Step by Step App Store Optimization: An Objective Measure to Find the Best Keywords

When I launched Loose Leaf, I’d heard about how bad app discovery was in the App Store, so I’d assumed any search optimization I did for the App Store would be a wasted effort. If quality Twitter apps are outranked by unrelated apps, it seems like a crap shoot to even try, so I didn’t.

Big mistake. It turns out that roughly half of users are finding and downloading apps through App Store search. Put another way, by not optimizing for App Store search, I’ve effectively cut my sales in half.

Over the past month, I’ve started diving into ASO – App Store Optimization – and finding the best practices, and most of all, finding exact step-by-steps that I can follow. Knowing that “keywords are important” is only half the battle. How do i decide which keywords to use and why? How can I turn this black art into a spreadsheet, and how can I do it for free?

Step 1: Get the Free Spreadsheet

I’ve setup a free spreadsheet with some example data that you can use. You can easily copy it to your own Google Drive to start editing and swapping in your own targeted keywords.

Step 2: Finding Keywords with Sensor Tower

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 4.16.08 PMA great resource for finding relevant keywords for your app is This site can track your App Store search rankings for any of your keywords, and it also helps with finding new keywords that you may want to use – it’s the 2nd case we’re worried about here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 4.17.22 PMCreate a free account, then login and add your app to their system. Next, head to the Track Competitors section – you’ll likely see it pre-populated with probable competitors, or you can also look up specific apps. Once you find a close competitor, click the Keyword Spy button. This will take you to a page that’ll show your vs their keywords.

Add each of these keywords to your spreadsheet, and repeat the process for each competitor.

Step 3: Finding Keyword Value

By now, you should have a long list of potential keywords, with very little idea of which keywords are actually valuable. This is our next step: let’s track down which of these keywords are actually worthwhile.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 4.33.00 PMNext up: the Keyword Research tool in SensorTower. For each keyword you’ve added to your spreadsheet, search for that word in this research tool. It’ll give you the Traffic, iPhone/iPad Difficulty, and number of apps for each keyword. Add each of these values into the spreadsheet.

Note: To make this process quicker, you can start the free trial of Sensor Tower and track those keywords in your account. This’ll let you download a single spreadsheet that you can then import into the Google Spreadsheet – but again, it’s only a 2 week trial.

As you add each of these words into the spreadsheet, you should see the rest of the columns fill in automatically.

Step 4: Choosing the Right Keywords

And now you have all the information you need to choose valuable and meaningful keywords for your App Store Optimization. Let’s dig into the spreadsheet and find out what’s going on.

The Sensor Tower data tells you 3 pieces of very important data: How much search traffic that keyword generates and how difficult (0-10) it is to rank for that keyword. So to determine the value of a keyword, we first find how easy it is to rank for a particular word (10-difficulty), then we average the iPad/iPhone values and multiply by the total search traffic to estimate our Traffic Return if we ranked for that keyword.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 4.49.27 PMApple only gives us 100 characters to work with in the keywords field in iTunesConnect, so not all keywords are equal. If two keywords would pull in the same estimated traffic, it only makes sense to choose the shorter word, right? That’s what that last column does, it divides that estimated traffic by the length of the word so you can more equally compare any two keywords.

Once you’ve entered all your keywords and data, just sort by Traffic/Letter to see the most valuable keywords at the top of the list!

Step 5: Enjoy a Coffee!

Now you have an objective measure of which keywords to use in your App Name and Keyword fields, and most importantly you know why they’re valuable – that’s enough to make any engineer smile! 🙂