I Studied the Top 500 App Store Keywords So You Wouldn’t Have To

This article was originally published on the TUNE blog. Branch acquired the TUNE Attribution Analytics product in September 2018, and we have republished select pieces of content for the enjoyment of Branch customers. This post was written by John Koetsier, formerly of TUNE.

People love Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Kik is really hot. And, if you want to win search on the App Store or Google Play, you’d better be prepared to do a lot of digital marketing.

Because 90% of the top keywords are branded terms.

Search still matters, and ranking still matters, tremendously. But awareness, knowledge, and intent formed outside of the App Store now clearly matter too. 

Top keywords are almost all branded

That means that someone heard about your app or your company somewhere other than the App Store. And that means you’d better be a bloody good marketer … not just an app store optimizer.

Most of the top keywords are branded terms: either a company name, or an app name, or a combination of both, like “facebook messenger.” And there’s a clear progression. As the search terms get more and more popular — and more and more valuable — they are increasingly owned by brands.

Keywords: how many are brands?

  • Top 500: 58.4%
  • Top 400: 60.75%
  • Top 300: 68.33%
  • Top 200: 80.5%
  • Top 100: 86%
  • Top 50: 90%
  • Top 25: 92%
  • Top 10: 100%
Top keywords are owned by top companies

The top keywords are also overwhelming owned by big companies and big, well-funded startups. We’re talking the Amazons, Facebooks, Googles, Sonys, and Netflixes of the world. They’re beating out small, younger companies, only a few of which appear in the top 50 branded search terms. 100% of the top ten branded keywords are from major corporations and huge startups — and so are 88% of the top 50 branded search terms.

Counter-examples include Life On Air, which makes the breakout hit Houseparty, and Flipagram, if you count a startup with a $70M funding round and a possible $300M valuation as smaller and younger.

One interesting point that might provide an ASO in for younger, nimble competitors: app searchers often use keywords sets. For example, people will search for lose it, loseit, and lose it app. Another example: lucid, lucid dream, and lucid dreaming. The biggest set of keywords that I found was for Keepsafe, which keeps photos private. Potential users search for keep, keep safe, keep safe pictures, and keepsafe … almost like people are trying the minimum, and working their way up.

Keyword sets: examples

  • advent, adventure quest, adventure time, adventure time games
  • lose it, loseit, and lose it app
  • lucid, lucid dream, and lucid dreaming
What does this mean for app marketers?

Gabe Kwakyi, co-founder and chief marketer of app developer Incipia, says that this means app discovery is in big trouble.


“The implications are that ads are more important for scaling,” he told me via Slack. “You can’t count on capturing branded position to the same degree as non-brand, and especially if you don’t have tremendous volume prior to attempting to do so.”

In addition, while app store optimization is still tremendously important, discovery outside of the app store has clearly become even more important. That’s search, social, public relations and news mentions, advertising, influencer marketing, email, and the whole gamut of marketing channels.

The implication is obvious.

There will soon be no more “app marketers.” There are just marketers, some of whom focus on apps.

Yes, the ad networks, techniques, data requirements, and speed of market are all still somewhat different. But ultimately, app marketers need to be strong marketers, period. Building a brand, making a name, and telling a compelling story are becoming just as important for app marketing as big brand marketing.

Mobile marketing vs marketing on mobile

Which does not mean that mobile is not important, of course.

In fact, mobile is most important. It’s where your customers and prospects spend the majority of their digital time.

That’s why mobile is not a channel, anymore. Now, mobile is the ecosystem within which all the other traditional digital marketing channels — email, web, apps, SMS, social, etc. — live. In other words, the Venn diagram showcasing the overlap between “mobile marketing” and “marketing” is getting more and more overlapped.

Top 100 App Store keywords, by search volume
Rank Search Term
1 snapchat
2 instagram
3 facebook
4 youtube
5 kik
6 twitter
7 tinder
8 messenger
9 pandora
10 netflix
11 spotify
12 google
13 uber
14 whatsapp
15 amazon
16 mario
17 bitmoji
18 games
19 lyft
20 8 ball pool
21 pokemon go
22 pinterest
23 tumblr
24 vpn
25 super mario
26 free games
27 grindr
28 minecraft
29 skype
30 facebook app for iphone
31 fam
32 gmail
33 clash royale
34 google maps
35 roblox
36 soundcloud
37 chrome
38 facebook messenger
39 flipagram
40 house party
41 clash of clans
42 candy crush
43 photo editor
44 shazam
45 uber app
46 waze
47 pof
48 bumble
49 ebay
50 google docs
51 meet me
52 viber
53 trivia crack
54 wish
55 pic collage
56 venmo
57 google drive
58 episode
59 text free
60 snap chat
61 angry birds
62 groupon
63 imo
64 imovie
65 hulu
66 music
67 telegram
68 starbucks
69 kik messenger
70 amazon prime
71 calculator
72 color switch
73 dropbox
74 elf yourself
75 heads up
76 hooked
77 paypal
78 oovoo
79 pokemon
80 tango
81 subway surfers
82 text now
83 instasize
84 words with friends
85 yahoo mail
86 group me
87 games for free
88 hotspot shield
89 likes for instagram
90 quizlet
91 solitaire
92 vine
93 the weather channel
94 walmart
95 weather
96 video editor
97 picsart
98 qq
99 chase
100 after school