The App Store Market Research Process That Decodes Top Charts Success

How did your last app launch go? Maybe it didn’t do as well as you thought it would.
…or hopefully it did well and you want to do even better next time!
In either case, this post will give you the skills that you need to get started with the market research process. Want to discover the apps in a niche that are doing 10x better than everyone else, so you can figure out their strategies?
Want to see approximately how much money they are making per day?
App revenue per day
Of course you do…
We will start with the big picture and gradually dig deeper into each layer of the app stores so you have a complete understanding of any app category or niche.
Let’s do this…

Creating a Successful App Starts with Setting Goals

Let’s begin with the end in mind. Begin by asking yourself, why are you creating this app?
Since you found this blog, I’m going to assume that you are like us and you want to create apps that make money.
But even if that is not your goal, be sure to clearly state your intentions before you start. Otherwise it can be easy to start chasing metrics that don’t bring you closer to your goal.
Whatever your goal, be sure to make it crystal clear before you start the research process. Your examination of a niche may cause you to alter your plans a little, but you need to have a starting point.

Listen to the Market – App Store Market Research

It can feel great to think of yourself as an app pioneer. You are giving The Man the finger and blazing your own path with a totally original app idea.
Hold on there Oregon Trail.
There is no need to make things more difficult that they need to be. You might think that the idea for your next app is a guaranteed winner.
I hate to break it to you but…
…your opinion doesn’t matter. All that matters is what the market wants.
Therefore, we need to figure out what the public is interested in and is currently downloading. What people want, may intersect with your vision, but that is often not the case.
That is where Apptopia’s amazing new App Intelligence platform is invaluable.
This research process was much more difficult in the past, but now you can have a wealth of information at your fingertips. Apptopia has also some data that is not available anywhere else (as far as I know).

Note: Keep in mind that most of the information in this post is only available with the Apptopia paid plan.

Let’s dig into it…

Create a Watchlist

App Watchlist
Before you do any research, be sure to create a Watchlist in Apptopia. This will allow you to track any apps that you want to examine more closely later.

Top Charts

When you first login your Apptopia account, you will see your dashboard. At the top of the screen, start by clicking on the Top Charts link.
Top Charts listing
Then browse the store and category you want to investigate. I’m sure that you have probably done this before, but it is a good exercise to take a look at what is currently on the list. 
Things can change quickly.
One thing to be aware of when choosing a category from the drop-down menu, is that all of the categories may not be visible right away. You have to scroll down to see all of them.
More menu items
Besides looking for hot new apps, also take note of once popular apps that have dropped in the rankings. Ask yourself why they dropped.
You are looking for general trends and types of apps that seem to be popular right now. Don’t spend a ton of time on this though, just enough to get a good feel for your target category.
The other tools in the dashboard will help you spot trends much faster…

How to Read the Surge Report

The next thing that you should look at is the Surge Report. You can access via the menu on the left side of the screen.
Surge Report for apps
This report will help you pick out chart big movers, apps that have moved at least 25 spots on the Top Charts. The report is updated every 24 hours, so you will always get the most recent results.
Chart rankings can change quickly, so it is important to have up-to-date information.
First, let’s look at one of our favorite App Store categories, Casino Games. When we look at the Free chart, we notice that there are different types of games on the list.
But the one that really stands out is the one that is making $20K per day. In this case, it happens to be a slots app.
Casino apps analysis

Note: Want to see which app on the list is bringing in more than 250K downloads a day? Click here to join Apptopia and find out.

Now that doesn’t mean that you should automatically run out and make a slots app. But it does help you zero in on an opportunity very quickly.
As I look at the other slots apps on the list, the other apps do well, but not nearly as well as this game. So this is a game that you should certainly track and try and figure out why it is doing so well.
The question then becomes…
…do you make a free or paid game?
Glad you asked.
This is what the Paid Surge Report looks like.

Paid apps list

To see the hidden apps on the list, join Apptopia.

