Just released your shiny new app on the Shopify App Store? Congratulations! I know how much work goes into new Shopify apps: conceptualizing, designing, building, and the app submission/approval process. Sometimes, by the time the app is ready to release, the developers are already completely exhausted.
But fear not: Shopify has your back. The Shopify App Store is home to thousands of applications, installed tens of thousands of times per day. By being a good App Store Citizen, your app can also enjoy some of that organic traffic - all it takes is some decent keyword strategizing!
So what is Shopify App Store optimization?
It's all about identifying the best keywords to target - and making sure your app ranks highly for those keywords.
For example, if you're building an email marketing app, you would want people searching for "email marketing" to spot your app in the first few search results. It's a great source for free installations.
But it isn't easy.
In this article, I'll share every single tactic the biggest Shopify App Store brands use to position themselves in the first few results of the best keywords on the store.
Ready? Here we go: the full guide for Shopify App Store optimization in 2021!
The first and most important step for Shopify App Store optimization is identifying the correct keywords for which you should be trying to rank. There are several ways to go about this challenge, and I'll detail all of them here.
The most straightforward way to identify good search terms for your Shopify app is to use Shopify's built-in search bar. You'll notice that the search bar behaves in a rather peculiar way: when you start typing something, several search suggestions pop up. Here's what they look like:
These search suggestions are ordered by the search volume. The higher up a suggestion appears, the more people search for it every month! And if a certain keyword or search term doesn't appear at all, it must be a low-volume keyword.
Start typing relevant keywords into the search bar to see if other people are searching for them as well. When a relevant keyword pops up, add it to a dedicated keyword spreadsheet. We'll come back to it later.
One of the best ways to identify keywords with high intent and sufficient volume is by using Shopify App Ads as an exploration tool.
For those who aren't familiar, Shopify App Ads are ads built-in to the Shopify Partner dashboard which allow you to promote your app. To use App Ads, you need to choose a list of keywords and bid on each of those keywords. The higher your bid is, the higher the chance that your ad will get featured - and not one of your competitors'.
Create an ad set and start adding some relevant keywords. You'll notice Shopify itself will begin suggesting additional keywords for you to bid on. Add those to your keyword spreadsheet.
Now's when things get a little trickier - and more expensive. To really get the most out of Shopify App Ads you're going to have to spend a little money to experiment. You'll need to bid somewhere within the Bid Suggestion - the middle is a good bet. Then, you start counting impressions.
If you bid high enough, you'll get exposure to most of the impressions of the keyword you bid on. That'll give you a good estimate for the search volume of that specific keyword.
Another handy way to find strong keywords to promote is by relying on a different search engine entirely: Google. Unlike the Shopify App Store, Google has approximately a bajillion tools that let you estimate search volume. The most reliable is likely Google's own keyword volume forecasting tool, that comes included with Google Ads.
Use the keyword volume forecasts from Google to try out different keywords - just remember to append the word "Shopify". For example, if I'm exploring keywords related to email marketing, I might try:
...and so on. The Google Search Volume will be a good indicator of the search volume for the corresponding keywords on the Shopify App Store.
This tactic is rather straightforward: research your competitors! A surprising number of apps on the Shopify App Store haven't done any optimization - this is evident, for example, by an over-reliance on brand keywords (apps having a nonsensical name as their app title). Having said that, there are quite a few teams building apps for Shopify who've put a lot of thought into optimizing their listing. Try to detect those players in your niche and see what they're focusing on.
Now that you've completed the initial keyword exploration phase, it's time to choose the actual keywords we'll be focusing on. All in all, we need to choose 5 keywords - optimizing for more will be very difficult. How do you choose these 5 keywords? It's a fine line:
On the one hand, you can't go too competitive. Keywords like "email", "SEO" or "Reviews" are bound to be incredibly hard to rank for, as there are many, well-established apps that are already ranking for these keywords.
On the other hand, you can't be too niche. Keywords like "product description generator for SEO" may not get any search volume, and you'll just waste your time optimizing for them.
To start off, let's assume none of the keywords you gathered in Step 1 are too niche. We were looking for keywords that have some proof of search volume in the first place. That leave us with one important trick: we need to find the keywords that aren't too competitive.
This is a fun little trick for determining the difficulty of ranking for any particular keyword quickly. Here's how it works:
Search for the keyword in the Shopify App Store
Scroll until you find the app with the lowest number of 5 star reviews on the first page
Do you have more reviews than that app? If so, you can outrank it. If not, you won't appear on the first page for that keyword - which means you likely won't get any traffic.
So, choose the top 5 keywords from the list you made that are as broad and significant as possible without being too competitive. Next, we'll start editing our app listing.
Just to be completely clear, this article isn't about creating beautiful listings, though that's also critical. This article is about creating listings that are optimized for Shopify App Store search results.
The Shopify ranking algorithm takes into account several different elements of your listing:
Let's dive in.
If possible, your app title & description should include the most relevant keyword for your business.
Keep in mind that according to Shopify's guidelines, your app title must be unique - you can't use a vague app title like "SEO Tools". Having said that, "SEO Monkey" should be fine, because it's a brandable, unique name. If in doubt, I suggest emailing the Shopify support team directly to ensure they're fine with the name you chose.
It's best to have your keywords earlier on in the app title. "SEO Monkey" would rank higher than "Monkey SEO", all else equal.
Your app listing includes room for 5 keywords.
These are incredibly valuable in helping your app rank. Here are some important keyword tips:
One of the nicest things about optimizing app listings for the Shopify App Store is that the store updates in real time as you make changes to your app listing. So, for example, if you decide you want to rank for the "email" keyword, you can add that keyword to your app title and search for email - you'll immediately see if you've made it to the first page.
It's very difficult to improve something you don't measure. That's why you need to make sure you write down every little change you make to your app listing as you make it. That way, over time, you'll be able to see which optimizations worked for you and which haven't — and revert changes that didn't go your way.
Here's my template for tracking changes:
September 10, 2021
App Title: Product Description Magic
App Description: Write ∞ product descriptions, product pages and Google Ads!
App Keywords: Keyword 1 (NEW), Keyword 2 (NEW), Keyword 3, Keyword 4, Keyword 5
It's incredibly simple - but also very helpful in the long run.
If you haven't already, please, PLEASE connect your Shopify listing to Google Analytics. This lets you see exactly which searches people used to find your application on the Shopify App Store. I'll elaborate on this in a future guide.
After you've completed identifying keywords, choosing the right ones, optimizing your listing and making sure you're measuring everything, it's time to wait. I recommend waiting at least 3 days between changes, but longer time periods should be preferred. Nothing indicates successful SASO like actual users installing your app through the app store. So give your listing a few days - until you get enough data - before you make substantial changes.
One incremental improvement that is always worth a try is dropping high-volume keywords and replacing them with less competitive low-volume ones. Ranking higher on the first page can do wonders.
Quite often, you'll find that the changes you made aren't having much of an effect. Don't let that discourage you! Go back to Step 1 and try again. The App Store is huge, and there's plenty of search volume for everyone.
If you need any help, please don't hesitate to reach out. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.