App Store Keywords

How Many App Store Keyword Phrases can a Mobile App Rank for?

As mobile app marketers know, much of Apple’s app store search and discovery data is hidden.

Here is what we know about Mobile App Search:

  • The app name and the app’s keywords field are indexed
  • Downloads and download velocity impacts rankings in app store search
  • Ratings quality and velocity have an impact
  • Description is indexed – if not weighted heavily
  • Reviews are indexed – if not weighted heavily

We know the popular opinion among mobile app developers, studios, agencies and marketers is that Apple app store search is broken.  This post – from Ged of the Icon Factory and shared by Marco Arment of Tumblr, Instapaper and now Overcast fame – shares the sad state of discovery for app store users.

An App’s Name is indexed for search, and is weighted more heavily than words used in the app store keywords field. The result is an app like “Happy Park Best Theme Park Game with Facebook and Twitter Friends” ranks 5th and 7th in my “Twitter” search results for device and desktop respectively.  Instagram and G+ also in top 5.

Twitter Results

Now, if the searcher were searching for Twitter’s app – that comes up first and she’s done.

But if searchers are looking for apps related to Twitter and instead getting games and other social networks, it shouldn’t take long for searchers to recognize 2-3 word phrases are required for receiving relevant results.

According to Gummicube’s App Store Intelligence – using Datacube, we see that by a large margin in almost every category – trending searches are 2+ word phrases.

In fact – today in the social networking category – we show a full 25 of the top 25 trending searches are for 2 word phrases.   In many categories – 3 word phrases make up 2-3 of the 25 top trending phrases.  In fact, 1 word searches are generally for brands (Facebook, Twitter, Skype).

App Store search encourages users to use more specific searches (2+ word phrases).

Our data confirms this is what users do.

It follows that the very best strategy for app store optimization then, is targeting relevant phrases.

Many of the current keyword tools for app marketers fall very short.

In fact – many are downright bad with the “Bad data in, Bad data out” model.

  • You need more than a keyword tool to determine the ideal combination of your 100 characters and app name for max reach
  • You need more than traffic estimates based off of web search
  • You shouldn’t have to guess what the market thinks is a relevant category and what are the associated relevant phrases in each category

App Store Keywords Coverage

With an estimated 65 million downloads daily, $20b in app revenues in 2014 and well over 1m apps – long tail search in the app store is now a worthy topic.

The top 4 publishers represent 70% of app installs.  The top app charts from 2013 and 2014 are almost identical (same apps, same publishers).  With the breaking apart of major apps into smaller apps – like Facebook messenger –  the top spots in the app store (overall) are now reserved for publishers who can pay their way (LTV > CPI) see Supercell or King, or publishers with a significant web presence (see Facebook).

You want to compete with this?

You want to compete with this?

Find Your Audience

The focus of modern mobile app marketers is targeting and ranking for as many relevant app store keyword phrases as possible, and identifying new channels to run user acquisition campaigns.

Having access to app store data and not web data matters.

Having access to tools that help you identify relevant keywords, relevant phrases, trending phrases, and the best combination of keywords to maximize the 100 characters for relevant phrases is a marketers best friend.

Let’s get back to the original question – how many app store keyword phrases can an app rank for?

One Gummicube client was averaging 40 downloads a day when they came to us to help them manage their app optimization.

After 9 months of engagement, the same app is averaging 5,000 downloads daily with $0 in ad spend or paid user acquisition.

The strategy from the beginning was not to rank #1 for “messaging” or “text” – but rather to target an ultra-relevant group of 2-3 word phrases.

Each month, the team would reevaluate the use of the 100 character keyword field, and re-target based on current trending search phrases.

Today this app ranks for 149 one, two and three-word phrases:

  • In the top 10 for 7 single keywords
  • In the top 10 for 100 phrases, where 20% are 3 word phrases.
  • Ranked for 26 total single keywords
  • Ranked for 123 total phrases

For this app, ranking for 146 search terms, and ranking in the top 10 for 107 search terms meant the difference between 40 daily downloads and 5,000.

Evaluate and Optimize Keywords Monthly

A monthly evaluation and optimization of targeted phrases based on category trending data is the best way to ensure coverage of the most common relevant phrase targets.

The correct category and maximum coverage of relevant phrases could mean ranking for 30-40 relevant phrases for new apps.

