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App ranking deviation: iTunes app store, IOS app store: mind the gap!

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Did you know that the results you see on the iTunes App Store are completely different from the ones you see on IOS devices (Iphone and Ipad devices)? Well, that’s because Apple have not synchronized the two rankings.

In fact, the algorithm for iTunes on desktop looks different to the algorithm for the App store on IOS devices such as iPhone and iPad; even though the mobile operating system and media player platform are both managed by Apple. Ranking data provided by the ASO tool: Sensortower refers only to the IOS ranking and doesn’t take into account the Itunes ranking; this could be explained by the fact that most users’ download apps via IOS devices.

An analysis of the difference in rankings


In order to illustrate the issue of ranking differences, we can for example, have a closer look at the ranking position (for specific keywords) of Trivago’s UK app. It should be noted that this gap is not specific only to Trivago but can also be spotted with other apps.

The graph below illustrates the significant deviation between the IOS app store (provided by SensorTower) and ITunes ranking. The ranking positions have been taken from27th January 2015.

graphIt is even more surprising that a keyword can be really efficient (in terms of app visibility) on ITunes and not at all, on IOS. Thus, Trivago’s app can rank in the top 10 in ITunes for a keyword, while the app isn’t even in the top 50 for the same keyword, in the IOS app store!

Let’s take the keyword “vacation” as an example. On 27th January 2015, According to Sensortower, Trivago would rank 60th in the IOS App store for this keyword and 58th for Appannie. When checking manually on an Iphone, we found that it ranks 60th. However, it ranks 9th in the ITunes app store, at this particular date and also, in the UK market.

SensorTower 27/01/2015 (60th position):


Appannie 27/01/2015 (58th):


Itunes App store 27/01/2015 (9th):


Until now Apple has not given any explanation for the ranking gap. According to Alex Malafeev, Founder at SensorTower:

It is not a case that iTunes searches are behind the iPhone searches or that they are cached, as we’ve looked at historical data and there really isn’t any correlation.  Sometimes completely different apps appear in the iTunes search results.

Therefore, depending on your ranking objectives on the iTunes app store, if you notice for example that your app’s download opportunity on this platform is higher; you should also consider checking how selected keywords rank on iTunes as well.

However, apps are generally downloaded on smartphone or Ipad devices, thus, the IOS search result remains the most significant one.

Have a look at this blog post by SensorTower  for more information about this ranking gap.

One final question, how would you explain this ranking difference?