What Makes A Successful App Store Name?

July 28, 2014

You can find an update of this blog post here


I was recently discussing app names in the App Store with a fellow app developer. I'm not talking about that awesome 4 letter name with no vowels that you spent three weeks debating and looking up domain names. I'm talking about the name you choose to show at the top of the app store.

Only Apple knows exactly how the search algorithms work, but it's widely agreed that the app name gives us the opportunity to sneak in a few more keywords and help sell our app.

Some examples are:

  • Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine
  • Minecraft - Pocket Edition
  • SoundCloud: music & audio - discover and stream songs, artists, podcasts and news
  • TracknShare - A universal life management diary tracker to journal, track, analyze, improve & share chronic health symptoms, such as pain and sleep, my work life, food, weight, wellness & the Quantified Self.

You get up to 255 characters on iTunes, and some developers manage to use every last one of them, a skill in itself.

However, many products are big enough to just use their name like Twitter, Vine, Facebook, Pinterest etc.

Some products choose to just add their main keyword Spotify Music, Pandora Radio etc.

So what do the top ranking apps do?

Names

I looked at the top 200 apps in each category for both paid and free iPhone apps, 8400 apps in total.

App Name Stats

Although some developers use up to 49 words (and all 255 characters), the majority are around 4-5 words (24-35 characters).

Around one third of apps use a delimiter / separator like 'Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine'.

Word Count

Looking at the distribution of word counts it looks similar to what our median revealed above, most apps are using 1-5 words.

App Word Count

Character Count

Character Count

Most people will only see up at ~30 characters (depending on the wrapping) in your name when viewing it on an iPhone, so it's not suprising that most apps try and stay within this limit. You only get a maximum of 30 characters on Google Play.

Truncated

Keywords

Next I looked at the main words that are used in the names.

Keywords

Words you would expect like Free, Pro, Weather, Calculator etc appear often.

The one that jumped out at me as suprising was 'tracker', but sure enough there are a lot of tracker apps in the top charts.

Tracker

Another one that surprised me was just how many third party Instagram apps there are.

Instagram

Other popular apps like Minecraft (my son has probably downloaded all of these), Facebook and Youtube are also heavily targeted.

Words vs Ranking

Unfortunately there is no magic bullet, there's no clear stand out about what works when you look at the number of words against ratings.

Words Rating

My Tips

As expected there are no easy ways to the top of the charts. However, using a name around 4-5 words long gives us the oportunity to sell our story, not look too spammy and sneak in a few more keywords.

My Tips:

  • Pick a name that looks authoritive. Using 255 characters doesn't make me think you are the number one app for the job.
  • Don't add too many words, stick with 2-7.
  • Use your name to tell us your story, why should I download it?
  • Pick a name that grabs my attention without seeing the icon or screenshots.

Looking through the top charts I picked out a few apps I thought were named really well.

Tell your app name to a stranger and ask if they know what it does. If they look at you like you're a complete idiot because it's so obvious you're on a winner.

What's Next

Next I am looking into app store descriptions, icons and screenshots, join the mailing list below to get the details first.

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