#65 - An App Store Optimization Quirk

Ariel Ariel
3 minute read Jul. 12

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.


#65 - An App Store Optimization Quirk

Some search results I look at don’t make sense. Even not to me. But... after looking close enough, it’s pretty clear that things follow the same rules.

This keyword Teardown is a good example. And bonus, it uncovers yet another quirk of the algorithm. Yes, those still exist!

Keyword: Photo Filters

41 moderate 79 high 9.4K moderate 639.1K very high

Keyword placement and performance — usually measured in new ratings — give the App Store enough to go off when ranking results. When it comes to placement, keywords in the name beat keywords in the subtitle, and cases where half is in the name and half in the subtitle fall somewhere in between.

That’s IF those apps have enough ratings to earn their spot. Performance alone isn’t enough.

Let’s have a look at a keyword that’s a bit confused...

Search results for "Photo filters" in the U.S App Store


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1st up is Presets for Lightroom. A tricky one right out of the gate!

It’s getting a good number of ratings but not the most. It also uses the whole keyword in the subtitle. How is it the first result? Maybe the competition isn’t doing enough?

Let’s have a look and come back to this one.

Right below it, we have Setty in second place. It’s using the entire keyword in the name, which is great, but barely gets any ratings in comparison, so the algorithm can’t help it any more than it already has.

Below Setty we have Filto, another tricky one because it packs so many keywords into its name without spaces, which looks awful in my opinion.

But is it hurting its rank? Absolutely! Filto uses the whole keyword* in the app’s name and gets more ratings than second place and first place.

No spaces hit a gray area for the algorithm — is photo&video one word? Two words with a space in the middle? Is the & ignored? Is it also a keyword?

I can answer all of those questions, but having followed the algorithm for long enough, I can tell you that when there are so many questions, the odds of those answers changing are incredibly high. You want to stay away from this to be safe.

You can probably guess my answer by looking at these results, anyway.

Dropping to fourth place, Tezza mixes the name and subtitle, which the algorithm doesn’t love but can’t ignore. It could probably rank higher with its 600+ ratings if it used its keywords correctly.

And last on the list is another tricky one — Prequel, which I looked at in episode #100 Of This Week in Apps as it overtook the App Store overnight.

Prequel uses the keyword only in the subtitle, which explains why it’s not ranking any higher. But...

Remember our #1 result? It’s doing the exact same thing yet ranks first with half the new ratings.

Here’s what’s going on. The top result is actually using half the keyword in its name. Yes, it's that word that looks like filters that I'm referring to. Why?

The algorithm tries to match words by how they sound, which, in some cases, works out this way. And because it's not the actual word, it's not technically committing the sin of duplication. So the algorithm reads FLTR as Filter.

Sounds like a perfect hack, right?

Not really. Before you start looking for weird words to use, I'd suggest you don't. This isn't very easy to guess and is not reliable -- meaning you can't count on it to work for every keyword. In addition, it's something that happens deep in how the algorithm reads, which has a high likelihood of changing.

It's worth experimenting with, though.

What You Need to Know

Keyword placement works hand in hand with performance, which is why you need to make sure you're targeting keywords you can actually win. That means having the right performance or finding keyword opportunities, something I talked about in last week's teardown.

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.

Tagged: #aso

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