24 Months Later: What I have learned about ASO

Decided to share the intro of my new book ASO bible 😉 Enjoylessons-learned
When I started ASO, I never expected that this new world was going to create so much buzz and go in so many different directions.
During the last 24 months, I have seen ASO go from “I have no idea what this word is” to “I may try this” to “This made the difference between success or not”.
In reality, ASO is just another process, but as a new process it usually gets judged fast and ruthlessly by a community that is tired of spending big fortunes to receive pennies as part of their investment.
ASO is easy, but at the same time it requires a different frame of mind than other types of marketing approaches.
We are used to marketing processes where we pay, and we obtain a result.
We love the word ROI, and ROI in ASO can be difficult to identify when the process we take is, in fact, a “process”.

This is like climbing Kilimanjaro… you don’t do it in 1 day, doesn’t matter how fit you are.
ASO stands for App Store Optimization and the vital part to understand is that the word “optimization” means in itself an infinite process…
When do you really finishing optimizing something that is always evolving?
Your app evolves with the needs of your clients and with new changes in technology.
If you optimized an app 2 years ago and left it there accumulating dust… well, it is time to realize that your app may no longer be optimized today.
So the key is not the App Store itself, the key is optimization… and to optimize we need to identify factors and challenges that sometimes may be daunting to assimilate and to accept.
Sometimes the rules of the game are not fair. Sometimes the rules are created to benefit the wrong part of the industry and sometimes the creators of the rules make stupid moves that, instead of improving the ecosystem, end up screwing the little player.
So we need to “get it”, we need to understand that it’s not fair and that it is not supposed to be fair. In my opinion, the App Store is not so different from the stock market in New York or a fish market on the coast of Tanzania.
It is, in fact, a market. People bargain, people hustle, some items sell faster and some items never sell…
Only the winners adapt and only the market decides. The rest is up to us to figure out.
Here’s why the App Store is insane – and why do I love it.
The App Store is a reflection of human stupidity, of humanity’s dreams, of what we spend our time on… the app store gives us an overview of what people do while they are at home, when they want their kids to shut up in a plane, when they feel lonely and even how they spend their “leisure” time in the bathroom while they look at their iPhone.
In the App Store, the brilliant apps are not always the top ranking apps. Smart, educational apps – apps that help us improve our life – don’t get rewarded with top ranking.

The reason?

Users don’t seek those apps. Instead they seek apps that, at a glance, are silly; addictive, semi-stupid…
We want to beat our friend’s record in the latest Flappy Bird clone, we want to be entertained… We use apps as a way to escape, to stop thinking about the “real world”…
As users, we celebrate when we achieve a new level in Candy Crush Saga and we really believe that if we pay 0.99 for the next in-app purchase our racing car REALLY WILL go faster in our latest F1 racing car “free app”.

We become zombies when we use apps
… we don’t really question our sense of time… and even if we use apps for just productive reasons (yeah right) the reasons that make us download apps are sometimes 100% irrational.
We click on yellow icons vs. green icons and we don’t know why, nor do we care.
We believe we are in control of the things that we discover in the app store and we don’t even wonder why we can never find those apps that we really want to find.

The app store is a mess …

Amazing quality and an army of crappy apps live in the same jungle and it is our job to be able to “figure out” what works.
So why, when things are so chaotic, are things so great at the same time?
Well, call me crazy… but when companies like Rovio, EA games, or Zynga, with boring corporate decision makers (sorry guys), get beat by a kid in Vietnam launching Flappy Birds… I can’t stop loving how the ecosystem works.

Does it make sense?
Is it normal?
What? Normal???
Yes… the normality of a market IS that is unpredictable.
Corporations can’t predict human stupidity for a game that is plainly absurd. There is nothing genius about it… in the same way that apple pie is nothing really amazing but everyone seems to be eating it for the last… hmm, 1000 years…

So why so much Chaos?

Well…. The 100% unexpected results of the app factors.
Nobody expected this app idea to boom as it has. Nobody expected the app store to have a SEARCH problem… nobody expected people to make money just from apps.

  • Apps selling for billions of dollars?
  • Apps achieving 8-figure downloads?


This wasn’t in anyone’s plan.

And without plans the rules of how the app store behaves clearly weren’t defined or planned accordingly.planb
That’s why chaos rules in the app store… Just like new economies and industries take years to mature and find balance, the app store seems to suffer the same phenomenon. Too many options, too many people trying to get a piece of the action… too many opportunities to push the rules and experiment with what works – and what doesn’t work.
And that represents an interesting time to be involved in the jungle of app marketing, my friends.
Because once we understand how this jungle works, we can play the game with a better handicap to help us win.
And that is the purpose of this book, to layout the instruction manual for what I have seen working in this app world.
My goal is to focus on App Store Optimization by looking at the human part of ASO before going into the geek, nerdy world of tech talk.
We all know about code, we all know about stats, but search… search is done by humans and until we realize how humans search, how irrational human behavior is…. We will not be able to properly use the techniques and tools available.

So where do we start?

Before we start, we need to understand the biggest advantage of ORGANIC.
Organic is cool, haven’t you heard?
If you have organic milk you are healthier… and if you have organic traffic you are luckier than the guy with only in-organic traffic 😉 (I’ve always wanted to write that.)
So why is Organic important?
I talk about organic traffic in my video below:

Organic comes from nature, it’s natural.
People find your app because they want to, because “they” found it. When humans “find” things of their own will, they end up believing that the result, product or service that they found is based on their “own decision”, part of their own search process.
Funnily enough, little does the searcher know that results found during search are conditioned by variables and rules of search algorithms that provide us with those specific results. The Algorithm dictates this, not the user.
We all know that the user wants to find what they consider to be the best result, but even algorithms behave in erratic ways and the idea of providing the user with the “best result” is not only romantic but 100% hypothetical.
Measuring what is good for you versus what is good for me, based on a search term, is a hypothetical concept that is difficult to define or sustain.
So when the user “searches” and “finds” they tend to act differently based on the belief that this result was “achieved” thanks to their own actions. This change in perception, that they are in control of the result, makes organic a better converting type of traffic.
Now, paid traffic companies will tell you differently.
They will claim that users who click on ads tend to convert better than the “casual searcher” but the reality is that organic traffic is always going to bring more constant, cheaper and more efficient traffic than any traffic that clicks on an ad. But I guess that’s a different story.
So let’s start talking about ASO, shall we? (That’s why you bought this book, right?)