The Fiksu Blog

App Store Discoverability: Are Top Charts or Keyword Searches Driving the Downloads?

A new study conducted by MobileDevHQ, an ASO company recently acquired by Tune, suggests that where an app ranks in search results, rather than where it ranks in the top charts, is the most important component of discoverability. But we’re not so sure that paints a complete and clear picture: consumer intent in this and similar surveys is actually quite unclear.

The difference between searching and “searching”?

Previous studies from Forrester, Neilsen, and inMobi seem to also suggest “search” is the primary means of discoverability. But a second look at all of these results begs one critical question: do consumers really understand the difference between searching the top charts and a keyword search in the App Store? And if they don’t, could they be misidentifying?

In several of the previous studies, the distinction between the two types of searches isn’t even made. In a few of the studies, the largest percentage of users selected “Browsing or Searching the App Store”, but it’s hard to discern whether or not that means they found the app via the App Store’s top charts or via entering keywords in the search bar.

Adding to this ambiguity is another study by Ofcom, which, in contrast, sites “top charts list” as the second highest source of discoverability and “general search/search for subject” as the lowest source, the complete opposite of what the MobileDevHQ study shows. So which one is it? It seems consumers aren’t completely sure which option (when even given an option) they should be identifying with, and it’s very possible they could be mis-categorizing themselves due to the ambiguity.

The value of high rankings is proven

So while we’re not suggesting that general search doesn’t matter, we do believe the top charts play a more substantial role than is being conveyed in some of these studies. In fact, our data shows that, for the games category specifically, cracking the top 5 category rank in the iTunes App Store can result in an 89% increase in organic downloads. For the lifestyle category, the result is a 35% increase in organic downloads.

In addition, no matter what share of app store discovery is being driven by search, rank is still critically important. As our data from earlier this year shows, download volume, and subsequently rank, have considerable impact on search results in iOS.

Regardless of the actual split between searching and top chart browsing, it’s hard to argue that rank isn’t playing a critical role. And, in either case, the App Store is serving as the primary source of discoverability and downloads.