Jan 06, 2022

ASO Backlinks – Do Backlinks Help with App Store Optimization?


Nicholas Rubright


Nathan Winfrey

Because link building is so important for search engine optimization (SEO), app developers who are familiar with the practices of SEO often assume the same is true with app store optimization (ASO).

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that backlinks directly impact ASO performance. This case study from YellowHEAD actually points to evidence that backlinks have zero direct impact on ASO rankings.


However, backlinks can have an indirect impact on other ASO ranking factors, such as install volume, which is a factor in both the App Store and Google Play store.

App Store and Google Play Store ranking factors

So, if you can get backlinks that drive referral traffic to your mobile app, this will result in more downloads. This will impact the install volume metric, driving up your app’s ranking.

So, how do you build backlinks that drive referral traffic?

App lists.

In this article, I’ll go over how to find lists that can drive app downloads and show you how to get on them.

How do app lists drive downloads and App Store rankings?

App lists drive downloads because they’re written for the purpose of sending readers to apps.

Not only are they written with the intent of showing readers new apps to try out, but thousands of people are actually searching for iPhone app and Android app lists on Google.

best filter

If you search any of these keywords, you’ll see tons of “top 10” style lists.

Because Google’s algorithm looks for a search intent match for the content they rank, we can assume that many of these readers will download and try apps inside of these lists because, well, that’s why they’re looking for and reading these articles.

This is why getting placed in lists like these is so valuable. They can continue to drive passive app downloads as long as the page you’re featured on is getting traffic.

These passive downloads are how, indirectly, backlinks impact your ASO rankings.

How to get featured in app lists

Getting featured in app lists is actually one of the more simple backlink outreach strategies we’ve used.

Here’s how to do it.

Step 1. Find lists that get traffic

If you get listed on a page that has no referral traffic, that’s of little value to your app download metrics.

So when building our outreach list, we want to find pages that actually get traffic.

To do this, we can use Ahrefs to find keywords related to a type of app. I’ll use music apps as an example here.

First, let’s put “apps” into their Keyword Explorer to use as a seed keyword.


From here, we can head to the “Terms match” section to start applying some filters to find our opportunities.


If I’m looking for opportunities to promote a new music app, I’d add something like “best” and “music” to find “best music app” type keywords.


From here, I choose the keyword that best matches the niche of my app and look at the ranking pages in the “SERP overview” section.

Keep in mind that these pages don’t only rank for the keyword you used to find them, but they also rank for others. The number of which is shown in the “Keywords” column.


This means that, rather than picking out the top 10 and moving on, we can consider any page with a “Traffic” number above zero worth reaching out to.

This gives us tons of outreach targets to go after, meaning we don’t need to win so many of them to see results.

Step 2. Find and verify their contact information

There are lots of different ways to find someone’s email addresses, but email lookup services have always been the fastest for us.

We use Hunter and Snov. One as a backup to the other.

Whatever tool you decide to use, they all work the same basic way. Just input a name, website, or both, and they’ll give you what you’re looking for.

For example, if I want to reach out to the author of this Android music app list from PC Mag…


…I could get his email address by putting the info into Hunter.


From there, you can verify that the email address is real with a tool like NeverBounce to make sure your message will be delivered to the recipient.

Step 3. Pitch

I pitched my first app to be added to this list on Wix.

Here’s the exact pitch I sent.


They never emailed me back, but when I saw referral traffic in Google Analytics, I saw that they did add the link.


While I can’t give you a template because your email should be unique, here are two reasons why the above email worked:

  1. Brevity – I didn’t go on about our history or spend too long selling. Every line made one very specific point. Recipients to cold emails won’t spend much time reading them, so it’s best to keep it short. Make it fit on a phone.
  2. Clear value proposition – Not for them, but for their readers. Sites that perform well online usually do care about how their content will be helpful to their target audience, so touching on this is powerful.

While this email did drive success, it doesn’t actually follow some of my newly found best practices for writing outreach emails. These might be worth checking out before crafting your pitch.


Backlinks don’t directly impact your App Store or Google Play rankings, but if they drive downloads, they can help with this indirectly.

Lists are an awesome way to leverage the workflow and grind of link building work to get your app in front of potential downloaders to push download volume and improve global ASO performance.

If this kind of ASO strategy is too much to handle on your own, you can outsource it pretty easily to a freelancer or agency that specializes in blogger outreach.

If you want to run this exactly as described above, we can help. Just fill out the contact form at the bottom of this page. 👇

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