Data Beats Gut for App Store Optimization

Ariel Ariel
4 minute read Sep. 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.


Data Beats Gut for App Store Optimization

One of the benefits of analyzing thousands of keywords is that I get to see patterns that teach me how the algorithm works, but also patterns that show me how app makers think, which is as important when it comes to App Store Optimization.

After all, ASO means beating the competition to win the algorithm's attention, which leads to more downloads.

One of those patterns that become very obvious is how (too) many optimize for keywords that sound good but aren't necessarily the most popular.

Let me show you an example.

Keyword: Daily workout

31 low 82 high 27.3K high 197.9K very high

I recently looked at which apps use Apple Search Ads the most and the Health & Fitness category was at the top and it prompted me to look through keywords related to fitness.

Trying a few keywords, I noticed a bunch of apps are optimizing for keywords that are too generic (aka. hard to compete for) and even worse, use terms that combine with those generic keywords to create not-so-popular keywords.

Some apps will get ranked for the generic terms, and that's going to yield downloads, but for most, this is a lose-lose strategy.

Case in point - The keyword "daily workout" is fairly popular but most of the apps that are ranking right now aren't focusing on it as much. The one that's the #1 result even though it isn't the most popular.

Search results for "Daily workout" in the U.S App Store

In first place we have the only app that does everything right on the keywords side, and as a result, is propelled to the top. Daily Workouts has the keyword as the first thing in the name and doesn't repeat either word.

It also seems to be the company name, but that's no longer relevant at this point from everything I've seen.

Keyword placement is correct and that's what gives it the lead even though it gets a fraction of the ratings (and downloads) of the second-place result. And according to our ASA Intelligence (coming soon), it's not spending on Apple Search Ads, something apps in this category do more than in other categories.

Right below it we have Home Workout, a popular app in this category. It gets more than 10x the downloads of the top result but seems to be relying heavily on Apple Search Ads, bidding (and winning) hundreds of keywords, so those downloads aren't all organic.

It manages to snag second place because it has the important part of the keyword in the name, the second in the keyword list, and gets a lot of new ratings for this set. That's the other way to win when you can't optimize for a specific keyword - with ratings.

But doing a good job with keywords is always better. And all you have to do is check the keyword's popularity before choosing to fit it into your name using Keyword Inspector, or really any of our other ASO reports – they all show popularity for this reason.

In the third spot we have 30 Day Fitness, published by the same developer as #2, but with fewer ratings and only half the keyword visible in the subtitle, it can't advance much higher. The keyword list is a good place for keywords, but keyword list + subtitle isn't as strong as keyword list + name.


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StrongHer, in fourth place, again, uses half of the keyword in its visible metadata and the other in its keyword list. That's how it can get into the top 5 with only a handful of ratings...

Remember, good keyword placement is the pillar of ASO.

And last in this list is Workout for Women, which gets one thing right and that's using the singular vs. plural. In my research, I noticed almost all keywords that include "workout" do better than "workouts".

For instance, "daily workout" has a popularity score of 31 while "daily workouts" has a popularity score of 14.

By adding "daily" to the name, this app could easily become #1 for this keyword. And fast, too, because it gets more ratings than all apps in this set combined.

What You Need to Know

When you're looking for new keywords to optimize for start with your gut but don't add it to your name, subtitle, or keyword list until you see its popularity. I got a step deeper and also analyze the top 5(ish) results before choosing to use a keyword, which you can do because you read my teardowns and know how to, but you don't have to. Start by looking at the score.

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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