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How to Choose iPhone App Keywords – Apple’s App Store SEO

May 23, 2010

How to get your app noticed in Apple App Store amongst more than 200,000 active apps from over 40,000 publishers with 12,000 new app submits monthly?

It comes to many things such as the benefits of your app, how cool it is (would you show it to a friend you’ve met at a bar if it was not your app?), the app usability, its relevance to the target users, your off-store marketing campaign, and so on and on.

Recently I’ve played around with one specific aspect of the whole mix – how to choose the right App Store keywords. Here are some of my findings…

First, I should probably make a short disclaimer: There is not much trusted data available about the way App Store search engine works. Some marketing specialists like Brook Lennox actually tried to get more info on the subject directly from Apple with not much success.

Therefore the following tips are based on common SEO sense, filtered collection of recommendations from other people who spent some time on the subject, some experimentation on my own (not statistically significant), and the somehow grounded assumption that Apple’s SEO engine is relatively primitive.

  1. Choose your initial set of keywords based on common sense – If you were a target app user, which keywords would you use to search for similar apps? Add several different variants.
  2. Refine your keywords based on search data – Check which of the chosen keywords have enough search volume. Assuming Internet search traffic is some indicative of the App Store search traffic, you could use the Google Keyword Tool to check the popularity of your keywords and get related keyword ideas. Use App Store’s auto-suggest feature to check if and how people search for your keywords in App Store.
  3. Do not add your company and application name as keywords – It’s simply not necessary (source: Apple Keywords Guide) and you only have 100 characters for the keyword field. App Store search engine will show your app if people search for your company or app name despite the fact they are not included in the keywords field.
  4. When possible use your keywords in your app title – Rationale: common SEO sense. Probably Apple gives more relevance to your app for a keyword which is part of the app name.
  5. Order keywords in order of relevance – most important first. Rationale: common SEO sense.
  6. Use comma to separate keywords (source: Apple Keywords Guide) – I add a space after the comma, just to be on the safe side. Apple’s examples all use spaces after comma.
  7. Include keywords in the app description – ideally exact string match. Rationale: common SEO sense. Don’t stuff too many keywords in your description – makes it unreadable plus according to Apple this is the fourth most common reason for App Store rejections.
  8. Localize keywords if you app is multi-lingual. Rationale: common SEO sense; the fact that iTunes offers this option in probably not a coincidence.
  9. Don’t bother with review texts – They seem not to count when it comes to SEO. For all other reasons they count the most ;)
  10. Start your app title with a number if you want your app to appear in the beginning of app lists sorted by name.

A few additional sources (besides the ones mentioned above):

One area which remained a mystery for me is whether we should focus more of one-word or long-tail keywords. All SEO sense asks for long-tail keywords while almost exclusively all examples by Apple use single-word keywords… Will experiment some more and will let you know my findings.

All your comments, ideas and shared experiences on the subject will be highly appreciated.

Author: Kostadin Jordanov


  • July 15, 2010 4:39 am | Avatar Creator

    Do you have nymoreof this?

  • July 15, 2010 6:47 am | Kostadin Jordanov

    Hi ;) What would you be interested to learn more about? Will be happy to help if I can.

  • March 1, 2011 3:47 pm | Dan Anos

    Does Apple / Google / RIM or Palm publish their app store search statistics, since I am sure that these would be different to the standard google search traffic.

  • March 3, 2011 9:33 am | Kostadin Jordanov

    As far as I’m aware neither Apple nor Google publish app store search statistics.

    I fully agree with you that search patterns on the app stores most probably are quite different than the general internet search patterns.

    The best we could do with the latter is to use them as a vague and unreliable indicative for the lack of something better.

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