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3 Steps to Choosing the Right Keywords for App Store SEO

Whether you are a novice app developer, or a veteran app marketer, there are many misconceptions about how to choose relevant keywords for App Store optimization (ASO), in order to get your app discovered in the app store, improve your app store ranking, and drive increased app downloads.

In this post, we address 3 critical factors you need to consider when it comes to selecting the keywords for your app to get discovered, and how Appnique can help.

Step 1: Select Applicable Keywords. 

The first step for ASO is choosing the right keywords that best describe your app.

One way to come up with these keywords is brainstorming a list of words and phrases that apply to your app. Sounds easy, but you’d be surprised by how many apps we have seen that use non-relevant keywords; the keywords have high traffic, however, they are also unlikely to get ranked high up the list. 

But, if your app is a "messenger" app, and you run our Appnique keyword suggestion tool, you will be presented with a list of keywords with information about popularity, traffic and rank score data. No brainstorming required; our tool does all the work.  But the question is, which keywords are relevant for your app?


The answer is, if you use our tool, they are all relevant! 

All the keyword suggestions describe features and actions you can take with your app; PLUS they are relatively popular, enabling better app discoverability.

In addition, many of these keywords have a relatively high score of difficulty, making it harder to obtain a high rank value for that keyword. The popularity, difficulty and rank scores are given a value between 1 to 100, where 100 is the most popular keyword, most difficult to rank high for, and highest quality keyword based on your competitors. Our UX makes it easy to pick the best keywords.

Still confused on which keywords to choose? The #1 goal is to go for keywords that are popular, but are still relatively low in difficulty. That is, look for keywords in the lower right quadrant in our wordcloud view (found in our keyword suggestions tool). 


From the wordcloud view, I have highlighted keywords that are great if your app is new to the app store. In this example, keywords like "messenger", "sms", "chat", "message" are your best bets, when it comes to selecting keywords that are focused on your messenger app. These keywords are popular, yet have a low difficulty score when it comes to getting a good rank in the app space.

Step 2: Check Your App Rank Data, and that of your Competitors.

After you have identified your relevant keywords and have added them to your account for analysis, check how your competitors and your app rank for the keywords. Using our keyword rank table (shown below), checking for competitor app ranking and keyword changes, and competitor app keywords, is easy.



From the Keyword Ranking table, you can determine:

  • Is your keyword ranked high, low, or not at all?
  • What is the difficulty score of the keywords that you have selected?

If you don’t see a rank value for your keyword, you are most likely choosing a keyword that is:

  • Not included in your hidden keyword list/title (hence we cannot see rank data!) OR;

  • You chose a very popular keyword that has a high difficulty. Remember, a high difficulty score means a higher barrier to being able to rank.

Also, did you remember to add the keywords to your developer account? Adding your keywords to your dev account profile is critical to getting your app discovered- many developers forget to do that!

It’s also important to keep in mind the the following key factors that iTunes/Google Play look at when it comes to ranking your app:

  1. App Title

  2. App Description (for Google Play) / Hidden Keywords (for iTunes)

  3. Download Frequency

  4. Average Rating

Why do these points matter?

If a relevant keyword is already incorporated into your title and hidden keyword list, but you are not seeing any rank data, it is likely due to the fact that your app download frequency and your average app rating is low. To get ranked for a very popular keyword that has a high difficulty value, you need to have a high app download number, and a minimum number of app ratings from your users.

So our suggestions: aim for keywords that are very popular (hence a large number of users will see your app), but have a low difficulty score. To make this easy to identify, Appnique provides you a spatial representation (our Wordcloud View) of where each keyword lies in terms of popularity and difficulty. Again, if you are new to the app space and having difficulty in ranking, the ideal place to start is the bottom right quadrant (see above).

Step 3: Update, Update, Update!

One of the biggest mistakes we see being made by app developers and marketers is coming up with a keyword list in the first week and sticking with it. Bad idea! Rather, you should track your app store keywords everyday to see how your app is ranking versus your competitors.

Check back whenever your competitors modify their app data (which you can tell from our competitor update reports). Are your competitors getting ranked for new keywords they didn’t get ranked for in the past? If so, are the keywords relevant to your app? Are they popular with a low difficulty bar? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, add the term to you keyword list as well.

In the end, getting the right keywords is simple, but it is an iterative process. What was the right keyword list last week may not be the same for this week.

Here is a perfect example where we can see an app added a new keyword, 'chat', in their hidden keyword list around mid-March and started getting rank values shortly after. Prior to this, IM + Instant Messenger had no rank value for the keyword ‘chat’.


Again, how do you know what keyword is right? Look at each keyword individually, and take into account their rank score, popularity, and difficulty. Remember, the lower the difficulty score, the better your chances are in getting a good rank value. Check back frequently because these values change as more apps are trying to use the same keywords to get discovered.

It takes several tries to get the right keyword list for discovery and many visits to keep your list up to date with ongoing trends with the app sphere or your competitors. Check frequently and see if the keyword suggestion tool alters its list anytime your competitors do any updates or run marketing campaigns to stay on top. Appnique makes it easy to track all this!


Insider Tip: You cannot get rank value for Category names unless you include them in your hidden keyword list.

Get Started Now. 

At Appnique we utilize a proven methodology to recommend powerful keywords that raise your app’s discoverability in the app store. We identify keywords that are:

  • Relevant to your app;

  • Popular, i.e, have a high likelihood of being keyed in by your targeted user;

  • Likely to deliver a high rank for your app, i.e., have a low level of difficulty.

Our keyword suggestion tool sources keywords from multiple places, such as: the title and description of your app, your competitors, and keywords that are already effective in ranking highly on the app store. 

The Appnique Keyword Suggestions Tool is organized as part of a wizard and walks you through from the selection of your app, your competitors, and your initial list of keywords. Then, our proprietary algorithm presents you with a set of keywords organized around the following metrics:

  • Rank score, which is our proprietary metric that aggregates the relevance of the keywords in terms of ranking well in the app store

  • Popularity, which is the likelihood of the keyword being typed in by the user, and

  • Difficulty, which determines the degree to which that keyword is in use by other apps in the app store.

The output of the keyword algorithm is displayed visually in two different formats, a table and a word cloud view, to enable you to easily determine an effective mix of keywords that will improve your app discoverability.

Sign up for a free trial today; good luck moving your app up the ranks in the app store!

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