App Store Optimization Strategy : Insights, tips and tricks

I have been doing a lot of research lately in trying to understand the various ways by which one could promote one’s app in the most cost effective way. In fact in my previous post, I had covered a lot of things a budding App Entrepreneur must take care of in order to get good traction during launch.

The Appstore is a gold mine for App Entrepreneurs and there is no questioning this fact. However the reality is that the money is eaten up by the Big guys more often than not. It’s extremely difficult for a new guy to get his App rated in the Top 10 or even the Top 100. I agree it’s a must that one should build an awesome app, but many a times having an awesome app doesn’t result in your app getting featured in the Top 10 if it doesn’t reach enough audience. And for that for a new entrant it’s important that he takes note of each and every thing that would boost the visibility of his/ her app and especially the ones that’s free ( for now, let’s forget the fact that Time’s money! J )

There are various channels one could use in advertising one’s app. A research from Apptentive shows the percentage distribution of the various App discovery methods.


As you can clearly see, general browsing in the App Store forms the most significant chunk of this distribution chart. This is why it’s important for you to make your App Discoverable in the App store. The process of optimizing mobile apps so that it ranks higher In the App Store is known as ASO or App Store Optimization. The increased visibility on the App Store results in increased downloads for your app. There are a number of other studies that shows the same pattern. A study from Forrester also confirms the high volume of traffic generated through app store searches.

What are the parameters that determine your ranking in the App Store and hence require an optimization strategy for?

Title – The title of your app contributes heavily on your ranking in the App store, in fact I would say it has the maximum weight. Hence, it’s extremely important that you do your research before deciding on the title of your app. You can always try changing the title with every submission of a newer version however I wouldn’t suggest you to keep changing your app title as your app would have got mentions at various places and constantly fiddling with your title might in fact lose you a few new users.

Keywords- This is an equally important component that determines your ranking in the app store for various search queries. I will cover in detail, the various techniques and tips on doing your Keyword research and optimal use of these keywords in your app’s metadata.

App Description – It’s extremely important to have a clear, catchy message in your app description not only because it gives you a better chance for getting rated for a particular keyword but also because once your app gets discovered people read your description along with viewing your screenshots and reviews before taking a call on downloading your app. The keywords in your App description might not have the same weight as the ones in the Title and the Keywords section of your metadata but it is important nevertheless.

App Ratings and Downloads – This is yet another factor that indirectly influences your ranking for a particular keyword. This makes it very important for you to consider getting yourself rated for keywords that does not have extreme competition from apps that already has raked in thousands of downloads and reviews. Here in, the recent velocity of downloads and reviews matter rather than historic numbers.

Key things to understand and follow in ASO:

ASO is not something that you do once and you are done with. If you think you can put in enough effort on a regular basis to do your research, optimize and track the results then I would suggest you to not waste your time on ASO. ASO requires repeated monitoring of the performance of your Keyword strategy and chopping and changing the ones that does not perform or get you rated for, reasons being any.

Localizing the metadata of your app is extremely crucial if you want to further improve your chances of downloads. This might be an extended topic to cover in one single post, however I would highlight the gist of it. One easy way is to hire someone on Odesk, Elance or Copify and translate existing keywords where required, however, such a strategy won’t always bring you the best of results. I would suggest you to use a mix of tools like Google Translate, Google Keyword Tools and Google Trends to get you an idea of the volume of traffic various keywords can generate. I will do a separate post in detail on Localizing App metadata.

 Use some fantastic products out there in the market that does the heavy-lifting for you.




