How To Take The Confusion Out Of App Store Keyword Optimization

Still confused about keyword ASO? This post answers the most common questions we get.

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Do you find App Store Keyword Optimization confusing? It's not your fault.

Depending on how you first learned ASO and which tools you are using, the process might be more confusing than it needs to be. In this post, we will clarify the process and answer the most common questions that we get.

At the end of this post, you will have a clear plan as to how to choose your next high quality keyword. We will also give you a couple of simple exercises that you can do to get more familiar with keyword data.

Start With Your App's Rankings

There is a ton of information that can be viewed about any app and it can be overwhelming. Before you get sucked into examining things that don't matter, remember that keyword optimization is all about how your app ranks for its keywords.

So start by tracking where your app ranks for all of its keywords. Our Keyword Ranking module is an easy way to do this.

Keyword results for The Hobbit

Then track your rankings after a keyword update. This seems overly simplistic, but we do see cases where app publishers skip this step.

There Are Only Three Characteristics Of A Keyword

Regardless of what anyone else tells you, there are only really three characteristics that you need to focus on when selecting a keyword. There is definitely a hierarchy to these criteria, so be sure to place the most emphasis on download relevance and the least on traffic score.

To get a more detailed tutorial on keyword selection, read this post.

Download Relevance

When you consider a keyword to target, ask yourself if someone would type that keyword into search on a mobile device to find a keyword like yours. It can be easy to get wrapped up in obscure keywords that are related to your app, but that nobody will use.

Difficulty Score

Next examine how hard it is to rank for a keyword. This is much more important than search traffic. It doesn't matter if there are a million searches a day for a keyword, if your app ranks #501 for it.

Nobody is going to scroll that far to find your app. We have seen some advice out there that tells app publishers to focus on search traffic first. This is bad advice and will lead to a lot of frustration.

Keyword analysis

Traffic Score

Finally if the first two criteria are equal, then choose the keyword that has the most traffic. Also only choose keywords that have a Traffic Score above zero. Our Traffic Score is a scale between 0 to 10, with 10 being the keywords that get the most searches.

There are some ASO tools that try to estimate the exact number of searches a month. We feel that this adds an unnecessary level of complexity and is a source of confusion.

There is currently no way to get exact traffic numbers. Traffic metrics on any platform are going to be estimations. We don't pretend that we know exactly how many searches there are a month for a keyword.

What we do know with a reasonably high degree of certainty, is the relative difficulty between keywords. That makes our Traffic Score a better indication of traffic.

It can also be easy to confuse 100M downloads and 100K downloads, especially if you have been staring at the screen all day. So our 0 to 10 scale will also reduce orders of magnitude errors.

Try It Out

We can talk about ASO theory until the cows come home, but until you actually go through the process yourself, it may continue to be a little foreign to you. It's like learning to do a handstand by watching a YouTube video. You may understand the concepts of how to do a handstand, but when you actually try it, you may find that you need to make your own adjustments.

Of course, we think that our platform is the easiest to use, but we are a little biased. Regardless of what you are thinking about using for ASO, be sure to try out the free trial first. You should be able to sign up online for a trial of the basic plan and not have to contact a salesperson.

Then start examining the three criteria above to get a feel for the characteristics of keywords and how different apps rank for them. Play around with different features and learn how they work.

How To Spot Check Data

As you try out any platform, start by investigating some obvious metrics and see if they make sense. One source of confusion can simply be bad data.

For example, let's look at the Facebook app and do some keyword research for this app. You can follow along at home, if you want.

Facebook is always in the top two or three places on the Free Top Chart in the US. It definitely has enough downloads to rank #1 for a lot of keywords, especially its own name.

So this is a good way to spot check keyword data because any errors in the metrics will be obvious. Let's start by researching the keyword "facebook" and see what we find.

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The Traffic Score is 9/10, which makes sense, because this is a very popular app and many other apps integrate with it. Since it is a popular app and keyword, it will be hard to rank for and so the Difficulty Scores are about 7/10, which also makes sense.

There are a lot of apps that are ranking for this keyword and our Predictive Rank doesn't need to predict anything because the app already ranks in the top 10 for this keyword.

If you want to double check our Predictive Rank, let's take a look at the keyword "chat with people" and see what the results are. The results make sense because the Difficulty Scores are low, so there is a very high probability of ranking for this keyword.

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This is just one example, but doing a few checks like this will get you familiar with the data and how to optimize your keywords. Of course, any platform can have temporary bugs from time-to-time, but you want to be reasonably sure that you can depend on the data.


So if you have found the keyword research and selection process a little confusing, we hope that post has cleared up any questions that you may have had. But keywords are only one part of ASO.

To learn more about all the components of App Store Optimization, join ASO Academy. It's free and there is absolutely no obligation.

What else do you find confusing about App Store Optimization? Let us know in the comments below...

Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?

Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: March 2015

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