Downloads Don't Matter for ASO – This Related Signal Does!

Ariel Ariel
3 minute read Aug. 2

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.


Downloads Don't Matter for ASO – This Related Signal Does!

Keywords and ratings are the pillars of ASO, but there’s another signal the algorithm considers that you should be aware of.

It’s one of those little things that make the results look like the algorithm is broken. But it isn't.

Keyword: Photo Widget

52 moderate 100 very high 1.1K moderate 319,876 very high

Widgets are hot right now. They have been for a while. So it’d make sense the keyword will be competitive.

And it is, but what’s an app with just a handful of ratings doing all the way up high?

Let’s start at the top.

Search results for "Photo widget" in the U.S App Store

In first place we have Photo Widget Simple, which uses the keyword in the name – right up front – and has a whole bunch of new ratings. So, it wins the algorithm's heart very easily.

Right below it is Photo Widget. Which focuses everything it’s got on the name but has a tiny handful of ratings.

We’ll get back to this one in a bit.

In third we have Widgetsmith, the original viral success from a few years ago.

What Widgetsmith has is lots of ratings. What it doesn’t is half of the keyword in its visible metadata. But... it has a lot of ratings, and the missing half in the keyword list, so the algorithm can’t ignore it.

Below it is yet another generically named Photo Widget. It’s using the keyword right in the beginning of its name but it’s not as focused. It's also duplicating a full half in the subtitle.

It’s getting a lot of new ratings, but it’s making a few mistakes that cost it a higher rank. Should be an easy fix.

In last we have Color Widgets, which I did a teardown of a while back.

It’s getting the most new ratings, but it’s also not using half of the keyword in its visible metadata and duplicates "widget" between the name and the subtitle, so it can’t be ignored but... it also can’t rise too high.

Again, easy fixes.


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So let’s go back to #2, which has the least new ratings.

A while back I said the algorithm likes trends. The positive and explosive kind. Remember that?

The trend I’m referring to here is downloads. While the algorithm doesn’t care much for the number of downloads, a big increase over a short period of time is a signal the algorithm takes note of.

In the case of this one, our App Intelligence is showing 75% growth over just a few days.

The algorithm likes that because it indicates the app is relevant. It awards relevant apps with higher ranks.

What You Need to Know

Keywords and ratings are the main signals the algorithm uses to rank apps (and games), but it also seems to like explosive trends.

Downloads don’t get you ranks, but an explosive increase in downloads + proper keyword placement + some ratings = a good chance.

That’s why a big launch can help apps get a good start.n Or a well-optimized Apple Search Ads campaign. But whatever you do, don't buy downloads.

And that's all I have for you today. Subscribe to the newsletter for a new Keyword Teardown next week. If you have any questions or comments, you can find me on Twitter.

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, learn from competitors, get smart suggestions, and more, here.

Tagged: #aso

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