The Art and Science of App Store Keywords Ranking matters and keywords help you get there. The first step in optimizing your mobile app listing for search is app store keywords selection. Tom Clemens MentorMate Alumnus The three letters on every digital marketing expert or tech entrepreneurs’ mind today are A-S-O. Why? It’s one of the KEY factors determining whether their apps are found, downloaded and used by the imagined target audience. In fact, select apps have seen a 300% uptick in downloads from leveraging keyword optimization. Beyond the noted return on investment, it’s one of the limited on-page factors you can control. Take advantage of it. Almost 50% of apps are. Consider this, Google Play users search for around six million unique search phrases in a given month. According to Nielsen, 63% of app users find apps via an app store search. In a world where many apps aren’t tied to a brick and mortar location, their app listing is the front door to their brand. The simple fact is, ASO enables apps to be found and used. Engagement drives the exchange of goods and services for revenue. Everyone cares about revenue — so, ASO’s important. Think of ASO (app store optimization) like SEO for mobile apps in the Apple and Google Play Stores. Ranking matters and keywords help you get there. The first step in optimizing your mobile app listing for search is app store keywords selection. How to choose your keywords Choose your app store keywords wisely. Keywords are a ranking hunter’s best friend. The numbers speak: The competition is stiff. It’s critical that you know your ASO strategy and select the keywords to help achieve your goal rank. Keyword research relies on three very important components: Good target audience intuition Calculated research Time Yes, time. Proper placing and spacing of your app store keywords won’t matter if they aren’t the right ones. Investing more upfront in their selection will benefit your strategy more in the long run than a hapless attempt at keyword stuffing. Keyword selection becomes even more challenging due to the Apple App and Google Play Store character limitations. Apple App Store The following characters are available in the Apple App Store per section: Name: ~25 recommended to display in search Keyword field: 100 Description: 255 before users must click to read more Google Play Store The Google Play Store imposes the following character counts in which digital marketers, agencies or entrepreneurs must place their precious keywords. Title: 30 Keyword field: N/A Description: 4,000 In the Apple App Store, the description itself isn’t factored into the ranking algorithm. While in the Google Play Store considers the context of the app description when assigning ranking. Compared to the little more than tweet length marketers or developers optimizing in the Apple App Store have to work with, the Google Play Store is a place where writers can wax poetic about the features and value adds the app provides. Though in both app stores, the description is critical for conversion optimization. No matter how well a listing is optimized for search if it doesn’t accomplish the ultimate goal of inspiring action to download, it can’t be considered successful. Explain these benefits in the description. Keyword research is as much psychology as data analysis Cultivating a keen understanding of your target demographic is the basis to even beginning your brainstorm session. Ask yourself questions from, “What motivates this audience?” to “How old your target audience is?” These factors and so many more impact their communication patterns in searching for your solution, site or service. Understand the value proposition, how your app benefits them. This is the language they will be using to search for means to “solve the problem.” Are they satisfying their urge for fun, organization or maybe both? Put yourself in your users’ shoes and assume the vernacular of your audience. How a 60+ business man searches for an app could vary markedly from a 16-year-old athlete. Ask yourself—is my query searchable and is it sensible? Tools that can guide your search You’re not in this alone. A variety of tools can guide your research and even jumpstart your ideation — not the least of which is Google Suggested Search. Google Suggested Search Best for brainstorming keywords As you enter characters in the Apple App or Google Play Stores, it will recommend queries based on the characters you have entered. Do this to brainstorm good keyword ideas for your app. If this isn’t yielding enough results, try Google’s Suggested Search results instead. Google Trends Best for checking the popularity of keywords Use Google Trends to identify keyword phrases that have a lot of interest and seem likely to trend upwards in interest in the immediate future. Try three to four variations of your top keywords, and watch colored lines trending upwards or downwards will tell you how your users are actually verbalizing their need or the solution to their need. You’ll be surprised how often your assumptions are checked. Google Trends also allows you to compare the regional interest in a certain keyword. A worthy consideration if you are targeting the release of your app in a specific market. SEMRush