#98 - Little Changes Make a Big Difference for App Store Optimization

Ariel Ariel
5 minute read 3/20/23

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.

#98 - Little Changes Make a Big Difference for App Store Optimization

Little change can make a big difference when it comes to App Store Optimization. Why? Because the algorithm is looking for specific things. Not many things, or complicated things, just some specific things.

Knowing what those are and designing for them is what gives small apps a big advantage.

"Books for kids" is a great example of how small apps doing things better than big apps puts them all on a level playing field.

Keyword: Books for Kids

32 low 71 high 182.9K very high 135.9K very high $389K very high

Kids' books are a small niché on the App Store that's got a few big competitors including Amazon. Competing should be hard when Amazon is involved, right?

Not really.

Let's look at the results.

Search results for "Books for kids" in the U.S App Store

The top result for this search is also the app with the most new ratings, a well-optimized name (though not perfect, but it's okay), and a pretty competitive DPR – Downloads Per Rating – which means it's optimizing for ratings as it should.

Epic is one of the most popular names in this niché, and it's pretty refreshing to see a big player take the time to do ASO right and not rely solely on paid ads. It's also saving them a few pennies in the process.

The key to Epic's success is having both kids and books in the name, and fairly early into it, and also getting the most ratings.

Having both words without the for is okay because the algorithm ignores it anyway. The algorithm ignores a whole bunch of words that don't offer intent, and when optimizing, you can, in some cases, omit them without a penalty.

As you'll see once we get to the next result though, it is beneficial to have the keyword intact.

Having the most ratings isn't necessarily the most important thing, as you'll see once we get to result #4, but having the keyword right in the name is, which means Epic chose the right keyword and used it almost properly, and the difference in ratings between it and the app that's next on the list is big enough to push it up.

That's how it gets the top spot and will likely be holding on to it.

Tip: Bring your most important keyword(s) into the app's name and as early as possible and publish an update, then spend time optimizing for a higher DPR. Mixing the two, which is what many developers do, means losing out on potential visibility.

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Dropping down we find ReadingIQ, and that's where things might look funky.

ReadingIQ uses the full keyword, intact, only in its subtitle. It also doesn't get many ratings. Even with those two limitations, ReadingIQ still ranks higher than Amazon, which ranks third for this keyword.

As ReadingIQ gets closer to Epic in terms of ratings, it could dethrone it given it's using the whole keyword without chopping it. But, because it doesn't use it in the name Epic will still have an advantage so it'll come down to ratings.

Analyst note - ReadingIQ's DPR is better (lower = better) which means it wouldn't need as many downloads as Epic to beat it.

Sliding down to third, we finally meet Amazon Kids, which seems to not care about ASO as much. The opposite of Epic.

Amazon does use both words but splits them between the last word in the name and almost the last word in the subtitle. This isn't very ideal, and short of only using the words in the subtitle and in reverse, this is almost the worst way to optimize for this keyword.

Amazon's ratings are a match for Epic, but its DPR is muuuuch higher making it much less competitive and needs double the downloads to keep up with Epic's ratings.

That's pretty bad.

All Amazon needs to do to dethrone Epic here is add the word books to its name and remove it from the subtitle.

In fourth place we find another popular name, Dr. Seuss Treasury Kids Books, and unlike Amazon, the Dr. got it (almost) right.

The right part is having both words, "books" and "kids", in the app's name. Not the subtitle. The two are reversed and missing the "for", but we already know that's not an absolute necessity.

The key here is having the terms in the app's name. I know I just said that but it's worth repeating because enough developers and even marketers don't do this. They should.

What the Dr. doesn't have is many ratings. At under 100 ratings, it's barely visible to the algorithm, which is why it can't rise any higher than where it is. But again, thanks to both words being in the name, it ranks about the next result even though it has more than 3x its ratings.

Small apps can win.

And in last place, for this analysis at least, is Little Stories, which seems to be trying, but not for this keyword.

Little Stories seems to be optimizing for bedtime books, a keyword with a popularity score of 5. If you're thinking "they must have trusted their gut and not the data when they chose which keywords to optimize for, what a waste!" I'd eagerly agree with you.

But Little Stories is lucky!

While bedtime books is not very popular, bedtime stories is on par with books for kids, and there, the competition isn't doing a great job so Little Stories is the top result.

The thing is, it can be dethroned very easily by any competitor who tries.

Something similar is happening here. Little Stories has half the keyword in the name and the other in the subtitle, but with hundreds of ratings, the algorithm has to place it above other competitors that don't do nearly as good a job.

Note - You might also get lucky like that and get ranked "for free", but don't let that be the reason you don't bother optimizing because it can all go away in an instant, once a competitor decides to give ASO a go.

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.

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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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