10 Tips to Build a Keyword List for Your App

Candice Chengby
Marketing Operations at AppTweak

11 min read

With over 4 million apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the app store search results are aggressive and the room for optimization is limited. More than ever, keyword research is an essential step to increase your app’s visibility. Take a look at what we believe are the 10 most important tips to find the perfect keywords for your app!

1. Analyze top app’s names, subtitles, and descriptions.

As a first step into your keyword research you can have a look at the keywords other top apps in your category are targeting in their metadata. This research can unveil which keywords they deem the most relevant and might provide great insights for your own app.

With AppTweak you can see in one glance the metadata of all your competitors in one view. The App Metadata section in the keyword tool allows you to then easily add all the keywords and combinations that your app or competitors are targeting in their metadata in your keyword list.

GrubHub, UberEats, Postmates, and Doordash subtitle

GrubHub, UberEats, Postmates, and Doordash (Apple Store – United States) are all targeting similar keywords such as ‘order’ and ‘restaurants’ in their subtitle on the Apple App Store. Uber Eats also targets ‘local’ while Doordash focuses on ‘to go’.

2. Find out which keywords are generating most downloads for your competitors

The best way to find new keyword ideas for your app is to dig deeper into your competitor’s ASO strategy. It can provide you with a large pool of new keyword ideas and give you more insights into what is working for them and what not.

With AppTweak’s keyword tool you can easily add all the keywords your competitors is ranking for to your keyword list. With our Keyword Download Estimates metric you can then see how many downloads each of these ranked keywords is driving to their app. This can provide great insights into which keywords might have the highest potential for your app!

keyword analysis table highlighting monthly downloads per keyword

In our Keyword Analysis table you can find the metric Monthly Installs. In the case of Words with Friends we see that they receive most downloads form their brand name but the game also receives a considerable amount of downloads from ‘words’, ‘scrabble’, games to play with friends’, ‘multiplayer games with friends’, ‘word game’ etc. (Apple App Store – United States).

3. Identify keywords competitor’s rank for but you don’t

When you build a keyword list, you will naturally start with the keywords that are the most relevant for your app. However, the most interesting keywords are the ones you have potentially missed. The best way to find these missed opportunities is to closely research your competitor’s keywords and find those keywords for which they rank, but your app does not.

AppTweak easily shows you these ‘Opportunity Keywords’. In the Opportunity Keywords section we list all the keywords where we found your competitor ranks in the top 100 search results but we couldn’t find your app.

Opportunity Keywords for Hulu

Hulu ranks for keywords such as ‘best films’, ‘stream episodes’, and ‘tv show episodes’ but Disney+ (Google Play Store – United States) does not.

4. Identify keywords you’re already ranked in but aren’t optimizing for

Next, you should have a look at which keywords your own app is currently ranking for. This step is a crucial part in creating your ASO strategy but is also very useful when researching new keyword opportunities as it can unveil low hanging fruit.

For example, when looking at your ranked keywords you can find keywords that you did not target in your metadata but for which your app is ranking. By adding these keywords to your metadata you can further increase your rankings.

AppTweak’s Ranked Keywords feature shows you all the keywords for which your app ranks in the top 1, 3, 10 and 100. With one click you can add these to your keyword list and discover keywords you are currently ranked in but are not optimizing for.

Chess ranks in the Top 10 search results for the keywords ‘chess’, ‘chess games’, ‘online chess games’, and ‘chess puzzles’.

Chess (Apple Store – United States) ranks in the Top 10 search results for the keywords ‘chess’, ‘chess games’, ‘online chess games’, and ‘chess puzzles’.

5. Understand app store search behavior with Apple & Google auto-suggestions.

A main proponent in finding the perfect keywords is discovering what people are searching in the app stores. With Google and Apple Auto-Suggest features, you can check out the auto-complete keywords coming directly from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. This is one of the strongest tools to understand which keywords users use when they search in the app store.

Use this free tool to find Apple and Google’s auto suggestions

Seasonal events or new game launches can have a great impact on app store search behavior. When relevant to your app some of these high volume keywords can drive a lot of visibility to your app.

By taking a look at our Trending Keywords tool, you can find the trending keywords best suited for your app.This is a great way to help you discover when your brand or your competitors’ brands were suggested in Apple’s Search tab.These keywords are curated by Apple among the most searched keywords on the store to improve the user experience and help users discover popular apps or games.

You can also check the Top & Worst Growth Keywords, displaying the keywords with the greatest positive or negative change in Search Popularity. This gives you a better understanding of the changing trends in keyword search, and monitor keywords accordingly.

keywords that have grown the most in volume in the past 30 days

Now that people have to stay home keywords like ‘house party app’, ‘ zoom chat’, ‘nfl game pass’, ‘fitness coach’ etc. have increased in volume (Apple App Store – United States)

In this section, we discussed in detail how Apple is giving more acknowledgment to browse traffic by ranking featured content among search results. We found that the keywords chosen by Apple to rank stories were actually closely related to the apps featured in that story. These keywords provide a real source of inspiration to explore new ASO ideas and tactics.

