Keyword Research for your App: Think Different

The Following Article was published in MakeAppMagazine in their ASO edition. I decided to publish it to inspire many of my readers to check the magazine itself in their App Store. If you think this article is good… you haven’t read anything yet.  Enjoy.
Keyword research is one of those topics where everyone tells you how “easy it is” but nobody seem to really reveal why in the “real world”, finding the right keywords is in fact so challenging!
When I was given the opportunity to choose a topic to be featured in MakeAppMagazine I realized that keyword research was one of those topics that many app developers were failing at during their ASO process.
But the question is why?
Why do developers fail to find the right keywords?
Don’t we now have ASO tools that can provide us with the data required to make a smart decision?
Well my theory is that the failure in app store keyword research, depends more on the mind set rather than the resources available to gather data.
To start I need to clarify that a keyword doesn’t always represent a real search term.
We tend to believe that keywords are like molecules of air, easy to find, easy to predict their “anatomy” and behaviour.
But the reality is different, the keywords we type in any search bar (Google, Bing, App Store, Amazon) are a clue to reveal how complex we are as individuals.
Search is a challenge, and predicting what people will search for when looking for our apps, is not as easy as it may appear.
So to start let’s define that the objective of keyword research is to identify the best buying/performing keywords to attract users to our app page. A pretty easy concept right?
Well think twice.
The complexity of keyword research is that it’s only when you put yourself in the shoes of the “searcher” can you really understand the mental process that takes place during the search.
People are complex beings and their searches are going to reflect our own human complexity. Not all users are the same, not all languages are the same, and not all keywords have the same meaning or purpose.
That’s why we can’t do keyword research without making a clear distinction between the difference in the type of searches, and the keywords people use daily.
For the purpose of this article I will be cataloguing keywords in different sections.
Let’s have a quick look.

  • The problem solving keyword

This is a keyword that is for people looking for apps that solve problems.
Although these apps are usually utilities, the main reason for their existence is to solve a specific problem rather than to be a “general utility”.
These apps exist thanks to a problem, without this problem the app wouldn’t exist, and without the user’s need to fix the problem, there would not be any search numbers (or traffic).
Although this is easy to understand the challenge rises when in some cases the potential user, is aware that they have a problem, but doesn’t know how to search for the solution. On the other hand, in some cases the user has a problem, but they don’t even know if a solution exists.
In this case app developers can focus to choose keywords that reflect the problem, or keywords that are part of the solution.
For example:
Anger management app.
The keywords that could be targeted could reflect the problem.
“control”, “anger”, “management”, “self”, “stress”, “aggressive”.
The other approach could be keywords that reflect the potential solution.
“peace”, “calm”, “relaxation”, “serenity”.

  • The ultra niche keyword

Ultra niche keywords are keywords that are so specific that you know that the traffic those keywords generate, will be extremely targeted.
These keywords are for developers that have usually done previous market research and understand who their market is and what type of product they’re looking for.
Don’t get me wrong, your app still may get some “random” users coming from organic searches, but it’s more likely your main source will be from targeted organic traffic. In other words users that know what they want, and are looking for your app.
Example: Western Australian Bird watching App.
If you’re not interested in bird watching and you are not located in Western Australia, it’s very unlikely for you to be looking for this app, (or to find it in any “app review site” or the “featured” list from Apple).
An app like this is for only one type of user: bird watching fanatics located in Western Australia. If these users exist, trust me, they will find your app.
You just need to optimize it and be sure your app does what you say it does.

  • The competitive keyword

The competitive keyword is that one that everyone tries but not many achieve proper results.
· Driving game
· Fun game
· Weight calculator
· Loan calculator
· Fitness
All those keywords where you see the big players getting involved are keywords where optimization alone will not be enough to get a decent ranking.
The funny thing is that many of these competitive keywords, though they may bring more traffic, convert less than long tail keywords. The reason? Well, it has been claimed before that broad keywords are associated with “window shoppers” rather than buyers/users.

  • The long tail

The long tail is where you can find an interesting balance between the niche factor and the ideal competition. Long tails can bring enough traffic to make any optimization worth it and usually long tail traffic will convert better than broad terms (if the keyword research has been done properly).
The main goal with the long-tail is to find buying keywords, keywords where we understand the user/searcher already knows what he/she wants and now is just looking for the end product. Our app.
Long tail keywords can be keywords like:

  1. Mini iPad scanner.
  2. Boxing round timer.
  3. WWII submarine game simulator.

Although long tail keywords are usually associated with “the ideal keyword to rank”, it is an important fact that it is a long tail keyword, it doesn’t mean it’s a “good keyword”.
So this bring us to the golden question: How do we find the perfect keyword?
And the answer is: By looking for it.
I know what you are thinking. What kind of answer is that?
Well let me explain.
The relevance and value of a keyword can only be determine with DATA. Real analysis of how much traffic a keyword brings in and how that traffic behaves.
A few years ago as an SEO professional, I managed to position one of my customers in the top 5 worldwide for the keyword “wedding ring”.
Yes. Wedding ring!
The ultimate keyword right?
In theory based on the Google Keyword Tool this was the hottest keyword in the industry, but once we took the ranking an analysed user behaviour we came to the conclusion that “wedding ring” wasn’t the right keyword to go for.
The reason?
A lot young teenagers dreaming about their wedding day were also Googling “wedding ring”. In fact a lot of non-buyers were looking for wedding rings without planning to buy a wedding ring! All that traffic coming from the golden broad search term didn’t really bring the leads/buyers we were looking for.
Taking that case as an example, we learned that only by doing keyword research and implementing those keywords, will you get your first round of real life data. And that data, will give you more information than any article about keyword research! Even this one.
So real life data is worth ten times more than any empirical data coming from any type of ASO tool.
“But Gabriel, what if I don’t have time to wait, and I want to fast-track the whole keyword research process?”
Well you can always apply my favorite strategy. Steal the keywords of successful competitors.
Keyword espionage has existed since the start of search (with SEO) and with ASO, this strategy is more valid than ever.
The smart point of this strategy is that you can find keywords that may not have a lot of competition and are already converting for your competitors. In essence they have done the keyword research for you.
Now before you start spying on all the apps out there, keep in mind that many apps rank, get traction and do well. But that doesn’t mean their keywords are the right ones, so it’s advisable to do your own keyword research PRIOR to analyzing what your competitors are doing.
Once you have your list, then compare it to what other people are doing and try to improve, adapt, and implement them in your app.
Applications like or SearchMan can really help you to start getting your first list of potential keywords, but before you go into a research frenzy, take 5 minutes and think of your market.
Remember the success of keyword research is not in the keywords, it’s aligning your way of thinking with the way the user and customer thinks. Once you understand that, ASO tools, keyword lists, and data will bring you the answers you are looking for.