As you are no doubt aware, the App Store is a crowded place with around three million apps all vying for attention. This means that getting your app noticed among all the others in your category is a significant challenge.

In this article, we take a closer look at keyword optimisation for apps and at the practical steps, you can take to rank higher in your category, to encourage more users to convert by tapping the ‘download’ button.

The following sections cover a range of obvious and less obvious factors that can improve ranking and visibility for apps in any niche.


The Importance of Keyword Optimisation

Keywords are often exclusively thought of as a feature of search engine optimisation (SEO). They have long been used (and often abused) by website owners looking to promote their web pages. However, as well as helping to improve ranking for web pages in the Google and Bing search results, keyword optimisation is also important in the battle for visibility in the App Store.

In fact, App Store Optimisation (ASO) has emerged as a practice in its own right with a specific set of adaptable strategies. It’s a process that you need to understand if you want to compete with, and ultimately outdo, your competition. While there are other components to the strategy, keywords are a fundamental aspect.

Over the next few sections, we delve a bit deeper into keywords as part of an effective ASO strategy. We will then move on to look at issues around the app name and title.

1. Finding the right keywords to help you rank higher

The App Store gives you a 100-character field in which you can place keywords. The available space equates to a maximum of about 12 keywords, maybe less, so while you can use this field to your advantage, you are still quite limited. This is actually a good thing, as it forces you to narrow your focus and ensure you get the maximum value from those keywords.

When it comes to finding keywords, a good place to start is with the many App Store optimisation tools, including AppRadar and AppTweak. You might also like to take a look at the Google AdWords keyword planner, which can give you a more general overview of popular web search terms for your niche.

Overall, when researching keywords, you should focus on terms that broadly describe what your app does. You need to find out how these terms perform in terms of search volume and other factors. You can then start to narrow down your list of keywords to the ones that are the most valuable and give you the best chance of ranking highly.

Things to avoid when researching keywords include plural terms and also any brand names or trademarks that you do not own. You should also be aware that there are some ‘free’ keywords that you do not need to place into the field. These can include anticipated misspellings of your brand name and also the word ‘app’.

2. Narrowing down your keywords

Once you have completed your keyword search, you are likely to have a long list to narrow down. Remember, you are limited as to how many you can use in the keyword field (and also your app name and subtitle, which is discussed in more detail below).

A common way in which keywords are selected is the number of searches. However, this is often not the first thing you should consider. More important is relevancy, which means how well a keyword describes your app and what it does.

This, in turn, will lead to more conversions. It is also important to appreciate that if you fail to convert on a term, this will lead to a lower ranking. So, it is best practice to focus on the keywords which are the most relevant and will get you, ideally, into the top 10.

When it comes to popularity, the main thing to remember is that it is preferable to rank higher on keywords that are less popular than to rank lower for popular terms. This is where long-tail keywords come into play.

Due to their heavy search traffic, popular keywords tend to be quite competitive. This means that focusing on long-tail keywords can be a good strategy to boost your ranking, as they are highly specific and less-competitive.

One choice you will need to make as part of your ASO strategy is whether you want to target the same keywords as your competitors in a bid to outrank them, or to focus on maintaining top position for the keywords for which you already rank.

3. Placing your keywords in the field

While it might seem like a simple thing to list your keywords in the field, there is some best practice in this area. The first is to maximise your available space. You can do this by eliminating spaces between the terms. Remember that if you do use spaces, you will only rank on the exact combination. The best approach is to insert single words separated by commas with no spaces (e.g. ‘image,edit,editing,photography,light’). This will ensure that you rank for the words and the different combinations (‘edit photography’, ‘image editing’, ‘edit image’ etc.).

However, to further complicate the issue, and as we’ll discuss a little later in the article, you will also have the opportunity to place keywords in your app name and subtitle. You should avoid duplicating keywords in the field that you intend to use elsewhere, as they will only be taken into account once.

4. Further ASO keyword strategies

There are lots of ASO keyword strategies out there, some of which are actually black hat (meaning they should be avoided). However, there are a few legitimate ways to improve your ranking and boost your downloads. One such way is through localisation. You can add keywords in various languages, as well as English. This means you can effectively target specific geographic areas.

It is also worth noting that the freshness of your app has a bearing on your ranking. As a result, it is advised to make a release at least every six weeks, which you can, of course, use to fix any bugs, etc. Related to this is the need to gather (positive) ratings and reviews following each upload, as these are reset with each release.

5. Monitor your keywords

A key component of any ASO strategy is monitoring the performance of your keywords and any changes to those terms that you make. If you have just launched your app, be aware that you will get an initial boost in your first week, which means your results will possibly be atypical. Additionally, if you do make any changes, it can take up to two weeks for the algorithm to catch up. Overall, it is always best practice to continually asses how your app is performing in the rankings and to make changes as and when necessary.


The importance of the app name

In addition to the keyword field, a further important aspect of your ASO strategy relates to the name of your mobile app. It may seem a simple and obvious part of launching your app, but it is something that can have an impact on your visibility. The right name can help you rank higher on the App Store, whereas the wrong choice can undo some of the good work you do on your keyword optimisation. The next few sections of the article examine the issue of app name.

1. The basics of the app name

Firstly, it is important that the name you choose is user-friendly. This means it should be simple to understand while ensuring you get across your uniqueness. Users want to know what your app does and why they should download yours instead of your competitors’ offerings. Don’t forget that in addition to your app name, you have a subtitle, your icon and screenshots. All of these form part of your ASO strategy.

2. Keywords and the app name / title

Of course, keywords have an important part to play in building the optimal app name. In fact, the keywords you use in your app name can be far more valuable than the ones you put in the keyword field. This means that not only do you have to choose your keywords carefully, you also need to put some thought into where you place those keywords. If your app name is currently just your brand name, you might want to test incorporating your most important keyword to see if it gives you a significant improvement in your ranking.

3. Use your app subtitle characters wisely

In addition to your app name, you have 30 characters to use on your app subtitle, giving you a further opportunity to incorporate a strong, leading keyword that will match up to popular search queries. Remember that it is important this does not replicate the keywords used in your app name or keyword field, as they won’t be counted twice.

Think of your subtitle as a marketing tool to complement to your app name; a handy piece of metadata that can help you rank higher and also let potential users know exactly what they get when they download your app. As such, you should avoid generic or vague terms. ‘Enjoy our great mobile app’ tells potential users nothing about what you offer. ‘Photo filters for your images’ may be dull, but it tells searchers and the search algorithm what your app is really about.

4. Developing the right ASO strategy for your title

While many of these elements may sound simple, in reality, there are plenty of choices to be made to achieve keyword optimisation and improve ranking and visibility in the App Store. The main one of these is the positioning of keywords. There are lots of different (and often conflicting) theories on this, which can make it a tricky area to navigate.

As with website SEO strategies, you want to ensure that your ASO plan is always working for the benefit of your app. Using exact title matches and putting your main keywords first so they don’t get truncated in the search results are both good strategies. However, it is important to test different positioning strategies and monitor the results, so you can see what works and what doesn’t.


Take Aways

The App Store is the first port-of-call for iOS users looking to download apps just like yours. This means that if you haven’t yet got an ASO strategy in place, you are likely missing out on some downloads. As discussed, keyword optimisation is an important way in which you can improve ranking and visibility. It should be a key part of your plan, along with choosing the right app name.

Hopefully, now you know some of the steps you need to take to get your app noticed, it won’t be long before you’re reaping the benefits in terms of search ranking and conversions.

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