App Keywords: How do they Work when a User Searches the iOS App Store?

The keywords for your app are one of the few components under your control, which can have a direct impact on the visibility of your app, within the App Store. Specifically, from searches within the App Store. This makes your keywords important.

Deciding on what keywords to use, however, is not the focus of this post.

With only 100 characters available for your keywords, it’s necessary to know how Apple will interpret the input. How are individual words and phrases grouped to form compound keywords? What keywords and phrases will you rank for? What about commas and spaces?…

How does the composition of your keywords work for App Store searches?

These questions are the focus of this post. I’ll use personal experience from my own apps combined with a little reseach to answer them…

Plurality and derivations

Question: if I have the keyword dog, will I rank for searches of both dog and dogs?

Answer: no.

Wafflr’s keywords include these characters: “cue,card,presentation”. Among other variations, Wafflr ranks for:

  • cue card
  • presentation card

But it does not rank for a search on “cue cards”.

Duplication of terms

In an earlier iteration of Wafflr’s keywords, the following characters were used: “wedding speech,best man speech”.

I was unsure if “speech” needed to be used twice. It doesn’t.

When replaced with “wedding,best man,speech”, Wafflr still ranks for both the search phrases I’m interested in:

  • wedding speech
  • best man speech

Delimiters: commas or spaces?

The previous step led me to ask a couple of related questions:

  • Is there a need to specify phrases, rather than single words only?
  • What counts as a delimiter in my keyword text?

I viewed “best man” as a phrase; as a single unit. That is not the case. The white space acts as a delimiter in the same way as the comma. So, the characters “wedding,best man,speech” will rank for:

  • wedding speech
  • best speech
  • speech man
  • best wedding speech
  • etc.

There is no difference between the following keyword strings:

  • “wedding,best,man,speech”
  • “wedding best man speech”

Simple Rules for How iOS Keywords Work

As mentioned at the start, the keywords for your app are very important, they will determine how many people will find your app when searching in the App Store. With a limited character set part of your approach is maximise the number of keywords you use.

This summary should help you understand how your keywords will work with searching in the App Store:

  1. Searches will match the exact word only. You don’t get derivations of your keywords for free.
  2. Commas and white spaces both act as delimiters, in the same way. Use either a single white space or a single comma between every word in your keyword text.
  3. The compound phrases formed from the different permutations of your individual words, will all be associated with your app.
  4. As an extension of #3, although it might help you in working with your keywords, the order of the individual words does not matter.

Although it hasn’t been the focus of this post, in addition to how you put your keywords together, it’s necessary to research what keywords to use. It’s not just about relevance, you also need to consider the traffic for a keyword and the competition for a keyword. This will be the focus of a future post.