Reaching a high spot in Google Play rankings is extremely difficult (many developers will attest to that!).
Even after doing all your homework (improving your app, polishing your description, adding translations, increasing your rating) there are unexpected fluctuations that seem to be out of control.
Why does this happen?
Sudden ups and downs are common in Google Play rankings. Many times they will look completely random. But other times they can be predicted.
After two years of having TimeTune in Google Play, we’ve observed some patterns that repeat over time. Like seasonal variations or a constant sawtooth movement in the charts.
We’ll show you our evolution through 2016 as an example of what a typical year in Google Play rankings looks like. And we’ll give you some hints to help you deal with those sudden and mysterious fluctuations.
Here’s the chart:
The chart corresponds to our 2016 ranking evolution in the US in the Productivity category. The yellow points show the dates where we released a new version of the app. It has been extracted from SearchMan, a great website where you can find a lot data about your app (and your competitors’!). Check it out, it’s free!
Keep in mind though that our findings are based on a productivity app. Games and apps from other categories might have a different pattern.
RANKINGS IN JANUARY
January is a common growing month. Many people buy new devices for Christmas and they are eager to install new apps.
New year’s resolutions contribute to that as well. And this is especially good for tools and productivity apps! 😉
So seeing a sudden increase in downloads and ranking position is normal in January. Take advantage of this fact. Update your app and tweak your prices in advance. Be prepared for a wave of new users at the start of the year!
TimeTune finished 2015 around the 200th position and reached number 125 during the first month of 2016. The amount of daily downloads increased as well: from 1,750 daily downloads in December to 3,000 in January.
It’s not a bad way to start a new year!
FEBRUARY THROUGH APRIL
This can easily be the most stable period of the year. After the new wave of users has settled in, daily downloads will slowly go back to previous levels. Or hopefully keep their momentum for a while.
Your ranking position will tend to stay stable inside a specific zone. Apart from the usual sawtooth movement you could see a smooth increase or decrease. But there shouldn’t be extraordinary changes.
MAY AND JUNE
At the end of the student season and the beginning of summer, people start thinking about going on vacation. Downloads will decrease and this will be reflected on your rankings.
As you can see on the chart we dropped to position 210 in June, the lowest ranking for the summer.
JULY AND AUGUST
Step by step, workers will finish their holidays and students will go back to their books. Your ranking and downloads will experience several (and sometimes big) increases.
We even had our maximum ranking for the year (position 95) in August.
SEPTEMBER THROUGH DECEMBER
September and October can be (or at least should be) relatively stable months. In our case we saw a steady decrease.
As the end of the year approaches, daily downloads and ranking position will gradually go down, especially in December.
The last days of December can easily mark the lowest point in the year (excluding exceptional fluctuations). It’s time to enjoy Christmas, holidays and familiar reunions.
We finished 2016 around position 210 (almost the same place where we started the year). But as you can see on the final uptick, the first days of 2017 took us again to position 150, starting a new yearly cycle.
We’ll keep you posted about what happens in 2017 🙂
Apart from these generic periods, your app will probably undergo several abrupt oscillations through the year (see our sudden drops in November and December). But it’s important not to panic (or at least not to panic too soon).
Google is constantly tweaking and adapting its algorithms in order to find the best place for each app. They shuffle the rankings almost every day in order to learn what’s best for you.
So before questioning what you did wrong, check your competition first. If you see they are experiencing a sudden decrease as well, wait. Chances are things will go back to normal after a few days.
To detect these general drops, we use a free metric from Tune.com: the Popularity of an app. Tune calculates this metric using a proprietary formula and resulting in an indicator ranging from 0 to 10 about how popular is your app on Google Play.
When you see this indicator going down for everyone, don’t worry. It will pass. If it goes down just for your app, well, maybe you should start to worry…
If you want to check your app’s popularity go to Tune.com, create a free account and add your app. The App Store Analytics section will show you the metric. Add some competitors and you’ll see their popularity too.
SO IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO?
There are a few things we as developers can do to avoid fluctuations and improve our Google Play rankings as much as possible:
- First and foremost, we need to do our homework. Improving our apps in every way, polishing our descriptions, keywords, localizations, screenshots, etc. This is a must. No app will go up in the rankings if the product doesn’t show quality in all aspects.
- Taking advantage of favorable months. January and the end of summer are growing periods. Prepare in advance. Put your app up-to-date and solve those pending problems before the new wave of users come in. With luck, you’ll stay in a better position for long.
- Don’t panic when you see an abrupt change. See how your competitors are doing and check if the change is general.
- Remember that your ranking will usually evolve following a sawtooth movement. Don’t worry about daily changes, worry about the generic tendency.
- Follow Google Play’s best practices and read other App Store Optimization articles. There’s a lot of good advice out there.
- Finally, be patient and persistent. As they say, it takes a lot of time to achieve an overnight success!
Did you see similar changes in your Google Play rankings? If you have a different experience or think we missed something, let us know in the comments!