App Annie


These are some fantastic tools that you could use to understand the rankings, search volume, traffic etc for various keywords/ apps on the App store. Few of them would require you to pay a monthly subscription for getting access to their entire list of features but I must say it’s totally worth it. I however use a mix of Straply, Xyo and SensorTower without paying a penny for getting my keyword research done! J

While choosing your keywords you need to keep in mind a few things. The important factors that should determine your keyword selections are:

Search Volume – Target only those keywords that has a high search volume

Competition – Target keywords that has less competition

Strength of your Competition – It’s also important to understand the strength of your competition. If there are a number of popular apps with thousands of downloads using the same keyword you are thinking of using, then it’s better to avoid those as it would be highly difficult for you to get in to the top few for that Keyword.

Let’s understand the way people search on the App Store. According to a study this is how the search would be split:

80% of Searches are “Category” or “Genre” type searches

5% are for specific app titles

5-10% of searches are Inspiration Searches such as “great apps” or “new apps”

The remaining 5% are transactional searches where the users are looking for a particular app function like “write notes” or “filters for photos”

The problem with trying to get a slice of the Category or Genre based search is that the competition is just too high for a newbie. Targeting search for specific app titles and feeding of them is somewhat Blackhat in a way. However it’s entirely up to you to decide the methods you use. It might give a few initial downloads which is crucial for a new app, we can debate if it’s ethical or not later! J However try and use apps that are in your same niche and share similar audience which would give you a better conversion ratio.

The way I do my Keyword Research is:

Make an extended list of keywords used by apps In the same niche/ similar apps. Use Appstorerankings for getting this information:

imagePost making an extended list of keywords I use Straply to figure out related search terms, search volumes and Competition. I cross-reference the Search Volume on as well.


I will create a list of Keywords for which the Search Volume is relatively high and the app competition is less. Again, the question is how do we estimate a reasonable level of competition? Remember that in an iPhone for every search, results are displayed one at a time. Hence it’s really important to avoid Keywords for which you think you cannot achieve a rank higher than 8 for good results.

Next I scan through search ratings against various Keywords for individual apps in my niche. This gives me even more Keyword choices. What you need to do is

Search for an app that is in your niche after you login to Straply (remember it’s free).

Click on the App name listed in the search results ( the one in the Apple Store)

Straply will show you a list of keywords for which the App is rated. Sort the list based on Search Volume and you will have the high volume list of Keywords for which the app is rated. Now try and figure out keywords for which the number of apps is significantly lesser.


It might be a good idea to use Keywords that are specific app searches but there seems to be a big error in the spelling searched for. It might be an indication that the person would have just heard about an app and wants to try it out. Guess people like this are more open to trying out new stuff, so it’s always a good idea to present your app also in front of them! J (Grey hat I would say)

Also, use the Missed keyword Opportunities given by Straply to further see your options. There are a few that might be relevant to your niche/ app. It’s extremely important to use keywords that you can associate with your app or else you will finally end up losing downloads.

Now you have an extensive list of keywords you can play around with. Few important tips to note in finalizing your keyword list:

App Store allows you a maximum of 99 characters for the Keywords metadata. Try and utilize as much of this quota as possible.

Don’t use spaces after the comma that’s used to separate Keyword list. For eg: “pic,photo,cam,camera,filter”

Try and avoid using long keywords as far as possible

Split search queries like “tag photos” into “tag,photos” . You will get rated for both the keywords and the “tag photos” search as well.

Use the keyword set you have finally decided upon through all of your efforts and then track how you are doing for various search queries and keywords. Try and change quickly the keywords for which you aren’t performing well. Keep trying out various combinations to get your best set of keywords. I would suggest you to localize at least the metadata of your app as well to see great results.

To conclude, ASO is a great tool for you to greatly improve your app discoverability. However, it involves your time and effort. Get discovered and you are half way there to succeeding on the App Store.


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Amarnath Vannarath

Amarnath Vannarath is an Entrepreneur, Hustler, Growth Hacker. He currently works as a Product Owner at EdgeVerve Systems, an Infosys subsidiary. He loves to travel, is a street food connoisseur and a passionate Soccer player. Blogs mainly on marketing, growth hack techniques and startups. You can reach him at [email protected]
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