Acquisition & Engagement

Widespread Ranking Changes Across the iTunes App Store

Becky Doles

There’s something definitely afoot in iTunesland. According to Sonar, both iPhone and iPad are seeing substantial amounts of change across search rankings. We’re currently investigating to see what exactly has changed, but suffice to say that it’s likely you’ve seen at least some of your keywords’ search rankings shift.

Sonar for iPhone: Note today’s change hitting the upper region of medium change.

Sonar for iPad: Note today’s change hitting the low-to-mid section of medium change.

If you’re not familiar with our Sonar feature, it monitors the search algorithms for iTunes and Google Play and picks up on large, systemic change. Today, we noticed a large spike in what is otherwise a relatively calm amount of fluctuation. In the roughly 30,000 keyword sample we take daily, the average ranking change for iPhone was a huge 41.5 positions – that’s eight times the change we typically see. 40% of all apps that ranked for those keywords changed at least 20 ranking positions. Normally, only 3% of apps see that type of change per day. For iPad, that number was less pronounced at an average ranking change of 20.8 positions, though still a healthy four times the usual amount of movement.

To confirm that we were seeing something unusual, we checked search rankings on iPhone 4, 4S, 5, and 5S, as well as on iPad. All rankings were the same and reflected the same amount of change our product was detecting.

We then looked at “head” keywords, which typically don’t see a large amount of change due to very popular apps typically “owning” certain ranking positions on a stable basis. Specifically, we checked the rankings for “banking,” “music,” and “home” for iPhone, and “travel” for iPad. There’s been significant ranking change even here:

While it’s evident that Apple appears to be tweaking its search algorithm, we’re working on figuring out what they’re tweaking that could lead to such drastic changes. Stay tuned!

Have some insight, comments, or questions? Tweet at us @MobileDevHQ or email us at [email protected].

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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