3 App Store Ranking Algorithm Considerations

Something interesting happened the last five days on the App Store charts, leading to speculation as to how Apple is determining ranking position. While the App Store ranking algorithm is a closely guarded secret, data can help support some of the theories.

I can’t disclose specifics on what app or exact numbers, but here’s the story:

For an app with high download volume, the downloads have more than doubled since Thursday. At first, I thought it might have been a glitch in App Annie’s reporting (a mix-up between a more popular app’s numbers and this one). One of the reasons I considered this is because the app’s ranking positioning didn’t change.

I had to confirm, so I went directly to the source in iTunes Connect, but everything matched up. Digging deeper into the numbers I realized that the surge was coming from Taiwan. Interesting because we weren’t running any burst campaigns or marketing there, nor was there any big Apple news out of the country.

While I can’t explain the significant downloads from Taiwan just yet, here’s a couple things I’m guessing:

1. The U.S. App Store charts may not rely heavily on downloads from outside the country to influence positioning. Downloads in the U.S. remained consistent for this app.

2. Usage within the app wasn’t significantly higher because of these downloads. This could validate earlier reports that engagement is becoming a larger part of the App Store ranking algorithm.

3. One of our apps received half the downloads as this app, yet its position on the chart was significantly higher — both apps have about the same U.S. download volume. One of the apps, however, has much better reviews. That app is the one ranked closer to the top.

I hope these findings prove useful, especially as companies are spending money to buy downloads from outside their target regions.

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