How to Find Great ASO Keywords for Your App

This guest post was contributed by Josh Kocaurek.

The app stores are crowded – very crowded. In fact, 
there are over 5 million apps available between the iOS and Google Play stores. What does this mean for you if you are publishing an app? It means you need to find a way of making your app stand out or risk it being lost in a sea of obscurity. One of the best ways to do this is with App Store Optimization or ASO.

The goal of ASO is simple – get your app more downloads by having it rank highly in the search results for relevant, high traffic keywords. ASO is to apps what SEO is to websites. In this article, I’ll be walking you through a step-by-step of how to find, research, and implement high-value keywords that will bring your app more downloads. Before we begin, make sure to download the ASO spreadsheet below so you can follow along.


Put on Your Thinking Cap

Some of the most successful technology companies were born out of a simple brainstorming session. Though it sounds easy, it’s a process that many people get stuck on. The best way to kick off your brainstorming session is to use, you guessed it, your brain! Put yourself in your user’s shoes and consider the following:

  • What does your app do?
  • How does it help people?
  • If you were looking for your app, what words would you search for?

Write down as many keywords and key phrases as you can in the spreadsheet under the “Keyword” column.

Brainstorming keywords

The trick here is to make sure they’re relevant above all else. We can use tools to determine if a search term gets enough traffic, only you can decide if a keyword is relevant to your app. It’s often helpful to start off by thinking of one word “seed keywords” which can be used to create bigger phrases. For example, seed keywords like “hotel” and “booking” can be combined into “hotel booking”.


See What Words Your Competitors are Using

Call it stealing or borrowing; you need to know what you’re up against. The best way to do that is to see what keywords your competitors are using with an online tool like App Annie or Sensor Tower. Go to App Annie, for example, and type in your competitor’s app. Navigate to the “Keywords (ASO)” tab and you’ll see data on which keywords they’re ranking highly for.

App Annie

Expert Tip:

As you write down your keywords, make sure to include plural versions of each word. If you were to use the keyword “hotel”, for example, you may or may not rank for the keyword “hotels” when you use it in the app stores. For this reason, you’ll want to keep track of both the singular and plural variations so you can make changes accordingly.


Use These Tools to Help You Brainstorm

Even if your brainstorming is successful thus far, you should use at least try a few tools to make sure you’re not missing any golden keyword opportunities.

1. Google’s Keyword Planner

If you don’t have a Google AdWords account, create one; it’s free. Once you have compiled a decent sized list of keywords in your original brainstorming session, it’s time to use them to find related searches. Click “search for new keywords and ad group ideas” and enter the keywords you brainstormed.


Don’t worry too much about the Avg. monthly searches. Since these are for web searches, they won’t be accurate for the app stores. What you should pay attention to is the “Ad group ideas” tab. This will show related keyword groups which you can use to discover similar keywords. Go through each Ad group and look for relevant keywords not already included on your spreadsheet.

2. Look for synonyms with a thesaurus

Head to an online thesaurus like and look for synonyms like so:


3. Look for related keywords with a reverse dictionary

Using reverse dictionaries like OneLook is one of my favorite ways to find new keyword opportunities. How it works is you enter in your keywords in the search bar and it gives you back a massive list of related keywords. The thesaurus will only ever provide synonyms. The reverse dictionary will return keywords which are often only a little bit related.

reverse dictionary


Narrowing Down and Choosing Your Keywords

If you’ve got pages of keywords by now, great job! Now it’s time to narrow down the list and pick your best ones. Remember, the trick is to use keywords that will get your app the most downloads and put yours in the top rankings. What makes the perfect keyword? Here’s what you should look for when deciding which keywords to use:

A great ASO keyword must be relevant. Don’t add a keyword just because you think it will be more “searchable.” If it’s not relevant to your app, your app won’t be downloaded, and that’s what matters most.

The difficulty of your keyword has to do with how hard it will be to rank high in the search results. Your keyword should rank in the top 20 at a minimum, otherwise, your app is as good as invisible. The higher the competition for a keyword, the more difficult it becomes to rank highly.

