January 25, 2021

ASO TIPS FOR THE NEW YEAR: Positioning Your Brand in the App Stores in 2021

The undeniable benefit of ASO in a mobile app store listing is that it escalates App Store visibility and improves conversion. yellowHEAD’s ASO Specialist, Jessica Korneff, joined MobileAction in this webinar to point out best practices for continuous growth and to stand out in the App Stores.

It’s 2021, the New Year has arrived and it’s time for your brand to shine. Watch our webinar to learn how to use ASO to move beyond keyword research or keyword strategy; enhance your overall marketing through strategic positioning in the App Store, translate your USPs into conversion in your store listing page, and carefully position your brand to target users that are most likely to download.

We’ve rounded up key takeaways on how to strategically position your brand in the app stores:

App Positioning

What do we mean when we say, “app positioning”? App positioning refers to how you can use careful marketing and positioning to make sure that wherever your app is featured and/or shown in the store, it’s in a place where it’s primed for conversion.

Know Your Category & Choose Wisely

What is a category? When you set an app live, you’re asked to associate it with a category – a broad term to define your app. The category is important for two main reasons:

  1. When you’re in a category, you get a category rank. If you’re ranked high within your category, you get a lot of browse impressions and installs from users who aren’t looking for a specific app within the category.
  2. When you choose a category, you’re signaling to the store what your app is about. That helps the store associate you with other apps that they identify as similar to yours. You may then be featured in those apps’ store listing page within the “similar apps” section. We’ve seen that Category plays a big role in the apps that are included in this section.

If you’re ranked in the top 100 within your category, you get a badge on your store listing page. While this is nice to have, ranking in the top 100 doesn’t really do a lot for your app in terms of Browse visibility. It’s not the prime reason why category rank is important. So why is it important?

Big fish, little pond: where do you really want to be?

Everyone wants to be #1 in their category. But while a lot of developers want to be ranked in a big, popular, saturated category, like Games, Education or Business, it’s really hard to achieve high ranking in these categories. That’s why you should consider being a big fish in a little pond.

You might worry that by switching to a niche category, you would lose out on traffic overall because less people are going to browse through the niche category than a big category. However, it could actually be a great move for your app because you are more likely to rank high within that category.

Don’t be intimidated by smaller categories. It may be better to get a small amount of extremely relevant traffic rather than a huge amount of impressions from generic categories that users don’t fit into. As long as the smaller categories are relevant to your product, you could see a lot of success there.

Who are your users? Who do they identify as?

It’s important to consider who your users are and, more importantly, who your users identify as. Instead of identifying your users just in terms of what value they bring to you as customers, think about how they would identify themselves – who are they? What sorts of categories and apps would they be looking for based on their lifestyle?


Tags can be considered a mini-category available on Google Play. You can have 5 different tags associated with your app. Tags are important because they also give a signal to the store about what your app is about. You can choose whichever tags you feel best align with your product, but we have some additional tips.

We’d recommend thinking broadly about the types of users you want to draw in and the types of apps you’d like to be associated with. This doesn’t have to be only about your core business, but also about particular features within your app that users may not know about until they download it. We would recommend including tags that also speak to these features. This gives the store a sense that your app is well-rounded so you can be featured in a large variety of relevant places in the store.

Projecting: where do you belong?

When choosing a category, avoid projection. We don’t want the category to drive user perception or drive our marketing strategy. Rather, gain a good sense of user perception and think about where you belong right now.

The main takeaway here is understanding your relevance and your core features. Stay in the place where you can make an impact rather than getting lost in a huge and general category.

How can you increase your category ranking?

Category rank is really driven by installs. Your rank is likely to be higher if you’re in a niche category where you’re competing with fewer apps. But once you’re already in a category, your rank is mostly driven by installs.

This refers to installs from any source, whether you run paid marketing campaigns, make additional efforts to increase your organic, or do offline marketing that increases your search installs. Whenever the store is sensing that there is a ramping up of installs, that’s a great way to really increase your category rank.

Know Your Brand & USPs

To figure out which category you belong in, it’s important to know your brand and your unique selling points. This is important for your marketing strategy in general.

How to find USPs?

We recommend doing consumer research on your current and potential users in order to understand what they like about your app and the features that really stand out to them. You can do this by analyzing in-app behavior and reviewing your reviews:

Know not only what draws your users in, but also what gets them to stay

Analyze in-app behavior and use what you find to drive your marketing strategy in the store. By analyzing your in-app behavior, you can identify the most popular features of your app and user actions that lead to retention, and then convert those to elements of your store listing.

