THE ASO BOOK (2018)

02. The App Store Optimization Stack

Before diving into the content, let’s take a moment to explore the App Store Optimization Stack (ASO Stack) a bit further. 

The ASO Stack is a cheat sheet for ASO practitioners that want to better understand what levers they can pull to improve their app store presence. Here we present a bird’s-eye view of the world of ASO, and throughout the chapters, we progressively unpack the stack, bringing the view down to the squirrel’s eye view. If you feel like getting more tactical,  follow one of the links to the rest of the book. 

In this book we aim to give you actionable guidance on how to effectively optimize each of the elements:

  •  Increase visibility: how to get your app in front of more people inside of the store. 
  • Increase conversion: how to convince people to download your app. 
  • Tools: how ASO tools can help you speed up and optimize your app store presence. 
  • Outside of store: what impact outside influencers have on ASO and how they overlap with your ASO work.
ASO Stack 2018 Edition
ASO Stack 2018 Edition. NB: The ASO Stack 2019 is available here

Phiture partner and former SoundCloud mobile growth lead Andy Carvell created the Mobile Growth Stack marketing framework to help apps develop a holistic mobile growth strategy. App developers, marketers and growth practitioners went on to use the framework for their day-to-day growth activities by color-coding the individual boxes.  

We built the standalone ASO Stack to offer ASOs the same convenience of a simple and lightweight framework that is updated regularly as the app stores change. You can always find the latest version of the ASO Stack on asostack.com. 

The Building Blocks of the ASO Stack 

The ASO Stack is divided into four main horizontal layers, which each contain a number of boxes: 

1 ) INCREASE VISIBILITY: HOW TO GET YOUR APP IN FRONT OF  MORE PEOPLE INSIDE OF THE APP STORE. 

The first goal when doing ASO is to increase your app’s visibility within the stores. You can do that by getting it in front of more people who are trying to discover new apps or games, or who are searching for a specific app title. Typical initiatives to increase visibility are keyword optimization, Search Ads (which are paid but also affect organic search),  getting a spot in the top charts of a category/country, or getting a Feature spot from Apple or Google. Each of these activities is symbolized by a box in the ASO Stack. These initiatives aimed at increasing visibility are covered in chapter  5 of this book.

2 ) INCREASE CONVERSION: HOW TO CONVINCE PEOPLE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR APP. 

The second layer of the ASO Stack deals with increasing conversions, which is required in order to turn new visitors into actual active users. Given that the algorithms of Apple and Google consider whether or not your app is able to convert visibility into users and reward those that can, improving your conversion rate will pay back into increased visibility as well. Typical conversion rate optimization activities are improving assets such as icons, screenshots, videos, copy, and providing high-quality localization.  

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) tactics are laid out in chapter 6 of this eBook including lots of examples for best practices as well as how iOS 11 affects CRO. 

Vertical boxes: In addition to the horizontal layers there are vertical columns describing store-related activities that impact both Visibility and Conversion alike: Ratings & Reviews, Localization, 3rd party stores (Android), and Black Hat tactics. 

3 ) TOOLS: HOW ASO TOOLS CAN HELP SPEED AND OPTIMIZE YOUR APP STORE PRESENCE. 

This third layer lists ASO tools that enable you to do ASO faster and more efficiently, as well as tools that help out where the app stores lack testing functionality or sufficient insights. 

We cover the most important ASO tools in chapter 11. We’ve also reached out to the providers of the tools for information on tool functionality, in order to give you the most updated information on each tool and its functionality.  

4 ) OUTSIDE OF THE STORE: WHAT IMPACT OUTSIDE INFLUENCERS HAVE ON ASO. 

Finally, there are things that have a strong impact on app store optimization, but are often of the actual scope of app store optimization. We cover these areas in the 12th chapter of the book. Notably, this includes product (engagement,  retention, etc.), context indexing, user acquisition, as well as the web search presence of an app (e.g. Google App  Packs).  

How to Apply the ASO Stack 

Similarly to the Mobile Growth Stack, you can work systematically through the ASO stack and apply color-coding to each element in order to create a report card on the current status of your ASO work. 

Example of a report card for an iOS app where the Android specific boxes are not applicable 
Example of a report card for an iOS app where the Android specific boxes are not applicable

Green—The activity is well-executed and producing a strong, measurable impact. 

Yellow—The activity is being executed, but with some difficulties. 

Red—The activity is failing to deliver satisfactory results, or isn’t measured properly. 

Gray— The activity is not applicable for your ASO strategy at the present time.  

Blue—More information is needed to determine whether this is worth pursuing for your ASO strategy. 

A report card will give you an idea of what you need to focus on next. Because ASO is a long-term play, nearly all of the different activities will influence one another.  

Better conversion rate will give you a better shot at increasing visibility. Increasing visibility will provide you with valuable learnings on your users’ preferences (e.g. top keywords), which can in turn lead to better conversion optimization.  

Using the ASO Stack helps you to continuously improve on these activities, because it shows you in one glance how all the pieces of ASO are linked together. 

The ASO Impact Chart 

Before getting to work on the areas identified in your report card, it’s worth considering the impact vs effort breakdown for each of the major ASO initiatives, in order to identify the lowest hanging fruit. Some activities may take a long time or more effort to produce a measurable impact, while others can yield larger results with much less effort.

Incipia has created the ASO impact chart to give you a bird’s-eye view on effort vs impact for typical ASO activities  The ASO impact chart (download the chart here) 
Incipia has created the ASO impact chart to give you a bird’s-eye view on effort vs impact for typical ASO activities  The ASO impact chart (download the chart here)

While managing ASO ultimately means putting in the effort, smart ASOs will begin with the low hanging fruit and gradually work towards the higher effort-higher reward items. For example, Keyword Optimization (KWO) can be done by the responsible person for ASO (“the ASO”) and marketing department without the need for developers or designers. 

The main content of this book starts with KWO alongside other measures to increase visibility, which can be tackled right away and are a long-term effort. After that, we’ll move on to topics such as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO),  ratings and reviews and more. 

Ahead of visibility, it’s important to cover one more introductory topic (Roles and team structure in ASO), which if overlooked can have a detrimental impact on the success potential of an app’s ASO.

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