In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Jonathan Fishman is joined by Jevgen Tarasenko, Head of ASO/Organic Growth at Tilting Point. They discuss in-app event best practices and correlations between organic and other metrics.
Check out all the other episodes of Mobile Growth & Pancakes here.
To learn more about In-App Events, check our iOS 15 Hub here.
To connect with Jevgen:
Listen to the full episode here:
Or listen on:
“One thing that people often lack is practice. So jump on an app or a game as soon as you have a chance. The theory is good, but unless you are familiar with the consoles, measure that, improve and do this daily, you can’t be a professional.”Jevgen Tarasenko
- Jevgen is an organic growth strategist with ten plus years of experience. He has previously worked as an ASO strategist/expert at companies like G5 Games, WorkoutLabs, Spoon, Mindvalley, Running Trainer, mysnapp, Geozilla Family Locator, and more.
- Tilting Point is a leading, award-winning free-to-play games publisher that empowers independent developers to grow and accelerate. The company has more than thirty games in its portfolio, like Star Trek Timelines, Warhammer: Chaos and Conquest, and SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off.
- One of the main ways to measure ASO is by looking at downloads by setting up custom dashboards. You can also check conversion rates or organic drive, but installs remain at the top of the list.
- In-app events is a new iOS 15 feature where app and game developers can promote their events in the App Store. Developers can use it as a marketing tool to promote their events, content, new app features, challenges, and competitions. The key benefits of in-app content are to reengage with current users and reach new users.
- When developing creative strategies for custom product pitches, you can highlight different features to different users.
Maximize growth with iOS 15’s In-App Events
Jonathan: Hey everybody, thank you for joining another episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes. I’m your host, Jonathan Fishman. I’m VP of marketing here at Storemaven. Today, I’m really excited to be here today with Jevgen Tarasenko, head of ASO X Tilting Point. Hey, what’s up?
Jevgen: Hey, nice to be here. Long time no see.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s been a long time. Where are you at right now?
Jevgen: I’ve been in Barcelona for three days. I came here from my hometown in Ukraine to chill, to change the atmosphere from winter to a warmer winter, I guess, and to catch up with colleagues, but this is postponed right now because of all of the COVID cases so maybe next week or the week after that.
Jonathan: Yes, I hope that COVID that by the time that you’re listening to this episode, COVID this wave has calmed down. You’ve been one of the people that I know and I think a lot of people know I’ve been in ASO since the birth of the industry for about 10 years or so now.
Jevgen: Yes, more or less. The thing is I jumped on the App Store hype back in 2011 to be exact. I was dealing with App Store specifically [unintelligible 00:02:01] concerning Apple and stuff like that even some jail-breaking stuff, but then I switched from copywriting social media SEO to ASO because I liked it more and it was a fresh thing back in the day, like 2012, 2013. Yes, I’ve been working in the ASO field since then so for like nine years already.
Jonathan: Cool. Can you walk us through a bit through your career? Like which companies did you work for? Which industries?
Jevgen: Yes. I started at a game development company called [unintelligible 00:02:42] It’s actually Tel Aviv-based company so you might know the guys. Had a pleasure to work with David and the team in just three years growing from a totally junior [unintelligible 00:02:56] guy to a team lead at some point. Then I switched to nongaming genres and I worked up to 10 companies probably from 2016 to 2019. Then I settled with gaming again, working with G5 for half a year and then I finally landed at Tilting Point keeping the gaming genre.
Jonathan: Awesome. How does ASO is structured in Tilting Point? I mean, most people know the name but how many games do you have? How ASO is structured within the team?
Jevgen: When it comes to organics, we have more than 30 games in our portfolio now and we have seven people right now because we are constantly hiring and the number fluctuates a little bit but that person handles usually five to six games.
Jonathan: Cool. How does it relate to the user acquisition you make? What’s the level of cooperation between the teams?
Jevgen: As high as possible, honestly. We have constant calls to catchups like weekly and we have all these live chats [unintelligible 00:04:21] we keep in touch both with [unintelligible 00:04:25] creatives featuring we try not to get siloed and work together as much as possible because obviously [unintelligible 00:04:36] influences organics a lot and when it comes to creatives, we want to be consistent in a way.
