Keyword spamming so rife on App Store even Dropbox is doing it

The effectiveness of keyword spamming on the App Store is leading developers of many apps to change the names of their apps – including those owned by major brands…

Apple commentator John Gruber noticed the trend, and was puzzled by it.

Last week I noticed an update for an app on my iPhone with a name that struck me as odd: “Dropbox: Cloud Photo Storage”. I have long had the regular Dropbox app installed. I also have Dropbox’s Paper app installed. But I never installed nor would install a dedicated photo-storing app from Dropbox.

I quickly determined that this was just the regular Dropbox app. Dropbox has simply renamed it to include “Cloud Photo Storage” in the name for SEO purposes.

Developer Ryan Jones replied, saying that this was now commonplace.

That’s purely for SEO. Companies are even starting to put the keywords before their brand name now. It’s that critical. eg “Photo Cloud Storage – Dropbox”

And indeed, many other apps are doing the same thing: taking a common search term people use when looking for a category of app, and including those keywords in the app name. Dropbox at least did it as a suffix, but as Jones says, many apps are doing it as a prefix, which is even more effective.

Fellow developer Chris Lacy pointed to a very lengthy thread by Jake Mor, explaining the benefits of this. Mor shared 100 tips which had helped him gow an app to $5M in sales in three years.

He starts by recommending the use of keywords for Apple Search Ads.

The key is finding out what keywords yield high intent users, not necessarily running profitable campaigns. ASA makes this possible with keyword attribution. First use @appfigures or @apptweak to make a list of 100-200 related keywords.

Add all these keywords to campaigns and overpay for clicks if you need to. Again, don’t worry about profitability, that isnt the point. Send keyword attribution to @Mixpanel and see which have highest install to paid conversion and 30d retention rates.

But then goes on to recommend using those keywords to rename the app.

Take the top result of #46, and change your app’s title to “Keyword App Name”. For example, “Personal Trainer FitnessAl”.

Use top results 2 through N in your subtitle. Don’t worry about grammar, “weight lifting exercise workout” is fine.

This practice is known as “keyword spamming” or “keyword stuffing.” The worst examples are when an app includes the name of a competing (and popular app) in its name, closely followed by keywords which bear little or no relation to the actual function of the app in question.

What Dropbox and others are doing isn’t as bad as this, but I completely agree with Gruber’s take here. The fact that App Store search is so vulnerable to keyword spamming does suggest that Apple needs to act

I find this unsurprising but depressing. (Mor’s whole thread is a bit depressing.) The App Store should discourage SEO nonsense like keyword spamming, not reward it. I don’t blame developers for using unseemly naming tricks that work; I blame Apple for running a search engine that rewards such chicanery.

Keyword spamming is just as big a pain on stock photography sites, where an annoying number of photographers include every keyword they can think of, irrespective of relevance.

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