The Anatomy of a Top Mobile App
Last month, we combed through the free app top charts in both the U.S. Apple App Store and the U.S. Google Play Store for a few “Mad Science” experiments in App Store Optimization and App Store Rankings. In the process, we’ve found more than a few interesting trends and observations on what sets a top ranked app apart from the other 1.4 million apps in the market.
So what does a top ranked app look like?
The six observations below aggregate the data across 100 top ranked apps in either U.S. app store, revealing that top ranked apps are highly likely to be:
- Highly rated, with at least four stars;
- Often rated, with at least ten thousand app store ratings;
- Games, social apps, or productivity tools (although the category distribution is broad);
- Updated at least once a month;
- Downloaded at least five million times; and,
- Published by a North American company (although we’re seeing a growing surge of mobile app innovations coming out of the EMEA and APAC regions, particularly in gaming).
As you read on for more detail on each of these observations, keep in mind that the volatile nature of app store rankings means that the top charts change every day, so the findings below are also subject to change over time.
Observation #1: Ratings Really Matter to App Store Rankings
Of course, this one didn’t come off as a huge surprise after we just wrapped up our App Store Ratings eBook, but ratings matter when it comes to making the app store top charts. Like really matter.
Across the top charts:
- 88% of Top 100 Android apps have a rating greater than four stars. (Click to Tweet)
- 51% of Top 100 iOS apps have a rating greater than four stars. (Click to Tweet)
- Top ranked Android apps average a 4.32 star rating. (Click to Tweet)
- Top ranked iOS apps average a 3.94 star rating. (Click to Tweet)
Observation #2: A Good Rating Alone Isn’t Enough
Not only do the top ranked apps have good ratings, they have a lot of ratings. At the time of collecting the data:
- 51% of top Android apps have over 1 million ratings. (Click to Tweet)
- 37% of top iOS apps have over 100 thousand ratings. (Click to Tweet)
- The average top 100 Android app has 3.1 million ratings. (Click to Tweet)
- The average top 100 iOS app has 196 thousand ratings. (Click to Tweet)
- Two-thirds of all others apps have zero ratings. (Click to Tweet)
Observation #3: Games Dominate Both App Store Top Charts
At first glance, this one wasn’t a surprise, considering that mobile games compose over 21% of all active apps. What is surprising, however, is just how much they dominate in the app store top charts. In both stores, we see mobile games dominating in greater proportion than their market share:
- 25% of the top iOS apps are games. (Click to Tweet)
- 42% of the top Android apps are games. (Click to Tweet)
It’s hard to make any other comparisons given the differences in how Google Play and the App Store categorize apps, but in both app store top charts, we see a healthy mix of social networking and productivity apps coming in among the best represented largest categories.
Observation #4: Top Ranked Apps are Updated Frequently
This one did surprise us a bit. In both stores, the top ranked apps are updated remarkably often:
- The average top Android app has gone 38 days since its last update. (Click to Tweet)
- The average top iOS app has gone 28 days since its last update. (Click to Tweet)
It appears that top ranked apps are those that continue to be updated and managed long after release. This typically means larger support teams, frequent content refreshes, and ongoing QA efforts. (Of course we can only read so much into a causal effect of update frequency on app store rankings, but we’ve analyzed the point in greater detail in a Moz guest post on ASO.)
Observation #5: Top Ranked Apps are Insanely Popular
This one’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. All of the apps in Google Play’s Top 100 have an astonishing number of downloads, but this can also be attributed to the increased visibility and discovery resulting from higher rankings. Regardless, these apps are tremendously successful:
- 34% of the Top 100 Android apps have over 100 million downloads. (Click to Tweet)
- 95% of the Top 100 Android apps have over 1 million downloads. (Click to Tweet)
Unfortunately, our analysis stops with Android as the Apple App Store doesn’t make download count public. We did, however, note that the App Store’s top charts had a greater proportion of new apps. This seems to suggest that it is easier for a new iOS app than it is for a new Android app to rank high without a huge amount of downloads.
Observation #6: The U.S. Dominates the App Store Top Charts
As a disclaimer, this analysis only examines the top charts in the U.S. app stores. Both Google Play and the App Store have different rankings dependent on country in order to reward those apps that do a better job with localization and multicultural marketing.
Regardless, apps published in the names of American companies dominated the U.S. App Store top charts, with a 60% share of the top ranked apps (Click to Tweet).
There were a few more surprising regions that made it to the top charts as well, including eastern Europe, western Asia, and South America. These regions are all beginning to play a large role in mobile innovation, following in the footsteps of a few leading developers, including Apalon (Belarus), Viber (Israel), Waze (Israel), and Etermax (Argentina).
See or hypothesize any interesting trends we missed? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll investigate in our next analysis!
For more on the data behind these observations and the actionable steps you can take today to climb the app store ranks, download our free 55-page guide on app store rankings, ratings, and reviews: