Smaller Apps Adapt Their Paid Search Strategies For Apple’s New App Store

The redesigned App Store in iOS 11 creates a challenging environment for mid-tail and long-tail app developers.

Apple’s primary goal with the redesign, which came along with the release of its new operating system in September, is to “make discovering apps and games easier than ever before,” the company said.

The revamped App Store store puts a premium on editorial content, which will certainly provide a leg up to highly visual apps or apps with a cool background story. The curation also enables Apple’s editors to surface small independent developers that might not rank as high if they were dependent on the store’s algorithm.

But there are more than 2 million apps in the App Store and the struggle for visibility will continue, especially among hundreds of thousands of smaller and mid-size apps that never make it to the App Store’s front page.

“Being first is always best,” said Adam Rakib, co-founder and VP of business development at StoreMaven, a platform for testing app store creative for iOS and Android, speaking on a panel at Advertising Week last Thursday.

That’s why Apple search ads are about to get a lot more important.

Developers do a lot of research to find the keywords that make their apps most discoverable in search results.

The App Store’s new layout gives more space to competing apps on search results pages, and based on data gathered by StoreMaven after running tests on iOS 11, that appears to distract users from the top organic result.

“In several cases, there was a declining rate of organic installs,” said Rakib, noting that search ads are an increasingly useful tactic to surface an app above the crowd.

That said, it’s unclear how much of a role internal App Store search plays or will play in app discovery.

Today, users often go to Google to search for apps before clicking and landing directly on an app’s main download page.

Apple’s new platform, therefore, “does create more of a balance for the app experience,” said Peter Yoon, senior strategist and an ASO specialist at M&C Saatchi Mobile. “There will be more attention from users within the App Store.”

Although some users will still search for specific apps by name or by keyword, whether in the App Store or through a search engine, Apple is positioning its overhauled storefront as a place to spend time, browse and peruse the apps highlighted by Apple’s editors.

Apple “cares a lot about the consumer, the person who buys the device,” Rakib said, which is why it wants users to be informed so they’re really engaged in what they download and are more likely to retain in the long term.

Hence Apple’s focus on editorial content and curation.

And hence the developer’s need to acclimate to the new normal in the App Store by getting better at search and also developing a solid content strategy, said Bolong Li, senior manager of mobile marketing at Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon that sells audiobooks.

“We need to have better content to get Apple to feature us,” Li said, and “we need to make sure that organic search and paid search work together.”

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