December 14, 2011

Does Google Love Your Mobile App?

Posted by Brian Klais

Google has made huge strides lately indexing and displaying iOS (and Android) app profile pages within the regular search results. But curious minds want to know: just how is Google’s algorithm treating iOS apps listed among the “most popular apps” within the App Store’s Lifestyle category page?

To long-time SEO practitioners like myself, this is an interesting puzzle. Because the App Store’s Lifestyle (and other prominent app category) page increasingly resembles a classic “hub” page, like the old Yahoo directory.


  • The Lifestyle category is where virtually all iOS retail or shopping apps live
  • There are over 45,000 apps in this category, with more added each day
  • Most retail sites that offer an iOS app link to the app’s profile page
  • All of these retail app profile pages link to Lifestyle page
  • Yet only the top 240 apps are displayed as “Popular Apps”

For brands with apps ranked highly on this page, this is a potentially important ranking opportunity. Why? Because the App Store links to each app profile page using the app name as the internal link anchor text (see screenshot below).

Since many brands do include their brand name in the name of the app itself, we wanted to see if there is evidence that Google rankings may be influenced by these popular app profile pages when searching for the brand.


App Names Double as Internal Link Anchor Text in the App Store

App Names Double as Internal Link Anchor Text in the App Store



We selected 36 of the most recognizable retail brands (listed below) with apps featured on the “popular apps” section of the App Store Lifestyle page.

We then Googled for the brand name (with personalization switched off) and noted where the brand’s App Store app profile page was ranked.

Below is the Google position we found each app profile page ranked when searching for the brand’s name (as of December 12, 2011), followed by a chart mapping the distribution of App Store Popularity to Google Ranking:




Groupon 3
eBay 5
Amazon 4
Apple Store 4
Zillow 2
Starbucks 13
LivingSocial 3
Target 6
Walgreens 9
Walmart 22
Pizza Hut 2
Best Buy 7
Domino’s Pizza 19
Gilt 6
Zappos 11
Nordstrom 25
Sephora 5
Sam’s Club 16
Victoria’s Secret 20
The Home Depot 7
Newegg 4
Macy’s 17
Forever 21 7
Toys R Us 12
CVS 81
JCPenney 31
Old Navy 14
Kohl’s 80
Kmart2go 50
Abercrombie & Fitch 14
Gap 60
Jo-Ann 7
AutoZone 80
PriceGrabber 2
HSN 21
Average 18


App Store Popularity vs Google Ranking


App Ranking Examples

For examples, see screenshots for eBay and JC Penney iOS apps, below:

eBay's App Ranking in Google

eBay’s iOS App Ranks Highly in the App Store – and in Google


JC Penneys' iOS App Ranking in Google

JC Penney’s iOS App Ranks Lower in the App Store – and in Google


#1:  Brands with apps in the top 50 most popular App Store listings generally have their apps ranked higher in Google (averaging position 7) for brand searches that match the app’s name/anchor text.

#2:  The effect of this “trusted endorsement” lessens the lower the app is listed on the page. Brands listed in the next 100 most popular apps ranked slightly lower (averaging Page 3, position 28). Brands listed in the remaining 100 apps rank lower still in Google (averaging Page 4, position 33).

(However, it’s worth noting: we did not consider change dynamics of the “popular app” list. Apps only recently added to the list may yet see the benefits of their new link equity later. This is a possible explanation for the lower Google rankings of apps listed on the page.)

#3:  Having an app profile page listed as a “popular app” on the Lifestyle page does indeed correspond with, and likely has a causal effect upon the app’s Google rankings for queries that match the app’s anchor text.

A convenient way of visualizing the general ranking correlation we found, organized by column on the Lifestyle page:

How Popular App Store Listings Impact Google Rank for Brand App Names

How Popular App Store Retail Listings Rank in Google for Their Brand App Names



We think the data suggest a virtuous cycle between Google visibility and App Store popularity (as a “directory”).

Brands with iOS or Android apps should take advantage of this unique opportunity to optimize app pages to reach brand searchers, while at the same time using search visibility to jump-start the popularity of their apps for users.

We see this objective quickly becoming the scope of “App SEO” as a discipline going forward, and we believe brands should consider such “App SEO” a high-priority, alongside other Search and Mobile initiatives.

The Virtuous Cycle Between App Store Popularity and Google Ranking

 No doubt Google’s algorithm for ranking apps will change over time. So watch this space!


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