Incipia blog

App Store Keyword Algorithm Update 7.6.17

Gabe Kwakyi | July 6, 2017

Spotted by Osman F. Kucukerdem. Source: ASO Stack Slack discussion.

Updated 7/13/17 and 7/14/17 with additional insights via Ankit Chandra, Luca Giacomel, Francesco Patarnello, and Ilia Kukharev.

Hold on to your hats! Apple has released a keyword algorithm update causing massive movement in keyword ranks across all keywords, branded and non-branded.

positive keyword algorithm update rankings

Based on discussions with ASO experts per above, it seems that Apple's keyword algorithm update was centered around changes to Apple's algorithmic understanding of keyword relevance.

 

As seen here in this graph, the movement of this dataset of 90 keywords skews mostly in the negative direction, showing that these keywords overall gained 11% rank on 7/6 vs 7/5. The rank calculation is a simple division of the keyword's 7/6 rank minus the 7/5 rank, divided by the 7/5 rank.

keyword rank change apple algorithm july update

But when we break these keywords down into groups of similar keywords/phrases, we start to see a little more consistency in terms of which keyword groups saw a rank gain (worse), loss (better) or no change. Out of 11 keyword groups (miscellaneous was not counted), 5/11 saw 51% or more keyword rank gains, while 2/11 saw 51% or more rank loss, and 1/11 saw 51% or more no change. This leaves only 3/11 of keyword groups with 50% or less random movement, which could be explained by the algorithm requiring a tune-up.

apple algorithm keyword rank change

keyword rank change apple algorithm july 2017 update

Granted, this is just one app, a small dataset, and a subjective categorization of keywords. But this helps offer a semblance of support for the idea that Apple released a relevance update. Questions which arise now are:

  1. Did Apple change the weighting of metadata elements?
  2. Is Apple taking into account user keyword search patterns and overlap between apps they download and/or keywords shared by those overlapping apps?
  3. Is Apple doing work around assigning keywords some kind of relevance category, and ranking apps based on how they match that to an app's category?
    1. Moritz Daan of Phiture pointed out, Apple's acquisition of Chomp long ago brought with it a categorization of apps, which may still be in play to some degree.

Previously, we had supposed that the keyword algorithm update was a recalibration of keyword ranks to factor more-so for retention (either overall, or from downloads sourced from a particular keyword). That would have made Apple's move today a follow-up to Google's February 2017 Play Store algorithm update, which focused on quality signals like retention and even star ratings. Apple also just recently released a May 2017 keyword algorithm update focusing on ranking for branded app names.

Given the impending iOS 11 update, it's highly plausible that Apple is updating the method by which it determines relevance based on an app's metadata.

negative keyword algorithm update rankings

Let us know what you see by emailing us (hello@incipia.co) or taking our Twitter poll!

Mick Noya wrote in on 7/14/17 to comment that the upate appears to be restricted to the US App Store.

The Bottom Line: A large shift in keyword rankings has gone live in the App Store on 7/6/17, with the cause and permanence as of yet unknown, but likely related to relevance; the keyword ranking shift is perhaps related to retention, star ratings, the way that keyword relevance is calculated from metadata ahead of new iOS 11, or another unknown factor.

 

That's all for now, folks! Be sure to bookmark our blog, sign up to our email newsletter for new post updates and reach out if you're interested in working with us.

Incipia is a mobile app development and marketing agency that builds and markets apps for companies, with a specialty in high-quality, stable app development and keyword-based marketing strategy, such as App Store Optimization and Apple Search Ads. For post topics, feedback or business inquiries please contact us, or send an inquiry to hello@incipia.co.