The Effect of Backlinks Anchor Text (SEO) on Google Play ASO (App Store Optimization) [Constantly UPDATED]

– Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.

– What truth?

– There is no spoon.

Google Play ASO is actually “very SEO”

Legend has it that backlinks (the lifelong SEO links) impact ASO (App Store Optimization) keywords rankings of Google Play Store.

In other words, an Android app (for example, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.whatsapp) that receives links from different websites, will improve in Google Play search rankings. Till now, all OK.

This hypothesis has always been there, however, except this study by YellowHead, I haven’t found much information about ASO and backlinks. In that study, different link building strategies have been implemented to 4 apps in order to measure the results.

Strategies used:

  • GSA
  • Fiverr link building packages
  • BlackHatWorld link building packages (I guess, PBNs, profile links, web 2.0, etc)
  • Manual links from sites like Quora, Reddit, etc.

In the end of the study, my friends from YellowHead are saying:

“When looking at the results, in none of our four experiments, we have not seen a single convincing piece of proof that backlinks have any impact on Google Play keyword rankings.”

Or, same, that according to the tests, the links don’t have any impact on keywords rankings on Google Play.

In my opinion, the experiment is totally valid, as the conclusion is based on data, but is not conclusive. Let me explain: Google knows perfectly whether a link is “good” and “natural”, or not, and especially in case Google itself receives this link (when we link to Google Play, we link to google.com). César from Safecont can explain this better than I do, but when we are talking about links, quality beats quantity. Quantity stopped being effective some years ago, when Google found out that PR was being highly manipulated…

PageRank and E. Honda in Black Hat mode

Over time I have been doing my own experiments with backlinks for Google Play apps (links from specialized media) and I got a feeling that the links do affect ASO. But, of course, in a digital world where we live, feelings can’t be trusted blindly.

In the complex equation of rankings, be it ASO or SEO, where the infinite number of factors can have an impact, it is tremendously difficult to isolate a sole factor and measure its impact. Complicated, but not impossible.

And so I remembered the anchor text…

«The important thing is not to stop questioning»

What happens if I redirect (301) a domain to an app URL on Google Play?

Yes, like crazy, directly from the domain registrar.

Nothing is supposed to happen, right?

We are not talking about any domain, we are talking about the one that is very special for me > cantanding.com

Cantanding.com was an online karaoke that I developed with my friend Isis in 2010. It was an international project, incredibly simple, based on YouTube API. User would enter, look for any song and in just a few seconds he or she would sing its karaoke version. People loved the idea, and naturally received many quality links:

ahrefs metrics for the domain cantanding.com
Some domains linking to cantanding.com. Techcrunch? WTF! ;)

And some anchor texts:

Anchor text sample

With time, Panda update arrived and the domain was penalized and lost all the traffic it had, but I saved this domain anyway, just as a memory. Until recently, when I decided to make the 301 redirection of the cantanding.com domain to a URL of some random Google Play app.

IMPORTANT: cantanding.com was penalized for content, not for the links.

The test subject has been chosen by my colleague Katia absolutely randomly, it is an app with very little visibility on Google Play. It has 50–100 installs and only 1 comment, and the most important thing: its store listing doesn’t contain any of the terms related to karaoke cantanding.com:

Experiment: 301, Anchor Text and ASO

Before redirecting the domain towards the app, I checked the link profile of this URL and found the typical app URL profile: some APK links and that’s it.

Redirection has been done on 14th of September 2017 and the same day I’ve added the app to TheTool and started monitoring the following keywords in the USA:

  • cantanding
  • cantanding.com
  • cantanding.es (I’ve also done 301 of cantanding.es domain, full package!)
  • www.cantanding.com
  • karaoke online

In a few days, I see this:

Keywords rankings distribution Google Play USA

WTF?!

Just 4 days after the redirection of the domain towards app URL, on 17th of September this app started ranking for… some of the anchor texts of the links referring to cantanding.com!

TheTool — Keywords rankings 19th of September 2017

The app is currently ranking (on low positions, for now) for some of the branded anchor texts of cantanding.com, but not for the “karaoke online” search term. Why? Because “karaoke online” is a keyword that many apps are targeting and it has a medium competition level. Which doesn’t occur to the terms like “cantanding.com” or “www.cantanding.com” where there is no competition because nobody is targeting these keywords.

Very little time has yet passed since the redirection. We have to wait, keep on measuring and see what happens. However, in this case the anchor text of the links that the app URL is receiving is confirming that Google Play has these backlinks in mind.

Coincidence or causality?

Causality, without any doubt. The app that has been selected for this experiment doesn’t have anything to do with cantanding and the only connection it has with ranking for these terms is the 301 redirection. I have already mentioned that there has been no on-page or on-metadata component containing terms related to “cantanding”.

What has caused the app to rank for these keywords? A 301 redirection of the domain cantanding.com.

I imagine that such as in the traditional SEO, the speed of URL indexing would depend on the domain authority. The higher the authority, the faster Google will detect the links. In the end, for its own system — Google Play — it will be detected in the shortest time possible.

SEO, Anchor text and ASO: final conclusions

According to this experiment, the SEO links and their anchor texts have an impact on Google Play ASO. How much impact? No idea, but I will keep on experimenting and collecting data.

Will keep you posted!

Long life the links, the base of the Internet.

UPDATE 21th SEPT 2017

Keywords are improving!

App now is ranking for “karaoke online”… WOW

How much powerful is anchor text for ASO? Let’s find out!