Almost half of iOS users found the last app they downloaded by searching on the App Store [MobileHQDev Study]. Apple is continually working to improve its algorithms, as the way apps are ranked and surfaced plays a large role in the overall success of the App Store. While the actual ranking algorithm is a heavily guarded secret, proper research can help us reasonably understand what factors affect ranking and how much influence they have. So, what is Apple’s secret recipe for ranking your app?
Read time: 63 seconds
Number of steps: 5
1. Your App Title Keywords
Of all the keywords attached to your app, Apple gives the most weight to the ones included in your title. Apps including keywords in their title rank on average 10.3% higher than their keyword less apps. You should pick the right keywords and include them in your title wherever possible. An optimized title should be relevant, descriptive, and use keywords with high search volume. Many app developers neglect this, opting for a short, brandable title for their app. This seems perfectly reasonable, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive: you can include your most important keywords and still create something brandable. Learn more about how to optimize your app title here.
2. Your Keywords Set
The keywords you target in your keyword set impact the search terms you rank for. You have to choose wisely, as you are restricted to only 100 characters. You want to include the most relevant keywords with the highest traffic volume and lowest competition. Don’t repeat words from your app title, from the chosen app category, or from your publisher’s name. Choosing the right keywords is vital, because Apple’s algorithm gives weight not only to the keywords themselves, but also to their context. Read the full keyword optimization recipe here.
3. Your App Downloads & Velocity
The total number of downloads of your app is a key factor in your rank. In order to push new and trending apps, Apple’s algorithm prioritizes apps with higher download velocity. Download velocity is counted by tracking your most recent seven days of downloads. The algorithm tracks the total downloads for your app regardless of keyword and applies this uniquely to a specific country and device (such as iPad or iPhone). Boosting traffic post-launch is a common practice to increase download velocity and get noticed. Learn how to do it with our downloads recipe.
4. Your Ratings & Reviews
Apple gives apps with better ratings and reviews more exposure, since these ratings and reviews impact the number of downloads and usually indicate a better user experience. Apps with ratings above 4 stars receive a boost, and apps with ratings below 3 stars receive a penalty [Fisku study]. You must make sure that users love your app (as this is the main reason for users to rank your app 5 stars) and that the app is bug free (this is the number one reason for a 1 star rating). Learn how to optimize your rating and reviews in this recipe.
5. Your App Engagement & Revenue
Another factor that influences your rank is the revenue your app generates. For free apps, engagement is also key. Apple prioritize apps with higher download conversions, so you need to make sure to optimize all of the “on page” elements: icons, screenshots, descriptions, etc. for the purposes of marketing it. Get the secret recipe for app engagement here.
While the Apple algorithm becomes more and more intelligent, it seems that it still doesn’t take into account metrics like usage, apps that were featured in the past, inbound links from the web, etc. Focus on the above five key factors and you should benefit from a ranking boost in the App Store. And remember, many of these factors are strongly linked: picking relevant keywords brings targeted traffic. Well targeted traffic will lead to more downloads in a short amount of time. Download velocity increases your rank. Those most likely to like your app and leave positive ratings generate a nice stream of revenues for your app.
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