#97 - How Important Are Downloads for App Store Optimization?

Ariel Ariel
4 minute read 3/6/23

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.

#97 - How Important Are Downloads for App Store Optimization?

One of the biggest gripes developers have with the App Store is that apps with more downloads rank better.

But, that's not at all true.

Keyword: Video Filters

32 low 87 high 10.7K high 253.3K very high

Video is a very strong -- meaning competitive -- category. There are more than 31K results for the keyword "video editor", making it very hard to rank for it. What do video editors have that's a bit easier to compete over? Filters!

But wait, aren't all the big apps already targeting that keyword? Yes, but not well.

That's your opportunity!

Search results for "Video filters" in the U.S App Store

According to our App Intelligence, the top 5 results for this keyword see downloads in the US ranging between 13K and nearly a million. Keep that in mind as we go through them.

You probably expect the million at the top, but first place result, TON, is actually the one with 13K estimated downloads.

The top result gets the fewest downloads.

How's it snag the top position?

Easy. TON uses the full keyword in its name, as the first two words, and doesn't duplicate.

Oh, TON also gets the fewest new ratings, but having the keywords in the right place while competitors don't and getting 100+ ratings is all it takes to rise to the top.

Easy, right?

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Filto, in second place with a little over 44K estimated downloads, earns the second spot even though its downloads are faaaar from the top by using the keyword properly -- meaning in the name and without duplication. And 600+ new ratings.

Filto seems to squeeze a bunch of keywords into the name with no spaces which I personally find unpleasing to the eye.

Obviously, it isn't a deal breaker because Filto gets a lot of downloads, but I still find it unpleasing.

Moving on down to third place we have one of the more popular names in the industry -- VSCO.

With 2.1K new ratings, you'd expect VSCO to rise above TON and Filto. It gets more new ratings than the two combined.

But what those two have that VSCO doesn't is the keyword in the app's name.

VSCO has half of this keyword in its name and the other in its subtitle. From the algorithm's standpoint, this type of split still means the app is relevant, but not very much, which is what we see here.

Shuffling the name a bit will spring VSCO to the top thanks to its many new ratings. It's not the leader, but it's the runner-up.

Looking at VSCO's name you're probably thinking it shouldn't make any changes because it's targeting the more popular "video editor", but searching Inspector you won't find VSCO in a top result.

I'd suggest shuffling the name...

And moving on down we find our million downloads. Prequel got a spike of downloads when AI art became hot, and even though it makes two big ASO mistakes, as the leader of new ratings, the algorithm can't ignore it.

Prequel's mistakes are:

  1. The keyword is only in the subtitle. This isn't great but also not terrible.
  2. The keyword is split and reversed. This is pretty bad.

Prequel's DPR is also pretty high, which is bad considering the competitors are all somewhat similar and are much lower.

This one's the easiest to optimize for our keyword. I'm not sure Prequel would want to brand itself as a video filters app, but that's a whole other thing.

And last one for this teardown is 1998 Cam, which barely manages to snag the last spot because it doesn't have "video" in its visible metadata. It's not getting the most downloads or ratings, making it the weakest of the group.

It manages to snag fifth not by doing something special but rather because most other competitors are doing an even worse job with their keywords and ratings.

Displacing it won't be that hard which should be seen as a problem.

What You Need to Know

It's safe to say downloads don't influence the algorithm.

They do make an impact indirectly by giving the opportunity to get more ratings, but it's up to you to optimize the process. And we've seen many cases where apps with lots of downloads weren't optimized and were getting pushed down by apps with far fewer downloads.

The moral of the story is - use your keyword correctly and optimize for a lower DPR.

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.

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