ASO Iterations, Improvements, Adaptations, and the Progress

Whilst the virus seems to be spreading at least we’ve learned that it’s never too late to relearn the art of hygiene. Our ASO Food for Thought from Mar 5, 2020.

So, corona is still a thing. And whilst the virus seems to be spreading across the globe (thanks Wright Brothers) at least as a species we’ve learned that it’s never too late to relearn the art and import of basic hygiene. 

Wash your hands. And don’t be racist.

The (r)evolution is here

Back in the good ol’ days of ASO life was simple. We keyword-stuffed, played with metadata, cracked open a beer and called it a day. While the beer might still be a key component of a job well done, the rest of our day got a lot more interesting with many more balls being thrown up in the air and our juggling skills got almost circus-worthy. 

A few years ago we opened our eyes to creative testing. We realized that simply leading a horse to water would not make it drink. So we spiced up the water, offering brightly colored colas and adding some bubbles trying to make it more exciting and more enticing. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. We knew which did better but not why. 

And we saw improvements. Creative optimization had real value and its implementation showed real results. We hypothesized, we strategized, we designed and redesigned and, finally, we could call it a day. Until a day or week or month later when our conversion rates started dropping again and we needed to up our game. And test again. Testing became routine. But that routine is the strategy. It’s how to best understand how to build a campaign, which messages work and which don’t. We learn where users are dropping and what exactly did a user see right before they installed. And those learnings feed both organic and UA growth strategies. 

Testing has always been the end game and not the means to the said end game. It’s continuous and its true value is found in the iterations, the improvements, the adaptations, and the progress. Just ask Vanessa Rouhani, SVP of Publishing at JamCity.

But now it seems ASO has evolved beyond the O, beyond the goal of optimization alone. It’s not about the small gains and granular progression. And it depends on how you define organics. 

Most UA folks would say that organics are those that aren’t attributed to paid campaigns. They’d be right but they’d also be wrong. And they’d be wrong because whenever you’re looking for a definition it’s always nice to ask the people from that persecuted minority how they would like to define themselves. And that minority of ASO folks would define organic installs as those that are platform-driven. 

But what does this mean? It means we need to change the way we measure our efforts and find correlations between them in both direction and scale. And the best place to look is the developer consoles themselves. Turning inwards truly is the answer to everything is this millennium. 

Certain folks may argue that with the algorithms held tightly under lock and key, and with the platforms’ penchant for continuously fiddling with them, trying to game the app stores with standard ASO practices is futile. You can’t understand the algorithm, so you can’t beat it and therefore why bother? 

Like I kinda like this line of argument because it makes our jobs easier. Hands in the air, we can say, “it’s not our fault, the algorithms did it.” For better or worse (except mainly just worse because good things are always due to our actions but bad things are always platform changes).

Unfortunately, I’m not supposed to admit my laziness so I have to say this is wrong! Wrong, I say! We can do better. And better means active monitoring. Constant, process-driven, daily active monitoring. 

There’s more to the story than just conversions and if we can understand the variables and how they impact and react off each other we can finally understand the meaning of life. 

And just like the hitchhiker’s, the answer is 42. (If only.)

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    Lights out for Android

    About four months late to the party, Google has enabled system-wide dark mode on Andorid 10. (But they brought a casserole so they good.) Alas, Facebook’s invite seems lost in the mail as they’re still not supporting the feature just yet. 

    But customization isn’t all there yet and users will have all apps and services like Google Play go dark. Hugely irritating those users that prefer to see somethings in black and somethings in white. It’s all or nothing. For now. A little birdie’s been chirping about a new rollout of the elusive Dark Mode Switch. A superpower that lets users go dark while keeping the lights on only in specific rooms or apps of your choosing. My mother is over the moon right now thinking how much money Google has saved on their electricity bill. I don’t have the heart to break it to her.  

    NB: With Google Play now being seen in both lights by any and all users, make sure your creatives look good in both. It’s not a golden hour all day anymore.

    Let your teams surprise you

    Ever heard the phrase “too many chiefs, not enough [Native Americans]”? Well, apparently Pinterest has too. And they flipped their growth teams on their head once they realized it. See they were like me every hour, stuck and unable to come up with enough new ideas. In their case, the ideas they needed were for good growth experiments. In my case? New idioms that aren’t offensive. 

    See power is a powerful thing. (I know.) And power often times can be intimidating. That intern is hardly going to offer up a suggestion in a packed boardroom with people seven tiers up the hierarchy ladder. So how do you change that? Solid methodology.

    They used a method called EIR (pronounced ‘ire’ in my head which is rather ironic). It stands for Experiment Idea Review and it’s as simple as it sounds -ish. They wanted more people to come up with ideas and it not be stuck to team leads. Obviously selecting the right experiments to conduct is a skill and they wanted to develop it in everyone and not leave it in middle management. So they set up everyone’s absolute favorite thing: regular meetings. But for everyone who’s ever sat in on a brainstorm, you understand why you end up with things like Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad. They’re not always the most effective ways of running an ideation-generation marathon. 

    So they left the ideation work to everyone’s second favourite thing: meeting prep. A simple (but hour-long) experiment idea document needed to be filled out. This meant teams could actually think things through, do any required research and bring their best, not their first, idea (or ideas for those A-types) to the table. It’s too detailed almost on purpose as this allows for the ideas to be seen in context and making sure you’ve covered all the important parts, all too necessary for enabling good decision making.

    ASO Iterations, Improvements, Adaptations, and the Progress - 1
    Pinterest Engineering

    The meetings have rules too. Because lets have more fun. Five minutes for presentation, five minutes for discussion. The leads’ job here is to give extensive feedback and guide each idea to an action item, something like “start now”, “add to backlog” and my personal favorite “deprioritize”. I suggest making signs. 

    They have great advice for solving problems that exist and are imminently likely to exist (like too many bad ideas). And I seriously recommend reading through it no matter what your job. But especially for those who have to come up with their own experiments and hypotheses to run in the quest for app store domination and hitting those KPIs. 

    Creativity is a skill that is built through practice. But what do I know, I’m just a writer.

    Four times the muscle

    A new Chinese super pack is forming. Last month, Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo reportedly formed a Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA) or GoDeSa as I like to call them. They’re going to “build a platform for developers to present and promote their apps.” Or, you know, a new app store. They target nine regions (to start). 

    This is a cunning move that would leverage each company’s advantage in the different regions; Xiaomi in India, Vivo and Oppo in Southeast Asia, and Huawei in Europe.

    And Huawei has lots to gain after it’s break up with America in September last year. They’re the only one out of the four that can’t use Google Play and the other stuff. 

    Now you might remember they already tried to pretend it wasn’t a problem when they developed their own app store, AppGallery. They had 400 million monthly active users (reportedly). But with so many developers still out there, they want to attract all the attention they can get by teaming up with their smartphone brothers. Fortnite might have lost the 30% fee battle with Google but Huawei is picking up the fight. 

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      This is going to be a long war. And I’ve got popcorn.

      About Kim Feldman
      With a BA in Economics and Drama from the University of Cape Town and Honours Degree in Theatre Directing, Kim left it all behind to join the world of advertising before jumping ship to marketing. A recovering technophobe, she has now found a new home making sense of all things data, mobile, and hi-tech. At work, they call her the Content Marketing Writer but she’ll always be a copywriter at heart.

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