Incipia blog

Key Learnings in App Store Optimization #2

Gabe Kwakyi | July 14, 2016

Feature image credit: Apple (Skyfit app listing)

Our Key Learnings in ASO series continues, today with a few more app listing elements that you can optimize to improve your ASO performance, including two new areas where keywords in your app listing can be ranked from, writing an effective description and what's new section and using a trick for ranking more keywords in the US.

Four places for ranking keywords on iOS:

There are four known places in your app listing that Apple pulls keywords for search ranking - while most people know that the title and keywords space, there are two more locations: your developer name and in app purchases.; Apple does not pull keywords from user reviews or the description. 

In app purchases will rank in keyword searches, but only if the name of the in app purchase is an exact match for the keyword searched (as pointed out by Laurie Galazzo of Apptweak). See the

Additionally, the title is around twice as effective as your keywords space at ranking keywords in high positions, similar to how the title tag in is the best place for ranking keywords in SEO (though keywords in SEO are much less effective than those in an iOS app listing). While you do have 255 characters to use for your title, be aware that Apple's reviewers have grounds to reject apps with long titles or that otherwise include "descriptors or keywords." As mentioned in the last ASO Key Learnings post, keeping your title below 100 characters is a good practice to reduce the risk that your title will be rejected.

in app purchases ranks for searches

Here, we see Skyft's in app purchase "unlimited on-demand classes" returns their app in a store search.


Image credit: Apple App Store (Skyfit app listing and app store search)

App Description & What's New

Your app’s description is an important piece of the app listing for a few reasons:

Everyone who clicks into your app product page and scrolls slightly down to see the description will see the first five lines of your full description, with the option to "read more." This means that what you say in those first several lines of your description is a key determinant in influencing a user’s decision to try another app, download yours or continue to read your full description; and users seldom click to read the full description at that.

That said, there is always a subset of users who will read your entire description, just like there will always be a subset of users who will scroll to the 3rd-5th screenshots. While these segments of potential new users are small, if you spend some time crafting a good full description and 3rd-5th screenshots you can capture these indecisive, incremental users. 

splitmetrics app AB test

Image credit: Splitmetrics (showing % of users who click "read more" in an AB test)

Google extracts keywords from each app's Google Play long description (up to 4,000 characters), meaning that the long description will in part determine which keywords your app ranks for. Using fewer than 4,000 characters can leave potential downloads on the table. Many app marketers use the latter half of the description to add keywords, but be careful not to stuff keywords (Google’s Play Store algorithm evolved from and is adept at sniffing out keyword stuffing) - we’ve found that using a keyword that doesn’t naturally flow with the content more than twice doesn’t produce any continued impact to ranking. Consider using a “how our app works” or FAQ section to insert keywords in a natural and relevant fashion.

One tip for iOS apps is to create a different description for both iOS and Android users, with your iOS version stripped of any non-natural keywords added for ranking purposes, and also speaking specifically to iOS users and their wants/needs.

Here are some tips from our experience that can help craft a winning description:
  1. First 5 lines:
    1. Hook (we have x number of users or we are top ranked in category x in y countries)
    2. Straightforward, short description (2-3 lines, not convoluted and easy to skim)
  2. 1-2 user reviews or PR quotes
  3. More in-depth how your app works (3-5 lines)
  4. Bulleted feature list (try to keep each feature to one line in horizontal width)
  5. FAQ
  6. Support/feedback contact information
The "what's new" section is also a good place to optimize. This section is visible for iOS users after the collapsed/expanded description, and more prominently for Android users just below the short description. While this section is reserved for indicating to users what has changed in the latest app version, given its prominent location it can also be a place to market tactfully to potential new users. For example, add a brief comment on your commitment to continued improvement, your app's awards/accolades or how many improvements you've made in total to the app, in addition to listing new features/upgrades.

waze ios app product page

Image credit: Apple App Store (Waze app product page)

PS - did you know that you can modify your iOS description and “what’s new” elements between builds?

Spanish Keywords Trick

Lastly, there is the Spanish keywords trick - while it’s not wise to abuse this fact, Apple will pull keywords (even those in English) from the Mexican Spanish keywords space in order to rank your app in the United States; this is because there are over 50 million Spanish speakers in the United States.

That's all for now folks! Thanks for reading - stay tuned to the Incipia blog or subscribe to our email list for more app store optimization tips, tricks and hacks.

Incipia is a mobile app development and marketing agency that builds and markets apps for companies with a development speciality in high quality code architecture and keyword-based marketing optimizations. For blog/video or speaking requests, business or press inquiries please contact us at