Should media ad teams prioritise App Store Optimisation?

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


In this newsletter, I will be focusing on two areas, all of which have been highlighted to me by INMA members as subjects that want to know more about.

They are:

  1. Mobile advertising, specifically on the area around app marketing. Every media company has its own apps of some description, be it for specific content verticals like cooking, sports, etc., or just their main offering for general news. What many don’t do though is focus on app marketing as a driver for engagement and revenue.
  2. The issue around where a sale begins. Does it start when the salesperson picks up the phone or does it happen much earlier? Do your salespeople ask themselves, “Why?” For example, why would an advertiser specifically want my media company and my offerings? More of that later, but first … 

Mobile app marketing 

To “deep dive” into this really important and largely overlooked area in media, I caught up with Mick Rigby, founder and CEO of Yodel Mobile, a multi-award winning, dedicated app marketing agency. Yodel Mobile trades in the space around App Store Optimisation, paid user acquisition campaigns, mobile app consultation, and mobile creative services to launch and scale companies’ apps. They are the winners of App Store Optimisation (ASO) agency of the year at the mobile industry’s App Growth Awards.

Based here in London, I went to interview Mick about what his company does and where the opportunities are for media companies. Is this, for instance, a service we should recommending to our advertisers?

App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is Apple's opt-in privacy framework, requiring all iOS apps ask for permission to share their data.
App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is Apple's opt-in privacy framework, requiring all iOS apps ask for permission to share their data.

Background to app marketing/ASO 

To set the scene, app marketing is the process of promoting and marketing mobile apps to potential users. It can be done through a variety of channels, including paid advertising, social media, and App Store Optimisation (ASO).

ASO is the process of optimising an app's listing in an app store to improve its visibility and ranking in search results. This can be done by using relevant keywords, writing compelling app descriptions, and creating high-quality screenshots and videos.

Both app marketing and ASO are essential for the success of any mobile app. By using a combination of these strategies, you can increase the visibility of your app and attract more users. 

Some of the benefits of app marketing and ASO could be defined as: 

  • Increased visibility: By optimising your app’s listing in the app store, you can make it more visible to potential users. This can lead to more downloads and increased engagement. 
  • Improved conversion rates: When users are more likely to see your app, they are also more likely to download it. ASO can help you improve your conversion rates and get more users to download your app. 
  • Increased brand awareness: When your app is more visible, it can also help to increase brand awareness. This can lead to more users trying your app and becoming loyal customers.
  • Improved app store rankings: By optimising your media brand app's listing (or your advertisers’ client apps), you can improve its ranking in the app store. This can lead to more downloads and increased visibility. 

If you are looking to market your, or your advertising client’s, mobile app, then app marketing and ASO are essential strategies. By using a combination of these strategies, you can increase the visibility of your app and attract more users. Anyhow, here’s what we discussed (you will see the relevance to all we have spoken about in past newsletters).

And with that, here’s my interview with Mick:

Mark: Mick, please firstly tell us about Yodel.

Mick: Hi Mark. Yodel is an app growth and marketing agency working with enterprise businesses through to start-ups across Europe and the Americas. We are focused on app user acquisition through to engagement and user retention. This includes the hot topic and very relevant services of App Store Optimisation (think SEO but for the app store listing), creative development, paid user acquisition, and CRM. It’s a really important area for media companies, both for themselves and their advertising clients to understand fully.

Mark: Great. Before we get into this fully, let’s take a step back for a moment. You’ve been in the mobile arena for many years now. How have you seen the power of “mobile" change over the years?

Mick: The first mobile phone was clunky and expensive by today’s standards, but it opened up a whole new world of communication. It allowed people to be connected while on the move, which was a revolutionary concept at the time. Fast forward 50 years, and the world is now more connected than ever thanks to the advancements in mobile technology.  

The mobile phone has changed the way we live, work, and communicate. Not only can we do stuff like connecting with loved ones, we can, of course, conduct business anytime we want to. Can you image not being able to access all the information you need at any time on a single handheld device? This revolutionary level of accessibility was unthinkable just a few decades ago, and it has transformed the way we go about our daily lives. 

