Beginner ASO Guide: How to Use Keywords to Increase App Installs
This post explains how keywords work on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and will show you how to begin your keyword strategy while on a budget.
Keywords are pivotal in app discovery as they help your app rank for organic search queries on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. With 70% of App Store visitors using Search to find new apps it's an area you absolutely need to optimize for.
Think of your keywords as a word puzzle. You need to identify and use high value keywords within a limited amount of space. The better you do this the more keywords you will rank for. Since 80% of App Store searches are for Keyword Phrases (multiple word keywords) you need to craft these keywords so that they work together.
Keyword terminology I will be using:
- Keyword Phrase - A combination of multiple keywords
- Search Volume - An estimate of how many search queries happen per month for that keyword
- Keyword Competition - How many other apps are trying to rank for a keyword
- Long-tail Keywords - Niche search queries that typically have less search volume and less competition, meaning you have a better chance to rank higher in them
- Keyword Distribution - How many different keywords and keyword phrases you're ranking for
- Ranking - If you show up for a keyword and, if so, which position you rank as
Before we dive into how to create powerful Keyword Phrases it’s important that you understand the following:
Keywords do not need to be next to each other to form Keyword Phrases
Apple and Google’s algorithms identify your keywords, no matter where they are located, to work together to form these Keyword Phrases.
How to identify your target keywords
Finding and implementing the right keywords will help potential users find your app organically, but the process can be tedious and time consuming. I highly recommend using an ASO Analytics platform as they will provide crucial information about the keywords you’re researching.
AppFollow is a great tool to begin your keyword research with as they have a free plan that gives you 20 keywords to track. They provide Popularity data to give you a sense of how many people search for that keyword. You will also be able to see if your app already ranks for that keyword, and can give you additional keyword ideas if you’re stuck.
For apps that are still at an early stage, I recommend targeting 20 keyword phrases using AppFollow with the following framework:
- 2 high popularity keywords (Popularity 50+)
- 3 medium popularity keywords (Popularity 25 - 50)
- 15 long-tail keywords (Popularity 6 - 25)
Now the puzzle begins. How can you use these keywords for the biggest splash?
How to form keyword phrases for the Apple App Store
Skip below for the Google Play Store.
App Store Connect gives you 3 fields that can contain keywords:
- Title - these keywords hold the most ASO “weight” and Apple will prioritize these
- Subtitle - located just below the title these keywords hold a bit less weight than Title keywords
- Hidden keywords - located in AppStore Connect this 100 character field will let you target any other keywords your Title and Subtitle miss
It’s good practice to utilize your Title and Subtitle keyword fields for high volume keywords while also making sure that they stay relevant and concisely explain what your app does. For apps that have just launched or have little traction, think about putting your Long-tail keywords in these fields first as they will help you grow for those niche terms faster.
Your hidden keywords are a great tool to target the rest of your long-tail keywords. These will mix and match with your Title and Subtitle. It's best practice to separate your hidden keywords with commas, even if they are keyword phrases. This will maximize the amount of keyword phrases you can create.
Stay away from using the same keyword multiple times. This will give you little benefit vs adding more unique keywords and will help build your keyword distribution.
Are your keyword optimizations have little to no effect? Try adding some of those keyword phrases directly into your first 3 screenshot captions. Seeing the keyword multiple times can help increase conversion for it. You can even run an Apple Search Ad Creative Set A/B test against it to make sure it's having a positive impact on your CR.
Some Keywords are given to you for free. This means you do not need to add them to your list of keywords:
- Your Primary and Secondary Category name, i.e. "Health & Fitness", "Utilities", etc
- "App" & "Apps"
- "The" & "and"
- Your developer name
- Plural forms of singular words "home" = "homes" (add if you have trouble ranking for the plural version)
- Misspellings of your brand name "Airnbb", "Angry Birbs". Etc
How to form keyword phrases for the Google Play Store
The Google Play Store looks at multiple areas when crawling for keywords:
- App Title - Your most important keywords that Google will look at
- Short Description - 80 characters of keyword space that shows up on your store listing
- Long Description - Google looks at the words that you repeat the most
- App Reviews - Google looks at keywords your users use in their written reviews
With so many ways to optimize your keywords on Google Play it becomes a bit trickier than on the Apple App Store. Here are some best practices to get your listing off the ground.
Your app title needs to be concise and explain your product well. For new apps that are still struggling to get installs I recommend including your long-tail keywords into your Title as they will help you rank for them faster.
Your Short Description is a great catch-all for the rest of your keywords. Remember, keyword phrases will be created automatically even if your keywords are not side-by-side. Try to incorporate as many keywords as you can without being spammy or sacrificing legibility.
Your description is last. You have over 4,000 characters of space to fill out. Redundancy here is important as it helps Google identify what your keywords are. Try to repeat each keyword at least two or three times but make sure your incorporation of them isn’t robotic.
Still having trouble coming up with keywords or have other ASO questions? Hop on over to our free forum board and I'll help in any way I can!