Where to Start with ASO: How to Use Your Competitors to Increase Your Search Rankings

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Anna Kochetkova
Where to Start with ASO: How to Use Your Competitors to Increase Your Search Rankings

Table of Content:

  1. Step 1. Know your competitors
  2. Step 2. Assessing the battlefield
  3. Step 3. Identifying what to change

Why would you increase your organic traffic in app stores, when paid acquisition is a much quicker way to grow your user base? When developers talk about 'promoting' their product and expecting growth when tracking mobile app installs, many of them mean paid acquisition channels such as Facebook, Google AdWords, Apple Store ads, cross-promotion, and other means. Organic channel, however, is one of the most valuable traffic sources for acquiring new users. Organic traffic yields higher conversion actions (e.g., subscription/in-app purchase) than any other paid channel.

Your app strategy and work with organic traffic starts with App Store Optimization, or more simply — ASO. Basically, it means promoting your product in app stores, like the App Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and others. It’s app store SEO, more or less. Most ASO marketing activities are aimed at increasing search visibility by optimizing text. But an ASO expert's job covers way more than that. For instance, enhancing the graphics on the app's page aims to increase the download conversion from page views/impressions, which impacts all traffic sources. That's why an increasing number of companies are on the lookout for ASO experts.

Even if you don't have an in-house mobile growth professional or aren't ready to invest millions in advertising, you should still work with organic channels. Here's a quick guide to getting started:

  1. Study the market and your competitors.
  2. Select keywords and text.
  3. Work on your graphics.
  4. Analyze your product's reviews and average rating.
  5. Publish the changes.
  6. Wait a while and then evaluate the results.
  7. Generate ideas about what you'd like to change.
  8. Rinse and repeat.

Today, we'll start with the first part: analyzing your competitors. You can use it as a part of your pre-launch strategy, and AppFollow will help you understand the competition.

A lot of work goes into performing a comprehensive analysis of the market before launching a product. Keep it up after you release your product. A lot of factors change over time, such as local competitors, market trends, and app store algorithms, to name a few. If you fall behind, you'll miss out on precious downloads. Analyzing your competitors will give you hints, new ideas, and product growth areas.

Step 1. Know your competitors

Knowing how to identify your top 5-10 potential competitors is very important, especially for game developers. Every niche already has 3-5 solid leaders who have been there for years. Let's take a look at an app in the match 3 category. Publishers like ‘Playrix’ and ‘Jam City’ are the first to come to mind. Still, it's very important to keep in mind other fast-growing apps, too. They're the ones fighting their way through the long-standing competition on the market, which is exactly what you'll have to do.

To keep your sights set on your competitors, we recommend creating a collection where you can put all the apps that share the same topic. If you have apps and games from different categories, just divide them into different collections. Here's how to do it:

Source: appfollow.io

There are few ways to identify your 'enemies' and understand the competition:

1. Use keywords. 80% of apps use relevant search requests (book a ticket, watch series online) or category title (magic puzzle, to-do list, etc.) in their name or description. Now coming back to our games. We're going to look for competitors who use the keyword 'match 3' in their public metadata. When we hit the Add new app button and type in our search term, we see our competitors:

By clicking the +Add button, you start tracking your competitors, their rating, metadata, reviews, and more. Source: appfollow.io

2. See which apps are already indexed by the search requests you’re looking for. You can do that using the Keyword Live Ranking tool. Select a country, type in a search term, and off we go! We have a list of our competitors at our fingertips. In our case, we're looking at search results for 'match 3'. Also check the Competitors Overview tool to understand the relevance of the keywords you found. If there are no relevant brands found by a search request, think twice before including it in the text metadata.

Click on the little green plus sign to add the selected items to your collection so you can track them. Source: appfollow.io

3. Use app store suggestions. You can find the Similar Apps sections on every app's page once you’ve added them to your collection in AppFollow. We plan to add a separate tool very soon that shows which apps have your app in the Similar Apps section.

The Similar Apps category changes. You can use the App Update Timeline tool to see which apps are recommended on the competitor's page after a release. Source: appfollow.io
If your app is available in several countries, repeat these steps for each country. Be sure to analyze your local competitors. Doing so will help you understand the market's ins and outs.


