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ASO in China: How To Master China’s App Ecosystem

What is there to learn about ASO in China? Every marketer worth their salt has heard of (and probably worked on) app store optimization, or ASO. On both Android and iOS, ASO is fairly straightforward (though there are many nuances to each ecosystem).

Marketers in China face a different set of challenges due to a highly fragmented marketplace. China boasts a diverse array of different app platforms, each with its own rules and algorithms that make ASO in China much more difficult to accomplish. In this environment, marketers need to apply an approach that tailor-fits strategies that resonate on every platform.

In this short guide, we’ll explain how to conduct ASO in China in detail, helping you to improve your overall ranking in whichever place you choose. But first, let’s cover what ASO is to get a grounded understanding of the problem.

What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?

App Store Optimization is a marketing tactic that elevates an app’s ranking in app store search results, enhancing discoverability by potential users. To make an impact, marketers need to alter different elements of an app store page, including keywords, images, and videos that optimize their app store listing for different search terms.

When done well, ASO drives more traffic to app listings, boosts conversion rates, and increases organic downloads. ASO also enhances brand recognition, promotes user engagement, and encourages more app reviews.

What Makes ASO in China Different?

Users in countries like the U.S. mainly rely on one of two dominant app stores, the App Store and Google Play Store, to download apps — depending on which device that user owns. This means that ASO practitioners working in markets dominated by these App Stores have a relatively straightforward task.

When it comes to iOS, ASO marketers in China still work on the App Store, which works in the Chinese mobile ecosystem. However, Android’s Google Play Store is blocked in the region — affecting 74.5% of mobile users in China. As such, Chinese Android devices download their apps from non-Google Play sources, which are primarily categorized as follows:

  • Mobile Manufacturers, including the Huawei App Market Store, Xiaomi GetApps, VIVO App Store, and the Oppo Software Store.

  • Third-party stores, such as Tencent MyApp, Baidu Mobile Assistant, 360 Mobile Assistant, and Wandoujia.

When it comes to how ASO works on each store, there are subtle nuances to each that work up to a big difference. Here are just a few:

Huawei AppGallery

  1. On this store, the app’s name carries the most weight. However, a title can only be 20 characters in length and must align with copyright.

  2. Apps with more downloads, better reviews, and higher ratings tend to cover a broader range of keywords.

  3. Regular version updates also help to enhance the app’s visibility.

Xiaomi GetApps

  1. Here, the app title is capped at eight Chinese characters and the subtitle at 16 characters. The app store gives the highest indexing weight to keywords in the title.

  2. Developers can input up to 8 keywords, each limited to 5 characters. Xiaomi prohibits the use of competitors’ keywords.

  3. Xiaomi also features a branded display image at the top of the app’s information page.

Vivo App Store

  1. Vivo’s keyword indexing is solely tied to the app name, which should match the product name in the software copyright. Be aware that title changes are restricted to four times annually.

  2. Only the subtitles can be manually adjusted to enhance keyword coverage on Vivo.

Oppo Software Store

  1. The OPPO store does not provide a keyword input option. The only editable parts are the title and a subtitle limit of 10 characters. A version update is necessary for every title change.

  2. The app description must stay within a 1500-character limit.

That covers just a few distinctions across app stores. They also differ visually, which means, from a UI perspective, there are different challenges and tweaks to get things right:

Key Elements To Improve Your App’s ASO in China’s Ecosystem

In this section, we’re breaking down each potential area you can optimize, with tips on how to improve each aspect of an app’s listing.

App Logo

Arguably the most pivotal metadata, the app logo appears everywhere: search results, app information pages, rankings, and even post-installation on the home screen. An effective logo encapsulates the brand, like how Meituan uses its name “美团” as the logo, straightforwardly conveys its purpose. The most suitable logo can be determined through user polls or A/B tests on download pages and ad placements.

App Name (Title)

An app’s name holds significant weight in most app store’s algorithm, especially its first few characters.

While using popular terms can boost keyword presence, the primary goal is to communicate the brand name. Beyond the primary title, developers might consider incorporating taglines. Taglines not only improve keyword rankings but also allow users to understand the primary functions of the app. Typically, there are three tagline strategies:

  1. Function Description: This approach explicitly states the app’s purpose. For instance, “Meitu – Photo Editor & AI Art” uses the primary title “Meitu” complemented by the keywords “photo editor” and “AI art”, providing clear insight into the app’s function.

  2. Slogan-style: This strategy turns keywords into catchy phrases or slogans, serving as a brief app introduction. Take “Temu: Shop Like a Billionaire” as an example. Temu is an e-commerce site similar to Shein that offers incredibly low prices, and the tagline “shop like a billionaire” directly captures its value proposition.

  3. Trending Topics & Promotions: This strategy is popular among video apps that use taglines to update users about recently added shows or series. However, some apps also use it for time-bound promotions, such as “Dealmoon – 11.11 Festival.”

Subtitle

While many smaller app stores in China don’t offer subtitle support, major players like Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, and VIVO do, and they display the subtitle beneath the app name in both search results and on product detail pages.

Subtitles are ideal for explaining an app’s functionalities quickly. If you can utilize subtitles, you must include your most important keywords there. However, keyword repetition between the app name and subtitle should be avoided.

App Description

App descriptions should highlight distinctive features and any ongoing promotions. The initial paragraph your users see should encapsulate the app’s advantages and main features, as people typically see only the first few lines before expanding the section, or deciding not to continue.

When promoting specific offers, updating the description is more straightforward than updating in-app messaging. But ensure efforts are coordinated across platforms to ensure smooth conversions.

App Screenshots

Screenshots offer a sneak peek into an app’s offerings. They should provide enough information to help users decide about installations. Since few users venture beyond the initial screenshots, the first couple should project the app’s main benefits. Brands like Tencent Video frequently update their screenshots in line with current trends to maintain relevance.

Ratings & Reviews

While some Android platforms may tolerate automated reviews, others, such as OPPO and Huawei, enforce stringent guidelines. For instance, on Huawei, even legitimate reviews could be flagged if the volume exceeds a daily limit.

Encouraging feedback is beneficial, but manipulating or faking positive reviews can lead to penalties.

Making an Impact on Your ASO in China

App Store Optimization is a long-term, stable, and free traffic channel. Doing ASO well not only steadily increases the download volume of the app, but also enhances brand awareness and reputation. It’s a must for marketers, but ASO is a challenge across the various app stores in China’s market.

If you’re looking for help with ASO, get in contact with Nativex. Nativex is a leading digital marketing agency covering traffic resources across all major global markets. Our extensive traffic network inventory in China includes renowned platforms like Petal Ads, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo. Nativex has recently received certification as a Petal Ads (formerly known as Huawei Ads) partner, reaffirming its position as a leading digital marketing agency for global growth.

Besides user acquisition, influencer marketing, creative customization, and account management services, Nativex can also help you support your app’s growth through organic channels. Reach out to us today to kick-start your first marketing campaign in China.

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