App Search Optimization (ASO) vs. SEO: A Guide

App search optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing a mobile app’s visibility and ranking in app stores. Learn what makes ASO different from SEO.

Written by Oleg Olhovski
Published on Sep. 14, 2023
App Search Optimization (ASO) vs. SEO: A Guide
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Mobile apps are taking over the world. Both statistics and our daily observations are proof of that. I have about 20 apps installed on my smartphone. And in 2024, nearly 7 million people will have mobile devices. As we increasingly rely on our phones and apps for working, playing, shopping and dating, it’s given rise to a new promotion battlefield — app stores.

App Search Optimization (ASO) Explained

App search optimization (ASO) involves optimizing various elements of a mobile app like the title, description, screenshots and ratings to improve its visibility in app stores and increase organic downloads.

App stores have the potential to become as powerful as Google. Google, Apple and any other app store all have specific rules for how particular pages or apps out-popular their competition. These rules are worth exploring. If you’ve ever wondered why some apps appear at the top of search results over others, it’s thanks to app store optimization (ASO).

When this trend emerged, I decided to apply my data optimization skills from working as a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist to the mobile app scene. In this post, I’ll talk about ASO, why it’s associated with SEO and what makes ASO different from SEO. 


What Is ASO? 

ASO refers to the strategic process of increasing your app's visibility and discoverability within app stores. It involves optimizing various elements, such as app titles, descriptions, screenshots and ratings, to increase organic downloads. 

Keyword research services are crucial in ASO, as they aid in identifying relevant keywords that potential users might use to find the app. Does it sound like SEO to you? Your train of thought is going in the right direction. This is where ASO and SEO processes overlap.

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ASO vs. SEO 

You’ve probably heard a popular saying that “ASO is SEO for mobile.” There’s more to this cliche than meets the eye, though. So, what’s the difference between ASO and SEO? Are they twins or cousins? For me, they come from one team but have different mindsets. And here’s why. 

Broadly speaking, SEO is about optimizing websites for search engines. ASO is about accomplishing the same goal, only in a different environment. ASO aims to optimize an app to the app stores’ search algorithms. The two notions are often understood as similar because they optimize for keywords. But the similarity pretty much stops there. Now, let’s delve into how ASO and SEO are different.


1. Platform Focus

ASO centers on optimizing mobile apps for better visibility in app stores like the Apple App Store and Google Play. SEO aims to enhance the visibility and ranking of websites in search engines like Google and Bing.


2. Ranking Factors

ASO works with on-page app listing elements like app titles, keywords, descriptions, icons, screenshots, ratings and reviews. In contrast, SEO factors are much more broad. They revolve around website content, meta tags, backlinks, domain authority, page load speed, mobile responsiveness and user experience.


3. Keyword Usage

For SEO, semantics is not the only priority as it also considers technical ways of website optimization. ASO, on the other hand, is mostly about keyword research. Also, ASO relies on relevant keywords that cater to app-specific functionalities, while SEO employs keywords that align with users' search queries on the internet.


4. User Behavior Impact

ASO metrics include app installs, uninstalls, and engagement within app stores, while SEO factors in click-through rates, bounce rates, time-on-page, and other user behavior signals on websites.

ASO and SEO share one similar goal — optimization. They both rely on users’ search intents and keywords. Yet, their objects and environments are different. Specialists from both spheres use similar approaches and logic for keyword research. But website optimization requires more steps from a technical point of view.


What Does an ASO Specialist Do?

What do you usually do when finding a good video editing app? Go to the app store and type “video editor” in the search bar. Do you think that the apps that show up at the top of the search results just made it there by chance? Wrong. A good ASO specialist has been working hard for this to happen. 

So, what exactly does a good ASO specialist do? Here’s a brief list of responsibilities:

  • Making sure that the app meets the official Apple App Store and Google Play requirements.
  • Conducting in-depth competitor analysis based on the locales, performing keyword research for ASO, and exploring metadata criteria to develop ASO strategy.
  • Filling out the application cards in the market and preparing technical tasks for other team members (designers, content writers, etc.).
  • Studying the results to see what was effective and what wasn’t. 

All these responsibilities build the foundation for creating an exceptionally solid (yet flexible) ASO strategy. That said, excellent ASO professionals should focus on staying on top of the mobile marketing trends, which always involve the nonstop research and implementation process. 


Should You Switch From SEO to ASO?

There are a few factors that make a good argument for those seeking a career switch to ASO from SEO. AI is not taking over SEO and websites aren’t disappearing. Instead, it’s better to consider the switch from the point of view that you now have more options to apply your skills. And if you’re more interested in apps than browsers, even better.


1. App Market Continues to Grow

Many things are done via apps, not websites anymore. Every day, more than 3,000 new apps appear in app stores. There are even so-called mobile-first countries where people prefer tablets and smartphones to PCs. 

Users do more and more search queries through the app stores. Some of them don’t even search in the browser. All of this increases retention in apps, not websites. This trend is obvious. 


2. SEO May Change Soon

ASO and SEO will both exist in the future. However, AI will most likely replace web search, and SEO specialists must adapt to new challenges. It will not ultimately lessen the role of specialists who optimize content, but it’s something to consider.


3. You Can Be Both an SEO and ASO Specialist

Who says you can’t? It will double up your chances for success.

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Why ASO and SEO Are Both Useful

At the end of the day, professional app marketers should know how to conduct SEO and ASO to promote apps via as many channels as possible. Many apps initially come with websites that require search engine optimization. If you want to work specifically with apps, consider ASO because it’s all about apps. If you think beyond the app market, then SEO is guaranteed to bring you more options to work with. Everyone and everything comes with a website now. 

Considering this, you may think that ASO career markets are not as tight as SEO. Soon, they may be the same. Thus, it’s all about your passion: apps or websites. 

Despite the differences in strategies, SEO and ASO will have you working with nuances such as user-friendly design, keywords, meta tags, high-quality content, and link building. If you’re an SEO specialist keenly interested in apps, consider ASO because you already know how to work with semantics. So this switch will seem natural to you.

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