Jonathan: Yes, for sure. There’s a question I keep getting from people that listen to these episodes in this podcast, which is a measurement of ASO, basically there, and you have a lot of perspective on it. There is good metrics and good KPIs to measure ASO, there are bad ones. Could you talk a bit about how you see ASO measurement and how it can be done in a good way?
Jevgen: I would say that downloads are probably is the good one, is the north star for us. We use conversion rates, organic revenue impressions, [unintelligible 00:05:22] as well but they’re helping categories, I would say helping metrics, but we mostly measure installs. The way we do that, that’s a totally different topic. It might take an hour or even more because you can measure traffic from the consoles directly. You can set up custom dashboards. That’s what we are having right now at Tilting Point. Then there are questions like how much does your age influence organics [unintelligible 00:05:58] featuring the suddenly fresh rates or whatever, something went wrong with the release.
A huge chunk of organic traffic is counted as Google ads or vice versa. If see at organic traffic, if you see organic traffic in Google Play council, it doesn’t mean it is still organic. It’s mixed.
Jonathan: For sure.
Jevgen: We are doing our best to get a clear organic picture and to measure and improve on that.
Jonathan: Awesome. I know that you guys are investing a lot in in-app events and it’s 2022 now. We started a year with a lot of different tools that ASO folks didn’t have in 2021. In-app events were the first that came out, custom product pages came out towards really the end of December, and adoption of it is still being rolled out in terms of ad network, supporting the usage of the custom products product pages, and lastly product page optimization, the ability to AB test natively on your default App Store product page.
Let’s focus a bit on in-app events. Could you walk me through the value you see in adopting in-app events and using them and how you approach implementing in-app events?
Jevgen: Yes. Overall, we’re trying to stand top of what’s going on in the industry by communication through [unintelligible 00:07:35] Google directly, as well as reading for some blogs [unintelligible 00:07:38] whatever it is, different resources. As you know, in-app events were introduced back in June at WWDC. We made the checkmark for us that it’s happening at some point and we should be ready and when it was introduced at the end of October 22nd, was on Friday. On Monday, we actually had almost the whole team together here in the Barcelona office and we brainstormed, we enabled in-app events for our Tilting Points account and within three days we prepared nine in-app events and pushed them to the store day it went live on 27th.
Four of those nine ones were featured by Apple, probably because we were one of the first and we had some placeholders for that, so they pushed us to be featured and we had some amazing results. Even though they didn’t rule out the analytics at the time, they did it last week. We measured the impact by simply subtracting the uplift from the consoles and calculating the uplift for impressions which was quite substantial for some games.
Jonathan: Yes, it was through browse traffic or search traffic or both?
Jevgen: I think it was browsing traffic mostly or even 100% just because of the way it is.
Jonathan: They have indexed in search in-app events so I’m wondering– I mean, now there’s the analytics to show it and to filter data in App Store connect by in-app event but I just to wonder if you saw any kind of impact on search?
Jevgen: It was less than browse for sure and we’ll still investigate. We don’t see a huge uplift in keyword positions or search traffic specifically,+ but there is a portion of search traffic.
Jonathan: Awesome. Let’s turn to the creative side of it. What’s was your approach in terms of choosing which events to promote? Probably some of them are in-app events that are happening through the live ops team. How do you approach identifying events that are good candidates for in-app events on the App Store, and then preparing the creatives and the title and the description for these events?
Jevgen: We have a roadmap of events. When they were first launched, it was Halloween obviously, so we had this prepared for all of the games. We just slapped the creatives onto the store and launched those. Usually, we have the roadmap for two, three months in advance. We do our best to keep the developers informed and stay in touch with them to get the creative, the metadata, whatever is needed, the in-game content in a timely manner. When it’s time, we just prepare in advance because it might take some time now for it to get approved, like up to one week or even more. We just make sure it is approved and when it’s time, we release it to the store.
