The Importance of Keyword Research for App Store Optimization (ASO)

The Importance of Keyword Research for App Store Optimization (ASO)

If you are an app developer or are planning on an upcoming mobile app launch, then it’s vital that you understand what app store optimization (ASO) is, and how keyword research plays an important role in implementing this strategy. In this article, we’ll discuss the definition of ASO, why keyword research is essential in making it work, and how you can perform keyword research effectively to meet your marketing goals.

What is App Store Optimization (ASO)?

App store optimization has been defined as:

“The process of optimizing a mobile app to rank higher in app store results. The app stores include App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android… App store optimization also focuses on click-through rate (CTR).”

Think of ASO as the app equivalent of SEO (search engine optimization). Instead of attempting to make your website more visible through higher rankings on Google’s search results, you’re trying to make your app more visible through higher rankings in Google Play’s search results.

Why is App Store Optimization Important?

As you can imagine, app stores make for a crowded marketplace. There are millions upon millions of apps available in the iOS App Store and Google Play, not to mention lesser-known stores like Samsung Galaxy Apps and LG SmartWorld. With such market saturation, it’s critical that your app gains as much visibility as possible, so that it can “stand out from the crowd” and develop a sizable following.

Apart from sheer visibility, effective ASO matters because you can earn free downloads from users. Even if the basic version of your app is free, you need to build up your total number of users in order to ultimately convert some of them into paying customers via in-app purchases. App store optimization allows you to do this in an “organic” way, instead of through pay-per-click ads that users see at the top of their search results.

Of course, ASO is a continual process, and one that needs refining in order to obtain the best possible results. Keywords, in particular, are perhaps the biggest single piece of the ASO puzzle. If you want to increase the conversion rate for your app, then you must pay constant attention to the keywords you are using to capture search traffic.

How to Perform Keyword Research for App Store Optimization

In many ways, ASO keyword research follows a similar process to SEO keyword research. The biggest differences involve the platforms and tools you use for ASO versus SEO. Let’s walk through the basic process together:

Step #1: Research the Market

The first step in successful ASO is gaining a well-rounded understanding of the market for your app. You’ll need to perform some careful, comprehensive research in order to come up with potential keywords for use in your ASO strategy. Your research will likely include:

  • Brainstorming a list of topics that relate to your app. For example, if you’re marketing a note-taking app, then you may include topics such as “meeting notes,” “notes for school lectures,” and “journaling apps.” Try to think of all the keywords that could relate to your app in some way, either because of the category your app will be in, its functionalities, or other factors that would be relevant to your potential users. If you have trouble coming up with topics or terms on your own, you can always look at similar apps from competitors, and see what pulls up when you type in specific search phrases.
  • Analyzing your competitors’ keywords. Spend some time “spying” on your competitors by seeing which keywords they rank for, and how they’ve strategized their ASO process. You can use platforms like Keyword Tool for Google Play to help you figure out where your competitors are coming from, and spot any weaknesses in their keyword usage.
  • Searching out suggested keywords. You can build on the list you’ve already developed by looking for keyword suggestions — especially for long-tail keywords (generally defined as search phrases that are three words or longer). Long-tail keywords are important in ASO, since there will likely be less competition over them, and they’ll attract users with a higher potential value to your app (i.e., users that are interested in apps related to the specific search phrase). You can use ASO tools like thetool.io and appkeywords.net to find these helpful keyword suggestions.

Step #2: Analyze and Select Your Keywords

Now that you’ve compiled a long list of keywords and key phrases (the longer the list, the better), it’s time to leave some of those keywords “on the cutting room floor.” You want to focus on the keywords that will attract the highest amount of users to your app with the least amount of competition. You’ll also need to decide which fields each keyword should go in. For instance, the most important fields in the iOS App Store are:

  • App Name
  • Subtitle
  • Keywords Field
  • Promotional Text

The vital fields in Android app stores are:

  • Title
  • Short Description
  • Description

Finding the Balance Between Traffic and Difficulty

Two of the most important elements of a potential keyword that you need to consider are traffic (or search volume) and keyword difficulty. 

Traffic tells you how many users search for that keyword on a regular basis. Obviously, this is an important piece of information to know, since using keywords with low search volume won’t move the needle in terms of attracting people to your app. 

Keyword difficulty is an indicator of how much competition you’ll have to face if you decide to optimize your app for the keyword in question. The higher the difficulty number is, the more competition you can expect over the selected keyword. (Again, you can also examine your competitors’ rankings directly, either through your own search queries or through the use of a keyword research tool, like those mentioned in the previous section.)

You’ll likely want to find keywords that have a relatively high search volume, but also don’t have an insane amount of competition, either. It’s important to strike a fine balance between these two elements when performing ASO, since going to an extreme in either direction will almost certainly result in reduced traffic to your app.

Once you’ve chosen your keywords, you’ll want to check their performance in terms of how many downloads it is generating and how many users are converting compared to the total number of search “hits” your app receives. If your app is on an Android platform, you can utilize the “Installs per Keyword” feature from your keyword tool; if your app is located on iOS, you can use Apple Search Ads to uncover the relationship between conversion rate and search volume for specific keywords.

Step #3: Optimize Your Store Listing

With all of your keywords in hand, it’s time to add them to your store listing in order to optimize your product page. This is a key step toward winning increased visibility in the app store you’ve selected. 

As you edit the metadata fields for your listing, try to use your keyword list as much as possible. (Remember not to use the same keyword in multiple fields if you’re in the iOS App Store.)

Step #4: Track the Performance of Your Keywords

Once your optimized store listing is live, you’ll want to keep track of how well your keywords are performing in terms of increased visibility and conversion rate. Remember to allow your app store between three and four weeks to fully implement your updates. After that point, use your preferred keyword research/analysis tool to determine whether your app is trending up or down on the store’s search rankings, or whether it’s staying at the same level. If you do feel the need to make further changes, strive to do so in an iterative manner — e.g., don’t change everything all at once, but make incremental refinements to your keyword strategy.

As mentioned before, app store optimization is a continual process, so don’t be too discouraged or disappointed if you need to make occasional “tweaks” to your strategy in order to boost performance. Simply follow the same basic 4-step process discussed above to add new keywords to your listing, and remove low-performing ones. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, ASO is a powerful strategy for increasing your app’s visibility and winning more views and clicks. When implemented properly, it can help your app to stand head and shoulders above competing products, and slowly build a loyal following of users.

Keywords are a big part of effective app store optimization, so approach their selection with care and diligence. Research which search terms will be most relevant to your target audience, which phrases your competitors are optimizing for, and which keywords live in that “sweet spot” where high search volume and low difficulty meet. Most importantly, be willing to make continual adjustments to your keyword strategy — ASO is not a “set it and forget it” process.

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of ASO to your app, and how keyword research can play a huge role in its success, reach out to our team at App Samurai today. We’re an AI-powered, secure mobile growth platform that can help you drive high-quality traffic to your app, and boost your conversion rate.

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