AppTweak’s Story Keywords tool can be a great way to broaden your ASO keyword research. For each story we show you all the keywords the story ranked for in the search results. To make things even easier for you, we indicate the volume of the keywords directly in the suggestions. This allows you to immediately pay attention to the truly relevant words that actually drive traffic to your app.

keywords for which the story 'work out at home; ranks

On April 5th, the Apple App Store featured a story ‘Work Out Fast at Home’. This story also appeared on keywords such as ‘minute abs’, ‘stronger’ or ‘working out at home’. All interesting keywords for any fitness app to add to their keyword list.

8. Take a look at your reviews

It’s important to always take a look at what users are saying in your reviews. Some key points to look out for is how they are describing your app or giving you more insights on which features they like the most.The goal of keyword research is to find as many keywords that are relevant, and your app’s reviews is a place that’s rich with words that describe it. Your users, especially the ones that like your app enough to leave a review, will describe the app using their own words. Some may speak of it exactly as you think they would, but others may use slightly different words that you can capture and optimize for.

The Review Sentiment Analysis shows you which words are repeated the most in your reviews along with the sentiment of the review. This helps you quickly identify what people like or dislike about your app.

most repeated keywords in Hay Day's app reviews

Some of the most repeated keywords for the game Hay Day for their iOS app. People seem to refer to the game as ‘best’ , ‘love’ or ‘amazing’. But users also have highlighted keywords like ‘family’ or ‘trade’, both interesting keywords for the game to consider for their metadata. (Apple App Store – United States).

9. Merge and combine words to find new long-tail keywords.

From experience, we know how time consuming it can be to manually create different combinations using relevant keywords.

With the Keyword Shuffle Tool you can quickly build a long list of long-tail keywords. Simply add up to five different words and AppTweak will automatically combine the keywords to make long-tail combinations. You can then easily add these keywords to your list and continue your keyword research.

By entering the keywords ‘music’, ‘podcast’, ‘songs’, bands’, and ‘artists’, the Keyword Shuffle Tool has generated 85 long tail keywords and combinations for Spotify (Apple Store - United States).

By entering the keywords ‘music’, ‘podcast’, ‘songs’, bands’, and ‘artists’, the Keyword Shuffle Tool has generated 85 long tail keywords and combinations for Spotify (Apple Store – United States).

Use this free tool to find merge and combine words to find new long-tail keywords.

10. Choose the Most Relevant Keywords

Creating a semantic dictionary is an important part of keyword research, but it is really only one step in the entire ASO process. After you have added all the keywords you can think of relevant to your app, you need to sort through your keywords to find the most strategic terms and phrases that will drive the most organic downloads and increase your app’s ranking.

First of all you need to select keywords that are most relevant to your app and describe your app’s functionality. Then you can use AppTweak to filter your keyword list taking into consideration the Volume, Difficultly and Chance of each keyword.

Volume: an indicator of how popular this keyword is in terms of searches. The closer the volume is to 100, the more often users use this keyword when searching in the app stores.

Difficulty: a score that represents the level of competition given the specific keyword. The higher the score indicates that powerful apps rank in the top 10 results.

Chance: an indicator that shows you how likely it is for your app to rank in the top 10 search results with this keyword.

KEI: the Keyword Efficiency Index, a figure generated by AppTweak representing the ranking potential for a keyword, considering both the chance and volume scores.

keyword analysis table for the game asphalt 9

In the example above we have built a small keyword list for Asphalt 9. Of the selected keywords, the game has the highest chance to rank on ‘car simulator’ as the keyword has high volume and a low difficulty score.

Bonus: Find keywords that are semantically close

It’s not always easy to think of all the keywords that could be relevant to your app. That’s why AppTweak has created the Semantic Keywords picker to help broaden your research. This keyword suggestion tool returns keywords that are semantically close to each other, increasing the range of keywords your app could rank on.

At AppTweak, we have developed our own App Store Semantic Model that identifies how connected keywords are according to the App and Play Store. In the Semantic Keyword picker, you can input any keyword of your choice and AppTweak will return the keywords that are the most closely linked to that keyword.

It is important to note that the relation between keywords is app store specific. For example, in the context of an app store, the word “runner” will be associated with keywords such as “running games” or “temple run” whereas the word “running” will be associated with keywords like “pedometer” or “run tracker”.

AppTweak Semantic Keywords picker: find keywords that are semantically close to each other in the context of an app store.

AppTweak Semantic Keywords picker: find keywords that are semantically close to each other in the context of an app store.

Targeting keywords that are semantically close in the eyes of the App and Play Store is a very powerful strategy in ASO. By ranking on keywords that are semantically close, your app will send strong positive signals to the app store algorithms and will further strengthen its position on those words.

Keyword research is a crucial step in any ASO strategy. AppTweak can help you find hundreds of keywords opportunities for your app or game. Learn more about Keyword Research & Suggestion tools or sign up for a 7-day free trial!

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Candice Cheng
by , Marketing Operations at AppTweak
Candice is a Customer Success Manager at AppTweak. She’s inspired by the endless opportunities mobile marketing has created for people around the world. She is passionate about food, sustainability, and the environment!