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  • Writer's pictureShelly Cohen

ASO Keywords Guide — Where to Start

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Keywords make the App Stores go around. Learn the ins and outs of keyword research. Boost your app's visibility & reach with our optimization tips.

With over 1.5 million apps in both Android and Apple’s App Stores, the competition is as fierce as ever.

And since ad budgets hardly grow on trees, keyword optimization is an organic, cost-effective way to cut acquisition costs and achieve sustained growth, and should be the core of any ASO strategy.

But the endless twists and turns in App Store algorithms mean curating a keyword strategy for apps is no cakewalk. Scattergun tactics are a no-go, and popular tactics may fail to carry the same firepower as they once did.

To move the needle when it comes to finding game-changing keywords to catapult you to the top of the charts, you need more — it could take oodles of analysis, competitor research, brainstorming, (with lots and lots of coffee!) to make a difference.

Not sure where to get started? Let this guide be your compass. By the end, you should have a solid grasp of how to select and implement keywords to dominate app stores. Let’s dive right in:

What are ASO Keywords?

Basically, ASO keywords help your app rank higher in the app store's search results for specific terms.

When someone searches for a specific term in an app store, the store's algorithm looks for apps that contain that term in various elements of their listing, (the title, subtitle, and metadata)

The higher the relevance of the keyword to the app and the user's search query, the higher the app will rank in the search results. That said, ASO keywords are just one factor app store algorithms consider when ranking apps in search results.

Other factors can include your app's ratings and reviews, download and usage history, and the user's search and browsing history.

What is Keyword Optimization?

Think of it as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but for your app. It’s a way to help your app be more easily found in the app store — by the right users.

When people look for apps on their phones, they type in words describing the kind of app they want. If your app has those same words in its title or description, it will be more likely to show up.

How so? ​​The algorithms in app stores try to understand what apps do by looking at their names, subtitles, and descriptions. Feeding on this insight, they show the app to people searching for something similar.

How do you use keywords in Aso?

Let’s say your app is a game about gift toys and you put the word "gift toys" in your title and description — it’ll be more likely to show up when someone types "gift toys" into the app store search bar.

But there is a process to this, which we’ll go over below:

1. Draw up a master list (research-based)

If you’re going to succeed with keyword search, you’re going to need firepower — a master list stacked with keywords (both long-tail and short-tail) relevant to your app.

Don’t worry if it means you’re overwhelmed by a heap load of keywords; there is no such thing as too many keywords in this phase. Here’re a few ways to come up with them:


If it’s relevant to the subject matter of your app, then it probably is worth considering. Dig into the innermost recesses of your mind to come up with a bunch of top-line keywords.

Breezing through app store pages related to your app (hint: user reviews) can spring up useful pointers on words to use. Google Play and App Store come up with auto-suggestions you can find helpful.

Otherwise, ASO tools also put some ease into the process. Google Keyword Planner is a discovery tool to help you source keywords from the web. You can also use it to gain insight into monthly searches for that keyword to get a glimpse of how widely searched it is.

P.S. Remember to prune your keywords list to exclude generic or abstract keywords that do not describe the functionality of your app. App stores want to create the best experience for users and only come up with apps that match users’ search intent.

2. Segment Keywords based on the available data

Among the keywords in your master lists, some give you a better shot at more than others. This is where you separate the real McCoys from the phonies.

Sorting through your keyword data will help you trim down your list into the most valuable, highest-converting terms.

As with most game-changing insights, it’s all in the data!

Critical data points like search conversion metrics help you harmonize your ASO and ASA (App Search Ads) efforts by arming your marketing strategy with insights. That way, you know which keywords are likely to bring the most bang for your buck.

Leveraging data, you can also assess keywords for relevancy (and, as a result, boost your app’s relevancy score in the eyes of Apple Algorithms) to help your campaign hit a home run.

Here, you want to look past the traffic and into the difficulty. Less popular terms are more gainful when chasing visibility. These less-obvious gems are spread throughout the following channels.

