Apple Shares Algorithm Secrets

If you keep an eye out for all news ASO, then you might have seen a little article published by the Wall Street Journal about Apple. In it, the authors go after the tech giant, accusing Apple of rigging the App Store to promote its own apps and thwarting competitors. 

The basic premise of the article is that Apple’s apps rank in the top spots for a lot of relevant (or slightly relevant) keywords. This makes it difficult for the App Store to be a free market — especially since competitors don’t have anywhere else that they can put their apps on iOS.

Whether or not Apple is gerrymandering the App Store to generate more revenue for itself is still up for debate. However, in their attempts to cover themselves, Apple did let slip a few helpful ASO tips. The spokesperson that spoke to the WSJ said that Apple’s apps are subject to the same ranking algorithm that every other app is subject to. Their algorithm takes into account “42 different factors” to determine where apps rank in search results. They didn’t divulge in all 42, but Apple did give us the top four. 

Let’s take a look at the four heftiest App Store ranking determinants — according to Apple itself:


This one is pretty self explanatory. Does your app have a high download rate? Perfect, consider yourself a top candidate for a top spot in app rankings. This might sound like it favors bigger apps, but that’s not necessarily true. Even if you get just tens or hundreds of downloads a day, but your conversion rate is high, then Apple’s algorithm will look upon you more favorably. 



If users hate your app, then Apple hates your app. It’s next to impossible to have a high ranking for keyword searches if your app has low reviews. By using the StoreKit SDK, developers can easily invite users to leave a simple star review of your App on the App Store. If you have a slew of users leaving bad reviews on your app listing, then focus on responding to reviews and fix the problem. If your app already has a top tier star rating, then congratulations! Keep doing what you’re doing!



When a user searches for a [non-branded] keyword, they’re presented with a number of options that satisfy their request. The goal of the user is to now determine which of those results is actually what they were looking for. Apple considers the behavior of users post-search to understand the apps they actually end up downloading. If a “CoolApp” has a conversion rate of 50% for “cool” and “KoolApp” has a conversion of 20%, Apple’s algorithm is understanding that the higher converting app deservers to rank higher based on the relevance. Having an app that is relevant to the keywords that you’re trying to rank for is, understandably, a very important factor. Apple is all about the users, so it’s important to make sure that users think your app is relevant to the search results you’re trying to rank for.


User Behavior:

How appropriate that user behavior is one of the top things determining your app ranking! If you missed our latest blog post on deciphering your user behavior data, check it out now! Basically, what user behavior entails is are people using your app and how long are they using it for.

As Apple and Google’s app store algorithms evolve, more and more factors are coming in to play for App Store Optimization success. The focus is dramatically shifting to app quality and user behavior of your app. The algorithms are quite literally determining if your app is relevant, and if users like your app.

How do they make this determination? The algorithms are factoring in your app’s usage statistics, and app vitals including things like: engagement, sessions, deletions, crashes, etc… Apple has gone so far as to define (per spokesman) “The four factors that most influence the rankings are downloads, ratings, relevance and user behavior”.



Historically, Apple has been extremely tight lipped on what goes into its App Store ranking algorithm. But Apple has finally shared “the four factors that most influence the rankings” with us and now we know definitively that downloads, ratings, relevance and “user behavior” are atop that list.


Need help tackling the heavy hitters of Apple’s app ranking algorithm? Contact your ASO Pros today.


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