A new study from ad attribution and analytic company TUNE, shows that app store optimization may be more important than we previously thought.

In fact, most apps are found through searches on app stores like Google Play and the Apple App Store, rather than being on top of the popular app charts. The data shows that around half of mobile users found the last app they downloaded via an app store search.

On iOS, 47% said that they found the app through the store’s search engine, with 53% doing the same on Google Play.

The data compiled by TUNE was slightly lower than data cited in prior studies from Forrester and Nielsen. Nielsen said, “while most developers focus on cracking the top 25, search is becoming an increasingly important tool in the “long tail” of mobile apps.”

This is a huge win for small businesses who may feel their app could get lost amongst the millions of other apps available today. However, with a specific title such as a business name, customers will easily find and download their mobile app.

The second two most popular ways of discovering an app were as follows:

– 15% of users downloaded an app after hearing about it from a family member or friend from iOS, and 12% from Android did the same
– Reading about an app on the web spurred on 11% of iOS users to download the app, with 12% of Android users doing the same

On both platforms, placement on the Top Charts is still something that app publishers want, even going so far as to make attempts to manipulate app stores’ algorithms with bots or paid placement. However:

– Only 10% of users said they downloaded an iOS app from seeing it on the charts
– Only 2% of users downloaded an app because Apple featured it in their store
– Android users are more likely to discover an app via a webs search
– Twitter and Facebook ads and social shares only contribute to 1 or 2% of downloads

None of these figures mean that featured app discovery doesn’t have it’s place – it’s clear that developers still get a boost when they are highly ranked. However, things like Facebook App install aren’t a huge money maker.

TUNE compiled the survey by interviewing 875 United States users, and did not reference trends over time. They based their info on the last app downloaded by those surveyed.

Looking to learn more about App Store Optimization? Check out these blog posts:

1. Tips for App Store Optimization

2. The Simple Essentials for a Successful App Store Description