App Store Keywords – How To Choose The Right Terms

He said true things, but called them by wrong names.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You’ve just finished your app.

AWESOME! Sigh of relief. Champagne. Deep breath. Wooooooo party time!

……what do you mean publishing?”

Yes, iPhone app publishing – the process of moving your delicious little Xcode archive into the App store for the world to consume. There are many parts, but I want to focus on the name, keyword, and description part of the equation. This is as close as it gets to SEO-keyword work in the app store, so listen up. Choosing good keywords can make a big difference – as I learned earlier. 

Side note: this post is a direct result from talking to the people who decide which apps are featured in the Apple store, in the email newsletters, etc. I was lucky enough to sit down with them at the WWDC a few weeks ago and this is EXACTLY what they told me….so you can rest assured that this is coming straight from the horse’s mouth (at least I assume they would tell me the truth haha).

Just in case there are some beginners out there – the Name is the Title of the app, the keywords are input on the back side (users never see them). Here’s how it looks in iTunes Connect (the dashboard where you upload everything). Whoops – spelled Categories wrong….

Selecting Keywords and Names for Your Apps

Your app will be useless if it cannot be found. Considering that the App Store only allows your app to be searched through its name, keywords and your company name, it is of utmost importance that you pick a name and keywords that are search engine optimized to make sure that your app is visible in App Store searches.

Keywords

Here are some helpful tips in picking keywords for your app:

  • The keywords field in iTunes Connect is limited to 100 characters so make sure to maximize this.
  • You can use single words or multi-word phrases but make sure to separate multiple keywords with commas.
  • Do not repeat keywords. Don’t include your company name and your app name in your keywords since you are already searchable in the App Store with these terms.
  • Do your homework by trying out what search results will come out with your chosen keywords. This will inform you of the competition that you are up against.
  • Choose as many keywords as possible but avoid overly used ones. When you use generalized keywords, several results will come out and your app might get lost in that long list. The fewer apps using similar keywords would mean less competition in search engine results and a higher chance for your app to be found.
  • Relevant keywords are essential. While extremely unique keywords seem interesting, they won’t help your app unless they are relevant. Unrelated keywords can affect your search relevancy in the App Store as it can lower your search engine ranking in your app’s genre. Apple does not allow keywords that are offensive or refer to other products or trademarks. Your app can be rejected if you use these prohibited terms.
  • If your app is available in several languages, make sure to submit keywords covering these languages to make your app searchable in those other places too.
  • Aim for perfection in optimization and spelling. You can only edit your keywords when you upload a new version or when your app is rejected. Apple reviews your keywords along with your app so you are not at liberty to change them anytime you please.
  • Don’t guess. Use programs like Google’s AdWords keyword planner, SensorTower, SearchManHQ, and AppCodes to identify and compare the popularity of specific keywords. It will help you get an idea of what people look for online in relation to the subject matter of your app.

Name

Of course your app’s name is important because that’s how your app will be known. Here are a number of things you need to bear in mind when brainstorming for that perfect app name:

  • Keep it short so it can be displayed in the iOS home screen and in the App Store search results without being truncated. A short name will also allow you to add a descriptive caption of your app to the title.
  • When you add a descriptive caption to your app name, make sure that your app name comes first. Separate the caption from the app name with a hyphen or colon. Example Above is Alpha Combat – Defend Your Country.
  • Make sure that the caption describes your app’s core functionality. It should be catchy and interesting too. This would be greatly helpful for users who do not have the time and patience to read lengthy descriptions about your app.
  • When coming up with a description caption, make sure to use related keywords to help boost your ranking in the search results.
  • Like your keywords, your app’s name is also subject to Apple’s review and you cannot change it anytime you want (only if you release an update). Thus, make sure that there are no typos, it is search engine optimized and uses relevant words. Never use offensive terms or those that refer to celebrities, other products or registered trademarks as these can lead to the rejection or flagging down of your app. Remember, you can only revise your app name and description when you submit a new app binary version for review or when you need to resubmit your app because it was rejected.
  • Use your app name and caption as marketing extensions. Coupled with search engine optimized keywords, these will definitely increase your chances of being found in the App Store.

