App Store Keyword Algorithm Change

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by Rasterman, Oct 21, 2014.

  1. Rasterman

    Rasterman Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2010
    Game Monger
    Tampa, FL
    Did something happen with way keywords are used or ranked back in March? I just looked at my historical rankings for certain keywords and I had huge jumps on my most important keywords during that time. I also had another huge jump in May.

    In March I went from being ranked in the 70s to the 40s, and in May from the 40s to the teens, since then I have inched up to the 3rd spot!

    It's strange that these jumps are happening on the 1st or quickly thereafter.
  2. WalterM

    WalterM Member

    Aug 31, 2014
    Hello Rasterman,

    Enjoy while it lasts because such moves typically bring in higher downloads and sales but can magically move the other way in the following or a subsequent month.

    It is impossible for developers to know what changes inside the App Store to reflect these rankings. However, it is possible to create a paradigm model in which to understand these observations.

    Your question has an implicit assumption of one type of a paradigm - that the App Store keyword search is like a library catalogue search to find a book and that the indexing algorithm might change from time to time. Our experience suggests that this is the incorrect paradigm for the App Store.

    Think of the App Store in the paradigm of a brick and mortar store with shelf arrangement. In the latter, the visibility of an item is very much dependent on where and how it is placed in the aisle/shelf. Items that are moved to the end display of an aisle facing the corridors are more visible to customers than the items in the middle of a shelf within a category. Items placed at the bottom shelf is less easily found than the items at eye level, etc. Stores rearrange items all the time to promote sales, introduce new items, de-emphasize old ones or any number of other criterion that serves their business needs.

    Shampoo items are not arranged based on how many times and where shampoo appears on the bottle but on what the store determines will optimize the sales for itself (even if at a disadvantage to any particular brand or inconsistent with the quality of the product).

    The App Store seems to do a change like that every month (and something smaller every Wed). The search ranking does not appear to be based on a pure text search algorithm over the contents of the app based on keywords but is influenced by derivatives (i.e, velocity not magnitude) on sales, downloads, ratings, etc, combined with any directives to promote (and possibly demote items) at the discretion of the App Store and the business needs to encourage new apps, updates, etc.

    What this implies is that it is impossible to optimize for a ranking using keywords (not to say they cannot be used wisely) and these rankings are transitory and can change drastically at any time with significant effect on the app downloads from one month to another IF, as is the case for most apps, the downloads are primarily driven by discovery within the App Store.

    The above is for general arrangement in the app universe. Things like top rankings, featured lists, recommendations etc, are at a completely different level of visibility akin to special brand display kiosks, special aisles for recommended or top items, etc., in a brick and mortar store and have even higher impact on apps.
  3. Crichton333

    Crichton333 Well-Known Member

    Mar 26, 2014
    Game developer
    Yea they changed the system, you cant really know how unless you work for Apple :)
  4. Pixelosis

    Pixelosis Well-Known Member

    Jan 28, 2013
    Let's add to that Google Play is less volatile. Apple can control the effect some keywords have on ranking, while something like Google Search can't do much about it since it's the queries that make the power of searched keywords, yet most people think of the ranking system in the AppStore as some kind of structure that borrows to the search engine architecture, following the same principles. But that would leave the AppStore much more open to keyword abuse and Apple would have no way to demote strong keyword to challenge the statu-quo and make their market seemingly more live.
    The reason this can keep going on is because it's a totally private market from end to end. Their rules, you shut up.
    It is a very fickle and stressful context. We're a far way from the old paid models in purer and classical markets imho.
  5. Active Member

    Jan 10, 2014
    App Store Optimization Expert
    Every couple of months the App Store algorithm is tweaked & changed. These tweaks are a way of Apple improving the search algorithm.

    The App Store is slowly by surely shifting its approach to ranking apps based on the stickiness of the App. Which means are users liking the App , what reviews they are giving the app. The latest update was on Aug 27 2014, which I think turned the tide in favour of apps with good reviews. I have written a blog post about it which you might find helpful
  6. Netforza

    Netforza Active Member

    Nov 6, 2014
    Game Developer
    Interesting observation. I will look in our stats to see if I see the same changes.

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