How to Keyword Research - 9 Steps to Find the Perfect App Store Keywords (in 2021)

Ariel Ariel
8 minute read Feb. 23
How to Keyword Research - 9 Steps to Find the Perfect App Store Keywords (in 2021)

Keyword optimization is a proven way to get your app in front of more users. When you optimize your keywords, you help Apple and Google know which searches are relevant to the app. If you do it right, you'll ensure that users who need what your app has to offer find it in the store.

What is Keyword Research for ASO?

Keyword optimization is an industry term for the process of identifying keywords new users may use to search for apps like yours, choosing the keywords that have the most potential to get downloads, and using those keywords in your app's name, subtitle,description, and keyword list to ensure the store's search algorithm knows when to display your app.

For every app there could be countless keyword compbinations, so it's important to identify as many keywords as possible first and then determine which ones have the most potential. We'll start with finding keywords.

9 Ways to Find More Good Keywords

"Research" may sound daunting, but with the right process and ASO tools it's not just easy but also intuitive. Here's our process:

1. List your app's main features and benefits

The best way to start your keyword research is by looking at what your app is offering. Starting with what’s most unique about the app, all the way down to its standard features. Then, go beyond features and add benefits. A benefit is an answer to the question "what will a user get from the app?", and not "how" they'll get it.

These are your most important keywords because they’re relevant to your app and target your users directly. The next steps will help you expand this list with keywords that are relevant and work well for your competitors.

2. Explore direct competitors' most successful keywords

Your competitors are most likely also using ASO to acquire new users. They're also researching keywords and may have found ones that are great that you don't know about. You can quickly learn from them by finding the keywords they're ranked well in, and focus on those keywords as well.

To do that, all you need to do is add them to the Competitor Keywords report, where you'll see all the keywords they’re ranked in, their current rank, and keyword insights to tell you which are worth it.

Find competitor's keywords quickly with ASO tools from Appfigures

3. Find related keywords

Users may be searching for what your app does using different wording than you would expect, so a good practice is to find keywords that are related to your main keywords. The best source of related keywords is those that have similar intent, are relevant to the app, and as a bonus, are working well for similar apps.

The Related Keywords tab in Keyword Inspector automates finding such keywords by crawling the stores and identifying relationships between keywords and apps, so you can find lots of relevant keywords quickly.

4. Explore keyword suggestions

We've automated finding relevant keywords for any app that you select using an algorithm that maps out who's competing over your keywords and learns from their successful keywords. It's pretty clever and fully automatic.

5. Find keywords you're already ranked in but aren't optimizing for

The keywords your app is already ranked in are great “low hanging fruit” because the algorithm already identified your app as relevant to those terms. Where the app is ranked is less relevant, because with a little more focus you could improve that rank very quickly.


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To find out where your app is ranked, head to the Discover Keywords report, where you'll see all the keywords we've seen that show your app as a result. The table will include every keyword, including the ones you're already tracking which you can disable by checking the "Don't include tracked keywords" option.

6. Analyze your competitors' names, subtitles, and descriptions

You now have a pretty good list full of keywords that are relevant to your app. The next step is to look at the keywords your competitors are using.

We know that keyword optimization means changing the app's name and subtitle/description, so an easy way to learn which keywords competitors are targeting is to look at their names and subtitle/descriptions.

Keep in mind, when it comes to ASO a "competitor" is any app that's aiming for the same keywords as you, so examine apps that are in the top 10 for any of the keywords you're targeting.

Keyword Inspector gives you insight into search results of any keyword in any country in real time. In addition to the app's name, you'll also see its subtitle, developer name (which also counts for ASO), and how many times the keyword is used in the description. Just by looking at the list you can quickly figure out which keywords each app is targeting.

7. Read your reviews

The goal of keyword research is to find as many keywords that are relevant, and your app's reviews is a place that’s rich with words that describe it. Your users, especially the ones that like your app enough to leave a review, will describe the app using their own words. Some may speak of it exactly as you think they would, but others may use slightly different words that you can capture and optimize for.

Using the reviews report you can see all reviews for your app from all countries and even have them translated automatically. Tip - Use the rating filter to focus on 4 and 5 star reviews. This way you can focus on the positive.

8. Read your competitors' reviews

We’ve been looking at competitors a lot throughout this guide and here’s another great opportunity to do that. Users of your competitors are also your target-audience and finding out how they talk about the competitor's app can be as insightful as reading through your own user reviews.

If you've already added your competitors all you have to do is select them. The report can show you reviews for all of your competitors together, so you don't have to go through them one by one and can find trends more quickly.

9. Go after long-tail version of your most successful keywords

Last (but not least) is a technique that isn't used enough. With many apps competing over the same keywords it's often best to optimize for longer keywords. Yes, that's right. Longer. But only the ones that are really great, meaning have a high popularity and a low competitiveness score.

Head back into the Related Keywords tab in Keyword Inspector, but this time type in the keyword where you rank the highest in. Look for keywords with 3 words and a high popularity, those are most likely not being targeted by many of your competitors and are a great opportunity to get ahead.

Which Keywords Should You Use?

Apple and Google limit the number of keywords and app can optimize for by limiting the areas that can be optimized. Names, subtitle, short descriptions and keyword lists all have a fairly small character limit forcing you to only optimize for some keywords and not all.

That's why you need to choose which keywords you optimize for very carefully, and the way to do that is by aiming for keywords that are popular while also optimizing for ones in which competition is not too strong for your app.

The first, popularity, ensures that your app will actually get traffic if it ranks well in the keyword. The second, competitiveness, ensures your app will actually be able to get up the ranks into the top 10 or better yet, top 5 results. Mobile users tend to make a decision from the first few results and not scroll much below.

We have a whole guide that explains our methodology for analyzing keywords. Check it out: How to Choose the Right Keywords for App Store Optimization

Turning Keywords into New Users

Now that you've found and analyzed your keywords it's time to use them. Keyword optimization leverages the app's name, subtitle or short description, keyword list, and long description to help the algorithm discover your app and associate it with the keywords you know will help your downloads most.

There are various techniques and a few tricks you can use to optimize right, and we have two guides to help with that:

Monitor and Make Adjustments

Optimization is an iterative process. You may not get it right the first time, the store may change its algorithm, or a new keyword will rise in popularity and become a better opportunity. All these things happen, which is why it's important to keep track of your keyword ranks.

You can do that passively by skimming your email/Slack alert, or actively by looking at trends. The key is to know your performance and be ready to make changes when it drops.

The Right ASO Tools

Finding new keywords requires effort, but that effort will pay for itself in the short and long term by getting your app in front of more people and get you more downloads.

Appfigures offers all the ASO tools you need to streamline your keyword research, figure out which ones are best for your app, and monitor performance with the fastest updates int he market. Not using Appfigures yet? Get started now →


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