I have a feeling that there might have been a Google Play algorithm change. I’m not certain about it but there are a couple of things that made me think there could have been a minor change. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any news or information to support this. Anyway, here are my observations:
Google Play Algorithm/Rankings
There are a couple of apps that I watch on an almost daily basis, I mainly check their category rankings. Between February 17th and February 20th I noticed that the rankings for them didn’t move at all…At any point. This is strange because rankings usually move around multiple times a day. There are two things I used to check ranking history. The first is the desktop site for Google Play, you can check rankings for a category with this URL:
You can also add optionally add in a region like this:
So if for example you were going to check the top free tool apps for South Korea, you would use this URL:
Rankings on App Annie
The other service I use is App Annie, you can check app rankings for free but it’s slightly delayed. Regardless, it’s good to use to check ranking history on a graph(and free). Anyway here are some screenshots of the ranking freeze I’m talking about:
As you can see from the graphs, the lines went almost perfectly straight from the 17th to the 20th. These graphs are from two prominent Asian regions, so I’m not sure if there was similar behavior in Western regions(apart from anecdotal evidence). Case A actually had a large jump in ranking after the 20th, it’s almost as if ranking changes were turned off and then back on due to an update(this app also had an ad campaign running during the period). Interestingly enough grossing ranks still seemed to fluctuate heavily during the same period, so it was only the top free category rankings that were affected.
Apart from the ranking charts freezing for a few days I don’t really have anything other then anecdotal evidence to support my theory. I did notice that on the Making Money with Android forum there were some developers commenting on a noticeable drop in downloads for their apps as well as strange stats in their Developer consoles.
I couldn’t find any pages or articles on Google Search commenting on any changes this month. If it was a major update there probably would have been more of a fuss about it. When algorithms were changed to take engagement into account last year there was a lot of information available. If anybody has any information or observations to share feel free to write them in the comments below. Hopefully this is all part of some kind of larger, exciting change. It would be great if keywords in the Developer Console rolled out sometime soon.