposure, you’ll see an initial bump in terms of downloads and growth but the challenge is a lot of people remember that first time that they’re being featured almost like people remember their first girlfriend or boyfriend and they think of it very fondly but as time goes on, the value of being featured degrades and that’s because as people become more familiar with your brand or product, you are effectively going to saturate a market. And when you think about app featuring in the store, the market that you’re saturating is actually very small because a majority of people who are going to the app store are searching for a particular thing that they’re looking for.
And so what we find is that, you know, as an app gets older, the value of an app feature almost linearly declines to a point where you could have a million, two millions views of your feature but only a couple of hundred downloads of your app and you’re kind of scratching your head, you know, why is that? If you look at very mature apps, you know, enterprise apps by large companies that have been out there for a long time that get featured all the time, what you find is that, you know, your search-based conversion might be 50 or 60% but after a few years, your app-based conversion for featuring might go as low as 5 or 6% for the millions of views that you get there, the downloads don’t equate.
I mean, that’s shocking, I’m just here thinking, wow, I don’t think anyone’s really done the maths on that. I mean, you have a lot of data over there at Gummicube, have you actually shown these diminishing returns, do we have numbers of these based on what you’re seeing or have seen with your clients?
Yes, yes, no, it is based on what we see with our clients and we have literally thousands of apps plugged into our platform where we’re kind of an agency partner for hundreds of developers and we look at apps large and small, and the trend of what we see is that, you know, if you have a really good app and a compelling story and it converts well, that first or second time you’re featured can be an interesting way to get your app in the eyes of the public and it helps from a perception standpoint. But it truly declines after that. When people see your app over and over and over again, it’s almost like seeing a product that you already know about in the end cap of Walmart or Target and you know you’re not really interested in it and you continue to walk by it.
You know, I always like to use this analogy of the App Store being like a store, literally like a Macy’s or like a Target, and the reason that Macy’s and Target change what is in their store windows and rotate what is on their end caps is because you have a market size, right, in that store and if people see you over and over again and they’ve already decided not to download your app or perhaps they’ve already downloaded your app, the effectiveness of that display goes down over time and so does the revenue.
So, you know, as an app grows older, it is even more important to focus on user intent, to focus on search, to focus on finding where your audience is that converts very well because people that might just see you on a feature, they’re not really your audience. What you’re effectively doing is looking at a big ocean, scraping kind of the cream or the foam off the top that appears when the waves form and everybody else is just casually browsing or looking for someone else, or something else.
So, what would you say, just as a wrap up, it’s obvious that as you get older, you have to do more, it’s almost like real life, isn’t it, you have to do more to get more attention out there. You have to, you know, put yourself, do a makeover, I don’t know. Here it’s about understanding again to be top of mind. Now, search is discoverability, they’re intertwined as we’ve discussed on earlier shows – is there a specific approach to what you need to be maybe looking at as keywords or approaches because you sort of want to be present but you might not want to spend a bundle on it and it might not pay to do that either.
Yes, so, generally speaking when you’re thinking about search in the App Store and Play Store, you know, think of it more like an e-commerce exercise than a web search exercise. You know, people in mobile are not conducting information-paced searches in the App Store and Play Store, they’re looking for products and features and things to solve problems. And so, look at your feature set and look at how people might naturally try to discover that feature set, go after those keywords, don’t limit yourself to, you know, head terms or single words that you might perceive to be more competitive because the reality is in mobile, people don’t search the same way as on the web and those featured-based terms are very, very valuable.
The other thing I would say is if you don’t have a lot of money to spend of if you have no budget, you know, consider stretching a little bit, consider looking at things like paid search or Apple search ads because when you look at anywhere you might spend money on marketing, the platforms that Apple and Google control, search ads and Google ads, have the greatest impact indirectly on your organic visibility. They can actually help you in some ways if you’re running ASO and you’re running those programs side by side. Facebook ads, ad networks, they’re not going to help you the same way because they’re not part of Apple and Google’s ecosystem.
So, there are ways to improve your results, there are ways to do it in a targeted fashion so you don’t have to have a huge budget but you really have to know what you’re doing and you have to understand that your ASO is your foundation to that process and then you can build from there. Don’t rely on Apple to randomly decide to feature you one day.