● Currently ranked keywords (that are capable of being improved upon),

● Online spaces where your main keywords are being used,

● New (possible) keywords, and

● Competitor keywords.

Search volumes are another crucial touchpoint. ASO keyword tools like Google Keyword planner give you a scoop on how ‘in-demand’ these terms are among users. You can benchmark this against current keywords you might be ranking for to give your more insight into the profile of users engaging with your app.

Competitor analysis is yet another data point that can uncover little-known keywords you’ve been mission out on. Tools like AppTweaks’s Keyword Monitoring give you a report of how well (or badly) competitors’ keywords are performing.

Looking to one-up competitors? For even the strongest competitors in your niche, keyword gaps — keywords which they are not ranking for — are bound to exist. (Over to you to exploit them!)

‘The Ultimate 10’ list

A diligent run-through of these will show you high-performing keywords as well as new ranking opportunities. You can now distill all these keywords into 10 core keywords from which 90% of your other keywords share relevance.

Across the board, this list should comprise 50% medium/low competiton, 25% medium/high competition, and 25% high competition.

3. Use top keywords in your app metadata

The ‘top 10’-ers cherry-picked from your list should shine through your ASO keyword strategy.

Now, it’s time to sprinkle them generously in your metadata. In your title (for App store & Google Play), Subtitle (App Store) or short description (Google Play) your keyword set (App Store only), and in your long description (in Google Play & App store). Also, make sure to adhere to character guidelines while at it.

4. Monitor keyword performance

To further improve your conversion rate and stay on top of the pile, you must keep your eyes peeled for winning keywords and how your new metadata is performing.

This way, you’re also able to quickly spot any dip or surges in keyword performance triggered by changes in app algorithm and user behavior. Things can quickly snowball a ‘get two for the price of one’ situation since you’re now able to also explore new keyword opportunities to implement into your ASO strategy.

5. Keep iterating your ASO

Iteration of your Keywords ASO strategy is a continuous process. It is the only way you can constantly keep up with the highs and lows in the performance of your metadata.

With ASO updates taking place every 2-3 weeks, any required iterations should be made without delay. If necessary, you can lump that activity into your schedule to help you not lose track.

​​What are some common mistakes to avoid when doing keyword research?

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when doing keyword research and ASO implementation:

Focusing on the wrong keywords:

The more the volume, the better the visibility. As such, chasing keywords that are relevant to your app and have a high volume of searches will prove to be rewarding.

You don’t want to rank in the top 100-150 for high-traffic keywords that aren’t relevant to your app’s functionality. So, if low-traffic keywords give you a better shot at a higher ranking, then go for it.

Relying too heavily on competitors:

While it's helpful to analyze competition, it's more important to also conduct independent keyword research to identify unique keywords that set your app apart.

Relying too heavily on competitors may result in a lack of differentiation and failure to target your audience with precision.

Ignoring long-tail keywords:

Fun fact: More than 75% of visits made to an app’s store listing stem from long-tail keyword combinations. So, don’t just pick general keywords and call it a day—consider including more specific long-tail keywords in your ASO strategy.

Longtail keyword variations in your textual fields tend to be less competitive and can help you target a specific audience or niche. For example, instead of just using the keyword "fitness," you might use a long-tail keyword like "fitness tracker for beginners."

Insufficient Keywords:

While you don’t want to overstuff your keywords, there’s no high ranking without a good amount of keywords. Per this study, iOS apps rank with as many as 65-110 keywords, while android apps rank with as many as 60-105 keywords.

Not including keywords in the right places:

Do well to sprinkle keywords in strategic sections — your app's title, subtitle, and metadata — to maximize your ASO efforts. Make sure to also use a variety of keywords and phrases that accurately describe your app and its features.

And that’s a wrap — your 5-step guide to a successful Keyword ASO strategy. Iteration is a real requirement for success, and you need experts to help you keep your ducks in a row.

Single Dream Media has honed years of experience being a trusted partner helping app developers grow their businesses with top-of-the-shelf ASO efforts. Got questions? Shoot us a mail at — we’re happy to help!

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