Changes to iTunes App Rankings Mean HUGE Opportunities: Secrets To Increasing Your Rankings

Do you know the little secrets to improving your iTunes App Store rankings?

The iTunes App Store is changing the way apps are ranked.  Once-upon-a-time apps were ranked purely by download numbers.  This meant that the only way to gain rankings was to simply obtain downloads.

The thing is that ended up a double-edged sword.  Apps with good rankings would get more downloads which meant they were more likely to keep those rankings and therefore making it more difficult for other apps to get top rankings.

Now however things are different.  Other factors play into the ranking equation such as how long the app is opened as the active app and how often the app is opened.

This provides a HUGE opportunity to climb upward in the rankings and become one of the top downloaded apps, gaining the additional views and money for yourself.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Include the ability to post to Facebook and Twitter in your apps.  The reason for this is simple, it generates competition among friends for better scores (or whatever).  There are apps out there that include integration into their own websites to provide social features.  In my opinion, this is foolish.  Instead include that level of integration in facebook where what goes on is much more visible to friends and the like.  Again, the idea is to get friends involved and increase usage because of the social interaction.
  2. Provide some kind of bonus or give some kind of additional content to people that will open the app for some amount of time every day.  With my apps I will often give something if someone opens the app at least 20 times in 30 days with the app active for at least three minutes each time.  Often I’ll try to make that “something” pretty awesome.
  3. Include things in your apps that allow for “on the spot” social interaction or messaging of some kind.  Honestly this is something that I am only just including.  One game soon to be released is a competitive type deal that allows for real-time competition across the world.  Before and after each competition I going to allow for the people to message each other through the game.  The goal here is simple: increase the amount of time people are using your apps.
  4. Program your games to have social features such as what is found in “Words with Friends”.  This means that your app should be “memory resident”.  Let people “friend” others (or use facebook integration or something) and allow friends to message others through the app to ask for time with the app.  Again, this will increase time in the app and increase the frequency the app is opened.

Now, some of what I said seems to be more appropriate for games, but this doesn’t have to be the case.  Business apps, fitness apps … all of them can utilize some of these features to improve the amount of time in the app and the frequency the app is opened.


Apps that are opened more often and used more frequently will get better rankings.  Yes, number of downloads is still important.  However, you can put yourself above other apps, with more downloads, simply by having an app that is used for as much time as possible.

This is the important part however:

You can increase your number of downloads by going to and paying something like 10 cents for someone to download your app.  You could add 100 downloads to your download count for only a few bucks. While 100 downloads isn’t very many in the scheme of things, adding 100 downloads in the first few days or week that your app becomes available can help out A LOT.

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9 comments on “Changes to iTunes App Rankings Mean HUGE Opportunities: Secrets To Increasing Your Rankings

  1. Pingback: Weekly Strategy Tip – Get More Downloads | iPhone App Developer Matt Goffrey

  2. Paying somebody to download Apps on the App store is a viable tactic, and much less ethically problematic than paying somebody to make fake reviews, which Apple can detect much easier.

    Apple is really the cause of part of this though because their are some fatal flaws within the App store right now. The problem that Apple hasn’t really solved yet is that its difficult for smaller developers to promote Apps in the App store when Google ad clicks alone can cost more than the sales that they generate. How does a small developer promote their App in a sea of hundreds of thousands of Apps?

    How does Apple help App shoppers separate the wheat from the chaff and find the deserving apps?

    Its not an easy problem to solve, but any growing platform has to hit this issue head on eventually.

    Of course a lot of developers are going to try and game the platform to get ranked higher if this issue isn’t solved. Look at Facebook for instance, there’s an entire marketplace full of companies listed at that do nothing other than try and game this system. Even smaller platforms like Reddit are seeing Karma being sold on eBay and other tricks attempting to game the platform. Google experienced a lot of these growing pains as well.

    I know that Apple has its hands full with many huge software projects, but finding a way for people to find good, deserving Apps much easier would also go a long way towards eliminating this practice. Otherwise, in the long run, no matter how successful iOS is, if smaller developers can’t find ways to succeed on there, its going to devalue the platform a bit.

    Apple can’t do everything at once, but tackling discoverability on the App store should be a major priority for them. If they can solve this, Apple will flat out dominate the global software market.

    • Unfortunately, there isn’t ANY sort of systematic approach that doesn’t lead to some people trying to game the system.

      Not only that, but people with good marketing skills are going to get their apps discovered no matter what kind of system there is. Those without those skills and are unwilling to learn them will NOT get their apps discovered, again no matter what.

      It’s all about the marketing and that’s why I’m spending so much time on those topics with this blog.

      Keep in mind also that there’s a reason Apple bought Chomp.

  3. Hi Matt,

    I went to the link you suggest on your last paragraph (mturk). They state that you are not allowed to ask people to download apps, wasn’t sure if you were aware of this or if they have changed the ruling since you wrote this blog. I would be interested top get your views on incentivised downloads and if you are able to recommend any suitable companies?



    • The thing with mTurk is new. They probably did that to stop people from gaming the download rankings of Amazon (a HUGE yahoo parter and yahoo owns murk).

      As for downloads … try looking at fiverr and the other $5 sites like that and you should find folks who can get you downloads.

      Just keep in mind that those downloads won’t stick AND ALSO keep in mind that there are MUUUUUUCH better ways of getting more downloads than trying to game the download rankings.

  4. As a small developer myself, I have definitely felt the frustration of iTunes rankings mysteries. My travel apps are incredible and receive all 5 STAR ratings from users but haven’t been able to climb up in rankings next to apps which are inferior.

    My NYC Travel app ( blows away mTrip, Lonely Planet and Time Out New York, but is ranked far below them. Even with hundreds of downloads each week we get shoved out of the Big Boys Club.

    Compare my app to their NYC travel apps and you will see the difference.

    • While number of downloads are not the ONLY ranking factor anymore, it is still something that’s important.

      Have you checked out the blog posts that explain how to increase downloads yet?

      Also, do your apps have apple push notification and are you using your existing user base to cross promote your other apps? There is a reason I talk about the “app network” so much. Cross promotion is EXTREMELY important. There’s no reason YOU can’t create your own “big boys club” for yourself either?

      Have you thought about doing JVs (joint ventures) where you promote someone else’s app in exchange for them promoting yours?

      • Great idea to do a JV within my apps. There are several periphery type apps which don’t directly compete with our app which we could partner with and co-advertise.

        We haven’t done much with push notifications because we built the apps to function offline as much as possible. However, implementing strategic push notifications is a great idea. Especially to help promote complimentary brands within our portfolio.

        I really appreciate your insight and recommendations. I will let you know how they work out.

      • Push notifications are one of those things a lot of people leave out of there apps … but this represents a HUGE opportunity to do all kinds of things that can generate a lot of money. I add push notification to every app I produce at this point.

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