This blog discusses the most important ranking factors for Apple and Google. Launching an app on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store can increase your app visibility and get you more downloads. Google and Apple rank apps and display search results differently. Let’s understand the primary ranking signals for Apple and Google.
Primary Ranking Signals for Apple and Google
The number of app downloads is the powerful ranking signal on both App Store and Play Store—especially, the number of downloads coming from the keyword concerned. In addition, download velocity is a vital attribute of overall app downloads.
Downloads are particularly significant on the App Store. If the developer of a high-volume video app decided to add the keyword “video editor” to their title, they would probably get a decent ranking for that keyword, just by having a lot of total app downloads. Because the stores regularly or frequently rank high-volume apps for high-volume keywords, beginners must start by focusing on long-tail keywords—or otherwise, lower competition, lower-volume—keywords.
Ratings and Reviews
Other important factors for the algorithm’s ranking are the star rating and the number of reviews & ratings. When these factors peak, they indicate that users like an app enough to take the time to rate or review it; the effort needed to do so makes this factor even more impressive. Both Apple and Google have officially said that user reviews, star ratings, and a number of ratings are factors their algorithms take into account when ranking apps. It is believed that ratings on the App Store do not show direct connection with keyword rankings. Indirectly though, higher conversion rates as a result of more and higher ratings could lead to higher rankings for the keyword over time.
Conversion Rate for a Keyword
One of the main signals of whether or not your app will rank well for a particular keyword is determined by how well the app has converted searches for that keyword into installs as a percentage of total impressions in the past. Google and Apple want to exhibit apps that have a higher probability of being downloaded; this means that users are more likely to be satisfied with their experience in the App Store or Google Play Store, and are therefore more likely to return for more searches and downloads.
App Performance (Google Play)
Crases, Stability, or Consumption of Phone Battery indicates that are also factors of app performance for the Play Store algorithm. This means that Google considers poorly performing apps as a potential negative signal and may rank poorly performing apps lower than other apps.
Retention Rate for a Keyword
Over time, Google’s keyword ranking algorithm has gradually moved away from relying so heavily on downloads and velocity to calculate the strength of an app’s keyword ranking. This came to a head at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 when Google’s Android team declared that user retention rate was a much more significant indicator for keyword rankings.
While a number of downloads can still cause initial swings in the ranking of keywords, the most important long-term signal for keyword rankings on Google Play is the retention of users who download the app after searching for a specific keyword. In fact, if your app has a low retention rate, getting more downloads can be a damaging indicator and can cause your app to be ranked lower and lower for a given keyword. This is because a high number of downloads paired with a low retention rate gives sufficient data to suggest your app is not able of being shown to future store visitors using that specific keyword, because they are not likely to use the app for a long period of time (compared to other apps they have downloaded)
Additional, Unconfirmed Algorithm Factors Suggested by the Industry
User Engagement with App Indexing
iOS apps can be indexed in Apple’s Spotlight user experience for mobile search, and Android apps and iOS apps can be indexed on google.com. This data provides an off-page signal of an app’s popularity and quality and is therefore within the realm of possibility for in-store rankings, especially for SEO keywords that arise within the store. Additionally, as Google and Apple want to make sure that apps are legally taking the latest technologies, It can be a positive signal just to set up app indexing.
Preview videos of high quality are also able to give users a better understanding of an app than screenshots and Apple and Google recommended it as a best practice. As a result, the mere presence of a video could reasonably be used as a positive signal for keyword ranking.
From the point of view of user experience, it makes sense to rank localized apps before non-localized apps for a localized keyword even though this behavior has not been confirmed yet.
Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) of App
In a similar vein to the thinking behind Google Ads and Apple Search Ads, it is believed that ads from apps with higher bids are shown more than ads from apps with lower bids, Google and Apple earn revenue from in-app purchases and paid downloads, and could therefore reasonably favor app that generates more revenue per user when ranking for keywords. Many across the industry share this view. Average app session time or the number of app open rate, a more in-depth user engagement factor, the total time spent on an app, or the number of app open rate could sensibly factor into keyword rankings.
Downloads from one country will not affect keyword rankings in another country. That is, even if the game has 500K installs from the keyword “Rope Hero” in the US, the app will not automatically earn a higher rank for “Rope Hero” in the United Kingdom.