App Description

An app description is important because it allows you to say more about your app. Think of this like a conversion mechanism. You’re selling users on why they should download the app! Here are some tips in writing that description:

  • It should include a brief explanation of what your app does and why people should get it.
  • Provide enough sales hook to keep consumers motivated to read your app description.
  • First impressions last so make the first few sentences of your description as catchy and comprehensive as possible. Remember that the iPad and desktop iTunes versions of the App Store only display the first three or four lines of your description and readers need to click on the More link to read the rest. If the visible parts of your description are boring, chances are the readers won’t click on that More button.
  • During the introduction phase of your app, very few people know what your app is about. There will be very few or no customer reviews either. To make up for this, you can take advantage of some prominent media reviews that you got during the prerelease stage of your app’s launch. You can get some quotable quotes from these reviews and winning testimonials and include them in your description to convince users of your app’s quality. While customer ratings are valuable, consumers will be more encouraged to try out your app if the recommendation comes from respected bloggers and media personalities.
  • You can also include in your description any awards your app has won to vouch for the quality of your app.
  • If you are torn between including awards and testimonials in your description vis-à-vis your quick pitch app summary, it’s best to choose the latter. Customers would find it useless to know about your awards if they do not know what your app can do for them.

 

Hope this helps! If you have had any other experiences or insights with keywords, names, or descriptions, please leave a comment so that everyone can hear about it.

If you’d like to hear more about choosing keywords and app marketing, sign up for my newsletter and download the free ebook by clicking here.

Talk to you soon!

Carter

 

COMMENTS

  • Andre Khrisna August 9, 2012

    Great post!

    I think we should use as many keywords as Apple allowed.
    In my experience, i’m using mistypo keywords and other language keyword too in order to get in the search result when someone mistype our real keyword.
    For example, i use bible, byble, biblo, bibla, etc as my keyword for Dual Bible app.
    And i get some downloads from people who mistyped bible.

    Related to your post, i think you can add: combet, combad, kombat, airplen, erplen, etc as an additional keywords.
    Not guruing, just sharing.
    I knew that you have more experience than me ;)

    Thanks!

    Success for you.

  • Chad Grills August 20, 2012

    Carter,

    Enjoyed this article, along with you Keyword Conclusions- Exact Matches For Success.

    Submitting my first update in a moment. I describe my app to others as, “Instagram and Someecards had a child.” In the interest of keywords should I use, “some, e, cards” to appear with Someecards? Or will that get my update rejected?

    Trying to figure out where the line is.

    -Chad

  • Carter Thomas Carter August 20, 2012

    Hey Chad,

    It won’t get rejected, but they’ll delete Trademarked keywords in the review process. If something is flagged about your keywords, etc, they’ll do a “Metadata Rejected” review which means all you have to do is update your meta data and not go through the whole process again.

    Check out Appcod.es for some keyword ideas – so sweet.

    Carter

  • Chad Grills August 20, 2012

    Carter,

    Thanks for the AppCod.ed direction. Learning and incorporating some of that now.

    -Chad

  • tasnim ahmed January 7, 2013

    how i will localize my apps keywords?there are no directions anywhere

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas January 9, 2013
  • Brandy Anderson January 15, 2013

    Hi there! Thanks for the informative article. I’m still curious about something though — I manage a suite of business plan apps and am working on optimizing their keywords. If the app’s name is “Business Plan Premier” and I want to have “small business” as a keyword, can I just use “small” and assume that the search will pull “business” from the name of the app?

    That would save me a lot of characters that I could use for another keyword!

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas January 19, 2013

    Yes – correct. Think of Google search as a permutation which dictates a linear match. X->Y->Z

    Apple’s search is a combination, meaning any combination of X,Y,Z can work. So, you’re right on.

