When it comes to app marketing one of the most important steps in getting it right, is perfecting your app store optimization (ASO) strategy. Of course, before looking at best practices, first, you need to understand what ASO is.
What is App Store Optimization?
The definition is simple. The process is not.
ASO is the practice of optimizing mobile apps so they rank higher in an app store's search results. This is important because the higher your app ranks in an app store's search results. Common sense tells us that ranking higher in search results will lead to exposure to more potential customers which results in more traffic and, ultimately, downloads by users.
In many ways, ASO is not dissimilar to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and it’s just as important for apps. ASO is the most simple and effective way to help users find your product. However, like SEO, the app store optimization process is on-going. It’s important to keep up with the latest tips and tricks and monitor the store’s latest algorithms.
From choosing the right app name and subtitle to making sure the on-metadata for each include your main keywords, there’s a lot to consider. And just like with SEO, your choice of keywords matter. You’ll need to optimize it all if you want to improve your rankings in app store searches.
Developers working on app optimization, or keyword optimization, always find themselves struggling with the final selection of keywords, but we have tips that can help.
How to optimize app store keywords
Since the App Store search engine doesn’t scan the App Description, all you have to work with is the 100-character Keyword field, the App Name and the IAP Display Names. You could even work with the Publisher Name, but only if you haven’t published in the App Store yet.
Your app will only appear in the search results for keywords and key phrases present in those fields, so it’s a hard decision to make. For instance, each one of my games required hours of keyword optimization study. There are, of course, some best practices that can help you make the most of keywords. Here are some things to consider when choosing your keywords:
- Keyword Relevancy—When it comes to choosing your keywords, it’s important to keep it simple and relevant. Your conversion rate on keywords impacts the algorithm, so if you’re using keywords that are off-target and not resulting in conversions, Apple will lower your rankings for that keyword.
- Narrow it Down—Don’t be afraid to start with an extensive list of keywords, but when it comes time to actually use them in your ASO, you need to choose the best of the best—and use them in the right places. App Samurai says you shouldn’t reuse your keywords, so you need to use the right keyword in the right field.
- Target Keywords with Less Competition—We all know how important it is to rank highly in search results but apptamin says, “top 3 search results grab over 75% of the total organic downloads on a branded search and nearly 50% for searches using generic terms.” So, it’s wise to choose keywords with less competition whenever possible.
- Track Your Keyword Performance—Once you’ve decided on your keywords and put them to work in your ASO strategy, don’t forget to monitor their performance. After 3-4 weeks you should be able to get metrics from the app stores and see how your strategy is working.
- Give Your Keywords a Chance to Work—It might be tempting to keep tinkering with your keywords, but if you change them too often it can impact your conversion rates, and lead to lower rankings in the app store.
But there are other, perhaps less obvious tips that can help you maximize your ASO impact. Here are some tricks I’ve learned over the past years to get the most out of your App Name and Keywords fields.
1. Don’t use spaces, use commas
This is a common mistake. Afraid the App Store will read all their keywords as a giant nonsensical keyword, some developers use spaces and commas to separate words. This is unnecessary and reduces the number of keywords you can use, since spaces are counted as characters.
The App Store algorithm reads both spaces and commas as separators. So, next time you’re filling the Keywords field, don’t write your keywords as “magic, amazing, to, do, list.” Follow the iTunes Connect tip and write them as “magic,amazing,to,do,list.”
2. Cut connector and stop words
Words like a, the, of, and, for and to are so generic they don’t make much difference in your keyword pool, even when making random key phrases with other words. It’s better to take the space they occupy and put in some more relevant words.
There’s an exception: if you’re targeting a very specific keyword that uses one of these words for a reason, you might want to leave it in the Keywords field. A search for “strategy of war” won’t show your app in the results if you don’t have “of.”
3. Don’t use names for numbers, use digits
When you use “9,” the App Store looks for “9” and “nine”. Take the extra space and choose another keyword.
4. Don’t repeat keywords
If you’re aiming for the key phrases “amazing silver hero” and “incredible hero battle,” you don’t need to repeat the keyword “hero” Leave the list as amazing,silver,incredible,hero,battle.
The same works for keywords in the App Name. If the app is called “The Silver Hero,” you don’t have to repeat the keywords “silver” and “hero.” Your keyword list just got shorter: amazing,incredible,battle.
5. Consider using plurals and typos for languages other than English
If you have already done your research, you’ve probably read that plurals are useless for keywords. The algorithm theoretically combines the results for the singular and plural versions, making no difference choosing between them.
Now, go to the App Store and search for singular and plurals, and observe how the results change. The algorithm is not as intelligent as it looks. The same occurs when dealing with languages other than English.
I don’t trust the App Store algorithm. My standard procedure is to treat plurals as different keywords. I look at the competition and traffic, compare it to the singular form, and then decide which one I’m using.
6. Use shorter keywords so you get more key phrase combinations
It’s simple: a 9-character keyword could be replaced by two 4-character keywords. That means there will be more possible search results to rank for. The more keywords you have, the more possible keyphrases there are.
Keep in mind, though, that relevance is the most important aspect of keyword analysis, not word length. Still, when choosing between relevant keywords, you can use length as a tiebreaker.
7. Place the strongest and more relevant key phrases in the App Name
Since the App Name has more weight in the algorithm, this is where you should place your best keywords and key phrases. The more relevant the term, the higher the conversion.
When using key phrases, don’t break them with other words. In the App Name, word order matters: exact matches with the search query will make your app get a higher position in the search results page.
8. Bonus tip: Use additional numbers when you’ve got characters left over
After you finish your optimization, you might end up with two or three characters spare you don’t know what to do with. In that case, throw a number in there.
Why? Well, if you have a generic “best” or “top” word in the Keywords field with key phrases like “top strategy game,” the number will combine with them to create more specific key phrases like “top 5 strategy game.”
Besides, you’d leave that space blank anyway. Why not use it?
Keyword optimization requires patience and attention to detail. For instance, when deleting a keyword, check and make sure you’re not losing good key phrases that use it. These tips will help you use all available character spaces to their fullest extent, getting you the best results within the limits we have as iOS developers.
To learn more about how ASO can help you grow your app, check out these five tips to implement today or learn how Apple search ads can help increase your organic traffic.