#6 - Does Catgory Impact ASO Ranks?

Ariel Ariel
3 minute read 8/21/21

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.

#6 - Does Catgory Impact ASO Ranks?

The search algorithm looks at a bunch of things. The ones we talk about often, where you place your keywords and how many new ratings you app is getting, are at the top of the list, but there's another that you need to have right.

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: Learn Guitar

35 low 87 high 1.6K moderate

Learning how to play an instrument is something most have on their bucket list. We already looked at a similar keyword, "learn piano", in Keyword Teardown #2, so now it's time to look at my more favorite instrument–the guitar.

At first glance, I expected the keyword to be a bit more popular, but between the number of results and competitiveness score, we can tell lower popularity != easy to rank in.

Interestingly enough, the folks behind the top result for "learn piano" also have the top result for this keyword. Nice! Simply Guitar wins this even though the keyword is in the app's subtitle and not name by having a massive number of new ratings. Remember, ratings really matter.

Right behind it, we have Yousician, which also only has the keyword in the subtitle but also has fewer new ratings, so it's stuck at #2.

And behind Yousician we have Fender, the first of the set to use the keyword in the name. But, at about half the new ratings as Yousician, the algorithm can't help it up.

Ultimate Guitar, which I analyzed in season #1 of App Teardowns, isn't exactly a guitar learning app, but it uses the keywords correctly to give the algorithm enough reason to include it in this set.

Curiously, however, it isn't higher even though it has a hefty amount of new ratings and seemingly good keyword placement. Why? I'm not 100% sure about this, but I believe it has to do with the category Ultimate Guitar is in.

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The algorithm doesn't do it often, but in some cases, I noticed it's associating specific words with specific categories. In this case, it's "learn" that the algorithm is associating with the education category. That means apps from the education category get more priority, so the behavior is a bit different than any other keyword.

I'm still exploring this relationship, but so far I've seen it a few times, so I believe that's the key here. If you have a better explanation, please let me know.

Last on this list is Chordify, which doesn't include the word "learn" in its name or subtitle. It most likely has it in the keyword list, and since most other apps the algorithm has to pick from don't have more new ratings or use the keywords correctly, it manages to snag fifth.

I'd call it luck, but really, it's the lack of competition that allows it to rank there. I explored the list of results deeper, and most other apps there don't have a chance, but a few do if they try. I'm looking at you, Gibson!

What You Need to Know

Keyword placement and ratings are the most important attributes to Apple's search algorithm, but it's a pretty complex algorithm and it looks at a few other things too. In some cases, it's the category of the app.

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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