Jonathan: Cool. What’s really interesting there now with the data is that you can see the impact on re-downloads and new downloads as well. Because if you think about events is like new content for the game, one of the key benefits of doing that is to reengage lapsed users that once played the game but either they just churned, they played through enough of it and there wasn’t any new content and now there’s new content. There could be also an impact for new downloads as they see the event as a compelling event why they should install now the game.
That’s going to be pretty cool to measure with the analytics. I know it just rolled out but that’s going to be nice. There’s another capability within events, which is you can produce a link that sends users directly to an in-app event card when it’s open. Do you use that in any innovative way? I heard a few developers that are leveraging that in terms of actually running a campaign that leads people to an in-app event or using it through cross-promotion. Did you have any experiments around that?
Jevgen: I don’t think we had any cross-promotion but we use the direct links to the launch. It helps a lot for tracking.
Jonathan: In any way campaigns?
Jonathan: Oh, cool. How’s the performance of those?
Interviewee: I don’t have the exact numbers for them but it’s okay. It’s good in general.
Jonathan: Awesome. What do you think about the other features that the apps just released around ASO, like custom product pages that have just been rolled out and AV testing through product page optimization natively on the default product pages? I do know that there are some mixed feelings amongst the community around the [unintelligible 00:13:16] testing functionality. What are your thoughts?
Jevgen: First of all, it is revolutionary that they finally released this and you can actually do a AB test on the platform and improve your conversion and attract different kinds of users for the same product by using custom product pages. As you mentioned, we have mixed results and mixed feelings. We were able to successfully test some stuff but as you know, you can only test things until you release a new version. When you release a new version, you need to start the test and run it again when the build is live.
There are some shortcomings but hopefully, Apple will work on that in the future later this year. For custom product pages, yes, we are looking into this ironSource solution but unfortunately, not the whole portfolio uses ironSource. For that, there are some third-party solutions emerging on the market that allows to connect Facebook through custom product pages and redistribute traffic and do some more flexible stuff. We’re looking into that and planning to use it full force in Q1 2022 and beyond.
Jonathan: I think that most ad networks will support it given that first of all, ironSource already did it and they’re the first. All other ad networks would want to be in feature parity with ironSource. Search Ads is going to adopt custom product pages and they’ll allow you to have a custom product page connected to each search ad campaign. It’s still unclear at which level if it’s going to be at the ad set level or the ad level but you’re going to be able to use cost CPPs as we call them with search ads. Eventually, I see that in the next few weeks, maybe a couple of months, pretty much every ad network will allow you to set up a campaign and use a custom product page instead of the default one.
There’s a big question around who owns it in Tilting Point. Is it under ASO or under UA? It requires a partnership between the two teams as the UA team would view it as a part of the campaign. You can have a very holistic creative experience by matching the creatives on the product page with those on the ads, but on the other hand, the team that understand the most about how to convert users in the App Store is the ASO team. How are you dealing with this? Who owns CPPs?
Jevgen: Exactly. There should be a close connection. This is both on UA and ASO from both sides but at Tilting Points mostly organic teams on the process. We obviously right now don’t have enough experience in setting this up and we’re running smoothly but regardless, we work closely with Jay. Actually, that was one of the points in getting our communication better and closer in 2021 just because this feature was coming up.
Jonathan: Awesome. I think there’s another aspect to it, which is, it’s also another update in App Store Connect but using CPPs, going for a sec to the UA team, they have a huge challenge of measuring and attributing their UA campaigns because of the deprecation of the IDFA. What they could do before was to measure in a deterministic way the return on ad spend for each one of their campaigns, ad sets, and ad creatives through an MMP like AppsFlyer or Just. After the deprecation of the IDFA, that capability has been deteriorating pretty rapidly.
Some attribution companies have offered probabilistic attribution but it’s way less accurate than it was and some of them are leveraging fingerprinting technologies that’s Apple technically banned but they still didn’t start to enforce it really aggressively. Some folks have been utilizing that. That doesn’t work in self attributing networks such as Facebook and Snapchat and Tiktok. Traffic there is even harder to measure.
