5 Actionable ASO Secrets To Get Better Ranks
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.
Whether you're a seasoned ASO or just getting into it, there are a few things about how Apple's App Store algorithm works that you won't find documented in many places.
Why? Because the only way to know them is to analyze lots of keywords and apps...
That's exactly what I do in our Keyword Teardown series, and each one has a real ASO tip. In this guide I chose the 5 ASO tips I think are most important, especially as we head into the new year.
1. Put Important Keywords First
This one might sound simple, but just like people, the algorithm reads from left to right (or right to left in languages that do that), and it assigns the most weight to the first word it sees, a bit less to the second, and so on.
That means that your most important keywords, the ones you want to rank high in the most, should be the first ones in your app's name.
This is especially relevant for keywords where you may not have enough performance to rank high, but the competitors don't know this tip so you can get ahead easily.
We saw a good example of this when I analyzed "recipes" in Keyword Teardown #15, where the top result had fewer ratings than the rest but placed the keyword correctly.
2. Avoid Repetition At All Costs
This one's important. Really important.
Don't repeat keywords between the app's name, subtitle, and keyword list.
Some developers believe that if they repeat a keyword more than once the algorithm will reward it, but in reality, duplication hurts in more ways than you'd expect:
- The algorithm ignores duplication, but those characters still count towards the max of 30. So, you're losing characters for no reason.
- When you duplicate, the algorithm only cares about the last instance. Combine this with the previous tip and you see why this is bad. Because it takes the last instance, it will always take the one it puts less weight on.
Even though this sounds simple, it's one of the biggest reasons why some apps just don't rank well.
Almost every keyword I've analyzed had some duplication in it, but Keyword Teardown #16 is a classic example of duplication in action.
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3. Feature Your In-App Purchases
This one's quick and easy!
Apple's algorithm prefers apps and games that have at least one featured in-app purchase. This isn't really documented anywhere, but I've seen this behavior across a variety of keywords.
This means that it could help you rank above a competitor even if that competitor has more ratings. That's right!
Small caveat - As more apps use this tip it's likely to become less effective, but that's one of the reasons ASO needs constant updates.
What you need to do so that your in-app purchases help with your ASO ranks is to go into App Store Connect and select an in-app purchase to feature for your app. The algorithm doesn't really care what you feature, but I suggest featuring something that will entice users to tap.
You can see the impact of this tip with the keyword "VPN", which I analyzed in Keyword Teardown #31.
4. Fine-Tune How You Ask for Ratings
How many new ratings your app gets plays a critical role in how the App Store assigns your place in search results.
Doing everything on the keyword side right tells Apple when it should show your app. But then comes the question of which app to show first.
The algorithm uses a variety of data points for that, but the most important one, from what I've seen, is how many new ratings the app gets. There's some debate over positive vs. negative ratings, but everything I've seen so far indicates it's about the total volume and not the quality.
This means you need more ratings, and the best way to do that is to ask your users. But just asking may not be enough, you need to ask them at the right time so they don't simply dismiss your request.
An easy way to measure how well your request for ratings popup is doing is by simply dividing new ratings by new downloads. It's not a real meaningful number on its own, but if you calculate that every week it'll tell you if you're improving (the number goes up) or not (it goes down).
I talked about this and showed how to use it to size up competitors in Keyword Teardown #35.
5. Don't Aim for Keywords You Can't Win
We all want to rank for the most popular keywords, but as we saw from the last tip, your rank depends on your app's performance. If you come across a keyword you want to rank in but don't have the necessary ratings you shouldn't "try anyway" because you won't succeed.
Instead, do this: Look for keywords that are very similar and relevant but have a lower popularity score. There you're likely to find different apps ranking higher, and in some cases, those are apps you can beat.
The difference can be very small, even as small as
I covered how to find relevant alternatives fast in Keyword Teardown #39.