To comprehensively compare App Store Ranking and Google Play Store Ranking, let’s first define the histories of the two biggest and most popular app marketplaces today.

The time is 2008. Apple is just about to release a revolutionary smartphone to a target market that’s only accustomed to Symbian applications. On July 10, just a day before the official launch of iPhone 3G, Apple unveils the App Store pre-loaded into the iPhone.

Everything seems fine, but Apple knows that there is just one problem.  Despite its extensive potential, the App Store has only 500 apps, and only a handful of developers know their way around it.

At this time, Google had already unveiled Android but it was not until September 2008 when the first commercial device running Android was introduced. The Google Play Store was called “Android  Market” until March 2012, when Google’s approach shifted in favor of user experience.

The year 2011 saw the expansion of the Android Market to accommodate both books and movie rentals. It became a market of all sorts, and some users were finding it pretty confusing. So in response, Google revised its whole strategy and relaunched the marketplace as “Google Play” in March 2012. It hosted Google Play Newsstand, Google Play Music, Google Play Music & TV, Google Play Games, plus Google Play Books.

The race has pretty much been on since 2008. Both the App Store and Google Play Store have grown exponentially, as more people continue adopting smartphones.

As of March 2017, the Apple Store boasted 2.2 million apps, slightly behind Google Play Store with 2.8 million apps. Other app marketplaces like Amazon App Store and Blackberry World have tried cutting through the clutter over the years without much success. It’s a show run by Apple and Google.

Number-of-apps-in-leading-marketplaces-March-2017

Number of apps in leading marketplaces March 2017. Source: Statista

That’s why we’ve decided to compare these two ranking systems. If you’re not building an app for the App Store, you’re probably making one for Google Play Store. Or even better, building for both- same app but with different tweaking for Android and iOS/Mac OS.

In 2015, Apple announced that there were over 1 billion active iOS devices. The company is yet to provide an update on the latest figures since then. But you can imagine the collective number of active Apple devices, especially considering the fact that the previous communication only addresses iOS gadgets.

Google, on the other hand, announced a major milestone of 2 billion monthly active Android devices earlier in 2017.

Let that sink in for a minute. Combined, there are billions of App Store and Google Play Store users. Hundreds of billions of cumulative app downloads. And that translates to an endless potential for well-ranking apps,

Number-of-app-downloads-on-the-Google-Play-Store

Number of app downloads on the Google Play Store. Source: Statista

 

Number-of-cumulative-app-downloads-on-the-App-Store

Number of cumulative app downloads on the App Store. Source: Statista

Sadly, life is not that simple. Just like Google and Bing, the App Store and Google Play Store use different app ranking algorithms. It would be unwise to use the same strategies on the App Store and Google Play Store- from pre-launch marketing all the way to post-launch marketing.

App Store Optimization and Google Play Optimization have distinct principles. But then again, they have a couple of similarities. Here’s a guide to discern between the two, and understand just what you need to rank well in the App Store and Google Play Store.

get-app-downloadsFactors That Impact App Store Ranking

  • Ratings

How much do users love your app?

How many are coming back to the app store just to give you a good rating?

App ratings are a direct indication of your apps user experience. Consequently, it’s in Apple’s best interests to prioritize more on the best rates apps, compared to their poorly rated counterparts.

According to a Fisku study, Apple boost apps with ratings higher than 4 stars, then correspondingly penalize apps with 3 stars and below.

Average-App-Store-Rating-By-Rating

Average App Store Rating By Rating.Source Fiksu

There are only two ways to capitalize on this to boost your App Store Ranking- make sure users love your app, then find a creative way of encouraging them to participate in the app review.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, user experience is arguably way more important than app features. Even if your app seems like a one-of-kind genius idea, glitches could attract dreaded one-star ratings. So focus on developing a flawless app, then review and update versions according to issues raised by users.

  • Targeted Keywords

The App Store is very simple and straightforward when it comes to keywords. You’re provided a keyword field to enter specific keywords you think would be most relevant to your audience, separated by commas.

