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The Ultimate Power of Trending Searches

See the vast impact Apple's Trending Searches feature can have on an app's daily downloads.

Title Image for The Ultimate Power of Trending Searches

In early July, we did a breakdown of the App Store's trending searches by country. You can read about what terms showed up most frequently around the world, and also discover how "sticky" the terms were (or how long they remained in Apple's list).

Many of our customers wanted to see the impact that the trending searches feature can have, particularly on an app's downloads. So today, we've investigated the effect this increased visibility can have on an app's daily downloads. (Spoiler alert: It's kind of amazing.)


The list of trending searches was added to the App Store with iOS version 8. Users can view the full list on their iOS device by opening the app store and tapping "search." We also pull trending searches directly into the Keyword Research module of the Sensor Tower dashboard, to enable our customers ease-of-access to this information while eliminating back-and-forth between research tools.

At any given time, a total of ten trending searches are displayed by Apple. (Note: The Sensor Tower dashboard may display more than ten trending searches, in order to grant additional perspective to hourly fluctuations.) The list is market specific (country by country) and is updated throughout the day to reflect popular terms in a timely manner.

lt="Screenshot Demonstrating Location of Trending Searches in Sensor Tower's App Intelligence ASO Dashboard

About the Data

The data in this study looks specifically at iPhone downloads in the United States. Our data science team analyzed the top five apps ranking for a trending keyword, over a span of nine days: four days before trending, the day of trending, and four days after trending occurred. Also, we decided to focus our attention on data from trending search terms that were one word only.

Finally, for easier visualization and impact analysis, the download totals on our graphs have been indexed against the app's downloads four days prior to the term trending.

Overall Impact

lt="Graph Showing Overall Impact of Trending Searches on Downloads

Across the board, top five apps for a trending keyword saw a significant increase in downloads on the day of trending. As you can see in the graph, however, the momentum doesn't carry over beyond the "day of fame," with downloads returning to normal rates within the following four days.

Also, look at the three days prior to the day of trending. All of our top five apps had begun seeing a significant increase in downloads days before trending occurred. This collective boost, and eventual appearance on trending, is likely driven by the success of the top ranking app for that term. You'll notice that the app ranking #1 saw the most dramatic increase in downloads the two days before the term began trending, and all five hit their peak when the term showed up on Apple's list.

A Closer Look at Specific Types of Terms

Now that we've seen a high-level view of the impact a trending search term can have on downloads, let's look at two subsections of this data.

Keyword Is Not the App's Name

lt="Graph Showing Overall Impact of Trending Searches on Downloads, When the Term Is Not in the App's Name

Sometimes a trending search is a term that is not the actual name of an app. So instead of something like "Uber," you might see a trending search for "ridesharing."

As seen above, this particular combination of circumstances revealed that a much higher "pre-trending" download velocity was required to show up on the list. Because none of the top five apps for these terms uses the keyword in their title, the resultant increase in downloads was similar across all five apps.

Keyword Is in the App's Name

lt="Graph Showing Overall Impact of Trending Searches on Downloads, When the Term Is in the App's Name

Unique to this situation is the vast acceleration of App #1's download velocity. While apps two through 5 also experienced a sizable increase in downloads in the days prior to trending, the app ranking in position 1 for the term saw a unique growth level.

We found it interesting that, despite the dramatic peak building up to (and during) the period of trending, once the term was no longer trending, downloads eventually dropped back to their original level.

Dramatically increasing conversions (and thereby download velocity) on a particular term can get your app on the trending list, but it won't change your app's life forever. This is why it becomes important to "stick" on consecutive days, or work for repeat features on the trending searches list.

Has your app benefited from the trending searches addition to the App Store? We'd love for you to share your stories below!

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Karen Biscopink

Written by: Karen Biscopink, Head of Content

Date: July 2015