Traffic is the volume of searches a keyword is getting. The higher the traffic score, the more searches a keyword is getting and the more downloads it can bring to your app. There are a handful of tools you can use to analyze the competition and search traffic of a keyword.

For this example, we’ll use one of our favorite tools: Sensor Tower. You can use a free account with Sensor tower but you’ll only be able to research 5 keywords at a time. Once you’ve got your Sensor Tower account setup, find your app using the search bar. Make sure to select the proper app store – the search data from Apple and Google Play will often be different.

Select App

If your app is yet to be released, pick any random app in the store; it won’t make a difference when choosing keywords. Next, head on over to the “Keyword Rankings” tab and enter in each keyword separated by commas.


Record each keyword in the spreadsheet along with their Traffic and Difficulty scores. You can do this by copying directly from Sensor Tower into the spreadsheet. Make sure you’re using the correct page in the spreadsheet for the app store you’re using (iOS or Google Play).

Sheet Tabs

If your app is not released yet, ignore the “rank” column. This is where you will track your current keyword rankings once the app is released. Once you’ve got the data for each keyword in your spreadsheet, sort the list by “difficulty” with the lowest difficulty at the top.

Difficulty Sort

Now, go down the list and look for keywords with a low difficulty and high traffic score. If a keyword is relevant to your app, has a relatively low difficulty score and a relatively high traffic score, it’s probably a good keyword to use. For each keyword that you’d like to use for your app, indicate “keyword” in the “use” column. In this example, the keyword “hostel” would be a good keyword choice since it has a low difficulty score while still have a relatively high traffic score compared to the other keywords.

Putting Your Keywords to Work

At this point, the hard part is over. All you have to do now is decide where to implement your keywords when you update/launch your app.

In the Apple app store, you only have two opportunities to enter keywords: the title and the keyword field. For your best keywords, try and use them in the 50 character long title since they will often rank higher than keywords used in the 100 character keyword field. According to a study from MobileDevHQ, app titles that contain keywords had a 10.3% higher ranking than those without. For the rest of your keywords, include them in the 100 character keyword field separated by commas, no spaces. If you use a keyword in the title, you don’t need to use it again in the keyword field.

Google Play
In the Google Play app store, you can enter keywords in the title, in a short description, and in a long description. Again, aim to put your best keywords in the 50 character title. For the rest of the keywords, insert them throughout the short and long description. Try and include each keyword at least 3 times for a better chance to rank highly for it.

Monitoring and Maintenance
Once you launch your app with the keywords you’ve selected, you’ll need to monitor which keywords your app ranks for and which ones it doesn’t. Every time you do a new app update, take a look at it’s keyword ranking with App Annie or Sensor Tower. Remove the keywords you didn’t end up ranking in the top 20 or so search results and replace them with new ones. As you update and tweak your keywords, you’ll notice your keyword rankings should improve and, as a result, you’ll get more downloads.


Final Thoughts

My final word of advice after all this would be: don’t rely on ASO too much. If you’re launching a new app and you’re only marketing strategy is ASO, you’re probably already doomed. Instead, ASO should be used to complement and amplify other methods of promotion. Remember, the more downloads an app gets, the higher it will rank for it’s chosen keywords in the app store search results.

For example, let’s say you reach out to TechCrunch and they decide to run an article on your app resulting in a flood of downloads. If your ASO is done correctly beforehand, the new wave of downloads should drive up your rankings making the keywords you worked hard to pick that much more powerful.

That’s all there is to it, give it a shot!

Find great success with ASO or struggling to figure it out? Drop a comment below about your ASO experience; I’d love to hear from you!.


Author Bio:
Josh Kocaurek (koh-sore-ick) is the Toronto born founder of Appsposure – a marketing agency specializing in getting apps more downloads using ASO, conversion optimization, paid ads, and PR. He’s worked with publishers ranging from indie devs to studios with 150 million+ downloads to help get their apps as many installs as possible.


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