Understanding App Store Keyword Search Volume

Understanding app store keyword search volume is important for your keyword research strategy. What is app keyword search volume and why is it important? Read our full guide before crafting your strategy.
Guide to understanding app store keyword search volume.

The right keywords can make or break your entire ASO strategy. But to choose the right keywords, you must first understand app store keyword search volume. When you know the volume of a keyword, you’ll be able to select the ones that will work best for YOUR app.

In this article, we’ll answer important questions like:

  • What is app store keyword volume? 
  • How do you find app store keyword volumes?
  • How can keyword volume inform my ASO strategy?
  • What’s the difference between App Store search volume & Google Play keyword search volume?

By the end of this blog post, you’ll have all of the information you need to choose valuable keywords with the right volumes and implement them in the correct ways.

What is App Store Keyword Volume?

Before we answer that question, let’s define what a keyword is—just to make sure we’re on the same page. To put it as simply as possible, a keyword is:

A word and/or phrases that Apple App and Google Play store users type into the search bar when they want to find and download a new app.

For example, let’s pretend you’re a big-time gamer and you really want to play a new RPG game. You don’t have a specific game in mind, you just know that you want to play something that will allow you to assume a specific role, upgrade your character, etc.

So what do you do? You whip out your smartphone, click on the app store, and type “RPG” into the search bar. Then you scroll through the results until you see something interesting.

In this hypothetical scenario, “RPG” is the keyword.

Now that we understand what keywords are, let’s talk about keyword volume…

App store keyword volume, also known as app store search volume, is the number of searches specific keywords get on a monthly basis. Some keywords have very high search volume, such as broad keywords like “video games,” while others have low search volume, but are usually more specific, such as “lego batman video game.”

When you understand how popular certain words and phrases are in the app stores, you can optimize your pages for the right words and phrases.

Think about it, you wouldn’t want to optimize your app store pages for keywords that don’t drive traffic. Similarly, you don’t want to optimize for keywords that are so competitive, your app or game has no chance of ranking for them. The right strategy is a combination of high volume and targeted keywords that meet your app audience’s needs. 

How to Find High-Volume Keywords

As we’ve just shown you, app store keyword volume is an important metric. The question is, how do you use it to improve your ASO strategy? That’s what we’ll talk about in this section! Below are three steps for finding high-volume app keywords:

  1. Brainstorm Keywords. The first thing you want to do is brainstorm a list of potential keywords that relate to your app. Let’s use a shopping app as an example and pretend that you’ve designed an app that lets people sell trading cards to collectors. Potential keywords would be “trading cards,” and “buy baseball cards,” and other phrases along these lines.
  2. Check Search Volume. Once you have a list of potential keywords, you need to check their search volumes. This is easily done using a tool like App Radar. Simply pull up the tool, type in one of your keyword ideas, and then look at the “Search Volume” column to see how often it’s searched for.
  3. Choose Appropriate Keywords. Step number three is to choose keywords that have volumes which fit your unique ASO strategy. We’ll talk more about app store keyword search volume strategy in the next section.

High-Volume Keywords vs. Low-Volume Keywords—Which Strategy to Use?

Tools like App Radar will tell you how popular certain keywords are in the Apple App and Google Play stores. But they won’t tell you which keywords to use. To determine this for your company, you have to decide whether a high-volume or low-volume keyword strategy is best.

The keyword volume strategy you use will depend on how established your app or game is.

If your app is brand new, for instance, and doesn’t have a large user base, you probably don’t want to optimize your app store pages for a lot of high-volume keywords. Why? Because these keywords will be ultra-competitive and you probably won’t rank for them.

Instead, we suggest targeting a few high-volume keywords, but focusing more on low-volume terms and phrases that can still drive traffic. This is especially true when talking about long-tail keywords because these phrases are more specific and can generate more conversions.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a long-tail keyword is a keyword that contains four or more words. “Buy rare Pokemon cards” would be an example of a long-tail keyword.

What if your app already has a legion of users and lives at the top of the app store charts? Then your keyword volume strategy should be different. In all likelihood, you should focus on high-volume keywords that will drive tons of traffic to your app.

Regardless of which strategy you use, every keyword you optimize for should relate to your app. It does your puzzle game no good to target phrases like “RPG adventure game” because people who search for this term won’t download a puzzle game, even if it ranks number one.

2 Major Differences Between the Apple App and Google Play Stores in Terms of Keyword Volume

It’s important to remember that the Apple App and Google Play environments are very different. As such, ASO keyword research should be conducted differently on each platform.

Here are two differences between the stores that you need to be aware of:

1. Ranking Speed

“Ranking speed” refers to the speed at which the app stores react to keyword changes.

The Apple App store is known to react very quickly and a keyword change can dramatically affect an app’s ranking in just a few hours. This means you can try new keywords, each with different search volumes, and learn which performs best in very little time.

The opposite is true in the Google Play Store…

The Google environment reacts quite slowly to keyword changes. You might have to wait two or three weeks before your new keywords affect your ASO strategy in the Play Store. So make sure that you don’t write off new keywords too soon!

2. Ranking Factors

The Apple App and Google Play stores also use different factors to rank apps for keywords. Here are the major differences that you MUST account for (check this article for more):

Apple App Store Ranking Factors

In 2019, Apple was subject to international scrutiny and an antitrust investigation that ultimately divulged details about its App Store algorithms. In short, Apple relies on 42 factors to drive search results and rankings – the most important factors are user behavior, downloads, ratings, and relevance. 

