On Aug 27th 2014 Apple updated the App store algorithm. This was a expected & anticipated update to go along with the new iOS 8. Lot of app developers saw their app rankings tank or rankings swing wildly. The ranking graph of some apps were all over the place. Developers whose apps held steady for many years saw their rankings tank one day & go up the next.
There was a lot of speculation as to what really changed in the algorithm on Aug 27th. Some speculated that the weight given to keywords in the app name has been reduced. Some ever speculated that the greater the length of the app name the lesser the weight of keywords in the title. So what was the app store algorithm ranking change?
Here’s what I think happened from a App Store Optimization (ASO) perspective:
- Apple has increased the relevancy of ratings on app rankings
- Apps with good ratings will rank better
- For now lets assume 4 star & above as good ratings
- No. of good ratings make a difference in app ranking / app keyword ranking
- You need a good number of ratings for current & previous versions of your app
- What this good number is I am sure app developers / ASO experts will figure out in the course of the next couple of months
- I would think anywhere in the hundreds i.e., hundreds of good 4 or 5 star ratings is good
I follow the above hypothesis about app store algorithm ranking change with some real word app store examples below
App With More Ratings / Review :
Below is a App which has following ratings:
66 Ratings – 4.5 stars for Current Version
336 Ratings – 4.5 stars for All Versions
As you can see from the above graph:
- There is not a drastic variation in the apps rankings after the Aug 27th Algorithm update
- The graph is typical of a app with constant downloads & drop in downloads is due to weekend
- This is a college organizer, students tend not to be interested in their studies over the weekends
App With Less Ratings / Review :
As you can see from the above graph:
- There is a drastic variation in the apps rankings after the Aug 27th Algorithm update, the change actually occurs in September & not immediately after the update
- The graph is typical of a app with lower rankings / ratings
- There is definite drop in App’s ranking after the Aug 27th algorithm update
- The drop in rankings huge variation in ranking in the order of 300 rank drop or gain from one day to the next
- The above seems to be the new norm with apps which have less number of ratings as of now
The Unknown – iOS 8:
In the present form what I have stated about ratings seems to hold true. What is not known is the impact of iOS 8 on search results. What I mean by this is when a lot of users get or update their iPhone to iOS 8 we don’t know what happens then to rankings of apps.
Why do I say iOS 8 will impact the search results. Well there are a number of new features which have been incorporated in the way you search the app store in iOS 8. I have discussed these in detail on my post iOS 8 Features App Store Optimization.
Because of these new features like Explore Tab, Trending Searches, Scrolling results, Related searches, Video previews … the way people search & discover apps is going to change. I would speculate that the algorithm changes made in August when combined with the iOS 8 update would greatly change the App Store search landscape.
So, once we start seeing significant chunk of users (say 50% or above) migrating to iOS 8, that is when we will start seeing the actual algorithm at play 7 experience app store algorithm ranking change for real. There are reports in the media & blogs that the adoption rate of iOS 8 has been slower than iOS 7. This is for good reason as users experiences a number of issues like over heating, battery drain.. with the initial iOS 7 update.
For now the number of ratings seem to make a difference. Of course you need to select the right keywords for your app with the right traffic & competition. Its wait and watch until iOS 8 dominates the iPhones.