Best for comparing the keywords competitors are targeting If a similar app has a website, scan its website with SEMRush to see the kinds of keywords it’s ranking for. Then assess their popularity and value. Understand if you want to intentionally sit in the same sandbox or take a totally different approach. SensorTower Best for checking the uniqueness of your app title Type your app’s name into SensorTower to see whether apps with competitive names exist. Considering what matters high search volume or high relevance in mobile app store keywords selection When serving up an answer to this question it’s important to understand the significance of the long tail and how that factors into keyword selection with an eye turned intently on the competition. Apple App and Google Play Store users aren’t afraid to explore. It’s important to note general browsing in the app stores isn’t far behind recommendations from friends and family as an impetus to download. This could indicate the “long tail” as noted by research firm Nielsen is playing an increasing role in user behavior navigating both app stores. Other contributing factors The “long tail” Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine first wrote about the long tail in an October 2004 article. He later released a book on the same topic in 2006. The idea of the long tail is one of fragmented consumerism. In today’s age, Anderson argues mainstream products and markers are less important. They have been replaced with niche products. If this holds true, it’s good news for app developers. How the long tail applies in the world of app listings For our purpose, the short and long tails relate to the specificity of targeting. A keyword that could be considered part of the short tail is popular with high search volume. By comparison, a keyword that falls into the long tail is highly specific. Think “quick messaging system” compared to “hands-free messaging system for dog lovers.” When choosing a short or long tail keyword, consider the potential search volume. Analyze whether the high traffic or a short tail keyword will be more impactful than what could be a highly specific or motivated audience searching for a long tail keyword. Ranking sixth could be more advantageous Best case scenario? Find a happy medium, a golden zone keyword where the competition is low enough and the search volume is high enough to provide the desired download rate. Keep an eye on the competition A large part of keyword research is understanding the landscape and where your competitors have decided to play. So, make a list and note how they’re ranking. Look to determine how popular they are. Use downloads and the positivity of their reviews as your guide posts. If download numbers and reviews are less than stellar, consider a competitive option to scoop of the conversions they could be winning — but aren’t. Begin to determine where your app would rank in the list. Competitive listings can also provide inspiration. You may see important keywords in their listings that you hadn’t thought of yourself. Also consider looking at competitor’s reviews to see what their users are talking about. This can be helpful for keyword selection, as well as crafting a compelling app description (based on what users are calling out and talking about the most). Approximate difficulty ranking for keywords If X number of apps exist in the competitive space, how hard will it be to rank for those keywords? Here are some of the ballpark numbers we use. Easy – 25 apps Medium – 25-100 Competitive – Keywords used in 100+ apps Although these numbers provide a good benchmark, it’s all relative. If all 25 of the apps in a given competitive space are optimizing their listings really well, it could be more difficult to break through then in a category where 100 app lists are optimized very poorly. It’s also entirely possible that ranking eighth for a competitive keyword could serve your interests better than ranking first for a keyword no one is querying. Create cohesion between keywords in your app listing and web page This tactic is especially important for the Google Play Store which looks to external links as cues indicating the relevance of the listing and where it should be ordered in search. While the competitive landscape may differ between your app listing and its accompanying web listing, your target audience is the same. If there isn’t harmful variation, selecting the same keywords will further reinforce the strength of your app listing under the gaze of the almighty Google. We all need a “take-two” sometimes Let’s say you release your app and it becomes apparent that another set of keywords would fit your app and target audience better. Know that when you release an update, you can replace or add keywords. Optimize with eyes wide open Keyword optimization isn’t something that can be completed once and promptly forgotten about. It requires constant and careful attention. If the keyword you chose isn’t performing. Regroup. And re-release. Photo courtesy of Bloomua. Tags MobileDevelopment Share Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Share Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Sign up for our monthly newsletter. Sign up for our monthly newsletter.