App Store Keywords – How To Choose The Right Terms

Post updated August 14, 2015.

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

You’ve just finished your app.
Sigh of relief…
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 and it used to be that the name and keywords were the biggest parts of the equation. This is known as App Store Optimization or ASO.
Things have since evolved with Apple’s algorithm and new features like video previews have emerged. Apple looks at multiple areas when ranking an app. 
Downloads, reviews and user engagement are just a few.
To learn how to optimize all the parts of your app’s metadata and the other ranking factors, be sure to take our complete ASO course.
However, we are here to talk about choosing the right app store keywords, so let’s dig into that one aspect of ASO. It is the closest you will get to SEO in the app world, so listen up…
Choosing good keywords can make a big difference, as I learned earlier.
To see 15 successful case studies, be sure to read this post.

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 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…. 🙂
iTunes Connect page - Alpha Combat

Why You Need to Select the Right App Store Keywords and Title

Your app will be useless if it cannot be found through app store keywords. 
All that hard work for nothing. 
If you have some money to spend on ads, then you will be able to generate some downloads that way. But once you stop paying for ads, your downloads will dry up shortly afterwards.
Having the right title and keywords can give you a steady flow of free organic App Store search traffic. Even if you pay for ads, why not get some downloads for free too?
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.

iTunes Keywords

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

Character Limit

The keywords field in iTunes Connect is limited to 100 characters so make sure to maximize this. The more app store keywords you can include, the more likely your app is to be found in search.
Sensor Tower released a study that showed that there is a correlation between number of keywords and downloads. Their platform also as a handy character counter, but you can also use Word or another word processor to count your characters.
Character count tracker
Remember to put a comma between each individual word and remove all spaces, to maximize the field.

Singular or Plural?

This is a common question.
[tweet_box design=”default”]Don’t waste space by repeating both the plural and singular versions of App Store keywords.[/tweet_box]
You will generally get credit for both anyway, according to Apple’s algorithm (if it is just a matter of adding a “s”).
So do your keyword research and find out which version of the word has less competition or you have a better chance of ranking for.
For example, here is the keyword research for a finance app. I used Mobile Action to check how likely the app I am researching is to rank in the top 10 for each version of the keyword.
As you can see, there is a significantly better chance of ranking for the plural “traders,” so that is the version I would use. 
Finance keywords
If you want to get two months of the Premium version of Mobile Action ($998 value), be sure to join Bluecloud Select.

Repeating Keywords

Do not repeat keywords. Some new app developers think that repeating a keyword will put more emphasis on that keyword.
You are just wasting keyword space by repeating keywords. Your app may even get rejected for keyword spamming.
In addition, 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.

Research Your Competition

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.

Avoid Overly Used App Keywords

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.

TIP:  Its important to pick keywords that help define your app, but don’t pick keywords that will clash with the masses. Keywords should be searchable, but also have low competition.
Try longtail keywords, which are multi-word phrases people may search for.

Download Relevance is Essential

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.

Double Check Your App Keywords

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.
Be sure to get it right the first time.

Don’t Guess

Use programs like Google’s AdWords keyword planner, Sensor Tower, Mobile Action, 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.
Yeah, there is a lot you need to remember with keywords. For more in-depth tutorials on how to choose the right keywords, check out our ASO course.

App Title

iTunes Connect - Title and Description
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

This is 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.
People used create lengthy titles crammed with keywords, but Apple has caught on.  Make your titles unique and to the point.

Put Your App Name First

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. The 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.

Proofread (or Suffer the Embarrassment)

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.
If you make a mistake, it could be out there hanging in the wind for awhile. 🙂

Other Naming Considerations

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 on the App Store.

Where to Get Keyword Ideas

Now the question becomes, where do you get new app store keyword ideas? Here are a few great places…

Other Things to Consider

Before I end this post, there are three more things that you need to be aware of.

The Launch Boost

Apple will typically give new apps a boost right after launch. This means that you will rank higher for your keywords for the first 7 days after your launch.
You can play this a couple of different ways. First, you can try to rank for keywords that are slightly harder to see if you can get a boost from those keywords.
Second, you can just go for keywords that you have a high probability of ranking for and not even worry about the boost. This is method I prefer.

Apple Deletes Keywords

If you are not ranking for the keywords that you put into your keyword field, double check it after your launch. Apple reviewers delete keywords that think are copyright infringement or are not related to your app…without telling you.
Your app can get approved, but they reserve the right to remove keywords before launch. I’ve seen cases where 80% of the keywords were deleted.
It really is a black box and is really left up to chance. If the reviewer that you have that day is having a bad day, you might get a bunch of your keywords deleted.
So it is your job to check! 

This is a Marathon

A lot of new app developers think that they can set their keywords once and that’s it.
Oh no!
You need to continually track and update your keywords. Not in the top 10 for a keyword?
Throw it out and find another!
After some experience, you will get a feel for which keywords you can rank well for and it will become a lot easier.


Hope this helps! If you have had any other experiences or insights with keywords, names, descriptions, or ASO, please leave a comment so that everyone can hear about it.
If you’d like to hear more about choosing keywords and app marketing, join Bluecloud Select or take our ASO course.
To learn how to turn your current idea for an app into a business, be sure to download our free kit.
Talk to you soon!


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