Then Apple is releasing custom product pages and within App Store Connect, allowing you to filter data by custom product page. In the case that you’re monetizing through in-app purchases, you’re actually able to see sales on an aggregated level by custom product page. If you know which kind of traffic and which campaign is hitting a custom product page, you get attribution back at an aggregated level. I think the UA teams are really interested in regaining some of their visibility into the performance of UA campaign by utilizing custom product pages. Not even starting to think about the increases to conversion rate you can achieve by matching the creatives between the custom product page and that creative but just by getting that pretty accurate measurement through Apple.
I think the reason that Apple did that was to give back to developers some tools and visibility into their marketing performance, their paid marketing performance, at least because they didn’t have any beef with UA teams measuring the effectiveness of their UA campaigns. Their beef was with ad networks such as Facebook. Facebook was the main one, building user graphs based on user data and using it for targeting. That’s where their problem was and they declared war on that, not on the ability to measure return on ad spend.
I think that UA teams with demand, at least from a conversation that I have that they’ll use custom product pages across all the UA way campaigns, even if it’s the same creative. Some teams are just duplicating custom product pages using the same creatives but just using it as a measurement methodology. That’s pretty cool. What are your thoughts in terms of the creative strategy for custom product pages? How do you think which kind of different messaging you should employ on a different bases?
Jevgen: Yes, we created a framework for that. We have a lot of ideas actually for different types of games [unintelligible 00:20:13] that we have in our portfolio. We just starting to roll this out as we [unintelligible 00:20:19] up the custom pages and [unintelligible 00:20:21] Facebook traffic thing. For games, it is mostly highlighting different features to different kinds of users for us. We [inaudible 00:20:35] that first.
Jonathan: How do you identify? Can you give us an example of what do you mean by different features and how do you develop a hypothesis to which feature would drive the most of which audience to install?
Jevgen: When we start working on a game, we develop a couple of personas, if that is possible for a game and draw achievers, draw communicators, draw like usually up to five, I guess, different types of players that play the same game. Though if you don’t get into the nitty-gritty, you just follow the whole flow. You might think it’s just the same type of user which is actually not. Different people, different kinds of users have different goals and they enjoy the games in a different way.
Some people just go there to chat with a friend, do some race, or whatever it is, the gameplay. Some people just want to chill while watching Netflix. Some people want to be first in the leader board no matter what, spend thousands of dollars playing [unintelligible 00:21:46] games or different cases. We tested that kind of stuff for both Google Play and they ask mostly for iOS on the testing platforms through [unintelligible 00:22:01] testing platforms [unintelligible 00:22:02]
Yes, we saw good results for different user types as well as with different traffic. Sometimes with different creatives at the beginning so the user flow was different and we want to try to replicate this on custom product purchases now.
Jonathan: It’s really cool to see how– I’m lucky to be on the forefront. We’ve been working on a few different solutions around how do you identify which networks and which campaigns and until the sub-publisher level basically, which games they’re coming from to your product page and how do you understand which audience is coming from from where. To do that, there’s a massive amount of work needed and a lot of data science, but basically, in an actual, if you can break down all of your paid UA campaigns by contextual funnels, I’m not talking about like categories in the App Store because then it will show of course that everybody’s coming through hyper-casual, but let’s talk about an audience– You can learn a lot about an audience from just understanding which games they’re playing right now and where do they come from to your product page. A contextual funnel could look like match-three themed games with a detective theme or just any kind of theme like [unintelligible 00:23:31]
Jevgen: Even RPG elements.
Jonathan: Yes, even RPG elements. All these kinds of fusions, it tells you a lot about the audience that play these kind of games. A lot more than you can just say about people that play casual games or mid-core games. If you break it down that level, you can identify different funnels which campaigns in add networks are driving these audiences to your product page, through which campaigns basically, and they can implement custom product pages with the matching themes to these places. It requires a lot of work and there’s– Again, there’s a lot of data science and it’s really tough to do this on a manual level because you need to export all of the data from either your MMP or extra connect.
