App Store Search Engine: How to Make it Work for You

July 20th, 2019

App Store Search Engine: How to Make it Work for You
Anh Nguyen

by Anh Nguyen

COO & Co-Founder at Gummicube, Inc

While App Store Optimization (ASO) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are not the same, they both require an understanding of how their respective search engines work. In the case of ASO, it utilizes the App Store search engine – in fact, 70% of app discovery happens thanks to the store’s search. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the App Store search engine and understand how to fully utilize it for your ASO.

How App Store Search Works

As with any good search engine, App Store Search is intuitive and provides suggestions. When a user goes to the App Store, the Search button is located at the bottom right of the screen. Tapping on it immediately presents users with a list of trending search topics based on what’s popular and the user’s download history.

When the user begins typing in their query, the search engine suggests potential keywords or app names that could complete their query. These suggestions can begin from the first letter but get more specific as the user types more. For instance, simply typing “F” will instantly pull up suggestions for “faceapp,” “four go” and “Fortnite,” which can then turn into suggestions for “Facebook” and “Facetime” as the query gets more specific.

This is one reason why brand recognition is beneficial for an app. Often times it’s app brands that show up early in the suggestions, so apps with widespread name recognition can be discovered through App Store search before the user even finishes entering their query.

After hitting “Search,” the user is taken to a list of results the app finds relevant to the query. The apps here are listed by their keyword rankings for the term the user is searching for, which is why keyword ranking is so valuable for App Store Optimization.

However, the first app in the results will be the app that wins its Apple Search Ads bid for that keyword. While this is marked as an ad, it’s still the first app users see in the search results, even above the top-ranked app or story.

Apps with lower keyword rankings are still in the search results, but users will have to scroll to see them. The lower an app is in the search results, the more likely it is that users will see another app that meets their needs beforehand.

How Users Search

Users typically search on the App Store for brand names or specific features. While web search may include questions or transactions, like “Why are tickets so expensive” or “Buy tickets online,” mobile searches are shorter and more feature-based. Users might instead search for “ticket app,” or a specific app like “Ticketmaster.”

The App Store search engine is designed to find apps based off those short keywords and phrases. Apps wanting to improve their visibility and keyword rankings within searches need to target those short terms and improve their rankings for them.

How Keywords are Indexed

Several factors go into an app’s keyword indexation, but some of the most important things to remember are keyword declarations, relevance and click-through rate (CTR).

Developers need to declare their keywords. They can do this in the 30-character title, 30-character subtitle and 100-character keyword bank. This tells the App Store’s algorithm that these are the keywords they want the app to index for, so it begins determining relevance.

If an app is relevant for the keywords, it will begin to index for them. Declaring a keyword does not automatically earn it a place in the search results – the App Store algorithm needs time to determine that the keyword is relevant and index it. For instance, a botany app targeting “tax returns” as a keyword is unlikely to rank for that term, since it is entirely irrelevant.

The app’s CTR and conversions plays a large role in determining its keyword rankings. If users see your app in a search for a keyword and they click on it, this indicates to the App Store that the app is both relevant to the keyword and engaging with users. If they convert and download the app, that’s another endorsement for the store. As more users click on and install the app, its rankings grow for the keywords they’re searching for when they see the app.

While this is a basic overview of the App Store search engine, it’s an important foundation for App Store Optimization. Understanding how the search engine works, how users search on it and how apps can improve their rankings creates a strong foothold for an app’s optimization and can give developers the knowledge they need to begin optimizing.

Want more information regarding App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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