Pulling old ranking formula? New approach changes popularity at App Store

Apr 19, 2011
Finance

Apple (AAPL) appears to have changed the numbers game in determining the top-ranking apps in its App Store. Kim-Mai Cutler reported in Inside Mobile Apps that Apple has tweaked its ranking algorithm to make downloads count for less. Apparently, Apple is taking into account actual usage rather than simply downloads. Quality may be given priority […]

Apple (AAPL) appears to have changed the numbers game in determining the top-ranking apps in its App Store.

Kim-Mai Cutler reported in Inside Mobile Apps that Apple has tweaked its ranking algorithm to make downloads count for less. Apparently, Apple is taking into account actual usage rather than simply downloads.

Quality may be given priority over quantity.

In the past week, for example, Facebook’s mobile app suddenly moved to No. 1 after having ranked between tenth and twentieth for the past year and a half. Netflix, Skype and Pandora also moved up in popularity.

Pay-per-install and mobile advertising networks have noticed the change.

Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at Flurry, which serves 80,000 applications with its analytics product, told Inside Mobile Apps: “From our point of view, Apple is absolutely considering more than just downloads, which we believe is the right direction to go in to measure the true popularity of an app.”

Heat on developers

Josh Ong at Apple Insider said: “The free publicity and accompanying increase in sales that come from topping the App Store charts has resulted in a ‘gold rush’ climate similar to the Google (GOOG) PageRank and SEO rush from 10 years ago. As such, Apple’s recent changes to the bestselling app rankings have caused turmoil as developers scramble to adjust.”

Ryan Kim at Gigaom said Apple appears to be following Google: “It could be an attempt to mimic what Google’s done with the Android Market which now appears to take into account daily and monthly engagement data, so this seems to be a case of Apple playing catch-up.”

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In any case, he said developers will be rewarded for building apps that are more engaging rather than simply achieving large numbers of downloads.

The new rankings may rankle some developers.

“This might put a hurt on some developers who have come to rely on pay-per-installs and other marketing efforts to gain visibility for their apps. I understand it can be hard to get noticed in a huge market of apps, but ultimately, developers need to be more concerned about putting out a good app than paying to promote it,” Kim said.

Apple made another change last week. It now allows consumers to browse at the top 300 apps. Previously, it only showed the top 50.

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