User acquisition: Paid vs ASO

When contemplating the right mobile app marketing strategy, it’s important to understand the differences between paid user acquisition and ASO.

Although they are two separate strategies, it could be possible, and even necessary, to use both of them. Want to find out how? Keep reading.

Paid User Acquisition

What it is:

Paying to promote your app to acquire more users.


  • Fast results;
  • Freedom to choose who to target;
  • Freedom to choose when and where your app is advertised;
  • Can promote the app to more users,
  • Easier to measure ROI because stores record the data.


  • Costs money;
  • No guarantee that the cost will obtain the desired results,
  • Only works for as long as the campaign lasts.


What it is:

Optimizing the app page to increase organic reach and customer acquisition.


  • No cost per download;
  • App store searches usually result in more downloads than paid ads do;
  • It perpetually works to acquire more users, as opposed to a paid campaign that only runs for a set duration,
  • Organic users are more likely to keep using the app.


  • Initial set-up is time-consuming;
  • Requires constant analyzing to ensure the desired results are being achieved;
  • Requires periodic updating,
  • Can be extremely challenging to rank.

Paid Acquisition Vs ASO

So how do the two marketing strategies compare to each other?

Number of Installs

Overall, the rate of organic installs is higher than paid installs. The latter is starting to increase, but it still can’t beat organic downloads.

That could have something to do with ASO. While there is no limit to its reach, there is a deadline for paid campaigns and they can only reach users within a certain time frame.

User Retention

The number of users that continue to use an app after installing it is just as important as the number of downloads an app receives.

In general, organic users are more likely to keep using an app. They also use it more frequently.

user-acquisition-appWhen to Use Each Strategy

Based on the information just given, it might appear that ASO is the way to go and paid acquisition should be discarded. But don’t be so quick to decide.

Rather than choosing one over the other, try using both! They can actually end up helping each other out to bring you the best results.

Here’s why.

Organic reach tends to result in more installs and higher quality users. However, paid reach can increase organic reach.

Every paid install generates about 1.5 organic installs on top of the organic installs you would be getting if you relied solely on ASO.

This is because paid campaigns give ASO a boost, due to the increased traffic to your app download page.

In addition, ads that don’t directly result in downloads can help to increase brand awareness and familiarity. Users might not install an app the first time they see it, but each time it gets put in front of them they are closer to downloading it.

This type of brand building can be free since many ads are only paid for if the user clicks on them. Think of it as free marketing for your brand that provides slow, but valuable, results.

Now if you are on the other end of the spectrum and think that focusing on paid app user acquisition is best, please think that through.

Just because you can direct a user to an app page, doesn’t mean that the user will want to download the app. Encourage downloads by optimizing the app page so that users will want your app.

You can get crazy amounts of traffic, but if that traffic doesn’t convert it won’t do much to help grow your app.

Both ASO and paid acquisition should be part of your mobile app marketing plan. Combining them will get you the best results.