The mobile phone has paved the way for the development of countless mobile apps that have revolutionised industries and made life easier for people — from food delivery and ride-sharing apps to healthcare and news media apps. The mobile and app space has become a thriving industry that owes much of its success to the invention of that first mobile phone.

Mark: So Mick, that leads me nicely to our main conversation today. For anyone not knowing what ASO actually is, please explain? 

Mick: App Store Optimisation is a significant element to mobile app growth. You need to consider two essential factors: how discoverable you (or your client’s) app store listing is and how well your app store listing converts users. The key elements are your app store listing’s metadata, the video and images, and the testing strategy to improve continually. Optimising these factors will make your listing the best it can be at attracting app users without spending huge marketing budgets. 

Mark: Trust has become more important over the years, hasn’t it? The mobile phone is a personal space and consumers need to feel they can trust what we offer as a business. We have seen the rise of protectionism initiatives such as Google’s coming demise of the third-party cookie and Apple’s IOS 4 prompt, supposedly to protect consumers. Does all this actually help businesses or hinder them though? More about consumers opting in now rather than opting out?

Mick: Perhaps controversially, it has all caused many challenges, but I believe that the Apple ATT prompt is good for the App Sector.  

[*App Tracking Transparency, or ATT for short, is Apple's opt-in privacy framework that requires all iOS apps to ask users for permission to share their data. This is done in the form of a pop-up where users can either consent or deny tracking.] 

When Apple released IOS 14.5 in April 2021, the widely unwanted baggage of the ATT prompt hit the world of app advertising with a thud. Unlike before the ATT dropped, app users now had to explicitly opt-in to allow apps to track their data.  

The implications of this seismic change had, and continue to have, repercussions across the ad sector. It has had an impact on increasing the cost of user acquisition; app publishers and advertisers find it harder to track user behaviour; and platforms' ad revenues declined. On the surface, it has caused many issues and shaken traditional app user acquisition to its foundations. 

Mark: I sense there is a “but” coming though? A positive side?

Mick: Yes, indeed. There is always a “however” to any big change. I believe it’s also been good for the sector. It has forced app businesses and publishers out of their comfort zone and will ultimately be positive for the app world — especially for the more skillful and intelligent companies, who will undoubtedly benefit.  

Mark: Please explain what you mean? Why do you believe this is the case? 

Mick: Firstly, we are seeing an increase in user trust as a result. The question you put to me about trust is now able to happen through the provision of greater control for users over their personal data. The jury is still out at the moment, but I expect this will lead to increased user engagement and loyalty over time. So it’ll be good for the user and your association’s publishers.  

As the user’s data is provided explicitly, it will be more meaningful and relevant. This leads to more effective targeting and better ROIs on client ad campaigns. Ads more relevant to the user’s specific needs and wants are simply more effective ads.  

Businesses have to be more innovative and smarter in how they cut through and create compelling communications and user engagement, so they will have to work harder. It also means that lazy acquisition strategies no longer deliver success.

Mark: What do you mean by lazy acquisition strategies?

Mick: I guess I mean the reliance on the algorithms behind the likes of Meta or Google Universal Ads simply serving ads and creative messages to audiences based on machine learning rather than well thought through campaigns and tight messaging strategies.

Mark: So, what will be the important factors when building an app strategy now? 

Mick: The holistic full funnel activities focused on effective acquisition, experience, and retention have to be engaged. An app’s creative strategy, designs, and communications have to be more relevant and should increase the quality of the user experience by being more “on brief.” 

Mark: So, overall, it’s a good thing for everyone if we embrace the challenges it presents? 

Mick: Yes. And for the sector as a whole, we will see more ethical and transparent advertising practices. By being more upfront with users about the data collected and its use, businesses will ultimately build stronger relationships with their customers and create a more sustainable business model. You may not see the benefit instantly, but you will.

