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App Developers' Fortunes Rise and Fall on App Category Changes

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Apple recently changed its app category ordering when viewed from an iPhone or iPad. Changing the category order can affect how well an app sells because of how many views it gets. Jeff Hughes discusses how apps that once sold well are being affected by the shift in categories; some apps are selling better and some are selling worse.

App developers are always looking for ways to sell more copies of their apps in a very competitive App Store market. Besides being a great app, it also needs exposure, especially on the App Store itself.

When an app makes it onto the App Store's New and Noteworthy, What's Hot, or Staff Favorites listings, it sees a significant jump in sales. The home page of the App Store is extremely valuable real estate. Having your app showcased on the front page of the App Store is a huge benefit, and as long as your app is getting such visibility, it will do well.

Other aspects of the App Store can also significantly impact your app sales. About a month ago, Apple quietly changed the ordering of its mobile app categories on the iPhone and iPad to be alphabetical. Previously, Apple ordered the app categories by the most popular, which meant that games and utilities were ranked at the top of the list, for example.

Naturally, the categories that rank higher in the display list on the iPhone and iPad are seen first, and the apps within those categories are more likely to get more views.

The reason is simple. People view and download the most popular apps in the App Store. They typically browse the App Store from their iPhone or iPad. It's similar to someone doing a search on Google. People searching on Google will tend to look at the first page or two of the search results.

Beyond a few pages of search results, it becomes more difficult to get views and click-throughs to your site.

Companies that depend on Google for both organic and paid search are affected quickly whenever Google makes a slight change to its search algorithm. The smallest changes can have a huge impact on where a company ranks in search results.

Just like Google, when iTunes makes the slightest change to its App Store search algorithm, it has an impact on how many people see an app. The recent changes to the category ordering have also affected sales for many app vendors, for better or worse.

Some developers have been helped because their apps are now in a category that is displayed higher on the mobile screen. Take the Business Category, for example.

This category ranks second on the displayed list, just below Books. The top Paid Business App is TurboScan from Pixoft. It has moved into first place, and its high ranking could be because it has received so much more exposure due to its higher views on the mobile App Store screen.

If your app is the best-selling app for a category, your icon is displayed in the category listing. Tapping on that category icon will bring up the best-selling paid app in the first position for that category.

Barcode Scanner Shopping may also have benefited from the change in category ordering as this app as seen a jump in sales.

Other developers may be adversely affected due to the decrease in exposure for their apps because their category now appears further down the list. Some categories, such as Utilities, have now moved to near the bottom of the category list.

I4Software, the developer of the best-selling Flashlight app, however, has remained in first place in its category despite the change in the ordering. It is still ranked #1 in the Utilities category and has been for some time, even after the category change.

Additionally, the position in the Top Paid overall on the App Store hasn't been affected much; I4Software believes it's because of its 15,000+ five star rankings.

It wishes that the Utilities Category was displayed higher in the mobile display list however, as it was before because the more exposure an app has, the higher its sales.

It's hard to say, but these changes in the ordering of categories might have some impact on Apple revenues for mobile app downloads. People gravitate to the most popular apps. If they can't readily find the most popular games or utility apps, they might not purchase those apps when they are browsing from their iPhone or iPad. Some sales may be lost because of the impulse buying that happens directly from the iPhone and iPad.

Just as a Google search, the higher your web page is ranked, the more traffic it will have. And more traffic translates to more sales.

The more visible an app is, the more sales it's likely to have. When it comes to visibility, every change to the App Store, whether it is to the search algorithm or the ordering of categories, can have a positive or negative impact on your app sales.

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