How to Optimize your App Store Listings

July 27, 2015

7:00 pm

Mobile has exploded in the number of devices, the number of apps, the time spent in apps, the billions of dollars transacted. Companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook have become mostly mobile companies, and continue to compete and partner and push mobile forward.

But how is everyone finding mobile apps among the millions in either app store? Optimizing your app for app store search is not only the most common way apps are discovered and downloaded, but also delivers the highest quality users. Acquiring relevant users should be the goal of any app store optimization effort. To find them, we need to focus on optimizing our app for discovery and conversion.

You can help your target market find, download and use your app by focusing on optimizing your app store listings.

Understanding App Indexing and Discoverability

Apple and Google Play index apps differently. They both use variables that you, the publisher, developer or marketer, control and some elements you don’t, like app ratings and download velocity.

Google Play’s indexing of apps works much like SEO, crawling the app title and description fields to determine what searches in their app store are relevant to your app. Alternatively, Apple crawls your app name, but uses a declared keyword bank where publishers have the opportunity to state their targeted keywords.

Of all searches in the app stores, 80% are phrases with a focus on features related to the type of application that users are searching for. Since mobile features differ from features that you may apply in a web environment among similar categories, you can see how the platforms skew very differently.

Optimizing your listing should start with defining your target audience and the keywords, phrases and features it’s using to search for in apps like yours. Your “keyword bucket” should target relevant phrases used by your audience to search the app stores. With your “bucket” of keywords, we can start building better app store listings.

Apple App Store Listing – Name, Keywords and Description

App Name

A typical optimized App Title follows the format of “App Name – #1 feature  + #2 feature”.

Think of the features your target market will be searching for in the App Store and what your app offers. Is your app a photo editor? Start by listing your App Name and adding a tag like “photo editor” or other things you wish to highlight.

Identifying core features in your App Name will greatly impact how your app is indexed and will play a huge role in converting views to installs.


The keywords field is unique to Apple and is used to index your app, but is not visible in the App Store or iTunes.

  • Apple provides 100 characters to work with – no need for spaces – separate words with commas
    • Example:  I,am,showing,readers,how,to,format,apple,keywords
  • Target phrases, but enter keywords individually
    • Example:  for the above – your app would be indexed for “How to format”, “Apple Keywords”, “format keywords apple”


While Apple uses an app’s description for indexing, the bigger role of the description is to establish context for your app to both an app reviewer and potential user. A great way to demonstrate keyword relevance is by reinforcing the strengths of your app. Talk about your features and provide a clear call to action early.

Apple reviews each app manually and relies on the app description for determining the validity of keywords used in your app name and keywords field. If you are targeting words that don’t appear in a 4,000 character description field, Apple may reject the offending keywords and remove any chance of ranking or your overall App Store ranking.

Google Play App Listing – App Title, Short Description, Long Description

App Title

Where Apple allocates 255 characters for an app’s name, Google limits title characters to 30.

Your app title should include your brand or app name, and your most important feature.

Short Description

The short description is a field unique to Google Play Store app listings and significantly impacts how your app is indexed.

Keywords that are used where the space is most constrained are understood to be more important.  Your most important target keyword(s) goes in your 30 character app title, and the next most important targets should go in your 80 character short description.

If you used a core feature or phrase target in your app title, the short description provides 80 characters to introduce additional features using targeted keywords and phrases strategically throughout.

Long Description

Google allocates 4,000 characters for the long description. While it is not weighted like the app title and short description, Google determines the keywords your app will rank for almost entirely from the structure and keywords used in your long description.

This is where Google’s indexing looks a lot like traditional SEO, except matched for Google Play store search rather than web search.

App Creatives – icon, screenshots and more

Apple and Google’s app store listing requirements start to converge again on design elements.

App Icon

Your app icon plays a huge role in attracting your target audience to your app, and converting them. Running icons through A/B testing will help narrow down what icon would help conversion.

Leverage your brand if it’s identifiable, communicate basic features if possible and consider the user experience by comparing how your app icon looks next to others in search results.

App Screenshots

The focus of screenshots should be conversion. Highlight app functionality by trending phrases, prioritizing the most sought after or differentiating features.

To Recap

You can promote your app organically by putting a focus on app store optimization. Your app store optimization effort should focus on both discovery and conversion. Use app store data and focus groups to determine how users are searching the app stores, and which creatives work best for your target audience.Optimization is not a “set and forget” strategy. App store search algorithms evolve, how and what the market searches for in the app stores change. App store listing optimization is a long-term strategy that delivers long-term, dependable results.

Image Credit: Flickr/Garry Knight


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Dave Bell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gummicube. Dave is a pioneer of the mobile entertainment industry with more than 15 years of experience publishing, marketing and distributing mobile applications and games across carrier, direct to consumer and app store channels.

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