One of the hardest and the most frustrating thing as an App Developer is to develop an App and then watch it slowly die in front of your eyes because you didn’t pay enough attention to one of THE single most important aspect of App Development: App Promotion and App Marketing. The days of “Create a good App and they’ll buy” are over. Today the iTunes App Store and the App Marketing process is more sophisticated and complex than ever before. Even the small details that didn’t matter a lot in the past, carry a lot of weight today. It’s no accident that usually the Apps that are on the Top .i.e. Top 10 Paid Apps, Top 100 Paid Apps, etc… are the ones spending the most money on App Marketing – which directly puts the average App Developer with few bucks in his/her bank account and a dream, at a competitive disadvantage. With that said, there are certain things that you can do to get your App noticed and Ranked for certain keywords. In this blog post, I’ll be discussing in-depth the iTunes App Store Ranking Factors, that if paid attention to, can really help your App rank well for certain keywords and drive up those downloads.
Although a huge chunk of App Marketing and Promotion is focused on Off-Page Optimization or Off-Store Optimization .i.e. Press Releases, Viral Marketing, Social Media Marketing, etc… On-Page Optimization is where you make your money. If done right, On-Page Optimization can not only help you with your App Store Rankings, but also increase your Conversion Rate (Sales/Downloads). For me, On-Page Optimization is just as important as Off-Page Optimization. By the way, when I say Page, I’m referring to your App’s Product Page on the iTunes App Store.
The iTunes App Store, just like Google, is a Search Engine; a place where people go to find awesome Apps. And just like Google, the iTunes App Store has an algorithm that it uses to Rank the Apps. For those who don’t know what a Search Engine Algorithm is, it’s basically a computer program that uses pre-programmed criteria and factors to assign a Value (Score) to a certain page; in this case, your App. So the Apps (Pages) with the most Value are ranked at the Top and the ones with the least Value are ranked at the bottom. The Apps are arranged in a descending order based on the assigned Value. So for example, if you search for the keywords “Photo Editor” on the iTunes App Store, the Apps at the Top (1st Row) are THE BEST Apps for that particular keyword. Now you (a human) might not agree with those Rankings, but that’s just the way it works.
Compared to Google, which is THE Search Engine, the iTunes App Store is mediocre at best in its ability to efficiently rank and help users find the Best Apps; there are times when the iTunes App Store’s algorithm will rank a sh*tty template based $10 App at the Top (Flappy Bird and Red Bouncing Ball), thus affecting the Rankings and Sales of quality Apps that deserve to be ranked at the Top. The iTunes App Store’s Search Algorithm is still in its infancy and has a looooonnngggg way to go before it can legitimately rank Apps based on merit, and not by a glitch in the system.
Unlike Google’s Search Algorithm, which uses 200+ Ranking Factors to rank pages, there isn’t a lot of information available on the iTunes App Store Ranking Algorithm; and I believe Apple wants to keep it that way. With that said, after a lot of trial and error, I’ve come up with a list of THE Most Important iTunes App Store Ranking Factors (Criteria) that I believe Apple uses to rank Apps.
App Store Ranking Factors
Title or App Name
In my view, the Title or Name of your App is one of the most important Ranking Factor that Apple uses to rank your App. From my personal experience and multiple case studies, I’ve come to the conclusion that a Long Descriptive Title (App Name) is more POWERFUL than a short one.
Case Study #1:
When I first launched the Spiffy Photo Editing App, I just used the word “Spiffy” as my Title (App Name). Despite the App being one of the best photo editing App on the iTunes App Store, It didn’t even show up in the search results. After 2 months of Non-Existent or ZERO Downloads, I decided to change the name of the App to “Spiffy – The Good Lookin’ Photo Editor”. Within a month, my Downloads/Sales increased by 300%.
Case Study #2:
The Lock Photo + Video Safe Free App is ranked #7 for the keyword “Password Manager” on the iTunes App Store.
Long Descriptive Title/App Name Example:
In my personal experience, a Long In-Depth Detailed App Description is more POWERFUL than a short one.
Important Tips and Tricks:
- Make sure to include all your major keywords in the first 2 lines of your App Description.
- Make sure to have a long list of features in your App Description. Ideally, a detailed and in-depth list of features, with a short description explaining what each feature does and how it will help the end user, is more POWERFUL than a simple plain vanilla list.