    Carter

  • Brandy Anderson January 22, 2013

    That’s great news! Thank you for your help!

  • iOS Keywords January 30, 2013

    Hi,

    You can also give a try to iOS Keywords for Mac.

    Thanks

  • Allie Edwards Williams February 13, 2013

    Hi Carter,

    I have a couple questions about one of the statements above:

    “Considering that the App Store only allows your app to be searched through its name, keywords and your company name, it is of utmost importance that you pick a name and keywords that are search engine optimized to make sure that your app is visible in App Store searches.”

    1. When you say “keywords”, do you mean include only the keywords placed within the ‘Keyword’ field, or also keywords used in the ‘Description’ field?

    I suspect Apple is using latent semantic indexing to return results for related terms, curious to hear your thoughts?

    2. Do you think the quantity and quality (1-5* scale) of user reviews affects how apps are ranked within the App Store?

    Thanks,
    Allie

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas February 14, 2013

    Hey Allie,

    1. Keywords that will be placed in the keywords section, but also the title and potentially the Publisher name. As of now, those are the three searchable fields in terms of optimization.

    2. As of now, it seems that ratings affect search rankings but not chart rankings. Looks like they are two differing algorithms.

    Check out David Janner’s stuff at makeappmag.com – he knows this stuff better than anyone.

    Carter

  • Allie Edwards Williams February 19, 2013

    Thanks Carter! I will check out David Janner’s site too. Appreciate your help.

  • Steve March 4, 2013

    Is there any way to tell how many times a term is searched in the app store? Or i the only way to tell by using google adwords? Thanks for the excellent post

  • Dennis Dang March 14, 2013

    Hey Carter, so will the method of “putting your competition name in your keywords” still works?
    I’m planning the keywords for my game which is some sort of shooting games like Counter Strike. Do you have any suggestions? :). I’ve been following your blog for 2 days now. Thank you for all the information :D

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas March 14, 2013

    Hey Dennis,

    Hard to say. These days they’re getting more strict about doing stuff like that. I’d stay away from big brand names like Zynga or Supercell, etc because they’re going to remove them.

    Check out appstorerankings.net – great way to get ideas.

    Carter

  • Pete Kuhns April 10, 2013

    This has been mega-helpful. A huge thank you.

  • Sebastian April 11, 2013

    If you used names of other apps in the keywords section will they be rejected? Or in my case which weren’t rejected but I believe they just unranked them. Is that the right way to say it? I used keywords such as instagram, facebook, hipstamatic in a couple of our apps but when I go search through with those keywords my apps don’ts appear. I know both facebook and instagram have very high competition but for something like hipstamatic it doesn’t but the apps don’t appear for any of these keywords. Does Apple derank for any such keywords and your keywords allotment is wasted? Any ideas or suggestions? Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Stephan April 26, 2013

    Thanks for the suggestions, especially about app description. I’ve had a lot of luck making short descriptions that I think convert the users well — the most important thing to consider is how many characters show up because on the iPhone only a small portion shows up. Also like Carter, I’d like to strongly recommend App Store Rankings as the keyword optimization tool I’ve had great experiences with it.

    Thanks,
    Stephan

  • tasnim ahmed April 27, 2013

    @sebastian once i used another apps name in my keyword .i got a proprietary copyright mail from the games company :P .they said to change the keywords!

  • Jana April 30, 2013

    I currently have an app ‘waiting for review’ at the itunes app store. It appears that I still have the ability to change the key words. Is this the case? If I change the key words, will this mess up my review? Thank you.

  • tasnim ahmed April 30, 2013

    you can change your keywords as long as the status is “waiting for review”. when the app status is “in review” you cannot change keyword.but after in review if your app is metadata rejected then you can again change your keyword

  • Anna May 2, 2013

    Hi Carter,
    Thanks for these extra helpful tips!
    I don’t have a mac or an iphone (I’m a google fan) but working on writing keywords for both google play and the app store.
    1. Do you know how I can search the itunes web site to check out different word results.
    2. Do you have any tips of how to come up with key words for google play and the amazon market? How many characters?

