Incipia blog

Should you Change Your App Category?

Gabe Kwakyi | November 2, 2016

Recently, Google added 8 new categories to the Google Play store, including:

  • Art & Design
  • Auto & Vehicles
  • Beauty
  • Dating
  • Events
  • Food & Drink
  • House & Home
  • Parenting

With category optimization now renewed as a topic, this leads to a discussion of whether or not to try changing your app's category as an ASO tactic.

Many apps do this across both iOS and Android, especially within and in and out of the lifestyle and entertainment categories; but the answer of whether or not this is a good idea depends, as every situation may be different. 

When Not to Consider Changing Categories

  • If the new category is irrelevant to your app, changing categories puts your app at high risk of being rejected or taken down.
  • If things are going well (i.e. you have a good category rank, or your category rank is growing over time), don't change categories. Changing things up does not guarantee you will do better, and if you're doing well it's more risk of losing momentum to change than stick it out.
  • The new category is less popular than your current category and less related to your top keywords. Even if you can capture a higher rank, the improved visibility may not be enough to outweigh the decreased ranking strength for your top keywords.

When to Consider Changing Categories

  • If things are not going well (i.e. you're not top ranked or your category rank has been falling) you should be more willing to take risks given there is less to lose.
  • If your keywords are more relevant to the new category, it may be a good move. Picking a category can have an impact on your relevance in ASO and now search ads terms for keywords. If your keywords rank more apps of one category than another or are found as popular/related searches for keywords that return apps primarily from another category, then it may mean that switching to that category can bump your keyword relevance.

Here we can see an app that moved categories due to increasing competition causing their ranking to decline. They switched categories and seem to have done better (though we don't know whether their improvement was organic/natural or otherwise). 

app category change




What Can Happen When Changing Categories

Based on some of our firsthand and industry research, we've identified a few of these outcomes that can arise from changing your app's category:

  • When switching to a less popular category, you may see that your daily impression volume falls, even when capturing a higher rank.
    • This can be especially so for new categories such as the 8 that Google recently launched, given users may not yet be aware that they can look in those categories for apps. It may take time for users to begin looking in that category for apps, meaning that impression volume grows over time.
    • Your keyword ranks may fall at first and then can gradually improve as the keyword algorithm adjusts.
  • Your conversion rate can improve, if the category is more relevant, which can translate into better rankings.
  • Sometimes being in a popular category can cause spikes in performance, likely related to significant swings in keyword rankings. Changing to a new category that is smaller and/or more relevant can cause this volatility to even out, which can be better if it means your performance ends up trending higher on average than before, or worse if your moving average declines.

Steps to Take When Changing Categories

  • When changing your category, be prepared to change back by laying out thresholds (daily impressions, impressions-to-installs conversion rate, keyword ranks, etc.) that when crossed mean it's time to call the change off. That way there are no disagreements that can lead to a protracted retreat, which can exact more of a toll than a timely retreat.
    • Give things a few weeks to fully analyze before making a retreat. As with other ASO tactics, results may sometimes start off poor and improve over time, so make sure you've given the repercussions of a category change enough time to take, unless performance is significantly worse (i.e. crosses your threshold).
  • Look at competitors to see how many are changing, and whether they changed back. If more competitors are moving and staying, it can indicate that the move is a good one, and vice versa.
  • Make sure that your icon and app listing is well positioned relative your new peer category apps. Switching categories may mean that your app listing elements become outdated and need an update.

Here we can see an app that changed from lifestyle, to entertainment to events. Had this app not been a better fit for events, it may have made more sense to change back to lifestyle, depending on the relevance, performance data and keyword rank factors. Yet, if you look very closely, you can see that this app's category rank is declining in the latest few days (possibly due to increasing competition or declining keyword ranks), indicating that this new category may not be as good as hoped for.

category change2





Here we can see another app that set its thresholds ahead of making a category change and retreated soon after (the purple line). Just recently the app changed categories to one of the new Google categories. Although, even by capturing a high rank it doesn't appear to have driven enough downloads to make it into the top country ranks, meaning that it may not have been too advantageous of a move.

change app category3





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