We developed such a tool called Funnel Analytics. There are a few dozen companies that have started using this and they see amazing success in identifying in which campaigns they should implement which custom product page to maximize conversion rate in the return aspect. That’s pretty cool because I think looking forward to 2022, I think it’s really exciting for ASO folks because it’s like the way marketing used to be. It’s like thinking about the audiences, why they actually want to install or play the games or an app if you’re an app person, and then connecting the messaging to that. That’s after years and years that the UA teams have been used to basically give $1 to Facebook and get back quality users and they had no idea how they reached that user. Like they didn’t have to think about targeting and so on. Just through creatives into Facebook and other ad networks and let the machine driven by user-level data to work and do its optimization. That doesn’t work anymore.
The ASO team, knowing audiences in an intimate level like the way that you described, is really going to drive a lot of performance for acquisition in general including to the UA team.
It’s inspiring to see that the UA team and ASO team in Tilting Point is working so close together. I think it can be an inspiration to other teams to follow suit. Because without that close relationship and the knowledge that exists in the ASO team and the ability to deploy new campaigns and new custom product pages that are within the UA team. Without combining these two, it’ll be very hard to realize the value of custom product pages.
For folks and there are already companies with ironSource, that first adopters of CPPs on the network side. For companies using that right now, the results are mind-boggling. I can turn in the numbers but it’s the kind of uplifts [unintelligible 00:26:21] conversion rates and returns on ad spend are insane. We knew this for years because we’ve tested how different audiences respond to different creatives on the App Store side for many, many years so we know the kind of difference that exists there.
Jevgen: I think that’s also a sign of maturing of the industry, [unintelligible 00:26:39] specifically because the way we do stuff and the whole scope of work and the amount of things that we need to pay attention to is much broader than it was like two or three years earlier. If previously you were doing like AB testing and updating metadata and doing some localizations, now it’s much broader. Like it’s the whole bouquet of things.
Jonathan: Yes, for sure. It’s a really exciting time to be in ASO. Acquisition in general and organic acquisition specifically, it’s really fascinating. Either I’d have no doubt the companies and teams that will be able to understand that side of the acquisition funnel or organic side and leveraging all of these tools will be the teams that will win in 2022. It’s going to be a pretty big competitive advantage based on the understanding of their audiences and the understanding of creatives in general. That’s pretty cool.
We talked about the data side. Can you dig in a bit more around of what your data stack? Like how are you measuring these results? We talked about data coming in through the app to connect and you mentioned custom dashboards. How are things set up in Tilting Point? Because I know there’s a huge measurement problem right now, mostly around organics and teams that used to look at these things solely on the MMP site.
Jevgen: It’s still a bit complicated but we do our best to get realistic data and not to play with [unintelligible 00:28:25] but get the concrete data on the subject. First of all, it should be measurable and second, we should be able to build upon that and see actual improvements. For that [unintelligible 00:28:41] using a custom solution based onlooker, we pull in data through APIs, through the consoles, through our dashboards. Clean the data as we go and have a much more easily adjustable view, I would say. Because if you have 10 plus games you need to work with and you to separate consoles and you need to filter the view for each game, it takes the whole day to go from the start.
When you have the unified thing, you just click through the games, see what [unintelligible 00:29:24] is going down, is going up, you just have a quick look. You can go in detail if you want and you can adjust those strategies based on that.
Jonathan: Talking about strategy, there is a lot of forces that influence organic growth and downloads and impressions. I know that you’re focusing a lot on this relationship between paid and organic but which– Can you describe the kind of influencing powers on organic that you see are the most effective to drive more organic downloads?
Jevgen: Yes. Actually, I spent a good chunk of 2021 creating the organic performance best practices. This is a presentation for our partners and actually, for internal Jews, we’re thinking about publishing this for a broader audience in 2022. What we did is we took all the parameters that are available on the App Store and made relations between them to figure out which factors influenced the organics the most. We created a shortlist of those things based on the correlation. The strongest correlations, the more important. Surprise, [unintelligible 00:30:51] has a lot of correlation with organic traffic for both stores.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s through for folks that are a bit unfamiliar with that. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my view on it is that it’s through an increase in ranking both on the keyword side and on the top chart side, because of UA influences first-time downloads. It’s one of the more important factors in the way that the store algorithm works and decides which app to rank first. Right?
