#38 - Opportunities Still Exist

Ariel Ariel
3 minute read 12/7/21

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.


#38 - Opportunities Still Exist

It's somewhat common knowledge that all the high-popularity keywords are taken. Or, at least that's what I hear from many developers. Well... I found a keyword that's pretty popular but isn't being fought over. I call that an opportunity.

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 analyze thousands of search results to reverse engineer how the stores decide which apps to rank and how to rank them. I share what I learn for you to learn from and get more visibility.

Keyword: Travel

49 moderate 100 very high 228K very high 492.5K very high

Travel is a very popular term, as you can see by its score above. But as you can see below, the apps you'd think of when you think of travel apps aren't even optimizing for it. So, apps with very little performance (aka. new ratings) can rise to the top easily.

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

Let's have a look at the results. We can see the shenanigans starting with #1, Expedia, which isn't even using the keyword in the name or subtitle. It's using it in the keyword list, and manages to get to the top because it has many, many, many, more ratings than all other results.

In second place we have Trip Scout, and here's why this keyword is so interesting. Trip Scout manages to earn the second spot in a keyword with a popularity of 49 (pretty high) with just 274 new ratings. It's not because ratings don't matter, which is something I hear more often than I'd expect, but rather because something else matters most.

Trip Scout uses the term in the app's name. Now, with a few more ratings--probably in the 10K range--Trip Scout can challenge Expedia even though Expedia has 35K ratings. All because of proper keyword placement.


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Continuing to #3, we see another instance of the keyword list + lots of ratings. Tripadvisor doesn't use the term in its name but rather just the keyword list. But it's getting more than 5K new ratings a month, which helps it secure the third spot.

Not the second, which is, just by the sheer number of ratings, should have been.

In 4th we see something similar to second. Wanderlog is using the term in the name but has just a tad over 100 ratings. So the algorithm obviously likes it for this keyword, but with what amounts to a handful of ratings, it can't do all too much.

And then we switch back to the keyword list. Priceline also uses the term in the keyword list. But, and this is an important but. Where you place your keyword in the keyword list also matters.

Priceline has the term later in the list because it's ranking lower than Tripadvisor, which has about a third of the ratings.

And again, if you think ratings aren't what matters, look at this and rethink this. They matter quite a lot, but they come after the algorithm can see your keywords indicate relevancy.

What You Need to Know

Keyword placement is critical for getting good ranks. The best placement is very early in the app's name. The least good is at the end of the keyword list. But, anywhere between them will help the algorithm.

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.

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, learn from competitors, get smart suggestions, and more, here.

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