Here is a list of top-ranking factors that the Apple App Store takes into account when deciding which apps to surface to users searching for various terms.

App Name: This 30-character field should be used for the most relevant keywords, as these keywords are weighted significantly higher when indexing your app for search results than keywords used elsewhere. However, keep in mind that human users also rely on an app name to determine relevancy, and so it is critical to select comprehensible and clear keywords.

App Subtitle: This field presents an opportunity to further – yet briefly – explain your app to prospective users. Keywords used in the subtitle will also be weighted significantly by Apple’s search algorithm.  

Keyword field: This keyword field should be used for relevant terms not included in your title and description, and developers are permitted 100 characters. Prospective users will not see your selected keywords, and thus comprehensibility is not important. Apple also builds a keyword bank from this field, and thus the order is also irrelevant.

In-App Purchases: Apple derives a profit from apps that generate revenue from in-app purchases instead of in-app advertisements. Thus, it is suspected – though not confirmed – that apps offering in-app purchases are ranked favorably. Moreover, in-app purchases themselves can rank for keywords.

Rating and Reviews: Positive reviews – and the keywords they include – suggest user satisfaction, increasing the likelihood that the app is ranked higher by the eager-to-please algorithm. For more on ratings and reviews in the app stores, read our article on aso reviews.

App Updates: App updates are often positively correlated with user satisfaction, leading to better reviews and, in turn, higher rankings. Frequently updated apps are also more relevant by definition, and thus will rank higher. For more on app store update frequency, read our article on how often to update your app.

Note that Apple Search Ads uses an entirely different algorithm. Rather than rely on the traditional title, description, and keywords, Apple Search Ads use a bidding system. Read more about Apple Search Ads optimization.

Downloads and Engagement: These metrics, which measure how popular your app is, include install velocity and daily growth, and they are critical to app rankings. Developers can improve downloads and engagement by improving tap through rates, optimizing their App Store creatives and messaging, updating frequently, and more.

It’s important to note that Apple takes into account App Units (first-time installs) when determining download velocity. This is a different metric than install figures that are provided by your Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP), as the platforms can’t see these MMP metrics, they only use their own metric for first-time installs which in Apple’s case is the App Unit metric. According to our research and data, driving high volumes of first-time installs, or App Units is one of the most impactful things you can do to increase ranking. 

This can be done by improving your page conversion rate for new users as well as leveraging paid User Acquisition (UA) campaigns that focus on new users as opposed to lapsed users.

Google Play Store Rankings Factors

The Google Play Store ranking factors and search algorithm resembles many ranking factors of the core Google Search – thus, in addition to our ASO resources, knowledge of SEO is valuable to rank in Google Play Store.

To rank on the Google Play Store, there are important elements that should be optimized:

App Name and App Description: These fields are similar to the App Store, although the Play Store’s title may occupy 50 characters and the description length is significantly longer than an App Store subtitle. Also, note that keyword usage is quite different. Google’s crawlers leverage order and repetition to determine keyword importance. The app name is traversed first, followed by the description, and the words that are read first are weighted more heavily. That said, Google’s algorithms are highly sensitive to spam and keyword stuffing, and so it is key to write both the name and description in a manner comprehensible to people. 

Backlinks: Backlinks are web links to your App page. The greater the volume of quality backlinks, the higher the ranking in the Google Play store. Thus, by focusing on link building, developers can boost their rankings.

Google Play Store Page Performance: Similar to downloads and engagement, page performance is the result of creative optimization, localization (adapting your app page to various languages and geographic regions), click-through rate, conversions, and more. Similar to the App Store, Google Play will surface apps that get a higher velocity of first-time installs. 

Android Vitals: If an app crashes or fails to respond more often than the industry standard, users will inevitably be dissatisfied, and so in addition to poor reviews, Google is incentivized to rank the app lower than stable alternatives.

Rating, Reviews, and Updates: Also similar to the Apple App Store, these metrics are all correlated to user satisfaction and relevancy.

Google Tags: Google Tags functions similarly to categories in the App Store. You can pick up to 5 tags for your app from a predefined list. Then Google will use your selected tags to categorize your app. Although this has no direct effect on your Google Play ranking, it certainly does help the algorithm rank your app for the right keywords. 

Optimizing the above elements will help you increase your Google Play rating.

Wrapping Up

The keywords you choose for your app store pages are important. In order to choose the right ones, you need to have a solid app keyword search volume strategy. Fortunately, after reading this article, you have the information to design one for your company!

By choosing the ideal combination of high and low-volume keywords, you’ll rank higher in search results, drive more quality traffic to your app, and grow your user base.

Just remember, keyword research is only one aspect of ASO. You also need to test and optimize your app store creatives and messaging. To do this, we suggest StoreMaven. Request a free demo to see our industry-leading solution in action.

Jonathan Fishman
About Jonathan Fishman
Jonathan is Storemaven's VP of Marketing and Growth. Before joining Storemaven he spent ten years commanding tanks, working on Wall St., consulting high-growth companies, and exploring Black Rock City. In his spare time, he likes building things from wood, listening to Frank Zappa, and spending time with his daughter.

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