#41 - The Secret to Generic Keywords

Ariel Ariel
4 minute read Jan. 4

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.


#41 - The Secret to Generic Keywords

I hear from developers who think App Store Optimization for apps and games is different when it comes to keywords all the time, and while there's some truth to that, it really comes in at the keyword selection level and not in how the algorithm handles those keywords.

FYI - I'm doing an App Store Optimization Q&A next week, and everyone is welcome to join, ask questions, and learn ASO. Visit the live stream link to set a reminder.

Keyword: Soccer

63 high 65 high 229 very low 314.1K very high $1.1M very high

Soccer is an interesting keyword because it can have a few intents. When I think about it, I think of soccer scores and news. But it looks like the algorithm associated it with games. This means that if you're in the former category, you shouldn't consider soccer as a term to aim for on its own. If you're in the latter category, you should focus on it.

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

At first glance, I see what makes a lot of sense – the sorting is pretty much by ratings, where the keywords are done correctly.

In #1, we have FIFA, probably the most popular name in this category, but more importantly, the app with the most focus on the term (just two words and one of them is the keyword) and almost the most ratings. That's a slam-dunk, and why FIFA is the top result.


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Below it, we have Football Strike, and for my non-American readers, how you're supposed to call the game. In the world of ASO though, it's really about what people search, and in the case of Soccer, a popularity score of 65 shows it's pretty popular, so you have to optimize for it.

Football Strike uses the keyword at the end of its subtitle, which isn't ideal, but it only uses a few words, so the focus is still there. That helps it rank second even though the app below it has more ratings.

Here's when we get into mistakes territory. Dream League has a lot of ratings. More than all other apps in the top 5. But, see what it's doing there? The duplication between the name and subtitle comes with a penalty. A yellow card if we wanted to stay on theme.

In #4, we have Score! Hero, which seems to only use the keyword in its keyword list, the one we can't see. And that's a shame because with its ratings, it could probably rise to #3 and if it goes all out and uses the term in its name, to #2.

And last error for the day is Head Ball 2, which is also duplicating and getting penalized. It has the fewest ratings of the bunch, but because most don't use the keyword in their name or duplicate, if it does it right, it could rise. Even with its few ratings.

I say errors, but I see opportunities. Easy ones.

Here's an easy thing you can do to turn a competitor's mistake into an opportunity. Head into your Keyword Performance report, this is where you track the keywords you care about, and sort it by popularity score in descending order (highest on top. Then, click View → in the Results column) which will open it in Keyword Inspector.

You're looking for results where most/all of the top results duplicate the keyword. Go through your keywords from top to bottom until you find a set like that. When you do, take that keyword and optimize your name for it. And, don't repeat it, of course.

Do that for one keyword, no more. Give it a week or so to yield results, and if it doesn't continue to the next. Since you're going in descending order, the first keyword that works will also be the one with the highest popularity.

What You Need to Know

Some keywords, especially the more generic ones, can be associated with a few types of apps. When that's the case, the algorithm tends to pick a group and favor it. You don't want to go against the algorithm, so if your app isn't in that group, it's better to find other keywords.

And also, games are treated by the algorithm just like apps, so all of the rules we've seen in the past still apply. The most important one, duplication, is hurting games just as much as it's hurting apps.

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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