If You Build It, Will They Find You?

After going through the hard work of developing a mobile app for your business, you would surely like a significant number of people to find it. Much like a bomb’s purpose is to explode, an app’s purpose is to be used. It turns out that while building the app is certainly more like science and less like astrology, I’m finding the opposite to be true of getting apps noticed.

Case in point: I’ve had a music dictionary app named “MusicTools” in the App Store for over two years. Despite the great reviews and ratings it receives (4+ stars), daily sales volume are measurable using the fingers on just one hand. As I’ve wracked my brain trying to find a way to increase sales, I’ve made an alarming discovery. If you pull out your iPhone, go into the App Store and search on “music dictionary”, here is what you are likely to find:

The top two are either average or not well rated, but have the words “music” and “dictionary” in their title. Notice the little cheat exinhe used to game the system by adding a “.” to the end of the word “Dictionary”. Genius. Clearly the App Store gives significant weight to app titles that contain the search keywords, and that makes sense.

But as we then scroll through the rest of the apps listed, we find reverse chord dictionaries, guitar chord dictionaries, rhyming apps, history books, religion books, poetry collections, and finally down around position 31, MusicTools. The first keyword I used when listing the app in the store was “music dictionary“. The description I provided for the store describes in great detail how this app is a music dictionary. Now how in blazes does that not rank better than rhyming apps, history books, and poetry collections?

My revelation was that not having the word “dictionary” in the title obviously cost me mega-ranking points, and exinhe’s little trick with the “.” proves that name rules supreme over ratings and reviews.  As I said above, that does makes sense to a degree, but consider this: the app with the mashup name of  “Musictionary” usually lists in the top 5, does not have the words “music” and “dictionary” explicitly in the name, ranks only 3 stars, and gets average or poor reviews. How is that MusicTools, also with a mashup name, but with 4+ stars and good reviews, doesn’t list ahead of, or at least along side of it?  Cue the Mayan music and bring in the astrologers.

I continue to search for the answer to this vexing enigma, but I think the lesson to be shared is that the name you pick for your app is more critical to its discovery than you might realize. Search keywords alone obviously do not cut the mustard. With over 500,000 apps in the store, let alone how many might be in your app’s particular category already, you really should put some “discoverability” thinking into your calculus when choosing a name.

There’s an old proverb from the 16th century that goes something like “give a dog a bad name and you might as well hang him.” Apparently that proverb applies in the App Store as well.

Am I off base here?  Would you not expect the top search hits in the App Store to actually be what you searched for?

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  • Brian Yamabe

    How about MusicTools – The Music Dictionary?

  • Not a bad idea Brian.  Unfortunately I don’t know of a way to change an existing app’s name without taking it off the store and then adding it back as a new app with the new name.  All of the existing ratings and reviews would be lost at that point.  And, I would end up leaving existing customers without a way to get updates.

    It only gets more vexing! 😉


  • Brian
  • Wow!  I did not notice that option the last time I did an update.  Guess what I’ll be trying Real Soon Now?  Thanks Brian!