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Are you using Google’s Keyword Planner or other keyword tools built on that data for mobile app store optimization, but you’re still not seeing downloads?

Are you building a list of targeted keywords and phrases for your app using estimated monthly web searches and the related keyword ideas, and yet your app isn’t gaining traction?

It’s become more obvious over time that searching in the app stores is almost entirely different than searching on the web, so you need different strategies. This article will help you understand what you can do differently.

Keyword Tools aren’t as useful as they used to be

Just because Google’s Keyword Planner provides estimated search volumes and related keywords for free doesn’t mean this data is of any practical use when optimizing an app listing for app store search.

SEO agencies and services have begun to move away from using Keyword Planner data because the mobile world is booming. Let’s take a look at why and how app store search is different and how to find better, more relevant data to help you build an app store listing that is discovered and used by a relevant target audience.

The lack of app store data

Acquiring organic app store search traffic with an optimized app listing can be the difference between an app providing a return on investment or being among the 90 percent of apps that never gain traction.

Without data provided by Apple or Google on app store search, mobile app marketers and publishers looked to Google’s free Keyword Planner and tools built using this data source thinking that “something is better than nothing.”

Look no further than Moz.com for an analysis on the issues with Google’s Keyword Planner — specifically the unreliability of volume estimates and suggested keywords.

Compare keyword volumes with Google Trends data to find even more discrepancies.

Remember, the tool is built for researching keywords for paid clicks/ads on the web — it was never meant to be an SEO tool.

At best, for optimization on the web, Google’s Keyword Planner is a great starting point but by no means a comprehensive or accurate tool for SEO.

App store search and web search are totally different, making the keyword tool even less relevant to ASO.

App Store Search is not web search

Here’s an example: When users search Amazon for a book or something to buy, they search within an implied context.

Typing “ASO” in Amazon search yields widely different results than when performing the same search on the web.

Steve ASO Book
Gummicube ASO

Obvious right? It is the same idea for users searching the app stores.

Try searching “mall” in Google (a web search), and then again in Google Play (an app store search).

All of the results are different and almost irrelevant to the search intentions. While SEO and ASO are similar concepts, using a keyword tool built for web advertising will not work for app stores.

It’s not 2012

Here is the good news — this isn’t 2012 any more.

  • Apple introduced Trending Keywords — providing a small insight to specific search terms and relative volumes.
  • Mobile app marketing companies have built their own app store intelligence platforms over the last several years, after executing app store optimization projects for a large portfolio of clients.
  • The indexing and ranking algorithms quietly improved as Google incorporated more of what they have used for web page and site indexing in their Google Play Store — things like conversion rates, retention and engagement and even social signals like backlinks and +1s.
  • Apple started denying apps with long app names, and deleted suspicious reviews in sweeping efforts to reduce fraud and create an improved app store experience.

All of this while a huge migration from the web and PCs to smartphones and apps took place. Now, time spent in apps has even surpassed TV viewing.

ASO for 2016

App store search is still the largest source of mobile app discovery. Along with browsing the app stores, app store discovery (search or browsing) leads every other user acquisition channel.

While finding relevant keywords, measuring the market’s response and adjusting as needed to maintain an optimized app is only a part of acquiring new users in the app store.

Partnering with an app store intelligence service with app store data and optimization algorithms is the very best choice. These services often run focus groups and have a wealth of proprietary app store data to help publishers find an optimal mix of keywords for building relevant phrases.

For those not ready to make a moderate investment in ASO outside of their own time spent, there are free resources to help you build a better-optimized app. Both Google Play and Apple’s App Store have an “auto-complete” feature. Type a seed word in and see what auto-completions are suggested. Start building a list of suggestions that should then be cross-referenced by which category the top apps are appearing in. An auto-completion that is relevant, with the top ranking apps for that search in a relevant category, should make your short list.

Google’s Keyword Planner can be used as both a thesaurus, and for web marketing or AdWord marketing efforts — but is it the best option?

As mentioned above, the Keyword Planner is built for finding words to bid on in Google’s paid ad platform AdWords. Paid install campaigns for the web should definitely utilize data from the Keyword Planner. And because the data is for web search, the estimated traffic and related words are still used for SEO even if only as a starting point.

If you plan to use the Keyword Planner as a thesaurus, however, why not just use an actual thesaurus? Steve recommends OneLook to help uncover ideas that can then be used as seed words for auto-complete.

Words used in the app listing that resonate with your target audience can and should be used in captions and calls-to-action in screenshots.

There is no magical combination of keywords that can rocket an app to a top ranking without creatives (icon, screenshots) that convert, or without an app that retains users and keeps them using the app. That said, a keyword-optimized app listing provides a solid foundation for an app that also converts and engages.

In order to be discovered in the app stores, move away from web-based keyword tools. If you want a solid foundation for your ongoing app store optimization strategy, look towards app store intelligence platforms to help you find relevant keywords and phrases for your app store listing.

Dave Bell

Cofounder and CEO at Gummicube
Dave Bell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gummicube. Dave is a pioneer of the mobile entertainment industry with more than 15 years of experience publishing, marketing and distributing mobile applications and games across carrier, direct to consumer and app store channels.
Dave Bell