Mark: And finally, Mick, if ... a media company has set themselves up to offer ASO as part of their offerings and knowledge base to their advertising clients, how do they then get involved in their client’s app growth? 

Mick: It’s 2023, and the concept of growth has changed. “Growth at all costs” has been replaced with something more sustainable, focusing not just on new users but the lifetime value of users and, ultimately, business profitability.

Every year, the mobile app ecosystem becomes more saturated. Fourteen years ago, the iOS App Store launched with 500 apps. Today there are over seven million games and apps across both app stores in every app niche and genre possible.

So the first thing to say is that there’s no doubt that succeeding in this competitive market is extremely hard, but it is possible … with the right approach and a data-led strategy in place. 

Mark: So, where would you advise we start the process?

Mick: There are many components of a successful app growth strategy, but all of them have one thing in common: It’s data. When used correctly, data eliminates guesswork, ensuring you’re investing the time and resources in the right areas and aren’t distracted by what’s irrelevant.  

The good news is the app industry has plenty of data available. However, knowing when and how to use it to make the right business decisions is the key. But don’t let that put you off. If I may, I would like to finish with a quote I love from Canadian author Robin Sharma: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.”

Mark: Thank you, Mick. You have touched on all the things we have covered in our recent INMA Advertising Initiative newsletters. Recognising the power of owned/first-party data, trust, transparency, creativity, user experience.

In summary 

Consumer data has to be provided explicitly now, and it will be far more meaningful and relevant to advertisers and media companies going forward from the point of view of insights. It will allow for more effective targeting and better ROI on our client ad campaigns.

And. now that second topic I mentioned, which overlaps the above in many ways, as you’ll see.

Where does (or should) an advertising sale start?

The initial question to ask is: Where does a new sale start? Is it when one of the sales team picks up the phone? Is it when they send an e-mail to a prospective client?

No. A sale starts (or should start) a lot earlier. 

It should start begins with research. Conducting research, understanding your data via channels such as Web sites, magazines, social media, reports, podcasts, blogs, etc., establishes if there is a fit between your media offering and the client brand. 

On many occasions, sales teams have “stuff” to sell. They have a deadline to hit but no prospective clients are buying (for whatever reason, probably unknown at this stage). So, they turn to their regular advertisers. Why? Because they have been dealing with them for many years already, and the hope is they will help them out of the tight spot.

The issue with many sales scenarios like the above is they are driven by sales targets. It’s not driven by the market or client need. What is needed here is a complete shift in approach. A market-driven approach to innovation and to new product development … and, of course, selling.

If the market doesn’t see the value exchange in what your salespeople are offering, they simply won’t buy it. 

So, the question that should be the bedrock of any well thought through sales proposal should be why would the market be interested in buying this product or service? Yes, I know it’s not rocket science, but I have seen many examples where the products/services sales teams offer are badly conceived, outdated, or just plain, well, boring.

Having the best offerings to sell

It’s been quite common in my personal experience for an editor thinking that a new, say, weekly supplement would automatically attract large sponsorship monies. Or conversely, maybe an IT team who deletes the highest earning Web site ad spot because the new site they are building may not be able to support that same position.

Where does that leave the salespeople?

Product innovation

Not all new products/services will sell, usually because no one cared to ask the right questions from the product’s beginning. Salespeople are usually never involved. 

It’s important to continually review and innovate with our offerings to ensure that what our sales teams have to offer keeps in line with what the market wants to buy. At the core, there must be collaboration involving all the stakeholders across the disciplines, which must include input from the salespeople — the people at the coal face, trying to sell it all. 

Putting the client approach of why would they buy it at the centre of all product reviews and innovations will not only positively increase your bottom line, but it will also provide motivation to the sales teams in the process. They suddenly own it. 

Then, overlay the resulting mix of products and services determined with the research I mentioned earlier, it will leave you with an empowered sales force whose own research skills can be used to identify the prime targets for whatever it is they are to sell. It’s the beginning of the consultative selling process we have tackled here many times in this newsletter and will help ensure you are best positioned for sales success.

Further reading on App Store Optimisation 

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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