Researching (iOS) App Store Keywords with Sensor Tower

I’ve mentioned “researching keywords” a few times in this blog. I thought it might be useful to describe what I mean/do when I talk about researching keywords…

Keywords, the goal

Here’s what I’m trying to achieve. I want the best set of keyword phrases I can find for my app. In this case, it’s Reminder+. And by best, I mean:

  • keyword phrases that have high traffic; lots of people searching for that phrase and viewing the resulting list of apps.
  • keyword phrases that I can perform well with; will my app rank highly enough in that list to be considered, if I have those keywords?
  • keyword phrases that are relevant to my app; if I do rank highly enough to be considered, will my app match what the person was searching for?1.

The “researching” process

When I say researching, I’m using that word to encompass a few different steps.

1. Idea generation

I start by generating a list of possible keywords (and phrases). Generally, I approach this as follows:

  • My app offers a solution to problem x
  • What words and phrases might someone use when they’re searching for a solution to this problem?2
  • In addition to the obvious terms, can I think of any less common words that might also be used?

Those bullet points may seem obvious, but they’re important, especially the last one. A lot of the initial keyword phrases that come to mind are probably oversubscribed, and your chance of ranking highly for them, is slim. Given how much competition exists in the store, a key part of this process, for me, involves thinking outside the box.

2. Investigate those phrases in the App Store

Having a list of ideas is fine, but you can only use so many keywords, so you need to know which of them are the best for your app within in the context of the App Store:

  • How much traffic does a keyword/phrase get?
  • How much competition is there for that keyword/phrase?

This is where Sensor Tower comes in. Sensor Tower is a service that, among other things, can help with App Store optimisation. I use one of their free accounts3, which has several restrictions, and I (currently) only use one of their tools/pages: Keyword Rankings4.

Here’s an example showing some of the keyword phrases that I target with Reminder+:

I find this tool useful for the research phase as it gives me an indication of both the Traffic for a keyword phrase and the difficulty associated with ranking for that phrase.

It’s also possible to select one of the keyword phrases in question and look at the apps that currently rank for it, giving you a quick look at the competition.

One of the restriction associate with a free account is a limit on the number of keyword phrases that can be entered (tracked). Whilst this can slow you down and limits what you can realistically track for an existing app, it doesn’t prevent useful investigation.

3. Iterate and review

This process is iterative.

  • Invariably, some keywords phrases will turn out to be unsuitable, either because they don’t have enough traffic or they have too much competition. So they come off the list and I look at alternatives.
  • The process of reviewing the list and trying things in Sensor Tower often generates new ideas, which are then tested.
  • The two places we can put keywords are the keyword field (100 characters) and the App Store name (255 characters); as I get closer to the set of keywords that I want to use, if some of them are going to feature in the App Store name, this also needs to be reviewed.

  1. Relevant keywords: for example, it’s no good ranking first when people search for “fly fishing” if your app is for making VPN connections…
  2. What words and phrases might someone use… – you could ask people, use a thesaurus, look at keywords similar apps are using…
  3. Free account with Sensor Tower: my current app revenue wouldn’t cover the subscription price…
  4. Keyword Rankings tool: is accessed via App Intelligence > App Store Optimisation > Keyword Rankings

Back in the Game

It’s been a while since my last post; here’s a reminder of the three experiments I’ve been working on:

  1. Price increase for Reminder+
  2. Changing the keywords for Reminder+
  3. Niche app based on keyword research – with ReminderBin

The first of those has been completed. The link above leads to a post detailing the results that were, on the whole, positive.

Results for the second and third items were stalled.

Changing the keywords. I submitted a small update back on the 11th February, which carried with it, the new keywords. Three rejections later (one of which was entirely my own fault) and v2.0.1 was made Ready for Sale at the end of last week, on the 1st April.

Despite the delay, I’ll have results on App Store views and download numbers, soon.

Niche app based on keyword research. ReminderBin v1.0 has been in the store since the 29th February. After the first 20 days there were only three downloads. Failure, yes, but I was most bothered by not being able to see App Analytics data.

I’d assumed that, even in the absence of actual downloads, I’d be able to see the number of App Store views. This was not the case.

This was bothersome because a large part of this experiment was learning about how much I could trust the keyword research that I did – would my assumptions translate into App Store traffic?…

So, on the 19th March, I made the app free.

I’ve got Analytics data now, but, the change to free resulted in a spike of downloads over a handful of days as the change was picked up by one (or more) of the sites that cover ‘apps gone free’.

Soon, I’ll have two weeks worth of regular data that I can report on.

Results: Price Increase Experiment

At the beginning of the year I decided to try an experiment and changed the price of the In-App Purchase for Reminder+ (App Store link) from Tier 1 ($0.99) to Tier 2 ($1.99). The price change has been in place for eight weeks.

At the time, I made the following prediction about the change:

Changing from $0.99 to $1.99 won’t have a significant effect (decrease) on the IAP conversion rate.

Well, I was wrong about that, but not too wrong.

The conversion rate dropped from 8.9% to 6.9%; looking at that figure alone, I’d say that is a significant difference. But things are more interesting when the price increase is factored in.

Here are the numbers comparing the these two periods. Before the price increase:

  • Period: 26/08/2015 – 04/01/2016, 132 days
  • App version: 2.0
  • App price: free
  • Downloads: 833
  • Downloads / day: 6.31
  • In-App Purchase: Send via Messages
  • IAP price: $0.99 (Tier 1)
  • IAPs: 74
  • IAPs / day: 0.56
  • IAP conversion rate: 8.9%

After the price increase (no other changes; only the IAP price):

  • Period: 05/01/2016 – 29/02/2016, 56 days
  • App version: 2.0
  • App price: free
  • Downloads: 360
  • Downloads / day: 6.4
  • In-App Purchase: Send via Messages
  • IAP price: $1.99 (Tier 2)
  • IAPs: 25
  • IAPs / day: 0.45
  • IAP conversion rate: 6.9%

So, whilst the conversion rate did drop, and my prediction was wrong, the revenue per day still increased:

  • At $0.99: $0.55 / day
  • At $1.99: $0.90 / day

What am I going to do with these results?

Overall the daily revenue is higher with the IAP set at Tier 2 (almost 2/3 higher), so it makes sense to leave it as is.

Additional notes:

  • When users send a reminder using the IAP, there is a small server cost involved. Charging more, per user, for this capability is advantageous
  • Whilst I am biased, I value software, and I think that there is value in this IAP. I prefer the higher price.
  • Although this is un-tested, at this point, I do not think it is worth trying to increase the price further beyond Tier 2.
  • I’ve updated the Reminder+ downloads and sales page. Now that I’ve got additional data for v2.0, comparing the IAP conversion rate with v1.2.2 is more interesting. There older version was better at converting users…

Small numbers

I know that the numbers involved with my app are particularly low. That said, I still think this price experimentation may be of interest to others; in other circumstances the impact of a change could be more meaningful.