How to Find the Right Keywords for Your App in Three Steps

This is a guest post from Oliver Hoss, Mobile Marketing Manager at and author of the book “App Store Optimization – A Step-by-Step Guide to Boosting Your App’s Organic Downloads”.
Finding the right keywords | Storemaven

This is a guest post from Oliver Hoss, Mobile Marketing Manager at and author of the book “App Store Optimization – A Step-by-Step Guide to Boosting Your App’s Organic Downloads”.

Finding users for a new app is a challenging task for every app developer. With 1.8 million available apps on the Apple App Store and 2.5 million on Google Play, the competition is enormous. As mobile ad spends rise significantly each year, app store optimization (ASO) becomes more and more important. Successful ASO results in a constant stream of new users who are, on average, more loyal and more valuable for your business than users who find your apps via paid campaigns. Thus, ASO should be part of every app’s marketing strategy.

Keyword research is one of the foundations of ASO. Only if you implement the right keywords into your app’s product page will you experience a push in your app regarding search results and create organic traffic.

App store keyword research seems to be complicated but, actually, it is not. All you need to master it is an understanding of the app stores’ algorithms, the right data, and patience. Follow these three steps to find the right keywords for your app:

Step 1 – Brainstorming

The first step in researching keywords is brainstorming, preferably in a group. Grab some co-workers or, even better, friends and family who don’t work in app development and can provide unbiased ideas. 

Collect terms that describe your app in the group. There is only one rule to follow: no censorship. Let your ideas flow without judging them and write down all keywords that come to mind.

If you need some guidelines to channel your thoughts, create a framework with different segments to order your ideas. Segments might be for instance:

  • People: Who will use your app? Describe your audience by demographics, characters, occupation, etc.
  • Problems: What issues will users solve with your app? Address their needs and concerns as well as the solutions and the value (and subsequent pleasure) your app provides.
  • Features: Which key functions does your app provide? Describe its unique selling points (USPs) and also think about any offline alternatives to your app.
  • Locations: Where will people use your app? Mention locations like countries or cities but also specific places like the office or the restaurant.

Feel free to use any more segments that match your app.

The result of your brainstorming should be a list of at least 20 to 30 keywords.

Step 2 – Increasing the Number of Keywords

To create a broader base for your research, you should enhance this keyword list. You can use several techniques to find additional terms.

Word Associations

Work in a group again ideally with people who weren’t involved in the brainstorming. Read out each of the keywords on your list out loud to your peers and let them say whatever they associate with that keyword. Again, no censorship! 

Synonym Websites

On, Oxford Dictionaries, and other websites, you can find synonyms for your keywords. Synonyms are terms with the same or a similar meaning.

Competitor Apps and Websites

Find out how your competitors talk about their apps on their app store product pages, websites, and social media profiles. Maybe they use terms you haven’t thought about yet.

User Reviews & Press Coverage

Users might talk differently about your app than you do and their view is what matters most. Therefore you should spend time investigating their reviews. You can also check press coverage for potential keywords.

The Auto-Complete Function on the App Stores

Long-tail keywords (keywords that consist of multiple terms) are usually more valuable than single-term keywords because they narrow down the user’s specific needs better. To find long-tail keywords, open either the App Store or Google Play Store and type your keywords into the search bar one by one. The store algorithm will show you auto-complete suggestions for the most popular long-tail keywords.

Step 3 – Validating Your Keywords

Now it is time to judge your keywords. Especially on iOS, the space for implementing keywords into your product page is limited, so you need to choose keywords that will be most effective in helping your app gain visibility. Filter the terms in your list by these three criteria:

  1. Relevance is the most important factor. A keyword must have a connection to your app. Otherwise, users will not consider your app as a solution to their problem.
    Usually, it is obvious whether a term is relevant or not. “Food” is for sure a relevant keyword for a cooking app, but “piano” is obviously not. But in some cases, relevance is not obvious. In case you’re unsure, go to the App Store and search for the keyword. If most apps in the search results are competitors of yours, this is an indicator that the keyword is relevant for your app. But if the search results show apps from other categories the term could be considered irrelevant.
  2. Competition (or Difficulty) is the second criterion. It defines how many other apps rank for a keyword. The more apps that do, the more difficult it will be to push your app into the top positions. Therefore low competition is what you are looking for.
    To find out how competitive a keyword is, you can simply search for it and count the results. To do so for all of your keyword candidates would be a very time-consuming process though so it makes sense to use a keyword tool that provides the competitor data for each keyword instead. Check out some of my suggestions below.
  3. Keyword Search Volume (or Popularity) that a keyword creates is the third factor you need to consider. Only terms that users actually search for are useful keywords otherwise they won’t create any traffic. The higher the search volumes, the better.

For iOS keywords, there is a simple way to find out about search volumes: log in to Apple Search Ads and create a campaign for the country you want to do research for. When adding a keyword, you will see a bar that indicates the keyword’s search volume. Again, a keyword tool can take this manual work out of the process.

Keyword Tools

Keyword tools make validating keywords much easier. Besides the competition and search volumes for keywords, they provide data about SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) rankings for your app and your competitors. Most of them also include features that will help you find more keyword ideas.

Check out App Annie,, AppTweak, SensorTower, AppFollow, AppRadar or MobileAction to find the tool that best matches your needs. Most of them offer a free trial period and often they’ll happily give you a demo upfront.

The Next Step

At this point, you should have a list of 50 to 100 keywords including your evaluation about their relevance and data about their competition and search volumes. Your next step is to implement these keywords into your product page. If you want to learn how to complete this task, check in next week for Part 2.

By the way: Get a 25% discount on Oliver’s eBook by using the code ‘storemaven’ here.

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    About Oliver Hoss
    Oliver is Mobile Marketing Manager at in beautiful Switzerland and writes regularly about App Store Optimization. In his leisure time, he enjoys soccer, floorball, videogames, cooking, and torturing his neighbors with his piano skills.

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