After completing the first step, we have a collection of our competitors to analyze. This will help us define metrics and measure our success later on.

Step 2. Assessing the battlefield

In this step of your optimization strategy, we'll compare our results with those of our competitors. This helps with ASO and the product in general. Let's look at how the app pages are optimized.

The Compare Apps tool lets you compare your product with others by country, prices, ASO, rating, reviews, and other parameters:

  • The General section shows the size, pricing model, and frequency of updates. For example, match 3 contains free games with in-app purchases, leaving no room for paid apps. A game larger than 100 MB is less likely to be downloaded due to the constant shortage of space on the device. Keep that in mind.
  • The Extended section shows the languages the app is localized in and the cost of in-app purchases. You can always take a more in-depth look at competitors' websites.
  • In the Reviews section, pay attention to the Avg Rating, Avg Rating by Featured Reviews, and Replies to Featured Reviews fields. The average rating is visible on the search page and impacts the download conversion. Featured/helpful reviews are shown on the app's page and impact the app Units/Page Views conversion rate. Our research shows that 7 out of 8 competitors don't reply to these reviews, which gives you an advantage.
  • The ASO section reveals how well metadata is laid out. For example, which of our competitors doesn't have a promo text, which didn't work on their title and subtitle, and which devices the screenshots are made for
Compare metrics for each country separately. Source: appfollow.io


We've defined the main metrics and benchmarks we should shoot for. For example, the highest rating for a match 3 game in our collection is 4.787, the average size is 10MB, and the app pages are localized in Mandarin Chinese. We'll try to catch up with and surpass our competitors on these criteria.

Step 3. Identifying what to change

After studying our competitors and defining the things we want to improve, it's time to make a list of ideas for optimizing our app page. It's easier to start by optimizing our graphics and text content. Competitors Overview and Timeline are two tools that can help us do this.

The Competitors Overview helps us compare our positions to our competitors', analyze our app's icon, and assess the relevance of search terms. We can see that ‘Snowman Swap’ was kicked out of the Top 10, while ‘Christmas Crunch’ reached #1 for the search term 'match 3 puzzle' ('tis the season!)

Take a closer look at the icons your competitors use. We can see how a darker background for ‘Clockmaster’ stands out from similar pink and blue icons.

If you find a competitor that ranks high in the search results or has outstanding graphics, add them to your collection so you can study them closer. Source: appfollow.io

Competitors Overview works on the basis of the keywords you add. The primary keywords will be added automatically for you to form a first impression of your competitors. We'll focus more closely on collecting keywords in future posts.

App Update Timeline makes it easy to see what your competitors are experimenting with. For example, they changed their title or description (keywords!), swapped screenshots (looking for the most attractive one), changed the app size, or added new languages (expanding to new markets). Take a look at ‘Jewel Crush’. It replaced its screenshots and shortened their captions to make it look better on the search page. That sure is the right step when it comes to conversion rate optimization.

The data on Timeline can be displayed by country or globally. Soon we'll add a filter to separate graphics and text change analysis. Source: appfollow.io

We don't recommend just copying what your competitors do. That used to work back in 2015, but with app stores getting tougher on the reviewing process, these copies just won't make it through moderation. Even if it does, there is a chance that people will notice and it will hurt your app store rankings. Here's a good tactic: see what others are doing and do it better. It's very important to try new things when experimenting with graphics. The only limit here is the App Store and Google Play guidelines.

When studying the culture and trends of countries you're not particularly familiar with, don't limit yourself to mobile products. Look for new ideas on TV, offline, or websites.


Now you have some ideas and have learned how to use AppFollow for competitive research. So what's next? Now we should start working on App Store Optimization. At least you know your growth areas. It could be focusing on increasing search visibility, average rating, or download conversion. The next step would be to prioritize these ideas based on the traffic channel that works best for your app.

Search and Browse are different channels, but both deliver organic incentive traffic. Some say that Browse is the new Search. We'll discuss whether that's the case, and which channel should be your focus, in the next article - as well as how to track mobile app installs, improve user acquisition, and more.

Test Yourself:

  1. Log into https://watch.appfollow.io.
  2. Create a collection and name it.
  3. Find and add 3-5 apps with a similar theme.

React to user feedback and market trends faster