It’s often said that the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s also the most competitive time from a marketing perspective. Ongoing App Store Optimization efforts are a must-have all year, but increased competition and seasonally relevant trends make Q4 a particularly important season.
In the final quarter of the year, app developers and marketers are firing on all cylinders to reach users during the holiday rush. With each year comes new devices; with new devices come new users; with an increase of new users comes an increase of advertisers looking to get their attention. Even apps without a holiday focus will need to increase their marketing efforts to play on an even field during this competitive time.
App Store Optimization (ASO) is essential to achieve this. As we enter Q4, developers must be sure to update their app listings on time, including their keywords and creative sets, to both take advantage of the season and prepare for the competition.
The App Store and Google Play Store need time to merchandize an app for its keywords and the apps need time to build their rankings – developers can’t update their keywords and creatives the night before Thanksgiving and expect to be at the top of the search results in time for Black Friday.
It takes roughly 3-4 weeks for the stores to fully merchandize an updated store listing, although that time can be accelerated if you are also running paid campaigns like Apple Search Ads.
You’ll need time to gather data and figure out what aspects of your store listing perform best, which can take a few weeks as well. During this time, you’ll want to monitor your performance, identify what features and keywords are impacted by the seasonal trends, and adjust your listing accordingly.
You’ll want to give yourself at least a month to index and rank for the new keywords and see how well the optimization is working. Starting too late can result in missed opportunities to optimize for the season and give your competitors a head-start. Be sure to start early, so you can have a lead over your rivals as you enter the competitive season and rank well for your holiday-focused keywords.
App Store Optimization is an ongoing process, requiring consistent updates based on user trends. As seasonal trends cause user demand and search terms to fluctuate, the updates must be adjusted accordingly. What users search for during the summer can be very different from what they’re looking for during the winter months. Events like holidays can influence user search trends as well, and there’s no shortage of holidays in Q4.
App developers need to keep up with these changes to ensure their app store listings are targeting the terms and highlighting features that users care about in-the-moment. Even apps unrelated to the holidays will want to keep an eye on changing keyword trends and update to capitalize on them as new users flock to the app stores. This can help apps stay competitive and make the most of the seasonal demand.
If your app has holiday-related features or updates, it’s critical to update your metadata to align with them. This can help ensure your app will appear in searches for those terms.
Shopping apps, for instance, see an increase in demand during the holiday season as users search for gifts and deals. This is when seasonal optimization is vital. Targeting “holiday shopping” or “Black Friday deals” may not be too important during July, but is essential for those apps during November and December.
Given the increase in competition during Q4, shopping app developers (and all developers) will also need to be more aggressive in bids for Search Ad campaigns, even for non-seasonal shopping terms. The seasonal increase in demand will make even evergreen terms like “shopping” face much higher demand, regardless of if the app is focusing on holiday shopping. With proper optimization, you can prepare for the holiday demand and keep up with your competitors.
Your creative elements, including the icon, screenshots, and video, take up a significant amount of real estate on your app store listings and play an important role in conversions. As you update your keywords to align with the season, you should also update your creative set to match.
When you optimize your app for the holiday season, it can show users that you’re focusing on their needs. If a user is searching for an app to help with gift shopping, a creative set that calls out how users can “find the perfect holiday gift” will directly relate to that need and is more likely to appeal to users.
Seasonal updates also show users that your app is up to date and relevant, even if they’re not holiday-focused. Keeping creative sets up to date signals to users that the app is updated for their current needs. If a fashion app is updated for holiday styles or cold weather outfits, it will show users that it relates to their current needs. If it’s still focused on spring fashion, the user could perceive it as out of date and irrelevant.
As you increase your paid marketing efforts for Q4, it’s important to remember that the paid traffic from all channels will lead users to the app stores. Whatever route a user takes to get to the store, the creatives displayed on a product page play an important role in whether or not a user decides to actually download the app. Optimized creatives are your final pitch for organic and paid installs alike.
If you want your screenshots to stand out from the competition, there are some best practices you can follow. For seasonality, the first step is adjusting the imagery in the screenshots to reflect the holidays.
In the case of mobile games, this can mean highlighting seasonal events. For shopping apps, this could include showcasing gifts and winter gear. If the app is updated for the holidays, the screenshots should reflect that.
Apps not focused on the holidays should still update with seasonality in mind. Vacation apps may want to switch their imagery to highlight ski trips instead of trips to national parks while streaming apps could highlight holiday classics available for viewing. Keeping screenshots fresh throughout the year is important for any and all apps.
Using a screenshot copy that relates to the updated keywords can also help. This helps relate the app to user search queries by directly connecting it to the terms they’re looking for. If users can see in an instant how an app relates to their search, they’re more likely to click on the app and potentially download it.
Keep in mind that competition is increased in Q4. You’ll need to make efforts to stand out from the competition and gain conversions, even if your app is not related to the holidays. This is the time to update with tested, engaging creative sets that will help you end the year on a high note, no matter what kind of app you develop.
The holiday season presents significant opportunities for app developers, with increased shopping, multiple holidays, and the end of the year. At the same time, competition increases significantly as developers up their end of the year marketing budgets. This means more spending on paid ads and a greater need for impressions to lead to conversions.
When users buy or receive a new phone, the first thing they’ll want to do is shop for apps. App developers and marketers need to adjust their strategies to capture these new users.
If you want to make the most of seasonal trends, you need to update your keywords and creative sets for the season, while giving your app enough time to the index for the new terms and build rankings for them. While increasing ad spends can help you keep up with the competition, increasing it without considering what you need to increase conversions can provide lack-luster results and a high CPI.
Even for apps without seasonal changes, optimizing, and increasing ad spend is essential to reach new users.
With proper App Store Optimization, your app can be prepared for the holiday rush and the increased competition, resulting in enough growth and usage to help ensure a happy new year.
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