Category Ranking: Impact of External Factors

February 6th, 2021

Category Ranking: Impact of External Factors
David Quinn

by David Quinn

VP of Strategy & Partnerships at Gummicube, Inc.

Category ranking, on both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, is solely driven by the volume and velocity of installs. In order to appear on the charts, be it within the category pages or the “Top Free” apps, developers would need to increase and sustain their volume of total downloads over time.

These downloads can come from a variety of sources:

  • Aggressive acquisition campaigns on performance networks
  • Strategic Apple Search Ads / Google Ads campaigns targeting a broad set of users
  • Facebook campaigns
  • Organic downloads

How are apps suddenly finding success at the top of the Top Free Category? Are there any other external factors that could impact an app’s perceived success with ranking #1?

Viral Social Media Posts

In between makeup tutorials, life hacks and quick recipes, TikTok and Instagram have both become a huge avenue for downloads for a variety of different apps. Snuck into vlogs or a standalone “Do you think you can beat me?” kind of sponsored posts are games, stemming from developers looking to leverage young, popular personalities.

Blob Runner 2 recently found success between its UA campaigns and influencer posts, with it emerging into the Top Free Games category and ranking #2 within its 6-day lifespan on the same chart.

Maintaining Position

Category rankings can only be sustained if the app manages to maintain the same volume and velocity consistently, assuming no other big pushes from competitor apps.

The moment a channel begins to decrease its volume, for whatever reason, within an instant, the category ranking for an app can decrease. The same can be said for increases in traffic. It proves that category rankings aren’t necessarily a good indicator for app success.

Converting Traffic

With thousands, if not millions, of users being funneled into the App Store from different sources, App Store Optimization can put it in a much better position.

With ASO, your visible metadata and creative should already adhere to store best practices. Metadata should plainly state what it is the app happens to be, and creatives should be able to show the benefits. Users coming from paid networks should be able to easily grasp its concept, allowing them to feel more inclined to follow through with their decision to tap on the ad, and eventually download the app.

A Pandemic

Almost a year ago, the United States was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing many people to begin to work from home in order to keep each other safe.

Companies scrambled to secure their own conferencing systems, opting for companies like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to help them sustain their office culture by way of video and audio calls.

Before March of 2020, Zoom, Hangouts and Cisco WebEx were averaging a ranking anywhere between the 40s and the mid 100s in the Business Category.

On March 12, with the announcement from the World Health Organization, each of these apps suddenly rose to rank within the Top 10, with Zoom eventually taking the #1 in both the Business category and the Top Free Apps listing.

VPN and mobile security apps also saw the same trend within the Utilities and Productivity categories.

The Economy

At the peak of GameStop’s stock market surge, apps like Robinhood and Webull suddenly found themselves increasing their “Top Free” ranking rapidly. Both apps position themselves as an easy investment tool for the “everyday” person to join with little to no fees.

Robinhood averaged a #80 within the Top Free category throughout the last few months of Q4. As more and more users started to catch wind of the stock activity surrounding GameStop and AMC, users across Reddit and Twitter began to encourage others to use Robinhood and Webull as an easy entry point to join the frenzy.

On December 27, Robinhood only ranked at #144. On January 28, Robinhood ranked #1.

Webull had not ranked at all within the Top Free category in the previous 3 months, suddenly rising to rank at #2 on January 29, without any prior rank on the chart.


If it’s a category ranking you’re looking for, the best way you’ll be able to find it is by strategizing and sustaining your App Store Optimization and paid strategies. Or maybe your app will be found at the right place at the right time. By ensuring your store page is as optimized as possible, you’ll be able to gain more downloads over time.

Want to learn more about App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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