Include those features in your graphics and keywords. Highlighting features that you know users love is an amazing way to not only help boost your installs, but also to make sure that you’re upkeeping retention with the installs you drive in (users are downloading based on this feature that you’ve promised and that feature is a core function of the app).

Another way to find your USPs is to check out reviews. Reviews, particularly bad reviews, get a lot of attention because they help point out pieces of the product that can be improved, issues users are having, etc. But in order to identify your USPs, we recommend taking a close look at your positive reviews – what trends keep reappearing? What do users really love about your app? What are their favorite features? You might even get some keyword ideas from your reviews.

Relatively recently, Google came out with an in-app review API. By setting up this API, you can allow your users to leave reviews in the app itself without having to head over to the store listing – that’s a great way to amass as many reviews as possible. And the more reviews you have, the more chances you have to look at positive reviews as well, see trends, take features that are mentioned and convert them into marketable elements of your store listing page.

Expand your brand identity through strategy keyword targets

We suggest also pushing the envelope a bit and expanding your brand identity, specifically through keyword targets. We recommend highlighting your core functionality and the features you know users love.

But for many apps, there are features that they offer that users may not be aware of. You can incorporate these features into the metadata as well. Your app could then be featured as a similar app for a much wider array of competitors. This could lead to more conversion, as well as more search and browse traffic. By doing this, users may see features that are applicable to them that they weren’t aware of before.

Your keyword strategy is a good way to test out what else works. If you see that adding keywords about another feature is drawing in a lot of relevant traffic, then keep diving into that feature.

Leveraging Competitors

In order to position your app more strategically in the store, you can also take tips and tricks from your competitors, and in some cases go as far as mimicking your competitors.

Reconsider your competitors

Sometimes companies tend to build their competitor list early on in the process and stick with this list even as the product evolves or as marketing changes over time. It’s important to think out of the box and re-evaluate your competitors pretty frequently.

We would also recommend not just focusing on your direct competitors, but also on your indirect competition – apps that do not offer the same product/services but their audiences are very similar to who you’re trying to reach. Their users are highly relevant and highly likely to convert if your app is offered to them even though they may not seek your app specifically.

When you’re included as a similar app for direct competitors, the ask you’re asking of potential users is a lot higher. You’re asking a potential user who’s on your competitor’s store listing page to disregard this product and choose you instead. But when you move to indirect competition, the ask is a lot smaller. You’re not asking the potential user to give up on this app and choose a competitor; you’re saying that you have a supplementary product that you feel is really relevant to the user. Rather than trying to pull users away, you’re broadening their horizons with a product that may be really relevant to them based on what they’re already searching.

How can you find your indirect competition? You can check your current similar apps and check out other competitors within your category or other categories that you feel might be a good fit for your audience. You can also find them through consumer research, by specifically asking users what apps they currently use. If you find that a lot of your current users are using the same apps, that’s a really good indication that these are your indirect competitors.

How do I do a competitive analysis?

Take a look at the bigger picture. A little trick we like to do is pull together direct and indirect competition, take all of their graphics, put them on one page and look at them from afar. Then see what trends you can pick up at a glance. Are there certain color schemes, for instance? This is a good way to understand if your app has any gaps in your creative strategy or ways that set you apart. It’s also a good way to gain inspiration, pull ideas and apply them in your store listing.

Make sure you’re doing a competitive analysis for each market that’s important to you. Creative trends and keywords are different for each market.

Go head-to-head with your main competitors

You can check the main keywords that your main competitors are using. You can apply those keywords and apply them in your own store listing. By taking the keywords that are relevant to both your apps, this signals to the store that your apps are similar and you’re likely to appear as a similar app to that app or get included in store features together. The store sees that you’re using the same terms and ties you together.

This also applies to your creative strategy – if you see there’s a creative trend your competitor is using or if you try to adjust your icon to look a bit more similar to your competitor’s icon, this is also a way to signal to the store that your apps should be associated together.

One final note…

We’ve covered a big part of app positioning – from using your competitors to leveraging your best features and also choosing your category and the apps you’re associated with wisely. We’d like to end with one final note:

The importance of testing

Never assume! It’s always important to test any hypothesis whenever you can. If you see something isn’t working, take a few steps back and allow that to redirect your strategy. If you do a category change that doesn’t have the effect on search or browse impressions that you would’ve liked, it’s ok to go back to your other category or reassess and see if there is another category that would be a good fit.

This is especially important if you have different apps. It’s important not to assume that what works on one app will work in the same way for another. The same goes for markets – if you see that something works for one market, it’s always good to test it in another market and not just apply your findings. Test whenever possible and figure out the best strategy based on what region you’re in.


We’d like to thank MobileAction for hosting us. Those interested can view the entire webinar recording here:

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