#93 - How to Miss the Mark by Optimizing for the Wrong Keyword

Ariel Ariel
5 minute read 2/6/23

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.

#93 - How to Miss the Mark by Optimizing for the Wrong Keyword

Do you check keyword popularity before deciding which keywords to use in your app's name?

If you don't, you could be missing out on visibility. A lot of visibility.

Let's take a look at a real example from the App Store.

Keyword: Music Player

62 high 95 very high 17.9K high 510.2K very high

I didn't expect the keyword "music player" to be very popular. I expected "music streaming" or some similar combination to be more popular. That was just my gut, so I put both variations into Keyword Inspector and... I was wrong.

Music player is twice as popular as "music streaming" and 10 times more popular than "stream music".

That surprised me.

It looks like a very popular app made the same mistake I made. Except, for that app, the mistake is costing downloads.

Search results for "Music player" in the U.S App Store

This is an interesting keyword because Apple's own app, Apple Music, is one of the results. And as you might imagine, not because it's stellar at App Store Optimization...

Here's something that might surprise you, Apple Music isn't the first result or the fifth, as we've seen in the past. I think that's because Apple got hit by a lot of bed press a few years ago specifically for manipulating music-related results, so they pushed the app down a bit -- but not too much -- so it looks organic.

We'll get to it in a bit, but starting at the top we see the old ASCII trick still works! Music Player uses the trick, which involves placing a character the algorithm ignores in the name to make it unique, to rise to the top of the list.

It does get hundreds of new ratings, which isn't bad in general, but at a DPR of 68, it's not great either.

Wait, what's DPR???

DPR is a metric I've been using to understand how optimized an app is at turning downloads into ratings, which is finally available in Inspector so I (and you) don't have to calculate it in my head.

DPR, which stands for Downloads per Rating is a simple metric that tells you how many downloads the app needs to get one new rating. The lower the number is, the better the app is at getting ratings.

There's no magic number for whether your DPR is good. Instead, to know if your DPR is good there are two things you should look at. The first is its trend. Is it going down? Good! The second is the competition. Is it lower than the competition? Good.

Alright, back to the teardown.

In second place we have Musi, the app that's doing it wrong.

At 40x the ratings. That's right, the 0 isn't a mistake, you'd expect Musi to rise to the top, right? Musi's ratings aren't the only thing that's better. Its DPR is 13, which means it's much more optimized.

But Musi makes several mistakes with its keywords. The first is easy for anyone who's been following my teardowns -- Music duplicates keywords between the name and subtitle. And important ones, too. And second, it's optimizing for a keyword that's half as popular as this one.

"Music streaming", in case you skipped the intro, has a popularity of 30 while "music player" has a popularity of 62. Yes, not at all intuitive, which is exactly why you need to check the popularity of keywords before going all-in on targeting them. It only takes a minute.

Oh, and if you're still curious why Musi is even ranking here, that's because it's got the keyword in its keyword list + has so many more ratings than the competition the algorithm actually reads the keyword list.

In third place we have Offline Music Player, which gets more new ratings than the top place. Not that many more, but still more. But, two things are different when it comes to keywords.

The first is that there are more words in the name. The top result is super optimized for this keyword. This app isn't exactly. The second is... duplication. "Music" is duplicated between the name and subtitle which hurts the app a lot.

Apple Music comes in fourth. There's no real reason why, so let's just go with it...

In fifth place we see something similar to third place. Music Player - Audio Player, a terrible attempt at keyword stuffing, gets around the same number of ratings as the top result but repeats "player" two extra times + has a subtitle that adds nothing to its ASO (and I'd even argue nothing at all), which tell the algorithm not to rank it any higher than fifth place.

I can easily "fix" each of these apps pretty easily and given how close the ratings are for three of the five, see results fairly quickly for whoever does the best job the fastest.

How? It all comes down to keyword strategy.

Here's my workflow for fixing their keywords -- warning, it's all questions

  1. Are there similar keywords with a higher popularity? Use the "Related" tab in Inspector, the Competitors Keywords report, the Discover report, and even the "Common words" highlighted in INspector to look for alternatives. Pick the most popular, but still most relevant, one. Switch if you have to.
  2. Is the top result using the keyword in its name? If not, that's what I'd do.
  3. Is it making any mistakes? If it is, I wouldn't make them.
  4. Do I have enough ratings to compete with the top 5? If not, go back to step 1.
  5. Do the top results focus on the keyword, or use it alongside others? If they don't focus, I would.

This evaluation shouldn't take more than a few minutes for each keyword, but even though it seems simple, it will make a substantial difference.

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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