Sounds pretty easy to hack, right? Well, fortunately or unfortunately, it comes with a caveat- you cannot enter more 100 characters. It may seem a bit harsh, but it prevents users from overstretching their keywords. Otherwise, you’d be seeing a cooking app ranking among exercise apps, for example.

With only 100 characters, you have to be very calculative. Understand exactly what your target users search for, their priorities, and ultimate preferences.

  • Number of Downloads

Of course, Apple heavily factors in your overall App Store Optimization when ranking apps. And what better way to do this than reviewing the number of downloads?

As we’ve discussed in our previous posts, the bulk of app store optimization strategies are meant to engage prospects and encourage them to download your app. For instance, a good and well-choreographed app demo video will increasingly convert some of your competitor’s users. A well-thought-out name combined with great screenshots will compel visitors to download your app, even to just check it out.

In addition to the number of downloads, the App Store ranking algorithms also evaluate download velocity. Consider a popular four-week-old app, for example. Even with a significantly lower number of cumulative downloads, it will still rank strongly if users are downloading it more frequently.

  • App Revenue

This is Apple’s way of saying, ”you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Since the company takes a cut from every dollar made through an App Store app, it only makes sense to increase your app’s visibility if your marketing strategies are exceedingly converting users.

The App Store is already generating 40% more revenue than what Apple was making 10 years ago. All factors considered, it could possibly grow to become Apple’s greatest revenue asset in the near future. So, of course, the company is keen to promote apps that are good in making money.

Apple-2007-vs-App-Store-2017

Apple 2007 vs App Store 2017. Source: Softpedia

If your app is built on an in-app purchase or subscription monetization strategy, consider starting out by building a solid user base through freebies. Then subsequently find creative ways of gradually generating revenue without blocking off your app’s main features. 

Factors That Impact Google Play Ranking

  • Number of App Downloads

Just like the App Store, Google Play Store also significantly factors-in the number of downloads in app ranking- both cumulative and frequency. That’s primarily because downloads are considered comparative indicators of an app’s popularity.

Well, technically, most people expect that any slight rise in the number of downloads should impact overall visibility. Google Play Store, however, is seemingly more focused on the main number intervals. An increase from 900,000 to 1 million downloads, for instance, has a greater impact compared to a jump from 600,000 to 900,000.

  • App Ratings

Before August 2017, Google Play Store fundamentally prioritized on the number of app downloads and shelved overall ratings. Even with extremely poor ratings, you’d be able to rank competitively with a comparatively high number of downloads.

But then Google realized developers were not so eager to address bugs and stability issues. Instead, they were obsessed with boosting downloads to improve their ranks and consequently income potential. Interestingly, performance issues always worked in their favor because their apps would be repeatedly uninstalled then re-downloaded.

So Google Play Store rolled out changes affecting its ranking algorithm, which would see apps with fewer issues rank higher than their bug-laden competition.  Even with a high number of downloads, you know have to improve your app’s overall rating, or risk ranking penalties.

  • App Engagement

Google Play Store establishes your app’s level of engagement by calculating the number of interactions on your app’s page, against the number of subsequent downloads and installations, plus the ratio of users who maintain the app after installation.

That said, it’s extremely important to be truthful and clear about your app features right off the bat. Exaggerating its capabilities only lowers your Monthly Active Users (MAU) and Daily Active Users (DAU) values- both of which are crucial to Google Play Store Ranking.

  • App Keywords/ App Title

Google has led the search engine race since 1998, arguably because of its solid keyword algorithms. Consequently, it didn’t come as a surprise when we finally learned that it has implemented the same system on Google Play Store.

Google-Ranking-Algorithm-Components.

Google Ranking Algorithm Components. Source: Neil Patel

Instead of providing special fields like the App Store, Google prefers to assess keyword relevancy from the app title, short description, long description, and updates list. It also raises a flag on keyword stuffing and subsequently penalizes non-compliant apps.

