How To SEO For Apple’s App Store

If you still think mobile SEO is only about WAP pages and the mobile web, you may have been living under a rock since July 10, 2008, when Apple launched their App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch. This week they announced their 1 billionth App download, and many out-of-work programmers are wondering how to become the next App Store millionaire.

In the new world of digital content optimization (also called digital asset optimization by some) content can and should be optimized to make it more visible on many popular platforms, including Apple’s App Store. The few articles that I’ve seen on App Store SEO seem to focus on more black hat techniques like keyword stuffing with unrelated keywords, but there are white hat ways to get your content to the top of Apple’s App Store search engine as well. Here are a few:

Make an interesting App that doesn’t violate Apple’s guidelines. This may go without saying, but given how much attention is paid to indexing in traditional SEO, it really needs to be said. In order to be indexed in the App Store it is necessary to create an app that follows Apple’s legal and content guidelines, some of which are listed in their developer center, prior to submitting the App. At some point Apple may be more transparent on what can and cannot be included in the App Store, but until that day comes it’s helpful to review some of the reasons they’ve given for other rejected Apps, such as the notorious “Babyshaker” app this week. Once you’ve made it into the App Store, follow the next nine steps to make your interesting app visible, and you could end up promoted by Apple in television commercials, and eventually listed as one of the most downloaded apps of all time.

Keep an eye on the Top 50. Apple makes no secret which of its applications are most popular. Savvy app developers can understand what types of content are popular among app store users simply by browsing the top 50 apps in iTunes on a regular basis. Having similar or better content than a popular iPhone app could help the app piggyback off of traffic for a related app. Though it’s sure to change, here are keywords for some of the most popular apps in the App Store’s internal search on April 24, 2009. Understanding what keywords and content Apple is trying to promote can help marketers get a sense of whether the app that they’re building will make the top 50 eventually.

Integrate Facebook Connect. Facebook has consistently been one of the most popular Apps in the App Store since it first appeared. By integrating Facebook Connect into its iPhone app, the popular Scrabble application now appears in searches for Facebook, which is most likely a very popular search term in the App Store. By making your app social with Facebook Connect, you’re helping to make the app viral, while aligning your content with what is historically one of the most popular apps in the store. For certain apps (like Brickbreaker), just mentioning their Facebook fan page is enough to get them included in the search results.

Use keywords in the app name. The name of the app is the title tag of App Store apps—perhaps the most important on-page ranking factor of the App Store search engine. Users entering the keyword “fun” in the app store search box will find a tip calculator listed prominently among the other apps that are apparently fun. Is this because the tip calculator is inherently more fun than Bejeweled 2, Catcha Mouse or the other popular game apps that are listed below it? It’s more likely that the tip calculator is listed because it included the keyword “fun” in the name of the app. If developers think their application is also fun, they can alert the search engine to this fact by placing the keyword in the name of the app, and help themselves appear higher in the search results for informational queries.

app store search fun

Encourage users to write reviews. Popularity seems to be a big component of visibility in the App Store, and that includes user reviews. I don’t know how big a role they play in the ranking algorithm of the search engine, but some have noticed that developers are gaming reviews in order to be more visible in the App Store. White hats can participate in this as well. Wherever you promote your app, mention high user ratings and encourage people who download the app to write reviews.

Mention popular related apps in body copy. Some less scrupulous marketers have seen the value of keyword stuffing in promoting apps, but this can be done in an ethical way as well. If there is a popular app that is relevant to your app, mentioning it in the copy will help your app show up for navigational searches for those popular apps, thus increasing visibility for relevant searches.

Use old-style keyword density in body copy. The App Store search engine is not a Google killer, meaning it seems to be fairly unsophisticated in how it ranks content, in a way that’s similar to the search engines that existed before Google. In some cases, having the keyword in the name of the developer appears to help rankings considerably on some fairly competitive phrases. The rule for white hats is still to write for users, not just users of search engines, but it helps to be aware of your keyword use. Don’t overuse the keyword, but “overuse” for Google and “overuse” for the App Store are clearly two different things entirely. Liberal keyword usage will not hurt you in the App Store at present, so don’t be afraid to make it clear (without spamming) which keywords your app is relevant for.

Promote the App with your web content. If you have a web presence with a lot of traffic, an email list, a Twitter following or paid search campaign, by all means use them to promote your app. Popularity is really the key to visibility in this app store, so the more opportunities you have to make a user aware of your app the better. Link directly to the app in the iTunes store from your home page and a separate app page on your site and make it easy for the user to download for quick conversion.

Offer a lite version of a paid app. When looking at the keyword frequency of the 228 unique keywords in the App Store search suggest today, by far the most popular were “lite” and “free”. Many developers are offering no-cost versions of their paid apps and calling them “lite.” This allows users to get some exposure to the app before committing to a purchase, and allows marketers to get in front of a potential consumer they wouldn’t have reached otherwise. If you have a lite app, use the words “free” and “lite” in the name and description of the site to get more exposure to your brand. This also gives marketers one more listing when someone is searching for relevant but not branded content.

Alert relevant communities. Popularity is almost everything in the App Store, and if you have a great app that you think people will like, waiting for people to find it in the App Store is not ideal. Along the same lines as encouraging users to write reviews, marketers can find many communities devoted to iPhone Apps that can help spread the word, including these eight:

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: SEO | SEO: Mobile Search


About The Author: is the SEO Director at Vivid Seats, is an SEO veteran with more than 14 years experience both agency and in-house, and is a thought leader in permission marketing as a columnist and a frequent speaker on SEO and mobile marketing.

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