That is actually for the t-shirt I think – don’t rely on Apple, listeners, you know, you have to think for yourself here and we have to go to a break but as you can see, there’s loads more advice, lots more that you need to listen into so don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and my guest today, Dave Bell, CEO at Gummicube. Dave, love these sessions where we just knock ‘em out and knock ‘em down, so I’ve got another one for you. Thinking about something that I’m seeing a lot of as a strategy, gaining, I think, momentum – the question is should it, and that’s the whole idea that, you know, it’s okay, we don’t need to really optimise conversion, conversion optimisation rather because the whole idea is you’re seeing the display, you’re seeing what you need and that’s brand and that’s great. I mean, is that what branded companies, what brands, what companies should be doing or is there a different approach that makes more sense?
Yes, so I would say this – I think that brand equity can be important but it’s only important to the extent that consumers discover you naturally on whatever platform that they’re using and historical experience that one might have from web or other digital marketing is not necessarily applicable in mobile – mobile really changed the landscape in that companies who truly understand mobile user behavior and how people discover apps have been able to upstage large brands almost in every category of the App Store.
You know, if you look at finance and investing, you have apps like Betterment and Stash that are outranking and performing better than your typical kind of retail investment properties like Merryl Lynch or Schwab, and I think that that’s true in every category of the App Store. You’re dealing with different competitors, competitors that understand this ecosystem and understand how to take advantage of it better than someone who just comes perhaps with a brand marketing–only approach. That’s not to say brands aren’t important, brands are important but you have to understand that when you’re in the App Store or Google Play, you kind of – you still have to play by those rules. Look at retail, right, every quarter or maybe even more frequently, Macy’s is changing what is in their store window. In the App Store, it’s even more aggressive than that – you have categories where individual applications are making incremental or sometimes major changes to their screen shots or app videos every two or three weeks, and they’re doing that because they realize that few percent improvement they get every month at the end of the year adds up to a very big number. They also realize the better they convert, the better rankings they have.
You could launch an incredible brand with an incredible app, perform well for a month and then your competitors could discover that, you know what, we have a better call to action, we’ve discovered a better layout for our creative, we’re speaking to users in a better way, more people are converting and you’re going to watch your rankings decline while your mobile-only competitors get more market share than you.
And so it’s important to understand how the stores work.
So, what do you – I mean, I guess the message here is App Stores never sleep, or something like that, or conversion optimization is not a set it and forget it which seems on the face of it very logical but what would you say, and I think we’ve talked about this before as well, I mean as a baseline, how often do I need to be paying attention to this, changing it around, mixing it up, because as you said, my mobile-first brand rivals aren’t sleeping, even in that area, there’s a lot of competition but then there’s, you know, the mobile against the web, as you mentioned in finance. So I guess the question is, what is the baseline, what do I have to do in order to be relevant and hold onto what I’ve got?
So, what everyone needs to keep in mind is that Apple or Google are determining your rank literally by looking at your click through rate or conversion rate on each individual keyword and if you’re performing great one week and then the following week you see declines and a particular competitor is advancing on you, it’s because they’ve started to convert better than you, not simply because they’re sending more traffic to their app.
And so, you know, every time your competitors run experiments, they are potentially going to leapfrog where you are. From a best practices standpoint, we advise people to always be testing, set it and forget it is not a strategy, it is a way to become a dinosaur. And so, you have to constantly look at your value proposition, your new features, what users are searching for in the store, layouts that works for your competitors – analyse that data and use it to make decisions.
I think someone has been going around saying something like, you know, consume voraciously a huge amount of data all the time, don’t worry about what data it is, just consume data. Well, you know, you’ve got to actually worry about the data you consume. If you aren’t paying attention to the right data, if you’re not analyzing what your competitors are doing and reaching good conclusions from that for your own tests, it’s like having dinner every night and eating M&Ms instead of healthy food – it doesn’t make sense.
I mean, that’s a great point because I’ve heard it at conferences as well, it was devour data daily is the advice, you know, if you’re a performance marketer, you’re an app marketer, you need to look at the data – everywhere you go. It’s almost like someone’s pulling a string – what do you need to do? Look at your data. Your data will tell you, the data is everything. But, you know, we look at it as if it’s like this big chunk of e-data, it’s all correct, it’s all on the mark – that isn’t the case, you know, now I’m starting to hear a discussion about data hygiene that I really welcome for a change because as your point is, bad data, bad outcomes.