  • App Backlinks

Speaking of systems similar to Google’s search engine algorithms, the Play Store has also integrated backlink analysis.

Google crawls through the entire web and establishes the number of quality links from third party websites to your app’s Play Store Page. It further combines this with social factors like the number of likes, mentions and shares your app gets on social media. Ultimately, your score is determined by your app’s organic popularity.

That’s one solid reason why you should consider distributing your app press release on several sites, then have seasoned app reviewers write about it on multiple platforms.

Final Showdown: App Store Ranking vs Google Play Ranking

Evidently, keywords are critical in both the App Store and Google Play Store. While the former requires critical analysis and a clever choice of 100 characters, the latter is more intensive and requires users to keenly choose each word on their app pages.

Proponents praise Google’s approach as comprehensive and more relevant. Critics, on the other hand, feel that fundamental information is often left out of the app pages as marketers attempt to maximize on possible keywords.

When it comes to app downloads and user engagement, the cumulative number of downloads and the corresponding frequency are relevant in both app marketplaces. This is one area that’s heavily influenced by store optimization strategies.

The actual tactics, however, should be different because the app marketplaces have varying approaches to user engagement. Google was previously obsessed with judging an app’s quality by the number of downloads until it noted deteriorating quality even among top-ranking apps. Its engagement tracking also extends past the download process, by persistently monitoring app use frequency. The App Store, on the other hand, takes a keen interest in, among other things, the amount of revenue generated by an app after download.

If you’re good at SEO, you’d probably have an easy time mastering Google Play Store Optimization. To become an expert in App Store Ranking, however, you need to combine extensive analysis of Apple’s unique guidelines, plus persistent testing of possible optimization strategies.

Testing is particularly important because Apple is known for its exclusivity. The bulk of information on how their algorithms are still withheld by the company. So your best bet would be seeking app marketing services from an experienced agency that has been there, done it and conquered. PreApps, for instance, has successfully optimized more than 3000 apps across multiple Apple platforms. The results? Well, some of them have improved their conversion rates tenfold.

Conclusion

app-marketing-secretsTo recap:

  • On July 10, just a day before the official launch of iPhone 3G, Apple unveils the App Store pre-loaded into the iPhone.
  • It was not until September 2008 when the first commercial device running Android was introduced. The Google Play Store was called “Android Market”
  • Google revised its strategy and relaunched the marketplace as “Google Play” in March 2012.
  • As of January 2017, the Apple Store boasted 2.2 million apps, slightly behind Google Play Store with 2.8 million apps.
  • Combined, there are billions of App Store and Google Play Store users. Hundreds of billions of cumulative app downloads.
  • The App Store and Google Play Store use different app ranking algorithms. It would be unwise to use the same strategies on both the App Store and Google Play Store.
  • App ratings are a direct indication of your apps user experience. Consequently, it’s in Apple’s best interests to prioritize more on the best rates apps, compared to their poorly rated counterparts.
  • The App Store provides a keyword field to enter specific keywords you think would be most relevant to your audience.
  • In addition to the number of downloads, the App Store ranking algorithms also evaluate download velocity.
  • Apple is keen to promote apps that are good for making money.
  • Just like the App Store, Google Play Store also significantly factors-in the number of downloads in app ranking- both cumulative and frequency.
  • Google Play Store rolled out changes affecting its ranking algorithm, which would see apps with fewer issues rank higher than their bug-laden competition.
  • Google Play Store establishes your app’s level of engagement by calculating the number of interactions on your app’s page, against the number of subsequent downloads and installations, plus the ratio of users who maintain the app after installation.
  • Instead of providing special fields like the App Store, Google prefers to assess keyword relevancy from the app title, short description, long description, and updates list.
  • Google crawls through the entire web and establishes the number of quality links from third party websites to your app’s Play Store Page.

As you let this sink in, feel free to share your experiences and views on the App Store and Google Play Store Ranking algorithms.