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Cases 13 min read July 11, 2022

The Guide to Keyword Research for Mobile Apps

How to gather semantics to promote a mobile app
Iryna Kocherko
Iryna Kocherko
Junior Project Manager at Choice31
Everyone considering promoting a mobile app wonders how to get to the top of the Google Play or App Store search results. Preferably without spending millions on advertising. Is it realistic in conditions of intense competition? Yes, it is. But now, a separate person in the team is working on this task —the ASO specialist.

In this article, I will tell you how to start your keyword research and reach the top with Serpstat, combining classic SEO and mobile app ranking in Google Play.

Why is it important to optimize the application?

Hundreds of new applications are downloaded daily. There seems to be no single problem for which a program has not been invented. And if in 2008, when the App Store came out, any simple calculator or flashlight could get millions of installations, now there is no free traffic. And you have to delve into analytics and search algorithms to attract an organic audience. The concept of search engine optimization for mobile apps — ASO — comes out of this need.

The main task of the specialist is to attract organic traffic.
How an ASO specialist can influence search algorithms:

  • text optimization (keywords);
  • graphic optimization (graphics, icons, screenshots);
  • social metrics (ratings, reviews).

There are now many software products for optimizing mobile applications. Such as AppFollow, ASOMobile, and others. But working with keywords is always broader and can include any services to collect search terms. Let's look at how you can run keyword research with Serpstat.

Analysis of apps that rank on Google

What is the best source of information for keywords? Google.
Does Google have data on iOS and Android apps? Yes.
Bingo! That means you can use Google to collect and analyze keywords. And here's how:

Find a list of apps

All Android apps can be found at this URL:
And all iOS apps are at this:

Find the keywords that rank for app subdomains

Now let's extract all the keywords by which these subdomains are ranked. I will search for keywords as follows: I go to the tab "Domain Analysis" → "SEO Research" → "Subdomains". In the search box, I enter the domain google.com and check the results.
Subdomains of Google.com, Serpstat report
I find the play.google.com subdomain in the list and go to the keywords that this subdomain ranks for in Google. We get 29.5 million keywords, the top 10 of which include "mail for outlook", "snapchatting", "youtube downloads free" and others.
Google Play best aps
Keywords analysis from the top 10 by play.google.com subdomain
Of course, I could have searched for the play.google.com subdomain right away, but I wanted to show you the process of searching for subdomains (I'll get back to it later).

Focus on the category and keyword

Now let's look more deeply. Let's say I want to run an Android app to learn German, so out of a million results, I am only interested in those that relate to the phrase "German". I set this up in the filters:
Filtering in Serpstat
I'm still not satisfied with the result, because my app is a language-learning guide, not a translator or dictionary. I'll add a few more keyword filters and specify "learn German", "learning German", "self-study German" in the content:
Few filters in Serpstat
So, I got a lot of ideas for keywords that are perfect for my subject matter. The results also have information about the frequency of use of each keyword ("Volume") and the cost per click in U.S. dollars ("CPC").

I can use this information for a more detailed analysis as well. The last column called "URL" has links to applications that rank for a particular keyword.

Use filters to be more specific

To dig even deeper, I'll add some filters. I am interested in applications that:

  • contain in the keyword "learning German";
  • are in the top 10;
  • have a search volume of over 100;
  • cost less than $2 in AdWords.
Important: Be sure to specify a conjunction "AND" if you want the results to take into account all filters simultaneously.
Now I have an idea for Android keywords that I can add to the list and use to promote on Google Play. Thanks to the filters I use, I know for sure that these keywords are inexpensive on AdWords. I can definitely find a useful keyword among them.
Filtering for keywords in Serpstat
Using such filters, Serpstat found 28 ideas for keywords in exact match. Now you can check the volume of queries and find the most suitable variants, with which you can get to the top of Google play.
Result of filtering
I advise you to study in detail the possibilities of all the filters and play with their combination. The logic of the filters is described in more detail here.
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Select promising keywords

Look through each keyword on the list and gather the most appropriate options. Export the spreadsheet in your preferred format and use the results to promote the mobile app.
Export of report in Serpstat
This analysis works for both Android and iOS apps, in the case of page analysis https://www.apple.com/app-store/ or the apps.apple.com subdomain.
URL analysis

How to spy on competitors?

