#103 - The Trick to Branded Keyword and App Store Optimization

Ariel Ariel
5 minute read 6/19/23

Have you ever looked at search results in the App Store and wondered why they're ranked the way they are? In this series of Keyword Teardowns we analyze how the algorithm works and highlight tips and tricks to help you rank higher.

#103 - The Trick to Branded Keyword and App Store Optimization

The one kind of keywords we haven't examined in more than 100 Keyword Teardowns so far is branded keywords. That's because they're usually not very useful unless you're trying to target a competitor, which you shouldn't really do.

But there are situations where branded keywords are not just useful but also critical. One such example is when you build a client for a platform.

How do branded keywords behave? How is ASO different for branded keywords? Should you do it?

We'll answer all of those in this Keyword Teardown by looking at search results for a very popular brand โ€“ Reddit.

Keyword: Reddit

88 high 97 very high 788 low 1.4M very high

Tip - Click (or tap) any app in this article to see more information about it.

Reddit, the keyword, is very popular on the App Store. While Reddit has an official app, there are several alternatives that need to optimize for this keyword to gain discovery.

Reddit, the company, has been in the news recently for fighting with 3rd-party apps, and that's what led me to analyze the keyword. If you're not sure what's going on with Reddit right now, give this a quick read.

Search results for "Reddit" in the U.S App Store

Search results for "Reddit" in the US App Store

In first place we have the app that belongs_ to the keyword, and that's Reddit's official app.

Reddit commands the top for the same two principles we've seen in nearly every Keyword Teardown so far โ€“ Keyword placement and ratings.

Yes, that's really all there is to it.

But there are two main differences:

  1. Branded keywords are more unique, well, because brands are more unique than generic terms. This means fewer apps are (or even can) optimized for them, making the owner of the brand very likely to be the top result.
  2. Some branded terms are copyrighted or trademarked, which means other apps can't use them in their name or even subtitle. Further enforcing #1.

Keyword selection comes first for ASO making ratings less relevant here.

So while branded keywords play by the rules, the playing field is a little different.

Actually! There's also something special the algorithm does for branded keywords that are ranked high in their category. I'll show that once we get to result #3.

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Apollo for Reddit, in second place, is the first "competitor" to rank. And can you guess why?

Apollo uses "Reddit" in the name + has the most ratings of the rd-party bunch. And just like every other keyword, that's what helps Apollo get the second spot for this branded keyword.

Two things to note here:

  1. Apollo has a much lower (better) DPR than Reddit, which means it gets rated more often. While this isn't necessarily crucial to beat Reddit, given its scale, it is important for beating other 3rd-party apps.
  2. "Reddit" is repeated in the subtitle... The ultimate sin of ASO is on display here again, but the high number of new ratings โ€“ higher than the competition โ€“ are helping Apollo remain at the top.

Please don't do that!

FYI - Apollo is shutting down in a few weeks, so this list will shuffle soon.

Right below it is a result that makes no sense at first glance. It actually stumped me for a bit until I figured out what's going on...

Twitter, in third place, gets a lot of ratings and a lot of downloads. Nearly 30% more downloads and 3x the ratings. Why isn't Twitter first on this list?


Why is Twitter even on this list? Twitter does not include "Reddit" in its name or subtitle, and I doubt it's in the keyword list. How do I know?

I don't have first-hand knowledge it isn't, but I found an interesting pattern that seems to repeat across almost every category on the App Store that's responsible for that. It isn't the ratings (or downloads - it's never the downloads).

Here's what's going on: When you search for a branded keyword and the branded app is also ranked high in its category, the App Store will automatically bring one or more of the top apps from the category into the search results if they share similar keywords.

Twitter is currently #1 in the News category in the US and Reddit is #2. Both also use similar keywords in their keyword list, and that's why Twitter is ranking here.

I've seen a similar pattern across most categories, including:

  • Music - Search for Shazam (#2 in the category) and Spotify (#1 in the category) is ranked
  • Navigation - Search for Waze (#2) and Google Maps (#1) is ranked
  • Shopping - Search for SHEIN (#2) and Temu (#1) is ranked

This doesn't seem to happen in categories where the top apps are very different, like Utilities and Lifestyle.

Twitter is likely to rise to the 2nd spot once Apollo shuts down.

Right below Twitter is narwal for Reddit, and just like that, we're back to 3rd-party apps.

Narwal uses Reddit in its name, doesn't duplicate it, but gets far fewer ratings than Apollo, which is why it can't rank any higher.

Last on this list is Slide for Reddit, which also uses Reddit in its name but duplicates it in the subtitle (bad. bad. bad.) and gets even fewer new ratings than narwal, so the algorithm can't help it at all.

Pro insight - Slide and narwal get roughly the same number of downloads, according to our App Intelligence, but look at the difference in DPR scores! Slide's 160 is far less ideal than narwal's 27. narwal gets nearly 6x more new ratings which is why it's ranked higher. Watch your DPR and compare it to your competitors - yours must be lower if you want to beat them.

That's everything you have to know about branded keywords. Don't optimize for competitors because if someone is already searching the App Store by name they're likely to only download that app. But if a branded keyword aligns with your app, this is the way to do it.

And that's all I have for you today. Subscribe to the newsletter for a new Keyword Teardown next week. If you have any questions or comments, you can find me on Twitter.

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App Store Optimization is part art and part science. I say it a lot, and I mean it. The art part is what I've been talking about in this Keyword Teardown and in my App Teardowns. The science part is where our simple and intuitive ASO tools come into play.

See where your apps are ranked, track trends, learn from competitors, get smart suggestions, and more, here.

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