Yelp is going to HATE me for doing this!

Do you think that App Store Optimization is dead?

Are you questioning if ASO is the right growth strategy for you?

Well some of the biggest companies in the world are now using ASO to increase rankings and grow downloads.

Today we’re going to take a look at Yelp’s ASO strategy, because I’m a huge fan of the service and while they’ve done a good job of ASO, I still see room for improvement.

Disclosure: Yelp is not a client of ours. We are using public data provided by App Annie, Mobile Action and Sensor Tower to make certain assumptions. However, our recommendations for Yelp are based on our proven ASO strategies.

History

For as long as I can remember Yelp has always used “Yelp” in their app name. However in November 21, 2016, Yelp decided to get into the ASO game and rename their app name to “Yelp: The Best Local Food, Drinks, Services & More”.

Before they renamed their app you can see that the app was hovering around 40 to 50 free overall in the top US Free Apps charts.

After the rename you could see the bump in ranks as they are now in the mid to low 30’s. Now I don’t have the data from Yelp to see the impact on downloads but what I can see from public data on AppAnnie is that they saw a significant increase in ranks which can only mean that their downloads must have also improved.

yelp_nov282016_v3

Let’s now take a look at their keyword rankings.

I’m only looking at the keywords that are in the app name to give you a sense of the power of ASO.

yelp_kwranks_nov212016

As you can see before the optimization they were ranking #6 for “restaurants” and #4 for “local food”. This is most likely due to the fact that they had these keywords in their keyword field.

This is attributed to the power of the brand. Without even having either keyword in their app name (which has more weight on the rankings), Yelp was able to rank in the top 10 for very competiive terms.

Also before the name change, they were not ranking at all for “drinks” or “services”.

Here’s what happened after the app name change:

yelp_kwranks_nov292016

As you can see, only after a week Yelp saw an immediate impact on keyword rankings. Now they were ranking #1 for “restaurant” and “local food”. They were also #3 for “services” and #17 for “drinks”.

You can safely assume that these dramatic increase in rankings was a key driver in the increased rankings under the US Top Charts for free apps.

Current Day

On March 21, 2017, Yelp got even smarter with ASO and changed their app name to “Yelp – Nearby Restaurants, Shopping & Services”. Now they are targeting really high traffic terms such as “restaurants”, “shopping” and “services”. All keywords I would have included back in their November 2016 name change, but hey better late than never.

yelp_mar232016_app_name

We’re analyzing the app on March 28, 2017, so It’s a little too early to see the major impact on downloads, but they are starting to rank for “shopping”.

Areas of Improvement

Again I’m a big fan of Yelp and I think they have done a good job so far with their ASO, but here are a few of the changes that I would make.

#1. Target “Local Food” Instead of “Shopping”

I think this is the heart of what Yelp is – local food. I get that “shopping” has a tremendous amount of search volume, but they are only ranking #32 for it right now which will NOT have an impact on downloads. In addition, “shopping” is a very generic keyword and could mean anything. I tend to think of Amazon when I think of “shopping”.

And while they are ranking #1 for “shopping nearby”, the keyword has very little search volume.

yelp_apple_searchads_local_food_vs_shopping

More importantly, they were already ranking in the #2 for “local food” before the app name change. Now they are at #5 and from our experience the top 2 search results capture the vast majority of the downloads.

#2. Utilize Spanish Mexico Localization

Yelp is missing out on a huge opportunity here.

If you aren’t aware the US App Store actually indexes the Spanish Mexico localization.

So by putting English keywords into the app name and keyword field you will actually be able to double the amount of keywords you’re targeting.

As you can see from the screenshot below Yelp has actually localized their Spanish Mexico localization with Spanish which is great but they should either localize the app name with keywords such as restaurants, shopping and services or use that space to put more English keywords in there.

yelp_mx_appname

My recommendation would be to utilize the Spanish Mexico app name to target English keywords for the US app store since the vast majority of their users are in the U.S.

yelp_users_sensortower

Furthermore, I would even use the keyword field with English keywords to really target the US App Store and increase their ranks for specific keywords.

According to the data, my suggested Spanish Mexico app name would be:

Yelp – Local Food Delivery & Cleaning Services

#3. Reorganize App Name

yelp_apple_searchads_restaurants

Lastly given the data that I see I would reorganize the app name to “Yelp – Restaurants, Shopping & Services Near Me”.

There are two reasons why I would reorganize the app name like this.

  1. You want your most important keywords to be as close to your actual app name as possible. In other words, you want your most important keywords to be at the beginning of your app name which will provide greater weight and help you improve the keyword rankings.
  2. If you look at the data there’s actually more search traffic for “restaurants near me” versus “nearby restaurants”.

And Yelp’s current rankings for the aforementioned keywords:

yelp_mobile_action_v2

Want to work with us?

Look the primary reason that I spent the time to put this together is to show you our unique approach to App Store Optimization and most importantly I hope it shows you that big companies have a huge opportunity.

Not only do big companies have tremendous amounts of daily downloads, but they also receive a lot of app store reviews (both really important part of the ranking algorithm).

Therefore, a small tweak to their app name, keyword and description can have a tremendous impact on downloads.
If you’re interested in working with us, contact us and would love to help you out.

Steve Young

Founder at AppMasters
I started building apps in 2011 and my first app hit #8 under educational games. I started making a few hundred dollars a month, but had no idea what I was doing. Then in 2013 I decided to start a podcast so I could pick the brains of app creators that I admired including the co-founder of Shazam, Tapbots, Crossy Road, etc and that changed everything.

Now I run an app marketing agency where we’ve helped 8 clients get featured by Apple, 5X downloads with ASO, and get coverage on Techcrunch, Mashable, Venture Beat and other major publications. I also write about apps on The Next Web, Entrepreneur.com, and on my blog AppMasters.co.