    Thanks!
    Anna

  • Priveyo May 7, 2013

    Hi there carter,

    Very helpful tips here in selecting keywords to target. We are very close in launching our app and we haven’t figure out what keywords to target. Do you have any idea what are the terms in-order for someone to review our app? We are looking for testers/reviewers prior to releasing the app. It’s called Priveyo an social media privacy app.

  • Mayuri August 6, 2013

    hello carter, this is very valuable article . for optimize the keyword this article will definitely help me.

  • Kyle Ransom September 5, 2013

    as always awesome stuff thanks for sharing working on my first game project. so excited!

  • William September 22, 2013

    I was looking sensortower for quiz gameapp.

    Looks like all succesfull apps get the same common keywords as ‘photos”, “word”,”pic”,”guess”, etc

    So is it really a good spy tool, because it looks strange to me, every apps get the same words, when everybody say to avoid too common keywords.

    And by the way, the biggest mystery for me is “use single word or phrase?”
    exemple: 1) guess,word 2) guess word
    Dont know whats the best way.

  • Bellamine October 11, 2013

    Hello,
    I have checked Google adwords and keywords like sleep and sleeping both have a high search number, but to save space can I just add “sleeping” to my keyword list and App Store will include “sleep” in the search result or should I add both.

    Thanks for your help.

  • Faizan January 17, 2014

    It’s good practice to follow traditional SEO practices for apps too, just consider you apps page on the android market or on iTunes being same as you consider for web, so all the SEO strategies like link building, on-page optimization and etc work effectively. It’s better to research on some useful mobile app metrics before we go on entitling the app and submitting the keywords or even planning to develop the next app. @Bellamine , Google and other search engines are very smart about synonyms, days are gone when people used to care about Exact Match Keywords; using exact match even penalizes you by Google in many areas of SEO and it’s not recommended these days. Even the Keyword Planner which used to be Adwords keyword tool has no option for exact match now. Try searching for both “sleep” and “sleeping” in Google, you will see almost same results for both.

  • Norman Ortiz January 20, 2014

    Our app is call “Architect (Create an App) and when you type in “Create an app” we don’t even appear and if you type “Architect” we appear in like 7th position. We have that same phrase on the keywords and also in the Description. I still don’t get it how can Apple display other apps in front of us just because they have the words “app” “an” and “create” in their description but don’t give weight or importance to the sequence of the words. I checked the results when I put “create an app” and I even get Disney game apps just because the 3 words are somewhere in the description. That is not right. Can someone please explain to me what can we do to get in front of those non related apps?

  • Andreas February 6, 2014

    After I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added
    I recieve four emails with the exact same comment.
    Is there an easy method you can remove me from that service?
    Kudos!

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  • Mireya May 29, 2014

    I think what you published made a bunch of sense. However, consider this, what if you aded a little information? I am
    not saying your information is not good, however what if you added something that grabbed people’s attention? I mean App Store Keywords – How To
    Choose The Right Teerms is a little vanilla. You could glance at Yahoo’s front page and see how they create news headlines
    to grab viewers interested. You might add a related video orr a related picc or two to get readers interested about everything’ve written. Just my opinion, it might bring your posts
    a little livelier.

  • Lauro July 28, 2014

    Dear Carter,

    A little suggestion:

    Make all of us App Flipping Program Members very happy…and comemorating your new site design… posting for us as next the code of the month the souce code of 20 LINE SLOT MACHINE !!!!
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  • android mobile app store August 27, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing a great and informative psot. You ahve summrised all about to choose the keywords.

  • Yeasmin Akter August 28, 2014

    Hi Carter Thomas,
    This is my first visit to your blog and your post is just awesome. I think app keywords position should be in app title, review and description. In ASO part, there is app need highly relevant keywords. Highly relevant keywords lead to conversions!!
    Thanks

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