What is Keyword Difficulty and How Does it Affect App Store Rank

App Store Optimization (ASO) involves your keyword strategy and, thus, app store visibility. As an app developer or marketer, you want to implement keywords that will maximize your app impressions and downloads. However, knowing if your app will rank for the keywords you put into your app store listing can become muddy. That’s where keyword difficulty comes in. Our team at App Radar calculates difficulty to let you know how easy or how challenging it will be for your app to rank for specific keywords.

Read on to find out more about keyword difficulty and how it affects your app store rankings.

What is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword difficulty tells you how easy or challenging it will be for your app to rank for keywords. The values range from 1-100, with:

  • 1 being extremely easy to rank for and
  • 100 being extremely challenging to rank for.

In App Radar, you can see the keyword difficulty for every tracked keyword.

Keyword difficulty values can be found in App Radar ASO tool
Keyword difficulty values can be found in App Radar

How Does Keyword Difficulty Affect Your App Store Ranking

We’re going to use the same example we used in the previous post: What is Keyword Popularity. So you have a travel app that allows users to find, book, and check into hotels. You’ve added the following keywords to your App Radar account.

  • Hotel
  • Booking
  • Travel
  • Find hotels
  • Book hotels
  • Cheap hotels
  • Luxury hotels
  • Vacation
  • Travel planning
Track keywords in App Radar ASO Tool to see difficulty values
Track keywords in App Radar to see difficulty values

Notice that for every keyword, the difficulty value is higher than 50. Notably, the keyword, “travel,” has a difficulty of 100. So “travel” is going to be hard to rank for. But if your app is new, the other keywords are also hard to rank for.

What can you do now?

Begin by Finding Lower Difficulty Keywords

When your app is relatively new or is not yet ranking for many keywords, it’s better to start implementing lower difficulty keywords. The more relevant keywords you rank for, the easier it will be for you to rank for the higher difficulty keywords. So, let’s get some new keyword ideas for your travel app.

The more relevant keywords you rank for, the easier it will be for you to rank for the higher difficulty keywords.

Looking at Competitors for App Keyword Ideas

One of the ways to find new keyword ideas is to see which keywords your competitors are using. You can discover this by going to Competitors → Rankings in App Radar. If you don’t have an App Radar account yet, you can create one for free here.

See which app keywords your competitors are ranking for with the App Radar app store optimization tool
See which app keywords your competitors are ranking for

Then track the keywords that are relevant to your app.

We’re going to add the following keywords we found from competitors such as Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb, and HotelTonight.

  • Bookings
  • Hotel room
  • Vacations
  • Hotel finder
  • Last minute hotel
  • Book a hotel

Using AI Recommendations for App Keyword Ideas

Another way to find new keyword ideas is to use the AI Recommendations feature in App Radar.

Our AI analyzes your app and currently tracked keywords to determine new keyword ideas. You can reject keywords or track them to train the AI. We’re going to track “travel deals” and “hotel booking.”

AI-Recommended keywords from App Radar app store optimization tool
AI-Recommended keywords from App Radar

Check the Difficulty on Your New Keyword Ideas

So now that we’ve gathered some new keyword ideas, we can go back to the Keyword Tracking feature to see what the difficulty values are for these new keywords.

Track keywords in App Radar app store optimization tool to see keyword popularity, keyword difficulty, and app store rank
Track keywords in App Radar to see popularity, difficulty, and app store rank

Our new keywords have given us some gems. We now have a couple of long-tail keywords that are below a difficulty of 60. These are your achievable keywords, keywords you’re more likely to rank for. For example, “last minute hotel” has a difficulty of 48, “hotel finder” has a difficulty of 54, and “book a hotel” has a difficulty of 49.

You now have an excellent jumping-off point to discover more achievable keywords.

When to Start Using Higher Difficulty Keywords

If you begin with only high difficulty keywords, you’ll hurt your app store ranking and overall ASO. That’s because your chances of ranking for those keywords are quite low. And because you have character limits for each app metadata field, you don’t want to be wasting the space on keywords you don’t have an opportunity to rank for.

It’s okay and more than recommended to begin by first building up rank power. First, aim to rank for keywords with difficulties of 10-50. Once you start ranking for a good group of these easier keywords, you can start going after the more challenging ones.

The app stores will give you a ranking boost when you’re already ranking for a set of good keywords.

Keyword Difficulty Goes Hand in Hand with Keyword Popularity

Keyword difficulty is not the only factor that affects whether you’ll rank for a particular keyword. Popularity is also another value you have to follow.

To learn more about keyword popularity, check out this ASO Academy post: What is Keyword Popularity and Why it’s Crucial to Your ASO Strategy

In the next post, we’ll talk about how to choose keywords by looking at both popularity and difficulty together.

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