The App Store has been a huge success for Apple’s iOS devices. The availability of high quality apps and games on the App Store is responsible for a thriving ecosystem of iPhone and iPad apps. The exposure and profitability of having apps on Apple’s app store has attracted both, established and indie developers to offer unique apps and games.
Having a large number of apps on the store and delivering the most relevant search results or even top app rankings is a complex task. Apple has repeatedly tried to experiment with the search results in the past. According to a new report Apple may be altering the algorithm for the top app charts.
The report published by TechCrunch refers to studies by app store chart analysing services. It appears that in late July the App Store started ranking apps with 4 or 5 stars higher even thought these apps didn’t see significant rise in download numbers according to Fiksu.
Apple has until now ranked apps in the top app charts according to the download numbers and how fast these are downloaded. So, if an app sees a large number of downloads in short period of time it could quickly rise on the charts. However, now it is being reported that instead of using 15 minute refresh intervals now three hour window is used to update the App Store ranking. This would allow Apple to verify if the downloads are legit and not being driven by some automated software.
We suspect they are adding a ‘buffer’ period to prevent rank manipulation through short download bursts often associated with robotic downloads and other actions not in the best interests of the app ecosystem. Three hours allows enough time to identify anomalies and remove apps before they suddenly appear at the top of the rankings.
Another factor affecting the ranking could be user engagement according to Niren Hiro of SearchMan. Factors like how often user opens the app and how much time is being spent could also play a role in the top app ranking.
App discovery, improving relevance of search and appropriate top charts these are increasingly becoming crucial aspects and Apple continues to invest and research to enhance its performance.