How To Fix Your Underperforming App Store Optimization (ASO) Keywords Right Now

If you have been following the Tapstream Blog for awhile, you understand that App Store Optimization (ASO) is a key component to marketing your iOS app successfully. If this is your first time here, be sure to take a look around to get some great tips on how to improve the visibility of your app and track your results.

One post that we feel illustrates the power of App Store Optimization particularly well is the one which demonstrated that adding keywords to the title of the Tapfolio and Dark Sky apps resulted in significant improvements in their search rankings. There are also some great basic tips for optimizing your keyword list in that post (such as removing spaces), so if you are new to ASO, you should definitely check it out.

But if you have already published an app or two and are wondering why your app is not ranking as well as you think it should for its keywords, then this post is for you. We will show you how to track the performance of your existing keywords, how to know which ones to replace and how to choose new ones. Also stay tuned until the end because we will show you how to significantly broaden your user base with some exciting new keyword tools.

About the AuthorHugh Kimura does Marketing for Sensor Tower, an easy-to-use online App Store Optimization tool that helps your app get more downloads by providing fast and accurate data to improve the visibility of your app on the App Store.

How To Track Keyword Rank

If you do not know exactly where your app ranks for every one of its keywords, then you are sailing your ASO ship blind. It is vital that you not only know where your keywords rank now, but that you continually track your keywords so that you know when they are losing their effectiveness.

Using a tool like our Search Rankings Tool will help you keep track of your keyword rank for every keyword on your list. Here is what it looks like when we track some of the keywords from the mega hit game Clash of Clans.


As you can see, they do very well for all of their keywords. But they also have millions of downloads that help them rank well for the keywords they choose. Since most app publishers do not have this luxury, the next two sections will show you how to prune your list and select new keywords that you can rank for.

But it all starts with tracking your keywords. So if you are not doing so, you should start as soon as possible, if you are serious about getting more downloads.

When To Replace Your Keywords

Your goal is to get your app in the top 10 for every one of your keywords. This is not always possible and being ranked #22 for a valuable keyword is still pretty good. But if you are ranked #741, then it is pretty much guaranteed that nobody is going to do enough scrolling to find your app.

Throw out that keyword and find another. You should also get rid of a keyword if it is not closely related to your app. It doesn’t matter that you rank #1 for the highly searched for keyword “castle”, if your app helps people track their calorie intake.

How To Choose New Keywords

This is the most important section in this post. Many app publishers prioritize the wrong things when it comes to choosing keywords, so let’s go over the hierarchy of keyword selection criteria.

First and foremost is relevance. As we mentioned in the previous section, if you are targeting keywords that have nothing to do with your app, you are barking up the wrong tree. Be sure that your keywords are not only related, but are what people might search for when looking for an app like yours.

Ranking difficulty is the next criteria that you sort by. It may be sexy to target keywords that have a ton of traffic, but guess what? If you do not rank well for those keywords, then all that traffic is worthless. Since Clash of Clans has millions of downloads, it can rank for keywords that have high Difficulty Scores.


Start small and get a feel for the average Difficulty Score that will get your app into the top 10 for most of your keywords. This is super important and often overlooked. Your ability to rank is going to be relative to your app.

For example, while examining your keyword rankings you might notice that the keywords that you are able to get ranked in the top 10 for have a Difficulty Score of about 3.2. This tells you that if you choose keywords that have a Difficulty Score of 3.2 or less, there will be a much better chance that you can get into the top 10 for those terms.

This number is not static however. As your app gets downloaded more, you will be able rank for more difficult (and higher traffic) keywords. So again, tracking is important and do not be afraid to test more difficult keywords once your app is ranking in the top 10 for all your keywords.

Finally, if relevance and difficulty are similar, then choose the keyword that has more traffic. Just to give you a reference point, here are the Traffic Scores of the keywords thatClash of Clans targets.



Now, if you have been waiting to learn how to reach many more potential users, we have just one word for you: “localization.” If you are not familiar with the term, it is when you translate your app into other languages so that you can reach an international audience. It is also known as internationalization, which is technically the process of setting up the infrastructure of an app to accommodate localization.

Sensor Tower now allows you to do the same keyword tracking and research that we showed you above, in any foreign App Store language. For example, here is Clash of Clansagain, this time with a sample of their Chinese keywords.


Localizing your entire app is a big undertaking, so if you want to do a simple test of the viability of a complete localization, you can just localize your keywords and app description (and optionally your app title and screenshots) to see how your app does in a foreign App Store, before putting in the time and effort to translate your whole app. Not all apps lend themselves to localization obviously, but if your app does, it is worth testing.

You can find out how every iOS app on the App Store performs internationally by checking out the Internationalization Tool on our public App Profile Pages. It is a great way to see what the top apps are doing and to do some research on your competition.

We hope that this post will help you get more downloads through organic search traffic, both foreign and domestic. Remember that keyword optimization is a continual process of tracking, testing and improving your keyword list, so stay with it.