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2020 Mobile App Engagement Benchmark Report

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Mobile Marketing

Improve Your ASO with Title and Keyword Hacks

Laura Eccles  //  May 11, 2017  //  6 min read

Last week, I partnered with Apptentive to present a webinar all about App Store Optimization (ASO). For those who aren’t familiar with the term, ASO is the continuous process of improving an app’s rank and discoverability in the App Store. Similar to how a search engine indexes websites, the App Store incorporate a range of factors including an app’s keywords, downloads, engagement, and app reviews when deciding which apps to show first in a search result or top chart. ASO is a way of ensuring your app meets all of these ranking criteria and rises to the top of a search results page. This is especially important given that 65% of downloads are coming from search queries.

ASO helps with discoverability, which allows people to find and learn about your app. It also helps with conversion to get people to then go and download your app. As a result, you receive more organic installs, which are basically free installs.

If you missed the webinar, you can see the full slide deck below.

There are many different ASO algorithm factors when it comes to boosting App Store visibility. The primary factors include: title, keywords, ratings and reviews, MAU/retention, app deletions, total downloads, download velocity, and app indexing. During the webinar, we covered all of these topics and more, along with the biggest mistakes brands make when it comes to ASO and a quick ASO checklist to ensure you’re covering all your bases. In today’s post, we focus solely on selecting the right title and keywords for your app.

Let’s start by focusing on a title strategy.

How to pick your app’s title

The first thing to note is that you’re restricted to 50 characters for your title, which you want maximized. You want to pick keywords for your title that are high traffic, on-brand keywords. Let’s take Stitch Fix, for example. When they started out, their title was “Stitch Fix – Your Very Own Personal Stylist.” To improve, they needed to pick keywords that were relevant to their brand and that maximize the 50 characters. So, by taking out “Your Very Own,” they were able to put “Personal Stylist” first and foremost for people to see for the brand recognition, and then were able to fill in additional keywords such as the “Clothes Shopping.”

Old app title vs. new app title

How to decide on title keywords? First, you want to add your more difficult keywords to your title because it actually has a higher weighting than your keyword chain. The keyword chain, as I mention throughout this post, is going to be referred to as 100 characters that you would submit into your iTunes Connect.

For example, let’s look at just how much of a higher weighting it has for your title keywords versus the keyword chain through my client, Quizlet. Quizlet was focused on localizing their app in Germany, and we weren’t making high enough for one of their keywords. You’ll see the jump here, by adding it to the title, we jumped from number 75 to number 8. (For those of you that don’t speak German, this means “Learn vocabulary and languages with flash cards.”)

Quizlet keywords

Last but not least, I want to share a few quick tips for selecting the best title for your app I’ve picked up over the years:

  • Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to have the word “app” or “apps” in your title or in your keyword chain.
  • Including a semicolon or a dash in your title doesn’t affect ranking, but it might make your app make more sense aesthetically.
  • Track your competitors’ titles. As you adjust your keywords and title over time, your competitors will be doing so, as well. When you see their titles evolve, it’s another clue to help you select the best keywords to stay competitive.
  • Every time you update your keywords or your title, your Current Versions revert to the All Versions. Most users don’t look at All Versions, but it’s important to remember to submit your changes with your in-app updates.

For even more tips on selecting the best title for your app, check out the complete webinar deck.

Improve your keyword strategy

Now, let’s talk about your keyword strategy. The keyword strategy, again, is referring to the 100 characters that you get for your keyword chain. It’s incredibly important to maximize all 100 character. Let me give an example to explain: Sometimes, you might get to 99 characters out of the 100 you’re given. However, you still want to maximize your 100 characters, even if you have to put in something as simple as the number one, or possibilty even adding an ‘s’ to make a keyword plural, etc. No matter what you do, it’s important to maximize all 100 characters you’re given.

But how do you select which keywords and phrases to include in your 100 characters? Check out the following tips:

Tip #1: Include both singular and plural keywords

If you want to rank for singular and plural keywords, you really should include both. What you’re able to include may depend on how long the keywords are and how many characters they take up, so you may have to get creative in their placement. For example, you may want to put one keyword into your app’s title and the other into your keyword chain.

You can see how Felt, a Matchstick Mobile client, approached singular and plural keywords. Felt creates handwritten cards, and because they offer a card app, they really do need to rank for both “card” singular and “cards” plural and the different combinations of it like “birthday cards,” “greeting cards,” “thank you cards,” etc. For Felt, we found it was actually important to include both the singular and the plural in their title, which is the path we took. This is just one example, but hopefully it helps spread the idea that you should test what’s right for your app depending on your goals.

App store search results for "greeting card"

Tip #2: Rank for keyword combinations

Be sure to identify and track every possible keyword combination between your title and your keywords. If you don’t look at all the different keyword combinations you need to include, there may be a great number of keyword searches happening you might not be aware of.

For example, the Chairish app title is “Chairish Home Decor, Art and Vintage Furniture.” In addition to ranking for “home decor,” they could also be ranking for permutations such as “home art, home furniture, art decor, vintage decor, vintage art.”

Tip #3: Keep trying!

Keywords are an ongoing practice. The best way to select the right keywords is to think like your audience in how they might describe your app. For example, instead of saying “invitations,” a person might say “invites,” which is the keyword they’d search for. You may also have a seasonal app, which means you need to add seasonal keywords when it’s appropriate, like “happy holidays,” “Mother’s Day,” or others.

It’s also a good idea to conduct monthly audits of your keywords, at a minimum, to understand what’s working and what isn’t. By dong regular audits, you can swap out underperforming keywords with new ones that have good traffic, are on brand, relate to your app, and are realistic to rank high for. As your downloads, rankings and other ASO factors improve, you can target more competitive keywords. Keep trying and experimenting! Then, you can start going after harder to rank for keywords. Just keep trying! Keywords are one of those things where you just have to keep at it and keep trying to rank as high as you can with different combinations.

Bonus round

If you’re still having trouble with your keywords, try a handful of these quick and dirty tips to get the ball rolling in the right direction:

  • Put the keyword in your title and take it out of your keyword chain.
  • Experiment with rearranging the order of your keywords in the title or try putting a more difficult to rank for keyword before the semicolon in your title.
  • Test if removing “and” or a comma makes a difference in your title.
  • Try singular and plural forms of the keyword if you’d like to rank for both.
  • Try a keyword phrase (i.e. “reduce stress” vs “stress”).
  • Swap out underperforming keywords.
  • Localize your keyword (i.e. “color” is spelled “colour” in non-American English).

Looking ahead

There are many pieces to the ASO puzzle, and it will take some time to figure out what strategies will work best for your app. I hope the tips above help you lay the groundwork for selecting the right title and keywords as a place to start.

If you want more tips on how to improve your ASO, check out the full webinar deck at the top of this post, or reach out with your questions in the comments below!

About Laura Eccles

Laura Eccles is the founder of Matchstick Mobile, an agency that helps companies create & market feature-worthy apps. Prior to Matchstick Mobile, Laura was the first hire on the App Store Marketing team at Apple. She advised companies on fine-tuning their user interface and marketing, decided which apps to feature daily to the App Store’s 10 million social media fans, and led the App Store’s email campaigns.
View all posts by Laura Eccles >

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