In a pay-to-play world, sometimes it’s what happens organically that’s most important.

And mobile marketers can influence that “organic” experience a heck of a lot with tools and best practices for app store optimization (ASO) that many app publishers overlook.

What can you achieve by optimizing for the right keywords? It depends on the specific keywords and competitive landscape you face. But veteran app store optimization entrepreneur Jai Jaisimha, of Appnique, said “we have seen apps go from not being in the top 100 to being ranked in the top 10 for important search keywords.”

In a new VentureBeat Insight report on app store optimization, analyst John Koetsier found that 70-80 percent of all mobile app installs occur organically — and it turns out these installers are among the most valuable customers you can hope to have in terms of lifetime value, user engagement, and customer life cycle.

While organic doesn’t equal “free” — since everything you do to incentivize and shepherd customers toward your app has a cost — it’s a significantly cheaper acquisition vehicle than paid installs, which for some high-value games can be well over $20 per user. Optimizing those “organic” installs with a blend of the right tools and tactics is absolutely critical to having a successful app.

However, as with any marketing strategy, a blended approach — paid supporting organic, in this case — turns out to produce the best results, which was a key finding in the study. In fact, 85 percent of app marketers said paid user acquisition efforts benefited organic, but only a third said “significantly” so.

paid-helps-organic

To build this report, VB Insight surveyed 475 marketers, about half of whom directly manage their organization’s apps. We also surveyed 522 consumers to learn more about their app download habits, and talked with leading app store optimization companies and experts. The report covers the key tactics to optimizing an app, offers a look at the future of app marketing, highlights costly rookie mistakes to avoid, explains which KPIs app marketers need to prioritize most, and offers advice on how to choose the right vendor to help your app’s rankings and visibility in the major app stores.

Standing out from the crowd is tough. Total app inventory was just 116,000 across both the iOS App Store and Google Play in 2009. In 2015, it’s 3.1 million, and by 2020, it will be 5.9 million. That’s a highly competitive marketplace, especially when there are so many apps that accomplish similar tasks.


App Store Optimization: Money for nothing and installs for free is available on VB Insight for $499 or free with your martech subscription


It also turns out that app store optimization is a completely different game for different major categories of mobile apps. “For brands, the install path is a step on a longer customer journey. Brands can do mobile user acquisition, certainly, but it will be more about what people can do through the app than what the app is per se,” explained analyst and author John Koetsier. “Most mobile user acquisition for brands is going to start in offline, web, social, or mobile brand interactions that foster a desire for greater engagement.”

Games and Utility apps, however — which make up a massive component of the Apple App Store and Google Play — can benefit more than brands from in-store optimization. Plenty of people search for games by type of game, for instance — or by what activity they’re trying to get their phone to do, rather than by the branded app’s name. And for that, you need a wholly different set of tools and strategy.

The report goes on to cover the future of ASO, and how apps integrate with one another, citing the example of Staples partnering with Uber’s delivery program to get your supplies sent straight to you. It also outlines how, as the app economy continues to grow, methods for optimizing those apps’ discovery continue to evolve.

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