App Store keywords – the complete guide to rank #1

Optimizing your App Store keywords  (aka ASO) is one of the most important things you can do when you have a limited budget and want to tap into organic installs.

Quick fact: 65 percent of App Store downloads come from search.

First we’ll quickly cover what fields actually get indexed by the App Store, and then we’ll look at the best practices that will allow you to get the most out every single keyword.

The second part of the article can be read separately and illustrates at a high level what workflow you can adopt when you research and build your App Store keywords.

OK, let’s get started!

1. What is indexed?

The titles (max 30 characters), the subtitle (max 30 characters), and the keywords (100 characters) are indexed by Apple’s search engine.

The title carries the most weight, then the subtitle and finally the keywords. From that perspective having your most important keywords in the title and subtitle makes a difference. 

Your description is a nice way to explain your game to the users, but it’s not relevant from a search perspective.

2. App Store keyword best practices

Here is a breakdown of must-know best practices. See them as the app store keyword rules to live by.

2.1 Once per keyword

App Store keywords example

You only need to add a keyword once. It’s recommended not to repeat keywords between the title, subtitle and keywords as once is enough to get properly indexed and multiple entries are just a waste of valuable space.

2.2 Don’t waste space on spaces

No need to add spaces between the commas of your keywords.

2.3 Separate all words

Make sure every word is comma separated. So don’t do “racing simulator”, but “racing,simulator”.

2.4 Double your keywords (BIG IMPACT)

Many countries in the App Store use the keywords from two language sources to index your game. If you put the same keywords in both these languages you are losing out on a lot of extra free keywords. Make sure to enter different sets of keywords per language that hit the same country.

Below is the list of countries and which languages are indexed for that country.

CountryMain languageSecondary language
United StatesEnglish (US)Spanish (Mexico)
Australia, New ZeelandEnglish (Australia)English (U.K.)
BelgiumFrench, DutchEnglish (U.K.)
SwitzerlandGerman, French, ItalianEnglish (U.K.)
CanadaEnglish (Canada)English (French)
Other countriesLocal languageEnglish (U.K.)

Important 1: you can add keywords in the same language for both sets of keywords, for example if you know your target audience is mainly English speaking then you can enter English keywords in the Spanish (Mexico) keywords as well as the English (US) set, hereby doubling your keywords to U.S. people searching in English.

Important 2: the keywords amongst both lists are not mixed together. So if you have the keyword city in one list and builder in the other, this will not result in being found for city builder. For this reason you need to be smart about which keywords you combine per language.

2.5 Automatic keywords

Your publisher’s name is added to the keywords together with: app, game, your game category, and short worlds like the, or, and an have been found to be added as well.

2.6 Singular and plurals

Apple does a pretty good job in dealing with singular and plural nouns. For example: the keyword boat will also lead to being found for boats. So in this case be sure only to enter the keyword boat.

3. App Store keywords workflow

I’m currently working on the second part of this article in which I’ll break down the ASO steps to find the most relevant high performing App Store keywords.

Want to get started already, have a look at the full list of available ASO tools.

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