I already have information about which apps are popular on google in my chosen sector. But I will go further; I need to investigate my google-play-SEO to the end :)
I decided to find the websites at the top and collect the keywords worth ranking for.
I will choose a top German-learning app and sample all the keywords its domain uses. But before I do that, I need to answer some questions:

  • What other keywords are used by the competitor?
  • What do they write about on the site?
  • Does the competitor of the top app use similar search terms?
  • Are there keywords that Google rates well that I don't know about?

Serpstat has all the answers :)

Thematic research

I'm going to use a real-life example to illustrate the process. I've chosen two German learning apps that are ranked by Google. Let's say they are learngerman.dw.com and Duolingo.

Search for official competitors' sites

To get information about the selected applications, I go to the Google Play Market page and look for a link to the official site under "developer contact details".

I have two domains to analyze and compare:

  • learngerman.dw.com
  • duolingo.com
Searching for mobile app sites on Google PlayGoogle Play Search

Competitor analysis in Serpstat

Now you can start analyzing your competitors. I will enter each domain and look for its keywords:
Search for competitor keywords with Serpstat
You can use filters again to find the most relevant phrases in Google. To do so, I will apply two filters:

  • keywords that contain "learning German",
  • exclude branded queries.
Serpstat Filters
This gave me a list of more than 38,080 keywords. Now I can explore this list in more detail and choose the most appropriate options for my application.
ШАГ #3

Domain vs Domain

Serpstat allows you to compare keywords of both sites. In addition, it groups common and unique phrases for each domain.

To analyze keywords in organics, I select "Domain Analysis" → "SEO Research" → "Domain vs Domain" from the left menu and enter the domains of the selected sites in the search bar.
Domain vs Domain
Serpstat showed that learngerman.dw.com ranks in the organic with 26.33 thousand keywords, of which 19.89 thousand are unique (which Duolingo doesn't have), and duolingo.com ranks with 1 million, of which 4.45 thousand are common keywords for the two domains.

Common keywords are displayed in the table below by these parameters:

  • the position of each site for a particular keyword;
  • volume (the average number of queries in a search engine keyword per month);
  • the cost of the keyword in AdWords in U.S. dollars;
  • The competition of keyword in contextual advertising in percentage.
Common keywords
In addition to common keywords, Serpstat shows keywords unique to each domain. They can be exported and also used to promote your application.

A tip for contextual advertising

To use the tool to search for keywords in contextual advertising, go to the tab: "Domain analysis" → "PPC Research" → "Keywords".

To study the contextual advertising for the site duolingo.com, I entered the domain into the search box and analyzed the results. If necessary, you can add filters.
Collecting semantics for contextual advertising
Since Serpstat works with Google databases in 230 countries and Bing US, I will search for keywords in local applications.

Duolingo.com has German, English, and Spanish versions of the site. How do I know that? Let's go back to the "Subdomains" tab. I'm not interested in the duolingo.com subdomains themselves, but in the keywords they use to rank in searches. I enter the domain into the search and click on the link on the right to see a list of keywords for the German version of the site.
Searching for the local version of the site in Serpstat
Now I filter and use all the keywords for the desired region. I took the German version of the site, so in order to see all the keywords in German, in the menu of databases, I select the Google search database for Germany:
Search for keywords of competitors on the Google Germany database in Serpstat
If you want, you can go further: find Spanish keywords and their combinations, apply filters to them, sort and do the same with other languages and regions.

But I'll stop here and summarize :)

A checklist on how to find keywords for a mobile app:

Analyze with Serpstat play.google.com subdomain or URL prefix for https://www.apple.com/app-store
Set up filters to select keywords on topics of interest.
Find the official sites of competitors, analyze their keywords by domains using filters.
Find common and unique keywords of your competitors using the Domain vs Domain tool.
Analyze the keywords of competitors in contextual advertising.
Find a foreign version of a competitor's site, analyze their domain and filter the acquired keywords.
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