In the past, I selected App Store keywords based on what I thought would be the most relevant search terms people would use to search for my app. It made sense that I would be a good candidate to know what terms would be most relevant to the purpose of my app, after all, I created it. To further enhance my keyword terms, I used general keyword suggestion tools like Google Keyword Planner to help me refine my keywords to make sure they were most relevant for the 100 character limit Apple allows. This strategy served me well… back then.
But like all things in the mobile world, things have evolved and changed very quickly and optimizing my app listings in the App Store is now a necessity rather than a luxury. Gone are the days where I spent most of my time developing an app; I now spend just as much time marketing and optimizing the promotion of it. Competition and supply has grown rapidly over the last year and it has become more and more difficult to find keywords that are effective in making my apps show up in any reasonable list of search results. In the last app I published, I couldn’t find my app listed in the first 100 results for ANY of my initial keywords. The only way I could get it to show up was if I searched for the exact title of the app. Naturally, my downloads were dismal and it was no wonder why if I could hardly find the app myself.
My strategy for keyword selection had to change. I was forced to be much more deliberate in my keyword selection process. My best guess and general keyword tools weren’t going to cut it anymore. I needed something that would give me precise insights into App Store keyword competition and I had to carefully select each and every keyword to give my apps the best chance of exposure.
After researching for a solution to my app search result woes, I found a handful of online services offering tools to help. I diligently tried out all of them. Some gave me limited or sometimes even incorrect data on my app and keyword searches. Others gave very preliminary information that wasn’t enough for me to feel comfortable making an informed keyword selection.
The one service that stood out above the others was SensorTower.com. I had heard a lot about this service, but it wasn’t until I had a chance to review its competitors that I realized how thorough and in-depth their service was. As I’ve had a chance to use it more now, I have a simple 3-step process that I use to select my title and keywords:
Step 1: Keyword Discovery – Build an Extensive List of Potential Keywords that are Best Suited for Your App
a) Start with your own brain. Make a quick list of the keywords you think would be most relevant to your app.
b) Use SensorTower’s Keyword Research tool. Type in the most obvious keyword(s) into the search field and press “Research”
- Sort by ranking (highest to lowest).
- go through the list of search results, dismiss results of apps that are “well established” — apps that have been in the app store for more than 1 year, have thousands of reviews and are published by big name publishers (like Rovio, Electronic Arts, Gameloft, etc.). These apps have had the luxury of time to rank high, get lots of reviews and have likely been heavily promoted by the deep pocketed publishers that own them.
- Instead, look for apps that are relatively new to the market, don’t have a ton of reviews (say 500 or less) and is published by a less known publisher. This is the type of app I focus on because they are obviously doing something right to be able to rank well.
- In the above example, there are app results that are ranking high and yet published less than 1 week ago. These are the apps we want to focus on because they are doing well even though they are very new.
- For each of these apps, click on the Keyword Spy tool at the right of the app title and make note of the keywords this app used for their keywords. Also include descriptive keywords in the app’s title as part of this list
- Build an extensive list of potential keywords that are best suited for your app.
- Most importantly, for each keyword, make sure there is a strong association of your app’s theme and function. There’s no point in using keywords like “space shooter” when your app is a sports game, no matter how optimal the keyword is.
Step 2: Optimize Your Keywords – Select the Optimal Keywords to Use for Your App Listing
- Use the Keyword Optimization tool and enter in your list of keywords created in the last step (100 characters at a time).
- Sort the list of results by Difficulty Score (lowest to highest).
- The keywords with the lowest Difficulty Score are the best keywords to target as long as the Traffic Score is higher than zero.
- Generally, when first launching my app, I find I have to choose keywords that have a pretty low Difficulty Score (less than 2) to see any initial results.
- As my app gets more downloads and reviews, I can compete with keywords that have a higher difficulty score.
Step 3: Track Your Keywords Over Time and Continue to Optimize
- Use the Keyword Rankings tool to track the position your app results in over time based on the keywords you selected.
- Over time, you will see which keywords are effective and which ones are not.
- Keep the performing keywords and change up the non-performing ones by replacing them with the next best keywords on your list.
- Rinse and repeat until all your keywords are bringing in good results. Ideally you want to rank in the top 10 for all your keywords. You need to continually find replacements for your worst ranking keywords.
- Use both the Title and your Keyword list to include keywords
- make sure you use all 100 characters of space Apple provides you
- separate each word with a comma
- there should be no spaces in your keyword list
- shorter words are better than longer words
- if you have a compound word, add a dash (-) in between the word
- don’t repeat any words that are already in your title
- Keywords at the beginning of your title and keyword list hold more weight than keywords at the end
That’s my simple 3 step process to selecting the most optimal keywords to bring the best search results. It’s helped to keep my apps visible in the app store and I no longer have to take the “publish and pray” approach. What’s your approach? Share your thoughts and comments below.