Why Can Your App’s Keyword Rankings Suddenly Drop?

Alex Moulderby 
Senior Account Manager

5 min read

When you begin working on ASO for an app, it’s likely that keyword rankings will be an important metric that are checked on a regular basis. Whether it’s a full list or just a handful of keywords that are tracked, it’s likely that, at some point, these rankings will change and the investigation into what happened to cause this change will begin.

Where to begin?

The first place to look is at the app’s metadata.

  • If this is your own app, begin by looking at the recent keyword updates that have been made. Any changes made to the title, subtitle, and the keyword field within the last 4 weeks may still be impacting rankings. Keywords that were updated should be monitored closely following the release for any impact in rankings.
  • Competitor updates may also impact rankings on your app. Follow your closest competitors’ updates with AppTweak’s Timeline tool to discover which keywords competitors changed and should be monitored. It’s not possible to see which keywords were updated on a competitor’s keyword field. But by looking at AppTweak’s Keyword Movement Detector, it is easy to see where competitors saw the largest gains or losses in rankings following an update, and where they may now be outranking on particular keywords and those that you are targeting.

The Keyword Movement Detector shows where there are changes in rankings, and for which keywords rankings changed. The Keyword Movement Detector shows where there are changes in rankings, and for which keywords rankings changed.

Algorithm updates

If changes were not made to the app’s keyword metadata, the next thing to consider is if there was an algorithm update. Algorithm updates can impact all rankings or just a particular subset of keywords. Algorithm updates can happen multiple times a year with no warning as to when or what will be affected.

Using AppTweak’s Keyword Movement Detector, it is easy to see what keywords were impacted and may need to be updated.  If you are unsure if rankings changes are caused by an algorithm update, check the AppTweak Algorithm Change Detector for your country.

Check out AppTweak’s Algorithm Change Detector

Newly released apps

Not only can apps that are established as competitors affect rankings, but the entry of new apps can also impact rankings. On the App Store, Apple tends to boost newly released apps and games in their category rankings that helps increase their visibility. Also, visibility on general keywords like “new games,” “best games,” or “trending games” can skyrocket for new games and outrank more established games.

Change in competitor category

It’s also possible that a change in category for either your app or competitors’ can cause keyword rankings to change as well. The selected category helps Apple’s algorithm associate what is most relevant to your app and with what other apps it is most closely related to. This can also impact rankings on category descriptive keywords.

Reviews and ratings

Reviews and ratings can help show what users have to say about an app. If many users leave reviews commenting on the same features, it’s possible that Apple can begin to associate the app with the keyword. Going a step further, it’s beneficial to see if users are commenting on the same feature in a negative or positive way. This may impact rankings if there is an overwhelming sentiment one way or another.

Ratings and Reviews Sentiment shows how users associate particular keywords with the app. Ratings and Reviews Sentiment shows how users associate particular keywords with the app.

Learn more about reviews and ratings keyword sentiment


Apps or games that get featured can get a huge boost in downloads. On the App Store, this influx of downloads can have an immediate impact on category rankings. Featurings can also appear on keywords. It’s not possible to know when or how an app will be featured prior to it happening, but knowing when it does happen can have a large impact on impressions, downloads, and rankings. Apps that are featured may see an increase in traffic but also an increase in conversion on specific keywords for which they are featured if installs increase. This improvement in conversion can improve rankings on these keywords, as it teaches Apple that people associate that keyword closely with the app.

Similar apps

If looking at these possible reasons for ranking changes does not provide valuable insights, looking at the similar apps before and after the keyword rankings changes may help to see if Apple has made changes in the way it relates the app to other apps. If there are changes to similar apps, it’s possible Apple is running tests and may have re-associated what the app is most closely related to.

Since both Featurings and Similar apps are considered Browse traffic, it is not directly impacted by losses and gains in keyword rankings. However, it should be investigated whether certain keywords rankings assisted in being featured or have an impact on similar apps pointing towards yours.

Learn more about similar apps

AppTweak has a range of tools to help you understand sudden keyword movements. Get started today with an 7-day free trial!

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Alex Moulder
by , Senior Account Manager
Alex is an ASO Manager at AppTweak helping apps increase their visibility. She has a passion for animals, reading, and like the rest of the AppTweak team, good food.