Case Study: Photo Editor- by Axiem Systems
The Photo Editor- App by Axiem Systems is ranked #1 for one of the Biggest High Competition Keyword on the iTunes App Store: “Photo Editor”.
In this case, although the Title/App Name is short, it is an Exact Match Title/App Name; that’s one hell of an achievement to have an Exact Match Title/App Name. Also, the App Description for the Photo Editor- App is filled with niche specific keywords.
A well optimized in-depth App Description not only helps you rank well on the iTunes App Store, it also helps you rank well on Google.
Another important ranking factor. A clear, high resolution, descriptive App Screenshot is more POWERFUL than simply uploading a plain vanilla App Screenshot.
This Ranking Factor is more Approval Level (Actual Human Evaluator) than an Algorithm Level. I believe that when you submit your App for Approval, the person in charge of Testing and Approving you App considers all the factors, including your App Screenshots, to decide whether your App (Product Page) is good enough to be Featured or Ranked Higher; if the answer is YES, then they’ll Add a Note or an Identifier to your App (Product Page), that’ll instruct the iTunes App Store Search Algorithm to assign a Higher Value (Score) to your App, which in turn translates to a Higher Ranking.
Case Study: 1Password – Password Manager and Secure Wallet
1Password is ranked #2 for the keyword “Password Manager”.
1Password is a Paid App that costs a whopping $17.99
Here’s a look at 1Password’s App Screenshots on iTunes App Store:
Rating and Reviews
This one is a no-brainer. The App with the Highest Number of Ratings and Reviews, is assigned a Higher Value (Score), compared to an App with a Low number of Ratings and Reviews.
An App with an aggregate rating of 3.5 Stars based on 10,000 Votes (User Ratings), is more Valuable and Ranks Higher than an App with an aggregate rating of 5 Stars with only 50 Votes (User Ratings).
Click Through Rate (CTR) and Page Visits
Whether directly from iTunes App Store or an external website like Facebook, Twitter, Mashable, Google, etc… the greater the number of Page Visits to your App’s Product Page, the Higher The Value (Score) assigned to your App by iTunes App Store’s Ranking Algorithm.
This is where the Off-Page Optimization .i.e. App Marketing comes into play. Hence App Developers who aggressively market their Apps on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… have a Higher Ranking assigned to their Apps, compared to the ones who don’t put a lot of time into marketing their Apps.
Your App’s Ranking on the iTunes App Store is directly correlated to the number of Clicks and Page Visits to your App’s Product Page.
Important Tips and Tricks:
- Hire a Freelancer or an App Marketing Firm to market your Apps.
- Create a website specifically dedicated to your App and an SEO Expert to help your website rank higher for certain niche specific keywords. This will help drive traffic to your website, which will in turn result in more page visits to your App’s Product Page on iTunes App Store, thus improving your App’s Overall Ranking and Increasing You Downloads/Sales. It’s all connected.
Case Study: App Store Download
AppStoreDownload.com is a platform, just like the iTunes App Store, that I use to showcase my Apps. The only difference is that I’m more in control of the keywords that I want to target; and unlike the iTunes App Store, I’m not required to focus all my time and energy into crafting the perfect Title/App Name or App Description. Instead, I focus on adding quality and useful content to my website, which helps drive Organic Search Engine Traffic. The goal here is to drive enough traffic to my website, which in turn results in people clicking on the links on my website to my App’s Product Page on iTunes, thus helping me increase my Downloads/Sales and improve my App Store Rankings. This approach (strategy) kills a million birds with one stone. All parties involved end-up getting what they want. Everyone’s Happy 🙂
I’ve dedicated an entire blog post to this topic.
Here’s the link:
The iTunes App Store Algorithm seems to prefer Apps that are compatible with multiple devices, as opposed to just one device.
An App that is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and iOS Devices in general is given preference over an App that only works with the iPhone.
From personal experience, an App that is available in multiple languages is assigned a Higher Value (Score), compared to an App that is only available in English.
This list of iTunes App Store Ranking Factors is updated regularly. We’re constantly trying and experimenting with new App Store Optimization (ASO) Strategies. Make sure to Bookmark this page and check back every once in a while to stay informed about Apple’s iTunes App Store Ranking Factors and Algorithm Updates.