Blog The Complete App Competition Research Guide

The Complete App Competition Research Guide

Research competing apps

How many times have you studied your competitors’ apps?

No, I mean really studied them?

You may have put off this process because you thought it was too time consuming or simply not worth the effort.  Well, in this post, I’ll show you why app competition research is an absolute must for the survival of your app.

I’ll also give you some tools and shortcuts that can make your job easier and make the task much less daunting. Most of these strategies are for both the App Store and the Play Store.

But there are a couple that are store specific.

The real power of app competition research is to give you an understanding of what your competitors are doing and how you can adapt to the challenges of the market.

Features Your Competitors Should Add (or get rid of)

It can be easy for app publishers to fall in love with certain features of their app. But there can be a huge disconnect between what they think is cool and what their users want.

So before you launch a similar feature blindly, be sure that you do some market research and get a feel for what people are talking about. You can do this by surveying your users, or you can look through user reviews of competitor apps.

You can look through App Store and Play Store reviews for free, but it will take a lot of time. The alternative is to use something like Review Analysis to search for keywords in reviews and uncover this information.

For example, if you were looking for features of the app that people like, you could do a search for the keyword “like,” “best” or “love.”

When I searched for “best” the second review makes a good point. Since you have to wait for resources to be generated in the game, you don’t play as often and thus are less likely to burn yourself out.

This is something that you could build into your game or highlight in your marketing.

Mobile App Competitor Review Analytics

Likewise, look for features that users don’t like in other apps and steer clear from them. This one exercise can save you hundreds of hours of development time.

Simply, use the ‘Most Mentioned Keywords’ tab under Review Analysis to see which keywords are repeated across all of the reviews of an app.

App Competitor Analysis


Closely related to app features are bugs. You can search for keywords like “crash” or “bug” and see what people are having trouble within an app.

This is a good example of a long app review that I sampled from Pokémon Go. This might be more of a feature complaint than a bug report, but I wanted to feature this review because of the level of detail that this person goes into.

App Competitor Bug

Google Play Backlinks

As you probably know, backlinks are an important part of app rankings on the Play Store and on the web. So you need to have a plan to steadily build backlinks from highly related and reputable websites.

Well, why reinvent the wheel, when you can simply look at what your most successful competitors are doing. You can use a website like Open Site Explorer to see the web pages that link to your Play Store page.

For example, are are the first few results for Evernote.

Evernote app backlinks

As you can see, a lot of their backlinks come from tech news sites. You might not be able to get on the bigger sites right away. But there are some sites on the list that newer apps would have a good shot at being featured on.

A little research can go a long way here.

All you need is one high profile mention to get the ball rolling for your app.

Which SDKs are They Using?

This is a little more technical, but if you want to find out what kind of technology an app uses, you can use a site like Mighty Signal to do some research. The free version will give you a partial list of installed and uninstalled SDKs.

For less complex apps, this may be enough for you to understand their stack and possibly implement some of the same elements in your app. Here’s an example from the ESPN app.

App stack

Get Their Keywords

Now let’s get into keyword ASO. Obviously, you should research all of your competitors’ apps and find out if there are any keywords that would be a good match for your app.

App Competitor Analytics

You are looking for keyword that a high level of download intent, low competition, then high search volume…in that order. Then track those keywords and be sure to keep detailed notes on every keyword.

Mobile App Competitor Keyword Tracker

If you want to save some time, we also provide an estimate of how much each keyword contributes to their overall organic downloads. Starting with these keywords will give you a head start and save you the headache of sifting through every single keyword.

Mobile App Competitor Analysis Keyword Intelligence

Downloads and Revenue

Another important metric to understand is approximately how many downloads an app is getting and how much it is making in revenue. Since that data is private, you cannot get exact numbers.

But estimates will get you pretty close. Once you know this information, it will help you understand how to set your goals.

Daily estimated downloads


Daily Active Users and Monthly Active Users is a key measurement of the overall health of an app. Many top game companies will use these metrics to determine if a game is worth keeping or not.

Again, this data is estimated. But if you think that a competitor is a market leader, but their numbers say otherwise, you have saved yourself time and energy, by not studying the wrong competitor.

Active users

Audience Location

Localization can be a great way to increase the user base of your app, by several orders of magnitude. But where is the best place to start?

Well, that is going to depend on the type of app you have and where people are most likely to use your app. Your competitors can help you out in this department.

The most accurate way to figure out which countries have the most users is to look at the number of ratings of an app. In our Localization module, you can sort by number of ratings and see exactly which countries have the most users.

If most of your competitors have a lot of users in certain countries, then those countries are usually the best place to start. These apps have already tested those markets for you.

All you have to do is follow their lead.

Of course, it isn’t a guarantee that these countries will work for you. But they narrow down the options considerably.

Ratings sorted by country

Paid Ads

Is your competitor’s growth mostly organic or are they spending a lot on ads too? There are a few different ways to figure this out.

You can visit their mobile application website, then see if ads for that app follow you around on Facebook or Google Adwords. A simple Google web search or an app store search for related keywords will also reveal ads from your competitors.

Adwords example for app competition

Studying these ads will give you ideas for messaging and branding. It can also give you a ballpark of how much they are spending every month, based on the keywords they are ranking for.

Social Media Shares

The next thing that you will want to know is how much social media traction your competition has. If your competitors have an app website, you can put it into Buzzsumo and see the most shared content for that site.

Then you can possibly create similar content, but put your own spin on it.

When you put in, the most shared content on the site is not in English. Hmmm… maybe you should localize your website too?

Most shared content in mobile competition analysis

New Mentions

Finally, you need to stay on top of what your competition is doing.

There are two easy ways to do this.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a really convenient way to get new blog posts and competitor mentions in your inbox. It saves a lot of time and you might be surprised and some of the things that Alerts digs up.

When setting up an alert, be sure to use exact match by putting the name of a competing app in quotes. This will give you much better results.

Google Alerts for App Competition Analysis

Also search for keywords related to your market. For example, we track the keyword “App Store Optimization.”

Twitter Searches

Next, you can set up Twitter lists to track your competition. Of course, this assumes that your competition is on Twitter.

I’ve found that the easiest way to track Twitter lists is with Hootsuite. You can set up a list on Twitter or inside Hootsuite.

Then add a stream inside Hootsuite. Here’s what it looks like.

Track competition via Twitter


Use all of the strategies above to find out as much about your competitors as possible. You just might uncover some things that even the publisher of the app doesn’t know about. App competition research is an extremely important aspect of your overall app marketing strategy and should not be neglected.

Understanding what is working for other apps can give you potential strategies to implement. Knowing where other apps are weak can help you gain the competitive advantage.

Now get to work! 

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