Beware the Keyword List If You Want Better Ranks

Ariel Ariel
4 minute read 12/12/22

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.


Beware the Keyword List If You Want Better Ranks

In the App Store, the keyword list has become a useful but often misutilized tool in the optimization arsenal. I've covered how to use it correctly to improve ranks more than once, including a whole guide on how to craft the best keyword list for App Store Optimization.

The thing is, something special happens with very competitive keywords.

Keyword: White noise

62 high 88 high 2.3K moderate 494K very high 1,339,562 very high

Sound machines, a set of apps that make all sorts of noises or soothing sounds, is a fairly lucrative niche on the App Store. In the last 30 days, the top 5 results made their way into about half a million new devices. They also earned more than a million dollars of net revenue.

And where there's money there's... competition. That's exactly the case here.

Very competitive keywords add an extra challenge -- the algorithm is more sensitive and follows the rules more closely.

Let me show you what I mean in the context of the keyword list.

Tip: Click on bolded app names for more info.

Search results for "White noise" in the U.S App Store

First up is White Noise Lite, which is doing the best job of the bunch. There's no duplication, the name has the main keyword, and it's very focused. It's also getting a lot of new ratings when compared to the rest of the competitors.

Not the most new ratings (2.1K vs 3.8K max), or the most optimized process for getting them (DPR of 29 vs 12, lower is better here). But it's the combination of both keywords and ratings that gives it the first place.

The Good: Keyword in the name, no repetition, short name, modifiers in the subtitle.


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Right below it is White Noise Deep Sleep Sounds, which does a great job with its keywords as well but doesn't get nearly as many new ratings even though it gets more new downloads, according to our estimates.

DPR, which stands for "Downloads Per Rating", is a simple proxy for how well the app converts downloads into ratings. This one's DR is 49 while the top result comes in at 29. The lower the better here.

The DPR column isn't available in Keyword Inspector just yet, but will be soon.

To take first, White Noise Deep Sleep Sounds needs to work on optimizing the process for getting ratings from downloads.

Things get worst as we continue going down the list.

In third place we have Bedtime Fan: White Noise Baby, which seems to be targeting a different overall set of keywords in addition to "white noise"". And for the record, that's not relevant because it's still heavily targeting this keyword.

But even though it's getting more downloads and at a high conversion rate, it doesn't use the keyword early enough in the name, so it can't get any higher.

Pro Tip: Switching the brand name (Bedtime Fan) to the end of the name, and I'm fairly certain it'll be able to get to first quickly.

BetterSleep -- in 4th place -- is where the keyword list shows its importance!

You'd expect the app with the most new ratings (but the worst DPR) to be first, but if you look close enough, you'll notice it's not using the keyword in the name or subtitle.

So let me rephrase:

You'd expect an app that isn't using the keyword in its name or subtitle to not show up in the top 5 for a competitive keyword like this.

BetterSleep is ranking because it uses the keyword in its keyword list, the one that's hidden within App Store Connect. Well, it's the combination of that + so many new ratings.

And in last place we have Rain Rain Sleep Sounds. Like Bedtime Fan, Rain Rain seems to be going after a different set of keywords overall, but is still somewhat focused on "white noise".

With 2.3K new ratings + a mention of the keyword in the visible metadata, you'd expect a higher rank. But where you place the keyword -- the name or the subtitle -- makes a big big difference. And in this case, it's in the worst location, the end of the subtitle.

That's why it can't climb any higher.

Let's Recap This Keyword Teardown

  • The more competitive a keyword is the more tightly the algorithm will be following its ASO rules.
  • Important keywords must go in the name.
  • Unless your brand is very recognizable, it should go at the end of the name.
  • Keywords only in the keyword can rank an app in the top 5, but only if you get a lot of ratings when compared to other ranked 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.

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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