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The tricks app makers use to get ranked more highly in the App Store and Google Play

  • App Store Optimization are tactics developers use to help their apps rise in the rankings and get downloaded more.
  • Some tricks include buying ads on rival companies, changing your name to fit the season, adding buzzy terms to your description and changing your category.
A customer holds an Apple iPhone X, the new model of Apple smartphone at the Apple Store Saint-Germain on November 3, 2017 in Paris, France.
Chesnot | Getty Images
A customer holds an Apple iPhone X, the new model of Apple smartphone at the Apple Store Saint-Germain on November 3, 2017 in Paris, France.

With so many apps out there, it's hard to get noticed.

"When you have over 2 million apps in the iOS app store, how you get your app downloaded verses other apps becomes important," said Amir Ghodrati, director of market insights for App Annie.

Developers have come up with tactics to get their apps to number one in Apple's App Store and Google Play, the store for Android devices. Here are some tricks App Annie has noticed.

Buy an ad for a popular search term

Users are likely to download the first result when they are searching for a specific app. Sixty-five percent of app downloads come from searches in the App Store, according to App Annie.

"With iOS search ads introduced last year, people are basically looking for key words they think are going to be popular and then paying money to pay to rank to the top spot," Ghodrati said.

Many companies buy their own names in order to ensure they have the top spot. Smaller companies might use popular companies to boost their popularity, such as Motif Fashion & Jewelry buying an ad on the term "Etsy." Occasionally, rivals will purchase a competitor's name in order to appear above the official app in search results, such as Walmart advertising on the "Target" search term:

Or Amazon advertising on the "Walmart" search term:

Or Lyft advertising for drivers on the "Uber" search term.

Change the app name or logo to fit the season

App Annie noticed many apps changing their name or image icon to fit seasonal events like Christmas, Halloween or Valentine's Day. However, the most popular event to inspire a name change is Black Friday.

A coupon and local deal app called Retale updated its name to "Black Friday 2016: Ads, Shopping Deals & Coupons" a few weeks before the big shopping day. It rose from number 7 to number 3 in its category and retained third place through Cyber Monday, according to App Annie. Over the week of Black Friday, Retale saw a 100 percent increase in daily downloads over the two prior weeks, App Annie noted.

This season, Wal-Mart has updated its icon to a present, added snow to its screenshots and added the line "Our elves have been hard at work so you'll save time during the holidays and every day" to its version notes. The app description also updated to include information about free shipping and using your phone to pay at the store quickly.

Change your category

In order to reach the top spot, some apps will change their category to rank higher. Since there are so many social networking apps and Instagram and Snap dominate the category, many search for another affiliated vertical.

For instance, Twitter switched from social networking to news in April 2016, and has since been leading the news category.

Add key words to your product description

There are always several buzz words floating around the tech scene. Thanks to the iPhone X, the app keyword search volume for "augmented reality" has gone up 25 percent month over month, according to App Annie. As a response, it saw many companies are adding the words "augmented reality" or specifically mentioning iOS 11 in their descriptions and functionalities.

For example, Amazon's latest update highlights the fact it allows for augmented reality furniture placement so you can see products in your room before you buy them.

But because so many developers are adding augmented reality to their descriptions, companies that use that term are finding it more difficult to rise in the ranks. It is 14 percent more difficult in the App Store and 37 percent harder in the Google Play store to move up spots by using "augmented reality" since the iPhone X was announced in September, App Annie said.