I often get asked how app store optimization compares to search engine optimization. Let’s get the obvious link out of the way: the term “optimization.” This is the formal definition on Merriam-Webster:
“an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.”
Both ASO and SEO are specialized marketing tactics to drive users to apps or websites. That would make them actually one in the same. Developers and marketers use Google, Yahoo and a plethora of other search engines to try to acquire new users to their website. They also use Google Play, iTunes and other app stores to acquire new users to their app.
The difference, however, lies in the way you optimize your apps and websites for each of these discovery platforms.
For SEO, backlinks, keywords, page speed, authority and a ton of other factors impact where your website ranks in search engine algorithms. In fact, Google just rolled out an update last week impacting sites that aren’t mobile optimized.
With ASO, it depends on the App Store what methods you use to influence discoverability. For instance, with iTunes, the keywords used in your company name, title, keyword field and in-app purchase names are the only terms you’ll exist for. Where you rank, however, is impacted by retention, engagement, rankings, ratings, etc.
Google, however, uses more traditional web methods to surface apps in their Google Play search. The title is important, but also the description (notice I didn’t mention it on iTunes?). Google crawls the app description to find common keywords that it should rank apps for. They then use similar factors as iTunes to determine where you rank.
In the end, there is no difference in the goals of app store optimization and search engine optimization. It’s the methods to which you optimize, however, that is the differentiator.