Search Changes, Falling Sales and a powerOne First (With Data!)

Last week Apple changed their search algorithms in the App Store. Within a few days, apparently realizing the changes weren’t such a good idea, Apple changed them back. We got caught in the middle on this one and it greatly affected our sales. We were down 30% at one point last week and never really recovered even after Apple changed it back.

What happened? In a nutshell Apple stopped using the title as keywords where they had in the past. Since we use words like “calculator” in our title we didn’t bother including it in the keywords, where we only have 100 characters to work with. So a search for “mortgage” showed us high but a search for “mortgage calculator” didn’t show us at all.

The fundamental issue is that search position and product sales are tied together. If you get caught in a downward trend on one than you also get hit on the other since product sales are a factor in search position.

In order to combat the problem there is only one solution: stimulate a bunch of sales over a sustained period of time to try and get the rankings back up. So we dropped the price of our Pro products to US$2.99. This is the first time in the three+ years of selling powerOne calculators on iOS that we have dropped the price. In all fairness we were considering a price drop anyway. It seems that $2.99 is becoming a premium price point. If all we do is maintain the same revenues with more customers it is a net gain for us. More customers means more people talking about powerOne which hopefully means more customers.

It’s very early but I thought I would show the impact of the top paid position for our two top selling products, powerOne Finance Pro and powerOne Scientific Pro. This is the US App Store for the Finance category for powerOne Finance Pro (the top graph) and the US iPad store for the Utilities category for powerOne Scientific Pro (bottom graph):

Both graphs show the same time frame with search term changes and price changes marked. We don’t sell enough powerOne Scientific Pro to rank on iPhone app store so didn’t include it. powerOne Finance Pro is by far our best selling product and is the one that has been featured by Apple numerous times. The impact of the search changes is especially pronounced on the iPhone version of powerOne with barely a blip on iPad. This implies that search is more important to us on iPhone then on the iPad App Store.

It is early but the dive toward #1 is very pronounced on both App Stores with the price change. On last check, powerOne Finance Pro was #25 and #4 in its category on iPhone and iPad respectively, and powerOne Scientific Pro was #82 on iPad in the Utilities category. (We still don’t rank high enough to be seen in its category on iPhone.) We haven’t been ranked this high in the Finance category since 2010. This means iPhone has likely leveled out (or peaked) in the Top 25, a very good place to be since the iPhone on App Store shows the top 25 on the first page. Meanwhile, on iPad, our rankings are still moving up the charts.

Again, it is too early to draw any conclusions. We may find that after an initial burst of discount seekers our sales fall back off. We should know more in the next couple of weeks.

[1] Two straight tough weeks for Apple. Apple uses a digital rights management technology to wrap apps before they go in the store. Something happened this week that made downloads impossible to run. Luckily we dodged the second bullet. We had new releases ready to go, too, but when Apple fixed the search problem we cancelled the releases. The downloads affected ran from July 3 to July 5.