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E-Marketing Performance Blog

App Store Optimization – Keywords, App Name, Description, Icon

Everyone understands SEO – search engine optimization. The goal for internet-based businesses is to do those things that will bring a high ranking so that they are on the first page when generic searches are conducted. Individuals and brands that have developed apps, on the other hand, must focus on app store optimization (ASO) – again, the goal is to be found when searches are conducted.

Strategies for ASO are actually not all that different from those used for SEO, and there are specific things you should be doing to enhance yours. These include the right keywords/phrases/descriptions, the app name itself, and the icon you design.

These are the things that will increase visibility, enhance discovery, improve search result rankings, and ultimately result in higher conversion rates (downloads). And the more downloads, the more users are apt to spend money through purchases, ads, or subscriptions.

Keywords – Selection

Finding the right keywords is the first critical step for ASO. There are a few steps in this process:

  1. Start by brainstorming. What is the value of your app? What problem does it solve or need does it meets for users? Make a list of terms and phrases that relate to these things.
  2. Conduct some research. What keywords/phrases are your competitors using? Which are the most popular ones? What category are they placed in? 
  3. Just like with internet search engines, long-tail keywords tend to be more effective, because that is what searchers now tend to use. Simply using one or two-word generic terms is too competitive, especially if your app is new.
  4. Think about your potential users. What is their language style? Make sure your keywords are those they would use to make searches.

Once you have your long list of possible keywords, it’s time to narrow them down and prioritize. Of course, you want to choose those that will give you the highest visibility, and here are the things to think about:

  1. Your research has shown you those that are high-volume with generic searches, but, again, it can be pretty tough to rank by using those. You may get more visibility using long-term word combinations with lower visibility. Remember the saying, “Better to be a big fish in a little pond, rather than a small fish in a big pond.” The same goes for here. Better to rank high for lower-volume words than very low for high-volume ones.
  2. Watch your competitors’ rankings on a regular basis. If you monitor their keyword rankings, you may be able to find variations that will let you stand out from among them.
  3. Use Apple Search Ads (ASA) metrics – these will indicate the performance of your keywords. You can compare conversion rates and the volume of searches on the various keywords in your niche.

The key will be to maintain a list of high-volume search terms, see if you can tweak them a bit with different combinations, and test their effectiveness in driving users to your app.

Keywords – Placement

Once you have your list of keywords, you now must decide how to use them in your listing and then evaluate their effectiveness. Because the App Store and Google Play have different algorithms, there are different weights for search rankings. But here are the general elements that will be most important for both, as you think about placing those keywords.


  • Title – App Name


Your title is one of the most important factors in rankings in both the Apple and Google Play stores. And the title should include the most critical keyword in the value of your app for users. Google Play allows up to 50 characters for a title, so take advantage of that. On the Apple App Store, you will be limited to 30 characters, so you may have to “play” with title names a bit so that you can create interest in at least taking a look.

You want to create an app name that is short and catchy, but that will clearly identify the app’s purpose. With an app name, the first impression is often all that you have, especially if you are competing with other similar apps. Here are a few tips:

  • Hint at the purpose/function. Consider the name “Evernote,” for example. This name implies that the user can take notes that are permanently held for current and future reference.
  • Don’t use “tired” prefixes, such as “insta” for example. 
  • Don’t makeup words for a title – they are hard to remember and spell, especially if a user is trying to tell someone else about it. Use real words.
  • Watch the length. Keep the name concise and short. If searchers have to read long names, they are not likely to remember them. On the other hand, many words in titles which are also keywords are highly overused. Consider the word “calculator” for example. There are thousands of app names with that word. You may have a calculator and that term is an important keyword for your app. You must then find some way to differentiate it from every other calculator out there with an additional phrase. 


  • The Subtitle


This is a short field that allows you to add a small amount of information to that title. Use this short amount of text wisely – it can highlight your main feature or function and use additional critical keywords, not in your title.

Let’s suppose that you have developed an app for home buyers that will calculate monthly payments based upon a variety of interest rates of a loan and the number of years to be financed. You may have a lot of other features too, but you want to attract users who are looking for an easy fast calculation, based upon home cost, type of loan, amount financed, range of interest rates, and life of the loan.

Your app may include features such as how to make double payments and reduce the total cost of the loans, etc., but these can be included in later information. 

Your title may be “Rapid Mortgage Loan Calculator.” Your subtitle should include a very short embellishment of that title – perhaps something like “monthly mortgage payments and total costs.” 


  • Short Description – What Can You Do with 80-100 Characters?


This is a bit longer description of your app – 80 characters for Google Play Store and 100 on the App Store. Again, you want to get a couple of long-tail keywords that will focus on the value you provide to users. Short and catchy messages should be created.

You may have a great app that you know your audience will want. Unless this description captures attention with a truly creative message, though, it is unlikely to be found. If you do not have a creative way with words, find a pro who does. There are plenty of freelancers who write creative product descriptions – they can be found on Upwork or Freelancer.com, for instance.

Or you can use writing services, like Grab My Essay, Studicus or Trust My Paper, that have creative writing departments with a great reputation. The point is this: your description should not just include critical keywords but should weave those keywords into highly engaging text that will compel a reader to access your app at least to check it out. 

In addition to the keywords that relate directly to the purpose of your app, words like “free” are highly engaging. In the case of the mortgage calculator, for example, you might write a short description using strong keywords that research has shown are more popular, but also insert the word “free” so users know they can download and use the basic app features at no cost. The monetization comes after they have downloaded the app and explore the other features or ads that involve a fee. The goal at this point is the download.


  • Long Description


Your long description is the opportunity to get in many of those critical keywords you have identified. Google Play, for example, gives you 4000 characters for this description, so take your time, write really compelling copy, and get in as many of those keywords in and do so as naturally as possible. This is also the opportunity to insert a compelling call to action.

The Icon – Not to be Overlooked

No one today will ever confuse the Facebook icon with anything else.

Facebook can get away with this simple icon design because it is a “household” name and no longer needs to promote itself among app users. But what about your app? It is floating around in a sea of lesser-known apps, all vying for user attention. And the visual element of your icon is a key factor in its success. After all, it is what creates your brand identity

Select a design much like you would select a brand logo (many company apps actually use their logo). But if yours is a standalone app not connected to a business, then it must still represent what your app is all about. 

Choose a color palette that is suitable. If your app is of a serious nature, then you will probably not want to use bright primary colors, but, rather, muted ones that symbolize that function. ON the other hand, if your app is less serious and includes some fun, then choose more “fun” colors. Take a look at the Poncho weather app, for example:

Certainly, you should look at your most popular competition and the colors they use, as you look for colors.

Stick to the simplicity of design. App icons that are too “crowded” can be confusing and detracting. If you spend some time looking at popular app icons, you will see that they are simple, rather as standalone or as directly related to a brand/company.

And why is an icon important? Because it will attract visitors who then may become users. And the more an app is downloaded and regarded as popular in its category, the higher it will rank. 

In the End…

ASO is not a one-time activity with an end. There is a need to continually track performance, to keep abreast of new keyword possibilities, and to modify subtitles and descriptions. If you have developed a product that fills a need; if you know your audience; if you understand the importance of keywords and their use and placement; and if you get the expertise to help in those areas in which you are lacking, you have every chance to make a “go” of your app.


This article has been written by the help of Kristin Savage.

Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at SupremeDissertations and WOWGrade. You can find her on Facebook.

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