HUGE difference in the number of downloads and amount of money these apps make. The answer is clear: You need to build a free app, if you want to succeed in the Casino category.
Keep in mind that these are the fastest moving apps, and while they can give you a great idea of what is trending at the moment, be sure to research other apps that have been on the charts for awhile.
Looking at both will give you the bigger picture and help you make a more informed decision as to what to build next. 
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Apps with Breakout Potential

Predict breakout apps
Now this is a benefit that is unique to Apptopia and something that you should really start using. Their proprietary algorithm models apps that have had great success in the past and looks for those features in apps that have not had a big breakout yet.
A breakout is defined as a top 100 listing in that app’s category. This metric gives you the probability of the app reaching the top 100 within the next four weeks.
Here is a current screenshot from the iOS Casino category.
Apps that might breakout
Let’s take a look at the columns, so you know what is going on.
I’ll start from the far right.

Downloads and Revenue

The Downloads and Revenue columns are the results from yesterday. This helps you see the current performance of the app.

Stealth Score

To the left of that is the Stealth Score. This score indicates how many chart positions the app is from the top 100 list, for that category.
The higher the number, the more unknown the app is.
In the market research process, this can have some value because you can see approximately how many downloads and how much revenue is required to get into the top 100. Of course, there are other factors involved but this gives you a ballpark idea.

Breakout Potential

After that, we have the Breakout Potential column. This is measured on a scale of 0% to 100%, and as I mentioned before, it shows the probability that the app will get into the top 100 within the next four weeks.
This is key information, because it gives you the opportunity to study an app before it gets on the top 100 list.
If you track several of these apps over time, you should start to see patterns.
Look for things like: 

  • Did these apps do some sort of outside promotion?
  • What was the pricing strategy?
  • Were the number of reviews of the app trending up?
  • Was the app updated frequently?
  • What did the ASO of the app look like before and after?

From there, you can deconstruct why these apps are successful and use the same strategies for your apps.
This is huge, be sure to track this list for your category! 

Prospect Score

The final column on the Breakout Predictor screen is the Prospect Score. This is a score produced by combining the Breakout Potential and Stealth Score.
You can think of it as a measurement of how “undervalued” the app is.
A higher score is better. 
This could help if you see several apps of one type that are on this list, but have not become popular yet. You could potentially jump on a new trend and make a lot of money.
If you are looking to buy existing apps, this score can be an easy way to help you pick out “sleepers” that nobody knows about, but could be successful. 

Top New Releases

The last tab in the dashboard highlights Top New Releases. Like the Surge Report, this list gives you a “cheat sheet” of which new apps are doing well.
This makes it easy to spot new trends in your category and study apps that are already successful. If you want your app to start strong, take a look at what these apps are doing.
Apps are ranked by average downloads per day since launch.
Yes, downloads can be faked, but if you continue following this post and do more research on the app, it will usually be apparent which apps have legit downloads and which ones don’t.
The Top Charts take several other factors into the ranking equation, so it can dilute the real demand for the app.
These estimates will also show you approximately how many downloads you will need to get on the Top Charts.
Match the download numbers on this list to the current Top Chart ranking of the app and you will have a pretty good idea of the download numbers you will have to hit.
top new apps

Examine Individual Apps

app profile
Now that you have some intel from some of the short lists, it is time to research individual apps. When you click on the name of any app on the Apptopia platform, you will see the individual app profile.
Tabs for each app

Download and Revenue Trends

When you click on the Performance tab, you will see the download and revenue trends. Pretty straightforward.


As you probably know, localizing your app can explode your downloads, but only if you do it right. The question then becomes, which countries should you start with?
Look at the top performing apps in your target category and see which countries they are doing the best in.
That’s where you should start with your localization efforts. 

Rank History

Next, you can see all of the categories the app currently ranks in and the ranking history for that country/category. Great for localization and understanding how popular the app is in other parts of the world.
Country ranking history


A cool feature that Apptopia has is they allow you to see the SDKs that apps are using. This currently only works for free apps.
But it can be a great way to discover awesome ad, analytics, development and social SDKs that you can use with your apps.
SDKs app is using

Ratings, Screenshots, Description and Version History

Finally, you can see some basic information on the app. This is good for checking out their screenshots and how often they update the app.
You may also get a few ideas for your app description by reading other app descriptions. This is especially helpful for Google Play because keywords are pulled from the description.
App ratings

Start Collecting App Data

After completing the research above, you will have a much better idea of what kind of app you should make, how to price it and more.
Once you know what kind of app you are going to make, you need to start digging a little deeper. That is when it is helpful to have an App Store Optimization platform handy.
It will help you track keywords and more. There are quite a few out there, but we will use Mobile Action in this example.
They have a ton of great tools that are available for free (and without excessive nag screens). If you like their platform and want to step up to the Professional Plan, be sure to get the Bluecloud Select trial for $1.
With it, you get two months of Mobile Action Pro for free (a $998 value).
How’s that for bang for your buck?!
Now take all of the apps on your Apptopia Watchlist and plug them into the Mobile Action dashboard. Click on the green “+” symbol to add a new app that you want to examine.
Add app to dashboard to track for App Store market research
Since you researching an app idea, won’t have an app to add. Just use an app that is similar to the one you want to create. 

Tracking Keywords

Now that you have added the app you want to examine, click on the Keyword Detector module on the left side. Search for the apps you want to study and the platform will pull up all the keywords that the app ranks for.
If you want to track all of those keywords (as you probably should), just click on the Track All button.
Track all keywords
This is the start of a keyword list for your new app. Researching the keywords that other similar apps are using is a great way to dig up new keywords.
To learn which keywords to keep, as well as the entire App Store Optimization process, be sure to take our course.

Review Mining

Next, Mobile Action makes it easy to mine app reviews. This is a great source of user generated keywords, but it is also an awesome way to find out what people love and hate about apps that are similar to the one you want to make.
Just go to the Review Analysis module and enter a keyword that you want to research. For example, if you want to find features that people hate about an app, you can use the keyword “hate” or something similar.
“Bug” would be another good keyword to search for to find bugs in the app.
Bugs in app
I think you will be surprised at what you can discover through this process.
If you follow all of the previous steps, you will have an excellent idea of what it takes to create a successful app in your target category. 
If you want to get our complete App Template Bundle that covers parts of the app development and marketing process not covered in this post, download it here.

How Accurate Are the App Intelligence Numbers?

Before I end this post, it is important to mention that almost all downloads and revenue numbers on any App Intelligence platform are estimates. Nobody except the app publisher and the app store has the real download and revenue numbers for each app. 
Therefore, every App Intelligence company (Apptopia, Sensor Tower, Mobile Action, App Annie, etc.) has their own model that they use to estimate these numbers and they usually have a few actual data points.
Their model then extrapolates any missing data and the quality of the model will determine how accurate the missing data points are.
While we believe that Apptopia’s data is generally excellent, there may be categories where it may not be as accurate as others.
The same goes for any other platform. 
I have found that even if the numbers are off a little, they should still be good estimates, relative to other apps, on the same platform.
For example, if Apptopia estimates that App X has 100,020 monthly downloads and Mobile Action estimates that it has 100,500…
Which one is right?
Again, nobody but the app publisher and the actual app store knows that answer.
However, if App Y gets 10x more downloads than App X in actual download numbers, then you will generally see that order of magnitude reflected in the numbers on each platform.
For the purpose of researching a market, that is all you need.
The bottom line is that this is not an exact science. However, the numbers will give you excellent insight into how well apps are doing, so you can figure out which apps are doing well and model them.


So that is how you get started with market research on a category you are looking to get into. There are many other nuances that we will get into with a course later, but this tutorial will give you more than enough to get started.
To get answers to your market research questions right now, be sure to join the Bluecloud Select community. I’m continually amazed that the level of answers people get to their questions.
Do you have any other market research tips? Or do you have any other questions? Let us know in the comments below… 


  1. Markus
  2. Ken
    • Hugh Kimura

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