ASO vs App Install Ads

Digital marketing is basically about 2 things today – Organic and paid user acquisition.

Of course, everyone strives for organic traffic because it’s free. But is that really the best approach?

In this post, we discuss whether App Store Optimization (ASO) or paying for App Install Ads is the best choice for you.

You may think it’s easier to get traction from ads than from app store optimization, but with multiple factors affecting your app performance, engagement and revenue, it’s very difficult to choose one over the other.

In this post we’ll help clarify which one is best for you.

What is App Store Optimization?

All the changes you make to your app store listing to improve your ranking in the app stores are known as App Store Optimisation (ASO).

Similar to SEO, you try to improve the visibility of your app with the help of ASO.

There are many factors affecting your app rank in the app stores.

Here are the most important ones:

What are App Install Ads?

App install ads help you get more downloads. These ads redirect users to your app’s store page. 3 of the most popular kind of app install ads are:

  • Google’s mobile app install campaigns
  • Facebook’s app install ads

Facebook app install ads are one of the best and most used ways of getting downloads for your app. But Google’s mobile app installs campaigns and Apple’s Search Ads can also contribute to growing your mobile app business.

App Store Optimisation Vs. App Install Ads

One clear difference between App Store Optimization and App Install Ads is that ASO is free and app install ads are obviously paid.

However, your choice may depend on your app marketing goals, situation, and budget.

In the following, we will compare ASO and App Install Ads based on character points like Pricing and Budget, App Launch, Process and Algorithm.

1. Pricing and Budget

App Store Optimization : The main advantage of ASO is, that it is all about getting free organic traffic to your app page.

Start-Ups or new app developers in particular can benefit from this procedure.

Doing ASO right, means you manage to get more traffic to your app store listing as more users are able to discover it within app store search results or top app category.

A basic step here is to track your app store ranking and competitor’s performance. To do so, we strongly recommend you to use a 3rd party tool to save you hours of work by automating this step for ASO.

App Install Ads : You require a decent budget to run an ad campaign whether it’s on Facebook, Google or Apple. If you are in the U.S., you’ll be able to get a cost per install of $3.5 (average). However, if you want thousands of downloads on a low budget, ads may not be the right way to go. In conclusion, also if you decide to subscribe to an ASO-Tool, App Store Optimization is still a less expensive alternative.

2. New App Launch

App Store Optimization : If you have launched a new app, ASO is absolutely necessary.

Strong ASO will improve your chance of ranking in the “Top trending” and “Top New” categories.

In order to convert the traffic coming from App Store Optimization into downloads, concentrate on convincing screenshots, title, and icons to attract people.

app screenshots
Example of great app store screenshots from the app ‘iTranslate‘ in the App Store

App Install Ads : When you have recently launched a new app, also app install ads may be a good choice for you.

App install ads can help you to get a lot of initial downloads & gain traction very quickly.

They will also allow you to scale you user acquisition at a rate that suits you as you move forward. 

3. Process

App Store Optimization : ASO is a time-consuming process.

In order to keep your app ranked highly for your chosen keywords, you may need to make constant changes to app metadata.

It’s not a one-time affair.

This includes changing screenshots, testing keywords in your title and descriptions, updating your app frequently etc.

This also requires ongoing monitoring as you never know beforehand what will work best.

Small tweaks can result in great changes in ASO. Thus, we recommend getting the assistance of ASO-Tools like App Radar.

App Install Ads : App install ads are easier to manage.

You need a decent app store page to begin with.

If you target the right audience and lure them with correct messaging, your conversion rates will be better with an optimized app store page.

App install ads in Google
When buying app installs through Google, the ad will take potential new users to the Play Store page first, where they will see your app page and make a decisions about whether to install it. Source.

4. Control

App Store Optimization : There are some factors influencing your app store ranking, you can’t directly control.

For example, engagement rate, downloads, or user-reviews are not under your direct control.

However, if you have access to iTunes Connect or Developer Console, you can control your app metadata.

Also, you can dedicate resources to ensuring you have a good keyword strategy, appropriate update frequency, reasonable bug fix frequency, great website and app page.

Even though there is a limit on what you can design, you can have an influence on several ASO aspects.

App Install Ads : For Facebook App Install Ads, you can choose image, copy and target audience for your advertisement.

As long as it follows Facebook’s guidelines, your advert will then be visible on Facebook. Optionally, you can choose to also advertise your app over the Audience Network to increase user reach.

Also with Google’s App Installs Campaigns, your app gets advertised across the Google search and display network.

These campaigns are linked to your AdWords account to generate your target audience automatically.

5. Algorithms

App Store Optimization : Knowing the basics of the algorithm behind the app stores is the initial step to do App Store Optimisation appropriately.

Although the exact algorithm used by Apple and Google is not public, there are several factors, that obviously influence your visibility in the app store. We mentioned them above.

You can learn many things from SEO. For example back linking, keyword usage and traffic (downloads) can boost your ranking.

When it comes to search results accuracy, there are still some issues faced by most app stores. However, App Store algorithms are improving year by year.

App Install Ads : Google app ads targeting can be difficult to master at times.

People may see app ads that are not even closely related to the term they searched for. However, this is improving as well.

Apple Search Ads’ hit rate is not as high as it should be, too. Search Ads are pretty new and still running on Beta in U.S. only. So it will probably take time till they have enough data to rely on for more accurate targeting.

Facebook App Install Ads, in contrast, are the best way to advertise your app at the moment. They continually improved this advertising method so it shows an average 2-3% click through rate and 15-18% install rate for most ads.

App Store Optimisation vs. App Install Ads: What is the best choice for you?

There are many advantages and disadvantages of each, but one thing is clear: People will visit your app page to download your app.

Therefore, App Store Optimization should always be a vital part of your App Marketing strategy.


However, there are also some arguments for the use of App Install Ads.

For example, if you want to boost your downloads for a specific period of time or want to advertise a certain update, you should use App Install Ads.

Facebook ads are especially great when it comes to lifestyle, entertainment, music and shopping apps.

In-Store Ads like Search Ads may also support you with your keyword strategy.

For example, if you are facing very high competition on several important search terms, you can boost your visibility using Search Ads. If you’re focus is on reach, Google may be the perfect partner for your app ads.

All in all, which approach to concentrate your app marketing strategy on, is a question of team size, kind of app and budget.


To conclude, App Store Optimization is a must for big and small app companies regardless of your budget.

If your app page looks great with a simple icon, attractive screenshots, and the right keyword use in app name and comprehensive description, you’ll be able to get downloads from ASO and you’ll have better ad campaigns.

With that said, if your visibility remains low, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Then concentrate on analyzing where you stand in the battle of App Store Search and chose the right platform for your marketing.

Additionally, Ads, PR, Social Media are useful supplements to your ASO-based App Marketing strategy.

All in all, everything comes down to Return On Investment (ROI).

Author Bio:

Thomas Kriebernegg can look back on over 10 years of experience in Online Marketing and 4 years of experience in App Marketing. End of 2015 he teamed up with Christian Janesch and developed an ASO Tool called App Radar, which helps app developers to understand if their app can be found within the app stores. App Radar automatically delivers app store rankings based on keywords you use for your app. It gives you an accurate overview of your app’s and competitor’s keyword rankings localized for several countries and languages.

You can contact Thomas via: