#21 - You Need Those Yellow Stars

Ariel Ariel
3 minute read 9/25/21

Have you ever looked at search results in the App Store and wondered why they're ranked the way they are? In this series of Keyword Teardowns we analyze how the algorithm works and highlight tips and tricks to help you rank higher.


#21 - You Need Those Yellow Stars

Downloads are great, but when it comes to App Store Optimization, they aren't what gets you top ranks. But top ranks get downloads. I don't mean to confuse here, but I'm just saying that you don't need to focus on downloads to get better ASO ranks.

Apple's and Google's search algorithms are black boxes and completely undocumented, but when you look at enough data, patterns start to emerge. I actively analyze search results to reverse engineer how the stores decide which apps to rank and how to rank them, and share what I find, including tips, tricks, and secrets, here for you to learn from.

Keyword: Budget

53 moderate 94 very high 4.8K moderate

Moving away from games to business apps, we have another fairly popular and very competitive keyword.

Search results for "budget" in the U.S App Store

At first glance, the sorting here follows what we'd expect, for the most part. Are you starting to see the pattern here? First, second, and third place make sense. The rest, much less so. Well, this one's got another twist for you.

Mint, at #1, takes the lead by having the most downloads and ratings, even though it's using the keyword in a not-so-great way. I've talked a lot about placement and how it trumps performance, but that's when they're close. In this case, the number of new ratings is an order of magnitude lower when you go from first to second place.

Second, third, and fourth places use keywords fairly similarly, so the algorithm has to rely on ratings to sort them, and they're indeed sorted by ratings.

Tip: Ask your existing users to rate your app. There are many ways to do it, but the key is to do it.

Now on to the fifth place, which isn't an app! In #5 we have an app bundle, a rare sight on the App Store and in search results. Its icon isn't pretty, and it has no performance data, making it very hard to understand and analyze.


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To keep things simple, look at the developer -- The Lampo Group -- the same developer of the #2 app, and that app is indeed the star of the bundle. While taking the #2 and #5 spots seems great, bundles aren't as attractive these days, where most apps are free, and the "bulk" discount aspect of bundles isn't really sexy.

We've yet to come across any other bundles, and that's over the last four Keyword Teardowns, so the answer to whether you should spend time on creating a bundle is probably no. But, keep an eye out for them.

What You Need to Know

Focus beats performance. As Apple's algorithm evolves, more and more weight is put on where and how your keywords fit into your apps' name, subtitle, and keyword list. While performance, meaning new downloads and ratings, is important, it's not the most important factor in ranks.

You can, and should, use that in your favor when competing over very tough keywords or when just starting in a new market.

Are You Putting My Tips to Good Use?

App Store Optimization is part art and part science. I say it a lot, and I mean it. The art part is what I've been talking about in this Keyword Teardown and in my App Teardowns. The science part is where our simple and intuitive ASO tools come into play. See where your apps are ranked, track trends, snoop on competitors, get suggestions, here.


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