And as we can see – it is possible to rank for hundreds of relevant phrases with a sustained effort at reaching those searching for apps like yours.

You can learn more about Gummicube Data, our App Store Optimization Services here.

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Market an app

How to Market an App

When we discuss how to market an app, we are essentially focusing on what activities maximize the ROI of app development and mobile app marketing investments.

Vanity metrics like downloads are cast aside for metrics related to retention and engagement.

Daily Average Users (DAU) and Lifetime Value (LTV) are the focus.

We don’t just want downloads, we want relevant downloads of users who find value in our apps.

We want to optimize click-thru and conversion rates in our user acquisition campaigns.

IMAGE:  Mobile App Marketing with App Store Intelligence

Optimize for Organic Installs

Users who find your apps organically (via Apple App Store and Google Play search) are generally the most sought after set of users.

Organic users have proven to be both more engaged and produce a higher LTV than users acquired through ads.

A strategy around optimizing your app for organic installs creates a long-term competitive advantage.

How to Market an App

We break our strategy into two parts:

  1. Discoverability (ASO) – maximize the exposure of the mobile app to potential users with relevant searches
  2. Conversion Optimizationmaximize the conversion from users who see the app in search results to app install


More than 50% of mobile apps are discovered via search.  Ads, friends & family and top app charts all pale in comparison to the number of apps downloaded via mobile Apple App Store and Google Play search.

This means optimizing your apps’ name, keywords and description for ranking in Apple’s and Google Play’s search results is critical to your apps’ success.

Investing in an ASO service that can help you rank for hundreds of relevant phrases can produce a much better ROI than almost any other user acquisition campaign.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Once you have your keywords strategy in place, the goal is to continuously improve the conversion rate of searchers to users. From seeing your app in the search results, to installing your app.

The elements of a mobile app that impact whether an app is installed include:

  • icon
  • title/name
  • descriptions and call to action
  • screenshots/preview video

A/B & Multivariate Testing Creatives

There is no better way of determining which icons, screenshots or videos resonate with your target audience than by asking them.

Part of Gummicube’s complete mobile marketing solution includes hosting live focus groups – providing feedback from 1,000s on which creatives and calls-to-action convert best.

If you are not currently a Gummicube partner, you can leverage social media or your email list to test your creatives and make sure you are selecting designs that the market will respond to.

Paid User Acquisition

Mobile app user acquisition costs continue to increase with CPIs breaking $2 in 2014.

As non-mobile apps continue to dump advertising budgets into mobile advertising, identifying channels for paid campaigns and optimizing those channels becomes increasingly important.

Regardless of the channel, the numbers we are working with are:

  • Impressions
  • Click Thru Rate (CTR)
  • Conversion Rate (CRO)
  • Lifetime Value (LTV)

Given a high enough LTV, there are plenty of opportunities for impressions (example: Supercell’s Super Bowl ad).

What we want as mobile app marketers is for people who see our ad to click on it (CTR), to install our app (CRO), and to stick around and find value and purchase in-app items, see ads, …..monetize.

Maximizing click thru rates, and optimizing conversion rates has a lot to do with getting in front of a relevant audience, with a clear call to action using their words.

We need an understanding of:

  • the words prospective users are using when searching for similar/related mobile apps
  • the features prospective users are searching for

App Store Intelligence helps us understand how users are searching for mobile apps, enabling marketers to target new keywords and phrases in their paid campaigns, as well as offer ultra-relevant calls to action in the vernacular of the market.

Our app store data shows that the vast majority of searches are for 2+ word phrases and are almost all features related.  

Highlight the features of your app you know the market is responding to to further increase CTR and CRO.

Add App Store Data to your Product Roadmap

The market is telling mobile app publishers what they want by the features they are searching for daily.

Routinely monitoring trending searches related to your target keywords and phrases, and in your app’s category can provide additional data on where to invest and what to prioritize.

Ask and test your focus groups with new features, optimize based on results, and continue the app marketing lifecycle as your apps and the market continues to evolve.

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Mobile Apps Marketing

Improve Your Mobile Apps Marketing with App Store Intelligence

A Simple Strategy to Increase CTR and CRO on Paid Campaigns

The costs associated with user acquisition campaigns are increasing.

Cost per install is up at least 30% year over year.

A larger percentage of advertising budgets are moving to mobile – with forecasts predicting more than quadruple the spend – from $40b globally in 2014 to $169b by 2018.

