ASO: iPhone App Keyword & Description Tips

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Kevin Ford

May 22nd, 2012

Top search engine placements aren’t usually accidental. There remains a certain mystery related to how apps areranked in Apple’s App Store search results. Determining what name, description, and keywords to use for your iPhone app can make or break your chances for success in showing up high in Apple’s App Store search results. Follow these app store optimization (ASO) tips and you will increase your chances for iPhone app success:

ASO or SEO for Apps: Select the Most Popular, Relevant Keywords to Target

Since Apple isn’t sharing search data, it is difficult to gauge what users are searching for within the App Store. Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to get some idea of what people might be searching for in the App Store:

Auto-Suggestion Method– When any user begins to enter a search string into the App Store search box, ten auto-suggestion search strings are presented to help a user more quickly complete their search query. For example, when I key in “b” into the App Store search box, I receive the following ten search strings:

backflip studios
bump technologies llc
bolt creative
bluesky studio
blackjack free

You’ll note that in this case, eight of the ten results are for registered trademarks. That leaves two auto-suggestions which are generic, namely “backgrounds” and “blackjack free.” Presumably these auto-suggestions rank among the most popular search queries within the App Store, and would make great words to target. This process of building auto-suggest lists could be repeated until a very lengthy list of popular generic keywords is compiled.

The auto-suggestion method is more time consuming than I would like, but it does allow you to extract search data from actual Apple’s App Store search functionality.

Google Keyword Tool– Google offers a keyword tool which ranks keywords for all web searches. Google’s tool allows for rapid prioritization and there is a mobile search setting in the advanced options. However, the data is limited and excludes smartphones and handheld digital devices with full Internet browsing capabilities.  Since the statistics are not just App Store mobile search queries, app developers should be cautious about how they interpret resulting data. For example, an app developer using the Google tool may want to throw out longer search strings given the unlikelihood of someone keying in a longer string via their iPhone.

Two additional tips from Apple’s “App Store Quick Reference Guide“:

  • Try to avoid overly common keywords that make it harder to locate your app:
    • Game     App     Fun
  • Try to use unique keywords that allow your app to stand out:
    • Flight     Galaxy     Starship



Submitting Your App’s Description & Keywords

Now that you have built a list of the most popular, relevant keywords for your iPhone app, you need to incorporate these keywords into your app’s description and keyword on iTunes. This can be done as part of your initial submission to Apple via iTunes Connect or on subsequent updates of your app.

A few additional highlights to consider before you click “submit”:

  • Include the Operating System Version as a Keyword- Apple recommends including the version of iPhone’s operating system you developed your app for within your keyword list. For example, 3.1.
  • App Name Not Required in Description/Keywords- Apple says in their “App Store Quick Reference Guide” that you do not need to include your app name and company name in your app’s keywords.
  • Don’t Do Anything Against Apple’s Policies- As with all items related to your app’s submission, you’ll want to make sure everything you do with your app’s submission meet’s Apple’s guidelines. A few specific policies related to app descriptions and keywords:
    • Do not use registered trademarks.
    • Do not use well-known public figures.
    • Do not use unrelated keywords.
    • Do not use offensive or objectionable words/phrases.

For other ASO ideas, check out Apple’s App Store Tips.

Getting high search placements for your iPhone app within Apple’s App Store is important; especially if you are on a tight budget and are relying on guerilla marketing tactics to generate downloads of your app. If you’re looking for user acquisition support, apply for the NativeX Xcelerate fund – a $10,000, fund that was created to help entrepreneurial app developers get started marketing their games.

Kevin Ford

Marketing Manager


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