Jevgen: Yes, that’s right.
Jonathan: Cool, and besides [unintelligible 00:31:29]?
Interviewee: Another thing that is important for both stores is the [unintelligible 00:31:33] rate. I don’t remember the exact numbers but they had a threshold, I guess 4NR’s [unintelligible 00:31:44] 0.47. If you’re above that, that’s a signal for you to fix things. If it’s higher than 1%, you start getting featured less. If it’s higher than 1% or even higher than 1.5% for one period of time, you essentially lose the good chunk or almost all of the browsing traffic.
Jonathan: That’s really interesting to think about how the ASO practice has evolved. If you don’t monitor NARs and crash rates over time as an ASO person, you’re basically not doing everything you can to improve organics. Product metrics that you have to look at something that nobody thought about a few years ago.
Jevgen: Yes, exactly. Stuff that also matters especially on Google based side is the app size because there are lots of emerging markets where Android is dominant and people just don’t have good enough connections. They actually want to play games and money. The better job you do at optimizing your game, the higher chances you have to be downloaded.
Jonathan: Awesome. These are really good points.
Jevgen: Yes. Hopefully, with all the changes in the stores, we’ll have some time to shape it up and publish the organic best practices for a broader audience in 2022.
Jonathan: Awesome. I’m sure that a lot of people would be excited to read that. Running a bit out of time. I want to ask you a few questions that we ask all of our guests before we finish for today. If you could give one tip to somebody like an aspiring mobile growth marketer, maybe somebody that wants to get into the organic acquisition array today, what would it be?
Jevgen: From what I see right now, the competition is actually huge between aspiring marketers. One thing that people are lacking oftentimes is the lack of practice. Jump on an app or a game as soon as you have a chance. The theory is good, but unless you are familiar with the consults and do some kinds of stuff measure that improve and do this daily, you can’t really be a professional.
Jonathan: Great tip. What’s your favorite mobile growth resource? Like a content recommendation to folks?
Jevgen: If I have to pick one that would be [unintelligible 00:34:33] because of the tremendous amount of useful info there. They also have a couple of resources based on that like [unintelligible 00:34:46] MGM, Slack Team. Speaking of Slack, there’s an ASO tech community funded by Feature that highly recommend to join and follow the professionals, join the discussions. It’s pretty active, probably the biggest ASO community. Thomas [unintelligible 00:35:10] the language there follow them on Twitter, on LinkedIn, mostly in Twitter, I guess, and from there you’ll get a lot of recommendations. There are dozens of good people to follow and once you follow a couple of them, you’ll be good.
Jonathan: I highly recommend following Thomas and Sylvian. Sylvan is pretty active on LinkedIn, Thomas is more on Twitter, but he shares a ton of insights there on LinkedIn constantly. Cool. Almost last question. Given that we’re Mobile Growth & Pancakes, what’s your favorite flavor of pancake?
Jevgen: Something sweet, I guess. That could be banana or strawberry. I can’t decide between those two.
Jonathan: Put them together, bananas and strawberries. It’s a good combo.
Jevgen: Okay, we can do that.
Jonathan: Cool. Lastly, if people want to reach out to you to talk about ASO insights, learn from you, just talking about the industry or life, where can they find you?
Jevgen: Mostly on LinkedIn and I’m trying to catch up on ASO stack as much as possible.
Jonathan: Cool. Awesome. All right. It’s been a pleasure. I really learned a lot and it’s been fascinating. It’s always fascinating talking with people that have such a big perspective on an industry like you’ve been in ASO since really the early days, and you saw how it was evolved. I think people can–
Jevgen: You have to have perspective these days.
Jonathan: For sure. Cool. I’ll chat with you soon, but thank you very much for joining us today.
Interviewee: Thanks for inviting me. Have a great one.
Jonathan: Thanks. You too.
Esther: That was Mobile Growth & Pancakes. Find out more about Storemaven and how we can improve the App Store performance, visit storemaven.com and then make sure to search for Mobile Growth & Pancakes in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google podcasts, or anywhere else podcasts are found and click subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. On behalf of the team here at Storemaven, thanks for listening.