What To Do When Apple Deletes App Store Keywords Without Telling You

Sometimes Apple will remove iTunes Connect keywords from your app with no notification. This is how you should react.

lt="Keyword crossed off the list

If Apple has never removed keywords from your keyword list before, then you are certainly doing something right. But at some point, many app publishers discover that Apple has deleted at least one of their keywords.

Usually there is no explanation or notification. This leads to questions about the approval process.

This post will help you understand why this happens, how to prevent it and what you should do if this happens to you.

How Keyword "Violations" Are Treated

Not all keyword "violations" are treated the same. There are basically three things that can happen when you include keywords that Apple doesn't like.

The most severe action that Apple will take is to reject your app outright. There are several reasons why your app could be rejected from the App Store. But when it comes to keywords, it is usually because you are using unrelated keywords or have a spammy app name.

The next thing that could happen is that a keyword might not get deleted, but your app simply won't rank for it. Since nobody knows what the Apple ranking algorithm is doing, there is no way to know exactly why an app isn't ranking.

Finally, if an Apple reviewer doesn't think that a keyword is suitable, they will simply delete it from your keyword list. They usually won't notify you about this change.

Keywords That Get Deleted

lt="This is how to avoid having your keywords deleted

If keywords are deleted from your list, they will usually be trademarked names. But this isn't always the case.

It really depends on who is reviewing your app. If the reviewer is particularly thorough, they may also delete keywords that they feel aren't relevant to your app.

We have heard of cases where an update sails through the review process with suspect keywords intact. On the other hand, there have been cases where seemingly routine keywords were removed.

So if you want to avoid having your keywords deleted, stay away from trademarked names and irrelevant words. But if one or more of your keywords are deleted, the next section will show you how to deal with it.

How To Fix Deleted Keywords

The natural reaction might be to get angry at Apple for removing your keywords. You could go on a crusade to get your keywords reinstated.

But that is a waste of time and energy. There is a much better way to handle this.

First of all, you should be tracking all of your keywords. This is the easiest way to find out if the keywords you submitted are working or not.

If a keyword has been deleted, you will notice that your app does not rank for that keyword. You can also go into iTunes Connect and you will see that the keyword has been deleted.

lt="Example of not ranking for an ASO keyword

Even if none of your keywords are deleted, you should always know where you rank for all of your keywords. Ranking poorly for a live keyword is just as bad as having a keyword deleted.

Once you are tracking all of your keywords, then simply find replacements for the keywords that were deleted or you are not ranking well for. Be sure to read our post on how to choose the right keywords for your app.

This is best way to deal with deleted keywords. You don't control the person reviewing your keywords, nor do you control Apple's ranking algorithm.

But you do control your keyword list. Keep making improvements until you get the results you are after.

However, if you feel that you are the victim of a mistake, then you can always contact App Review. There are no guarantees, but contacting them has helped a few publishers. Here is one example of a publisher who was able to get the decision reversed.


One might think that it would make more sense for Apple to simply reject an app during the review process, rather than remove keywords without telling a publisher. But that would also mean that more apps would be rejected.

Therefore, Apple has chosen to implement a more moderate solution and curate keywords as they see fit. This means that it is up to you to track your keywords and be alert to these changes.

So what does this all really mean when it comes time to choose your keywords? Even though we showed you how to avoid having your keywords deleted, it doesn't mean that you should get too conservative.

App Store Optimization is all about experimentation and you should explore every keyword possibility that makes sense for your app. If you really need have your app published by a certain date, then avoid taking too many risks.

Otherwise, don't be afraid to try out keyword ideas that fit the ideal selection criteria for your app. As you have seen above, the worst that could happen is that they could reject your update. But who knows, you just might get all of your keywords approved.

What kind of keywords have been deleted from your list? Let us know in the comments below...

Photo: Keyboard (by Matt McGee/pleeker) via Flickr CC

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Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: August 2014

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