With that in mind and this new mindset around data that it’s not just the data, give me some idea of some best practice around it because data feeds successful ASO but not all the data.
Yes, that’s correct and I think understanding – I always say this, right, understanding where your data comes from and also how to interpret or value the data that you’re receiving is really important. You know, I love to give this analogy but there’s this famous story, there is a game developer, one day they decided to put a power-up in their game and it looked like a pineapple and once they put that in, it appeared that their active users and their revenue per user went up significantly. And so, management said “This is what the data’s telling us, let’s put pineapples everywhere in the game” and of course that didn’t pan out, right?
So, you’ve got to know how to look at the data, you’ve got to understand that if you’re looking at, for example, data from Apple Search Ads, looking at popularity scores, you’re looking at data for day traders, not data for people who are looking to hold long. There’s a difference between strategies that you might implement for search ads and how you might make choices for ASO.
If you’re looking at data that comes from the web, frankly you should just throw it in the trash bin, it doesn’t apply to mobile and anyone who says it does is wrong. You know, when you’re thinking about conversion optimisation, really important to understand your category and the keywords you’re going after, really important to understand how your competitors may have evolved their positioning in the store over time because what we find, and this is very quantitative 95% of the time when someone’s ranking declines on one keyword they care about, it’s declining on a group of keywords that are related where a competitor or two competitors are uniformly starting to rank better and most of the time it’s something as simple as they updated their screenshots, they’re getting a greater share of clicks and now we have to do something about it.
And so, it’s not random, it’s not about throwing spaghetti against the wall, it’s about understanding what the data is you’re looking at, where it comes from, understanding how you use different data in different ways and insisting on using data that’s valuable for the app stores, this concept of scraping public data and interpreting it is ridiculous.
What else raises a red flag with you about the data? I mean, okay, web is not relevant to mobile, we know that one because you search differently, different search behavior on mobile. If you’re looking at web behavior, close but no cigar as far as that goes – that’s a way to look at the tools side of the equation but looking at that data again, you know, what else is it where you would say to one of our listeners, you know, just don’t act immediately on that one, take a moment?
Yeah, so, what I would say is that when you’re looking at data and you as an app developer or publisher or company building an application, probably you have a lot of experiences in the App Store and searching yourself and you have a lot of knowledge about your own user behaviour in the store and while what you download particularly for your needs maybe biased to your needs, your user behaviour likely reflects other mobile user behaviours. And so separate kind of what you’re looking for in your preferences from how you go about doing it.
If what you’re seeing in tools, if the advice that you’re getting or changing your creative and how that process works doesn’t really jive with what might make sense to you as a user who’s looking for a product in the stores, it’s probably wrong and, you know, it’s very – it’s a very, I think in my mind, a simple process to kind of go through in your mind and I think a lot of people have started to realize that – they look at some of the recommendations coming from tools, they look at recommendations coming from perhaps even creative companies about how to make beautiful layouts for the App Store but not considering that people are using this word and not that word to find your app and the value proposition is all wrong on the screenshots.
We’ve seen in our business that something as simple as ensuring you’re using the words that users try to discover your app with when they search, having that value proposition structured correctly in your screenshots, can be anywhere from a 10 to a 30% improvement in conversion. So you can’t just randomly pick words, you can’t just randomly do something like you’re putting a layout together in a magazine – you need to understand what those building blocks are.
Yes, and 10 to 30, that is nothing to overlook, that’s quite an increase there. And, Dave, I hate it, we have to go to a break again, but listeners, as you can see, it’s an exciting, interesting and very candid discussion, lots to learn, lots to listen to, don’t go away, we’ll be right back after the break.
Welcome back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and we have Dave Bell, CEO at Gummicube. And Dave, you know, we’re looking into the new year, it’s still not – it’s not old and we’ve come across – you know, there’s been Mobile World Congress and many other shows telling us, you know, this is foldables, that was the big deal at Mobile World Congress, 5G, another big one, we’re still sort of understanding new devices coming out and Apple – everything is changing but amongst all of those trends, maybe we’ll just focus in on one or two. Let’s take foldables – foldables – why do I care if I'm an app marketer or if I’m focused on ASO, what does this mean for me?