Locating cost-effective user acquisition channels is one of the primary challenges of mobile apps marketing teams in 2015.

With a focus on:

  • increasing click through rates of ads (CTR), and
  • increasing conversions (CRO)

…more new, relevant users will install your mobile apps per dollar, driving down the cost per new user and opening up more channels for user acquisition.

Mobile Apps Marketing Starts with Mobile App Store Data

By monitoring real-time trends in the Apple App Store and Google Play, marketers can adjust the calls to action of their ads for better click through rates.

Our App Store Intelligence tells us that the vast majority of App Store searches are for 2+ word phrases, and are “features” related.

Relevant, trending search phrases help marketers emphasize or prioritize these “frequently searched” features in their ads and copy.

An example could be creating advertisements and calls to action around installing the most beautiful “Photo Album” app, when the trending data in the Apple App Store and Google Play shows “Photo Book” is a much more frequent search phrase.

Targeting the exact words the market is using to refer to the features of your mobile app can even provide a new stream of ultra-relevant impressions – with ads speaking in the language your prospective users are using.

Use Behavioral Inputs

While A/B testing ads is fairly easy (if costly), A/B and Multivariate testing in the Apple App Store and Google Play is not easy or not possible for some elements.

Which ad, copy, icon, screenshots, description, video or app name inspires action?

Testing not only your ads and CTAs but your other app elements with relevant end-users in real-time, on their mobile devices can provide actionable insights to spike conversion rates.

Cheap impressions are as useless as irrelevant downloads.  

The modern mobile app marketer wants relevant impressions. Users who will install the app and continue to engage. Who are likely to have a high lifetime value.

Better CTR, CRO and more DAUs! OMG…

Tap into Apple App Store and Google Play search data to improve your CTRs with ultra-relevant calls to action.

Monitor trending search data to focus on new phrases and features to target.

Ask relevant users what encourages them to click or install in real-time, on their devices to save your ad budget, and get you to what works faster.

Our partners are able to optimize their campaigns and increase their daily average users by focusing on how, what and why prospective users are searching for and finding mobile apps.

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Mobile app installs

Which Social Networks Support Mobile App Installs?

If 2014 was the explosion of Facebook as a mobile app marketing and user acquisition channel – 2015 is shaping up to be the year of alternative channels.

Pinterest announced today that they are supporting app downloads, where users can install mobile apps directly from Pinterest with a new product called App Pins.


When you come across an app Pin, tap Install to download the app right to your iPhone or iPad without ever leaving Pinterest (you’ll only see app Pins when you’re using the Pinterest app on your iPhone or iPad). – Oh, How Pinteresting!

This is a great addition for Pinterest users as 75% of Pinterest’s traffic is from users on mobile devices.

Part of what makes the Pinterest App Pins announcement so cool is that App Pins are not ad units. More app discovery and user feature than a monetization play by Pinterest.

Along with this announcement – Apple has created an “App Store Board” where they feature various apps on fashion and recipes.

Apple App Store Board

Pinterest currently only supports app downloads for Apple/iOS, sorry Android users….

Which of the most popular social networks support direct mobile app installs?

The Largest Social Networks by Alexa Rank are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Others including Vine, Instagram, Flickr, and VK (“Russian Facebook”)


Key Stats:  84% of its daily audience visits from a mobile device, and 69% of ad revenues coming from ads shown on mobile.

Support Direct App Installs?:  YES – from Ads Only

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 11.31.16 AM


Key Stats:  80% of active users are on mobile.

Support Direct App Installs?:  YES – via App Cards

App Cards are essentially “rich” tweets that can be posted and/or promoted – but promoting is not required.

Twitter App Cards

Because the lifespan of a tweet is roughly 17 minutes – finding the right mix of sponsored tweets is probably required for any significant user acquisition efforts.


Key Stats:  65% of users access via mobile device.

Support Direct App Installs?:  YES – via Tumblr Sponsored Apps

Tumblr Sponsored Apps


Key Stats:  50% of video views are from mobile devices.

Support Direct App Installs?:  Yes – with “TrueView for mobile app promotion”.  

app downloads

Still Waiting

LinkedIn – not yet.  Will probably add this feature when more B2B, SMB and/or Enterprise companies adopt mobile for their target market, clients, partners or employees.

