Secret Factors Behind Apple’s App Store Search Ranking Algorithm Revealed

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Steven Stewart

February 11th, 2016

With over 1.5 million apps available in each of the Google Play and Apple App Stores, many developers have experienced the “Invisible App Syndrome” – the crushing reality of publishing an app that never finds an audience because the audience never finds the app. 

67% of app users say the last app they downloaded was found through typing their inquiry into the app store search, making search the dominant organic app discovery method. Improving search ranking within those stores has become one of the most critical publisher App Store Optimization (ASO) requirements

The following excerpt is from a new white paper from NativeX about which On-Page and Off-Page factors best impact boosting your app store visibility.

A key part of App Store Optimization  is knowing which On-Page and Off-Page factors will have a heavy impact on your search ranking and organic conversions and will not.

Figure 1.  Apple App Store On-Page and Off-Page Factors

On-Page factors are the visible and non-visible information stored by the App Store in association with your app (app name, developer name, title, description, icon, screenshots, etc.) for the purposes of marketing it.

Off-Page factors are the signals left by users who use your app (click-through rate, downloads, usage, social media ranking, speed/reliability of servers, etc.).

Many articles have touched on ASO tools to help app publishers get their On-Page factors right, but often disregard the importance of Off-Page factors because they can seem more difficult to influence.  However, if you ignore Off-Page factors, you’ll likely never get into the top 3 positions for the keywords you are targeting, which is critical since over 50% of keyword traffic goes to the top 3 listings.

There has also been both conflicting and incorrect information about the importance of the various factors.  While the actual ranking algorithm is a heavily guarded secret, through interviews and extensive research we have a much more in-depth understanding of the factors and their influence to search ranking.


Figure 2.
  Google Play App Store On-Page and Off-Page Factors

As shown from the infographics above, the importance of different On-Page and Off-Page factors vary by app store.  A critical factor for the Apple App Store may not have any impact on rankings in Google Play (and vice-versa).
For example,  Google Play pulls keywords from the Developer Name, App Name, App Description, but does not offer a way to manually add keywords.  Apple App Store provides manual keyword entry, but doesn’t currently appear to utilize the App Description for keywords.  So publishers must approach each store with slightly different strategies.

The above article is an except from the free white paper that NativeX has just released to answer the questions most relevant to app publishers about App Store Optimization (ASO) and improving app store visibility.  Download it for in-depth analysis of the various factors that help your app get discovered and downloaded.

Click to Download Free ASO White Paper 


Steven Stewart


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