More than 65% of app downloads occur as a direct result of searches in the app stores, which suggests that search has become a more important factor for mobile apps.
A report from TUNE released Thursday analyzes the importance of ranking in search results within app stores and how to improve those rankings. John Koetsier, TUNE’s mobile economist, was tasked with studying, analyzing, and forecasting trends affecting the mobile space. The group analyzed about 20,000 iOS and 30,000 Android apps.
Koetsier said understanding user behavior and the need for search surfaced as two of the most important factors revealed by the data.
While free versus paid is pretty much a dead subject, Koetsier said free apps rank for 13 times more keywords than paid apps on Google Play and three to five times more in the Apple App Store. "It kind of shocked me," he said. "I never knew that."
An app must rank for more than 25 search terms to break into the top 150 on iOS App Store, and it must rank for between 15 to 25 search terms to break into the top 150 apps in a category on Google Play.
To achieve a top 10 ranking in a category on Google Play or the iOS App Store, app developers and brands must rank for between 60 and 110 search terms on average.
Apps that have achieved a top-10 rank in their category rank first for at least six search terms, second or third for nine to 10- keywords, and about fourth or fifth for another eight or so terms.
For the study, 3,005 smartphone owners in early summer were asked why they download the last few apps installed, with 37.3% admitting to having a specific task in mind and believing that it would help. Some 31% said they downloaded the app based on a friend's recommendations, followed by 20.2% who downloaded the app because it looked interesting.
Even more interesting, 13.5% said they Googled a question and Google served the app suggestion as the answer to the query. Another 13% said Apple or Google featured the app as a recommendation; 10.8% said they were already a customer of the company and wanted to get services for mobile; and 2.6% said noted other as a reason for downloading the app.
Koetsier wouldn't be surprised to see Google add additional ad placements with the app store.
Perhaps that's because the TUNE data shows that search is three to four times more important for app discovery than featured listings, and while friends’ recommendations are the second-biggest driver of app discovery, search is two and a half times more important than paid ads, according to TUNE's findings.