According to a recent report from TechCrunch, Apple appears to be implementing some changes to the way that it ranks apps for its Top Charts in the App Store. The new factors which are now included, such as app ratings and user engagement, could influence app position and prevent developers from artificially inflating the rankings. According to Fiksu, an app marketing service, app rankings began fluctuating in late July, favoring apps with ratings of four or more stars in the App Store. Although the apps jumped to higher positions without a corresponding increase in downloads, apps with poor ratings saw their rankings fall.
In the past, apps have been ranked based on both their download volume and velocity, allowing apps that garnered a high number of downloads in a short amount of time to shoot up the App Store charts. Fiksu noted that App Store rank positions, which were previously updated in 15-minute intervals, now update once every three hours to prevent underhanded rank-gaming practices.
Algorithms in the App Store search may also be changing, favoring improved app discovery. MobileDevHQ CEO Ian Sefferman cites an example involving a search for iPhone apps from the iPad. Although such a search used to return an identical list of apps on both the iPad and the iPhone, the results are now different.
As of right now, it hasn’t been made clear whether Apple is just experimenting with its App Store rankings with the new inclusions or if the change is an indication of an overhaul to the ranking process. One thing we do know is that app discovery has been a long term work in progress for the company and efforts to help improve its ranking algorithms could help users potentially locate higher quality content.