App Store Keyword Brainstorming: The Art And Science Of Success

This post will show you how to find new keywords for App Store Optimization.

As more and more apps get published every day, keywords will become increasingly competitive and you will need to come up with alternatives to keep your app ranking well for relevant keywords.

Finding great keywords is part science and part art. In this post, we will show you where to look for keywords and how to really dig into those resources to uncover keywords that can keep you ahead of your competition.

Before you get started, be sure to have your keyword brainstorming spreadsheet open and write down every single keyword idea that you find. Keep in mind that during the brainstorming process, your goal is to write down every single idea and not to filter anything. When you finish a brainstorming session, go back and examine each keyword with the Keyword Research Tool and record the Traffic and Difficulty Scores for each keyword.

Then decide if any of your new keywords should be included in your iTunes keyword list. Even if a keyword has too much competition for your app to rank for it right now, it may be a good keyword to target later, so keep it on the list. Remember to brainstorm for individual words and keyword phrases.

Spy On Your Competitors

Let's start with the science of keyword brainstorming by looking at tools that will give you specific keyword suggestions.

The easiest way to get started is to see what your competitors are doing. The Sensor Tower Keyword Spy Tool shows you exactly what your competitors are using. For example, here are a few of the keywords that the popular game Fruit Ninja uses.

Intelligent Suggestions Tool

Another way that we help you uncover keywords is the Intelligent Suggestions Tool. It uses your existing keyword list to seed new keyword ideas. Here is a small sample of the keyword suggestions that come up for the Facebook app.

Review Analysis Tool

As we mentioned in our post that introduced the Review Analysis Tool, user reviews can be a great place to uncover new relevant keywords. The great thing about our tool is that it automatically shows the most app-specific keyword ideas at the top of the list. Here are just a few of the ideas that we found for the popular app WhatsApp Messenger.

Google Tools

The Google Keyword Planner will usually give you a very broad list of keyword ideas since it is for web search and not for App Store search. But since we are just brainstorming at this point, we have to be open to all potential sources of new keyword ideas. One good feature of the Keyword Planner is that it also gives you keyword groups that can help you focus on keywords related to your app.

Another Google site that can help you find keyword ideas is Google Trends. It shows you popular Google searches and can help you identify trending keywords.

If the Google Tools are too overwhelming, then there are some alternatives that use their own algorithms to present keyword ideas. This can be a much simpler way of distilling all of the keyword possibilities out there.

Sites like Wordstream have free tools that help you find new keywords and are easy to use. Wordstream also has free tools that help you find niche based keywords and identify negative keywords.


A thesaurus is another great way to find new ideas, but the key is to dig deeper than the first level of synonyms that a site like gives you. As an example, maybe you have a horse related game like My Horse.

The first set of synonyms is a good start, but how can we dig up the less obvious related words? provides synonyms for related keywords that can broaden your keyword search. Some of the words related to "cavalry" are words that we would never have thought of on our own.

There is also a link to a visual thesaurus that shows you related keywords in an interactive, web-like diagram that shows you how keywords are related.

Look At App Descriptions

Now we get into the art of brainstorming for keyword ideas. These methods will require you to be more creative in finding related keywords, instead of relying on tools that show you specific keyword ideas.

While you are researching keywords, you will see a list of the top apps that rank for that keyword. Instead of just spying on their keywords, now look at their app descriptions. It can take some time to go through the descriptions, but it can be a very targeted way to find keywords that even that app publisher may have overlooked.

The best part is that you can do this in iTunes or on the iTunes website for free. Here is the app description for the popular game Candy Crush Saga. How many potential keyword do you see?


Twitter can be a little overwhelming at times, but when it comes to keyword brainstorming, it is perfect because you will get a continuous stream of new ideas. Just take some of the keywords from your keyword list and do a hashtag search by putting the number symbol (#) in front of each of your keywords and see what comes up. For example, if you have a health related app, you could do a hashtag search for the very generic term "health" to uncover more specific keywords.

One of the interesting results that we got from this search was the tweet that you see above. The word "carrageenan" is an unusual term and probably a little too long to include in a keyword list, but it may lead you to other keywords that you can use on your list.

Visit Websites In Your Niche

Look for forums and blogs that are related to your app, not just other app websites. Other app websites may have some great keyword ideas, but they tend to be light on content, so visiting forums and blogs will give you a higher probability of finding new keywords.

Keywords By Association

Now that you have collected some keywords from the resources above, go down your list and write down the first word that comes to mind when you see each word. Don't think about it, just write down the first word that pops into your mind, no matter how ridiculous you think it is.

Then take your first set of association words and write down the first word that comes to mind when you see each of the words on that list, to create a second set of association keywords. The point of this exercise is to release keyword ideas that may be hiding in your subconscious. You might be surprised at what you uncover.

But don't stop there. You can also send a short list of keywords to your friends and see what they come up with.


Although our tools will give you great suggestions, there are many other ways to find keyword ideas. We hope that this post has shown you a few more ways to dig up valuable keywords.

If you use these methods on a regular basis, you will always have a long list of keywords to test. To figure out which keyword ideas are good candidates, be sure to read our guide to choosing the best possible keywords.

Which keyword brainstorming techniques work best for you? 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: November 2013

Never miss an insight. Get quality content sent to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

By clicking "Subscribe" above, I agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge the Privacy Policy.