#3 - Keyword Placement is the Name of the Game!

Ariel Ariel
3 minute read 8/14/21

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.


#3 - Keyword Placement is the Name of the Game!

If you're ASOing correctly you're spending time finding the best keywords. But, how you use them is as important.

Apple's and Google's search algorithms are black boxes and completely undocumented, but when you look at enough data, patterns start to emerge. I actively analyze search results to reverse engineer how the stores decide which apps to rank and how to rank them, and share what I find, including tips, tricks, and secrets, here for you to learn from.

Keyword: Whiteboard

52 moderate 74 high 1.2K moderate

We'll get this teardown started by looking at a keyword I didn't expect to be that popular but is—Whiteboard. I'm not too surprised though. I find myself wanting to draw examples in many of the virtual meetings I do these days.

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

At first glance, I see results that are almost sorted by downloads, but it's not just downloads but rather keyword placement and weight.

Microsoft leads the pack here with a healthy amount of downloads, about twice those of the rest of the top 5 (except for #4), it's also getting a healthy number of ratings for this group. The total is pretty low, but the entire segment looks like that, so it works.

Its secret weapon, however, isn't downloads but rather keyword weight. The app's name is very short, just two words. That indicates to the algorithm that this app is all about those two keywords.

Need more convincing that keyword placement is important? The 3rd result gets more downloads and ratings than #2, but look where #3 has the keyword: in the middle of its subtitle, where #2 has it as the first work in its name.


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And if you haven't read the previous teardowns, the reason I said #3 has it in its subtitle even though it also has it in its name is because the algorithm skips duplicates.

#4 is peculiar because it has more downloads than the rest and doesn't commit any duplication sins, so we'd expect it to be higher. A couple of things could cause this: 1. this is the youngest app of the bunch. Age isn't a critically strong signal but does have an impact. 2. The way the algorithm handles the : has been a bit weird lately. I don't have enough evidence to support any suggestion here, but I know something's iffy.

At #5 we have another bad use of duplication and an overly long name/subtitle, which together devalue the keyword even more.

Note: It seems like Apple's algorithm has become much more sensitive to keyword placement and density lately. I'm not entirely sure when that started, but if you've gone through previous Teardowns, you know it's a pretty consistent pattern.

What You Need to know

The more important a keyword is, the closer to the beginning of the app's name (or subtitle) it should be. The name gets more weight than the subtitle, and the subtitle gets more weight than the keyword list.

So, your most important keywords should go in the beginning of the name, and least important keywords should do at the end of the keyword list.

Are You Putting My Tips to Good Use?

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, snoop on competitors, get suggestions, here.


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