The App Store Ranking – 5 Experiments to understand it

Posted by | App Marketing, ASO | 0 |
5 ASO Experiments

This article was originally posted as a guest article over at the blog of our friends at Apptweak. As we conducted a couple of experiments to improve our understanding of the Apple App Store we also want you to take part on our learnings to further improve the visibility of your App.

You will find the entire post over at Apptweak’s blog.

The Apple App Store – a complex, ever-growing black box

After not showing much movement at all, the Apple App Store has changed quite a bit since the major Update we faced last year and it clearly had a huge impact on how the App Store algorithm works. This major change has caused a lot of confusion.

Indeed, many articles have been published claiming that the App Store became more intelligent and rumors started to spread around to explain what happened and how App marketers should react to it. As there still circulate many assertions trying to explain what has really happened, we wanted to give it a try with a few experiments on our own.

As we are aware that the algorithm is a complex and ever-growing black box, we want to emphasize that we do not claim to have decoded the App Store in any shape or form, but we do think that the results of our little experiments might be valuable to you and your ASO strategy.

In order to explain which steps we took, we will visualize each of the points on our case study with our app “7 Minute workout”. That way, you will get a better idea on how we approached each experiment.

Requirements for the experiments to get started:

  • Only organic downloads.
  • We did not incentive users to rate the App (in fact over the whole time range the App had 0 ratings).
  • We used AppTweak ASO platform to track and measure our experiments results.


Experiment 1

To which extent do Keywords in your App Store description affect your ranking?

Many rumors arose to explain the phenomenon of the latest big update. From the indexing of the App Store description, to Apple associating the keywords of your app to similar ones, there were many hypotheses on what really happened.

In order for us to not just build our strategy on assumptions, we reconstructed the following scenarios based on these 2 questions:

  1. Do keywords cause rankings if you place them in the description?
  2. Do keywords correlate with existing rankings and improve them if included in the description?

To test the first scenario (1), we have included very generic keywords to the text, which were not in the title or keyword field.

Here is what happened:

Keywords Number of words in the text before Rankings before Number of words in the text after Rankings after
Fitness 0 5
Healthkit 0 4
Life 0 4
Sweat 0 2
Training 0 1

Even though we optimized the keywords “fitness”, “healthkit”, “life”, “sweat” and “training”, and therefore included them in the description very strategically, we did not manage to get our App rank for neither of them.

But what happens if you want to improve your existing rankings through optimizing the description?

To try answering this question (2), we added some keywords to our German description, which we already covered in our title & keyword field and got the following results:


Keywords Number of words in the text before Rankings before Number of words in the text after Rankings after
training 2 442 6 453
intervall 0 148 5 134
intervall-training 0 34 5 34


As you can see, we filled the description quite a bit in order to test if keywords in the description would improve the keyword rankings in any way. In this case, even with a decent keyword density, we could not get any real improvement of the rankings.

This tends to prove that we cannot approve the fact that the Onpage optimization of your app’s description will improve your rankings in the same way it does in the Google Play Store, for example.

Nevertheless, you should notice that your App Store description is indexed by search engines like Google, therefore a slight keyword density can definitely improve your SEO efforts.


Experiment 2

Are there new ways to fill the 100 characters keyword field more effectively?

You may already know the basics to optimize your keyword field:

  • separate keywords with a comma and do NOT use spaces
  • especially for English keywords: do not include both singular and plural
  • and of course, use all available characters

However, we wanted to show you a tweak that we found while optimizing some of our apps to maximize the amount of rankings we could get from technically including only one keyword.

Therefore, we will take some keywords and, instead of separating them with a comma or writing them together, we will separate them with a dash.

We noticed that when we added one keyword separated with a dash to our title, we would also rank for the keyword written together, even if we did not include it anywhere written together.

We therefore tried to reconstruct this scenario and changed our keyword set

from: title: 7 minute workout keyword field: wallsit

to: title: 7 minute work-out keyword field: wall-sit, test-123, test-321

We wanted to see if we could rank for “wall-sit”, “wall sit” and “wallsit” altogether.

This is what we measured:


As you can see the rankings did change quite a bit. The keywords that got separated with a dash like “wall-sit” lead the app to rank for “wall sit” as well as “wall-sit”. However, your app apparently will not rank for “wallsit” if you do not explicitly write it together or include it in your title. By including it in the title, we did found out that you could rank for both versions.


By including one important keyword in the title and separating it with a dash, you get the whole advantages of the App Store ranking algorithm using 2 words instead of one and combining each with one another without losing the ranking of the keyword written together.

In clear words:

You will rank for “workout”, “work-out”, “work out” and all kinds of combinations with the keywords “work” + “keyword in title/keyword field” or “out” + “keyword in title/keyword field”


Experiment 3

Can you actually increase your Keyword Field from 100 to 200 characters?

Do you want to know this experiment’s conclusion? Then take a look at the full blog post over at the Apptweak blog.

Founder of MyFItFEED and ASO-Perform-Apps. Searching for bulletproof principles in the app space to help app businesses thrive and drive tangible results.

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