In the world of competitive app distribution, rankings are always something of major concern.  So much so that once in a while, you want to take a client by the shoulders and shake them until the lightbulb goes off and they start to realize that rankings alone do not indicate ROI.

Yes, rankings are important.  But in measuring the success of a product, rankings are only one piece of the pie.  Gasp!  Blasphemy!  Crazy talk!  Yes, I know that those who specialize exclusively in rankings believe this to be the gospel, and while there is some truth to the manifesto, by and large it’s not nearly as important as one would be led to believe.  Especially not in an overcrowded marketplace where ranks can be and are gamed every day (remember the App Gratis fiasco, though they seem to have transitioned to Android as a defensive maneuver) and anyone flush with enough cash to afford mass install purchases can jump to the top of the charts while their wallets stay fat and their investors remain giddy as the clickers keep ticking off higher numbers.

Keyword ranking, like download ranking, is simply one measure of marketing effectiveness, and should be taken with a grain of salt.  User reviews, viral marketing, SEO, and both traditional and non-traditional methods of user acquisition should also be incorporated into the mix to assure effective ad spends and to accurately measure the ROI of various campaigns and distribution channels.

Users who habitually download apps and use them for a single instance are legion and achieving continued product use is likely more important to your overall business strategy (unless you run a downloads for sale company, that is) and bank account than simply watching the numbers click by on a counter every day.  Yes, it’s nice to have traffic and without traffic it’s all but impossible to understand your conversion ratios; the problem in this scenario is that most developers don’t truly understand conversion ratios and how end users react to changes, even minor ones, to better those ratios and earn more dollars per user.

Before committing too many resources to better rankings, stop and think about what the rankings will achieve.  And what you can do with those rankings to better your product and grow your income.   A/B testing with more users is always valuable, especially in testing price points or methods – determining what makes a user commit more $$$ to your app versus someone else’s is worth its weight in gold; more so to devs who create multiple apps for distribution.  Leveraging your current user base to grow your next product becomes much more efficient when you have data that gives insight into the ways that consumers (or companies if you are an enterprise dev) can be drawn deeper into your well is another key metric that rankings alone don’t display.

Always remember, too, that you are competing with companies that may have massive war chests – Disney, Rovio, etc if you are in the game space, and companies like Google, Apple or Microsoft if you are in the productivity space.  Outspending is not really an option unless you manage the budget for someone like the examples; being creative with product launches and ongoing updates helps to win the skirmishes that make up the war.