So, I think that we are actually entering a period of hardware innovation in mobile, it’s been very stagnant over the last ten years, I think, since the iPhone came out, everything has been a version of the original iPhone, just bigger or faster or with some different features on it, but I think foldables really kind of changed the game and I think that obviously what Samsung is doing is very early, they’re kind of taking two Galaxys and putting them on top of each other but... the idea that you can go from small screen to big screen and have a very different experience is going to change I think the kind of apps that people consume.
I think that it’s going to open up possibilities for apps that might have been best in the format of an iPad or a tablet device that all of a sudden now have a much larger market and I think that’s going to change what monetizes best. I think it’s going to open up great opportunities for developers who understand the larger form factor but were previously limited to a much smaller segment of the market.
So, I think it’s going to open things up in really interesting ways and it’s going to be interesting to see I think what Apple does with the technology now that the actual components have been introduced to do some interesting things.
So, it’s going to be a different experience, am I going to have more to do as an app marketer, am I going to say, “Oh it wasn’t just optimizing for X, Y and Z, now I’ve got more things, more variables to watch”. Does it give me more work or is it just opportunity at this point?
Well, I think it gives you, I think to some extent it gives you more to do and more to think about because all of a sudden you have features that for 70% of your audience would not be usable or relevant that now are. And so, you know, you have the opportunity I think to build much more robust apps perhaps, you know, more desktop-grade apps for mobile devices that will be accessible for a much larger audience.
I’m going to use a gaming analogy, right? You know, when you think about games like realtime strategy games, like Warcraft and Starcraft and those kind of games, right, they’ve been successful but one of the challenges those developers have is that they’re such a better fit for a device with a larger screen and so you almost have to limit yourself on what you can do on a phone because you know that only 30 or 40% of the market has a tablet, the tablet users are a little less active than the mobile users but now that opportunity really opens up. I think you’re going to see kind of a merging of greater features and functionality with developers who know you’re not limited to just the one screen on your device.
Quick one for you because it was just everywhere, everything I had to write about Mobile World Congress, before, during and after - 5G – it was all about high speed, it’s going to change everything, we’re just going to be a video addicted audience, it’s going to change everything we know. That may not come to pass but we certainly do have speeds that will allow that, of course, that might mean more video in my app, in my ads – it’s what I need to look at and optimise. What’s the impact of 5G in your opinion?
I think that – I mean, on a surface level, there will definitely be more video and more robust video but I actually think that what this changes is developers’ ability to evolve their apps and functionality rapidly without submissions to the App Store and Play Store. I think that, you know, what Google is rumored to be introducing at the Game Developers’ Conference, the GDC, this year, completely kind of cloud-based game console where it’s running somewhere else and you’re just playing it on a terminal – you know, those kind of things with high speed in mobile mean that your app that you’re downloading becomes an access point and all the functionality can be built on the back end, even for complex apps.
And I think that gives developers a ton of functionality, I think it gives them a lot of flexibility, I think it presents challenges in terms of how Apple and Google police their stores - to be very honest, it’s hard for Apple and Google to disallow companies from having back end services, all apps require those but what happens when the back end service becomes the app and your phone is just your viewport?
So, I think there’s a lot of innovation there and I think that there’s probably a gateway to much more rapid innovation there especially on a platform like mobile where you don’t have the constant bantering of do I want a physical copy or a download?
Fascinating trends up and ahead, and I think our next show, Dave, we’re going to be looking at indies, we’re going to look at what’s going to happen when you want to optimize your app, the idea did you have to have a big budget – you are of the opinion in a word, what is your opinion – do you need to be big to win big?
You don’t need to be big to win, you just need to be smart.
There you go. Well, that’s why you’re going to come back so listeners, look for it – Dave will be back and in the meantime, how do they stay in touch with you, Dave, how do they keep up with you, maybe also some of your blogs, I’ve been reading them, quite good ones over there – what’s the best way?
Yes, so we’re at gummicube.com, we’ve got a blog up there with great information, we update it every day with posts about what’s going on in the industry. We’re on Facebook and Twitter, @gummicube, on LinkedIn at Gummicube, and of course you can always reach out to me, I’m just firstname.lastname@example.org.
Absolutely, and listeners, if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, email@example.com, Mobile Groove is where you can find my portfolio of app marketing and content marketing services.
And of course if you can check out this and earlier episodes of our show by going to webmasterradio.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence. So friends, until next time – remember - every minute is mobile, so make every minute count. We’ll see you soon.