#92 - An Easy Example of Bad ASO Keyword Strategy

Ariel Ariel
5 minute read 1/30/23

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.

#92 - An Easy Example of Bad ASO Keyword Strategy

I see this happening all the time in the App Store. One app optimizes for a specific keyword thinking it's the best for it. The competitors blindly copy. When someone searches for that keyword, the results make sense, but what if there's a more popular keyword that more people are looking for?

The results at that point not only don't make sense but also highlight apps that would be uncompetitive otherwise.

If you're a small app, knowing how to do this could be a game-changer. If you're a big app, knowing this is a must so you remain the most relevant.

Let me show you what I mean.

Keyword: Car Parts

34 low 39 low 1.3K moderate 230K very high

When it comes to shopping for car parts, whether by app or otherwise, there are a few popular names. The thing is, those companies optimize for "auto parts" while "car parts" is a more popular keyword.

The competitors of those popular apps followed them and also optimize for "auto parts" allowing a teeny tiny app with very few (bad) ratings to rank first for a more popular keyword.

You don't have to be an ASO expert to know that's not good.

I see this type of mistake in many keywords.

Here it is, in action:

Search results for "Car parts" in the U.S App Store

Car-part.com is the top result for this keyword even though it only has 2 new ratings. Just 2! It competes with apps from popular brands that have thousands of new ratings and many *many) more downloads. Yet, it's the top result and is seen first by potential downloaders.

And here's the worse part - it's the competition that's really shooting itself in the foot here and losing ranks. Not the other way around.

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Advance Auto Parts, in second place, gets many more ratings. Enough to easily be the top result. But... do you see any mention of "car" in its visible metadata?


It's optimizing for "auto" which is a less popular search in the App Store because the year is 2023 and everyone speaks more casually these days.

The reason it's made it to 2nd place is the keyword list, but adding "car" anywhere in its visible metadata will give it the top position.

It's really that easy.

Summit racing, below it in third place, is doing an even worse job. It isn't using "car" in its visible metadata but also isn't using "parts" in its visible metadata, just the keyword list.

The reason it's even in the top 5 is that it doesn't have a subtitle, giving more weight to the keyword list.

Note - It looks like removing your subtitle after having one leads to a penalty from the algorithm. Not having a subtitle only helps with ASO if your app is old enough and you never added a subtitle.

eBay motors, in fourth place, makes a big mess of keywords and doesn't get many ratings, both of which surprised me, which is why it barely makes it to the top.

There are unnecessary keywords, useless keywords, repetition, and the important keywords are reverses.

This is what happens when you get your metadata from a copywriter...

And in last place, the name I've been looking for as I was searching, is AutoZone, one of the more popular brands in this space. It gets the most ratings of the bunch, and by far, but like eBay, makes a few critical mistakes with its keywords.

First, the target keywords aren't the most popular, then we have the keywords being reversed, and to put a nail in that coffin, there's repetition from the name into the subtitle, which is pretty bad.

The thing is, And here's the thing, the main mistake, of targeting the less popular keyword with no real reason, is so easy to avoid. The other mistakes I highlighted aren't very difficult either.

What You Need to Do

And here's why this is important + what you can do about it right now.

You're likely in one of the following situations:

  1. Your app is winning - you have to make sure you know why and what you can do to protect it from competitors getting smarter.
  2. Your app isn't winning but your competitors are making this mistake - you need to figure out what to change to win.

It doesn't matter if your app is huge or tiny, the algorithm treats both the same when their keywords aren't great.

To find out if you're doing keywords right, do the following:

  1. Head into App Keywords
  2. Filter for top ranks (1-10)
  3. Sort by popularity in descending order

This will show you where you're ranked right now. Use the "view" button to look at who else is competing for those top keywords and use the commonly used words list above the table to see what competitors are using. Follow relevant words and see if there are any that are more popular, and if you find one(s) that have a higher popularity score and competitors aren't targeting directly, kaboom! You've landed on an opportunity.

That's how I do it. You can do it a bit faster with the Related tab in Keyword Inspector and the Competitor Keywords report, but I prefer the more manual approach so I can get more ideas.

If you think I should make a video to explain my process, please let me know.

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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