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How to optimize your iOS Keyword Field

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How to optimize your iOS Keyword Field

The iOS keyword field is a very important ranking factor for apps on the Apple App Store. It is not visible to users on the app preview page, and is often misused or misunderstood when people first begin to optimize their apps. This is a quick how-to guide with easy tips to make sure you’re using it as well as possible.


So, what is the iOS keyword field?

When you upload your metadata for your iOS app on your App Store Connect you have the option to add ‘Keywords’. These keywords help Apple understand what your app is about and what keywords they should index your app for. The keyword field is hidden and can be up to 100 characters long.

The “keyword” field on an App Store Connect account.

The keyword field is not available for android apps. The Google Play algorithm is more complex than Apple and does not rely on a keyword field to try to understand what your app is about. Instead Google Play looks at the keywords in your app’s title, short description and long description to decide when to index your app.

Read more about the differences between iOS apps and Google Play apps.

7 tips to optimize your keyword field

When choosing keywords, make sure to choose relevant keywords that describe your app or game. Use AppTweak to find those keywords that people might use when searching for your app and consider adding those to your keyword field.

Here are 7 quick and easy tips to make sure that you’re getting the most out of that hidden keyword field.

  • Use only single words and separate each keyword by a comma

For new apps it is very smart to target long-tail keywords as they might be less competitive than very popular general keywords. For example, for a new dating app, it might be easier to rank for the keyword ‘meet new people’ instead of ‘dating’.

separate keywords with commas in your keyword field

‘Meet new people’ has a lower difficult score than ‘dating’. For a new app it might be easier to rank for the less competitive keyword ‘meet new people’

But when adding the keyword to your keyword field, you should separate the words with commas. Instead of adding ‘meet new people’ to your keyword field, add ‘meet,new,people’. The Apple algorithm will automatically make combinations with the different keywords in your keyword field. That means that you will be able to rank for ‘meet people’, ‘new people’ and ‘meet new people’ when separating the words in your keyword field.

In terms of format, the keywords need to be separated by a comma. Avoid adding spaces after each comma, in order not to waste characters.

  • Don’t repeat keywords

Avoid repeating keywords you have added to your title or subtitle. Apple does not take into account density and will not add a higher weight to keywords that are repeated.

  • Use singular keywords in English

In their guidelines, Apple recommends to only add the singular version of a keyword. With this guideline they suggest that an app will automatically rank for the plural version of that keyword. Whereas this might be true in English, we have found this is not always the case in foreign languages.

For example, in France, the game Farmville does rank for ‘animal’ but not ‘animaux’.

rank for plural and singular keywords

Apple recommends to avoid adding he plural of words that you’ve already included in singular form. However, this is not always true for foreign languages such as French.

If you are localizing your app in another language it is recommended to do your research. Have a look at your competitors and find out if they rank for both the singular and plural version of a keyword. If they don’t it could be worth it to add both versions to your keyword field to maximize your ranking chances.

  • Avoid using special characters

Don’t use special characters such as ‘-‘ or ‘@’ or ‘*’ in your keyword field. Apple does not take these characters into account when indexing your app, instead they replace these characters with a blank space. So adding these keywords to your keyword field is just a waste of space.

  • Don’t waste space on “free” keywords

All apps are automatically indexed on a few keywords without having to add them to the metadata. Those are called free keywords and are therefore not worth adding to your metadata (adding them would be a waste of space).

Some of those keywords are: “app”, “free”, “iPhone”, “iPad”, “new”, “best”, the plurals of words (for English at least).

Also the category name is a free keyword which you should not actively target in your metadata according to Apple.

  • Avoid competitor brand names and trademarked terms

Most app developers would love to rank high on their competitors’ brand names and capture part of their downloads. The easiest way to do that would be to add your competitors’ brand names to an app’s metadata.

But Apple does not approve of this practice and can take measures if they notice that trademarked names are being used by other apps. They can go from blocking your app from ranking on that keyword, to removing your app from the store entirely.

However, some brands have generic terms in their brand name and apps can take advantage of the keyword field to try to rank for these keywords. For example, if one of the following app is a competitor: “Dragon City”, “Pizza Factory”, “Guitar Tuner”, you can update your keyword field with the following combinations: ‘dragon,city’, ‘pizza,factory’ or ‘guitar,tuner’. By themselves, these single words are not trademarked words. Apple will then automatically combine these keywords and might rank you for the combinations.

  • When localizing, don’t add English keywords to your keyword field

If your app is available in several countries, you’ve probably (hopefully) localized it by making different versions of your app available in the local languages. An important thing to be aware of is how your keyword field is indexed in those cases.

If you publish a Spanish version of your app for Spain, that Spanish version of your app will be indexed for all the Spanish keywords in its app name, subtitle and keyword field. However, what is less obvious is that your app in Spain will also be indexed on the English keywords in the default keyword field (UK, unless you specifically change it).

This is something important to consider, especially in the countries that are used to incorporating English in their everyday language (which is the case for many languages like French, Dutch or even Arabic in some countries like the UAE). Due to the reason explained above, it is not necessary to add English keywords to your localized keyword field in these countries.


Now you’re ready to take your keyword field optimization to the next level! Don’t wait any longer to dive into an extensive keyword research and analysis.

Check this to learn more about how to find the perfect keywords for your metadata

Once you’ve done that, start updating your app’s metadata!

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