Of the newer social media platforms – including Instagram, Vine, and SnapChat – none currently support direct app installs and the fit/need is not clear as these platforms continue to grow and evolve.

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App Store SEO

Why Web Search Data doesn’t work for App Store SEO

If I told you there was a user acquisition channel that:

    • had a CPI of less than $.05
    • attracted the highest quality users
    • and created a competitive advantage the longer an effort was made in this channel

…. it would be crazy to attempt to go after this channel with unrelated data, with tools that are not built for the job.

What if your competitors have identified and invested in enterprise-quality App Store SEO tools  and your team has not?

App Store Search is #1 in App Discovery….

It is estimated by several sources that search and browsing makes up at least 50% of mobile app downloads.  Neither Apple or Google release this data, but various polls show mobile app discovery is still driven by searching the app stores.

A bit dated – but you can see the many ways users say they discover mobile apps

For the best monetizing mobile apps, their LTV>CPI spread is  large enough that almost every possible user acquisition channel from TV Ads to Outdoor advertising works for them.

Looking at top grossing for today – 20 of the top 25 are Gaming Apps, with 3 of the other 5 subscription-based apps (Pandora, Spotify, Match, Zoosk).

Your app is competing for paid users with these guys.  But not likely competing with them in search results.

…..and #1 in Acquired User Quality

According to an Appsflyer study – the user acquisition channel with the highest user quality (measured by app opens) was search.


But popular ASO keyword tools use web data!

web data vs app store data

App Store SEO is the process for positioning an app for discovery by these user searches.

But several ASO keyword tools are using web data to show traffic, related keywords and suggested keywords.

If you are frustrated with your mobile app store optimization efforts, or wonder how other mobile apps are getting so many organic downloads – using an ASO service that leverages web data could be the issue.

How is web search and mobile search different?

For starters – let’s look at how people search the web versus how people search on a mobile device.

3 Types of Web Search Queries

According to there are 3 different search queries users generally perform:

1. “Do” Transactional Queries– Action queries such as buy a plane ticket or listen to a song.

2. “Know” Information Queries– When a user seeks information, such as the name of a band or the best restaurant in the area.

3. “Go” Navigational Queries– Search queries that seek a particular online destination, such as Facebook or a homepage of a sports team.

A search with the Google Keyword Planner for “edit photos” shows these results as being the most relevant:

Google Web Data for ASOAs you can see web search results from the Google Keyword Planner fall into the 3 different types of web search queries.

1. “Do” Transactional Queries– “Edit photos” or “Edit photos online”

2. “Know” Information Queries– “How to edit photos”

3. “Go” Navigational Queries– “Program to edit photos”

Google Keyword Planner seems to confirm’s framework for web search.

Mobile Search is 2-3 word Phrases about Features

According to data Gummicube has collected from mobile users since 2011, “80% of all search queries in the app store are 2-3 word phrases related to app features.” The balance is generally 1 word app/brand name searches.

    • Features – “chat”, “share photos”, “learn a language”
    • App/brand name – “Facebook”, “Instagram”, “Duolingo”

So how are users searching for mobile apps on their device?

Using our software Datacube, the results for the same search term edit photos:

gummicube aso

So for the same query using mobile search, you can see the results are feature and brand based:

  • Feature Queries – “photo blender”, “photo editor”, “photo effects”, “add text”, “photo collage”, “add music”
  • Brand Queries – “camera 360”

Does your keyword tool use web data?

Does the ASO or keyword tool you use to target keywords, phrases and features provide volume estimates?Bad ASO Tools

I am sure I am breaking some internet rule posting two memes in one post – but I just figured these out and I think they hammer the point home…

You can’t optimize your mobile apps using bad data!

Can’t optimize for maximum exposure in the app stores….

…to acquire valuable, relevant organic installs….

…trusting your efforts to tools that are designed using the wrong data.

If you are using any “ASO Tool” which relies on web based search data then you are using the wrong dataset.

Modern Mobile App Store Optimization

Successful Mobile App Store Optimization relies on understanding user behavior when searching the app store.

Web search and mobile search are not the same.

Mobile search data from  Gummicube is the most effective way to find relevant and trending  keyword phrases.

Search provides one of the most cost-effective user-acquisition channels available to mobile app marketers.

You are not going to be able to compete using ASO keyword tools that use web data.

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