Is App Store Related Search an ASO Success Story?

I was curious with the rest of you when related search began appearing above my results in the App Store. Some of the keywords the App Store suggested made sense, others did not. Regardless, my first thought tied back to their use in App Store optimization.

Apple’s search algorithm is closely guarded, while not completely secret. While some areas of ASO are left in others’ hands (downloads, reviews, etc.), keywords are the most influential search ranking tool a developer has in their ASO arsenal.

Figuring out which keyword to include with your iTunes listing takes time. There are the obvious keywords and the obscure others that services like Google Keyword tool or MobileDevHQ can help determine. But none are a guarantee to download heaven; they only can help improve your odds. That’s why App Store related search was so exciting. Somewhere in Apple’s algorithm these terms must correlate to the primary term, which means there are downloads to be had there. But I also had some skepticism.

Related Search Research

In late June, I was close to releasing a new version of Winery Passport. Along with the new version, I wanted to test a mixture of keywords I ranked well for already, as well as some of the related terms associated with those keywords.

When I did an App Store search for “wine,” some of the keyword that showed up were: “sonoma,” “food magazines” and “local food.” There was also “games for adults.” I grabbed the three aforementioned keywords, only using “food” once, of course.

A look-up of "winery" displayed related search terms, such as "Sonoma" and "Food Magazine."My next search was for “winery.” This time I was returned “sonoma,” “food magazines, “monterey” and “lexington.” The first two were also tied to “wine,” so I felt pretty good there. But three city-specific keywords? That was really interesting.

I kept this routine going for a couple minutes, drilling down by searching the related keywords to close any loops. For instance, when I searched “sonoma,” the results included “sonoma wine” and “food magazines,” both also part of my “wine” and “winery” searches.

Related Search Results

Out of the 16 keywords I submitted Winery Passport version 3.5 with, eight were discovered through App Store related terms. I felt as if that was a healthy enough portion to judge this experiment on.

The results, however, were less encouraging. For the three weeks after the latest Winery Passport was in the App Store, downloads decreased 33 percent. To me, this was huge, especially during the summer months when winery tours are most popular.

I’ve since submitted Winery Passport version 3.6 to the App Store. They keywords have been updated to include most of the ones I used to rely on. If I see a spike back up to the download level I was at in June, I’ll be able to point more definitively at the negative effect of using many related keywords.

While I think related keywords should be part of your ASO keyword research, it’s not going to pave the way to download gold. The larger value is seeing how people are searching, especially the use of longtail keywords. It’s long been thought that search is shorter on mobile devices. Clearly, if enough people are searching for “games for adults,” that’s not always the case.


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  1. 1

    You are right Scott, same happened with me. When I used some keywords got from related search results in iTunes the updated version downloads decreases to 40%. Couldn’t figure out Why??

  2. 2
    Scott Stanchak

    Strange, right? You would think there would be some correlation. I’ve since updated the keywords, but am still in review. Interested to see the download difference over the next couple weeks.

  3. 3

    What were the results of your update back to the original keywords Scott? Any definitive findings?

  4. 4
    Scott Stanchak

    Hey, Kilian. My download numbers have been higher than when I didn’t use the related keywords. It’s probably worth doing another test in the coming months now that iOS 8 is on more devices.

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