Is a Smarter App Store Keyword Search Coming?

Is Apple making App Store keyword search even smarter? That appears to be the case, according to a post on TechCrunch last month.

The complexities of this upgraded App Store keyword search isn’t straightforward, nor easy to figure out how to capitalize from an App Store optimization standpoint. What we do know, however, is that this algorithmic change is tied to relevancy.

The article cites an example where Twitter-related apps that previously hadn’t appeared for the keyword “Twitter” are now appearing, and quite high. I still see a jigsaw puzzle game in the #10 spot for the keyword “wine” so this clearly is either being tested or refined.

Some developers have said they’ve even seen their apps surfacing for keywords not in their title, company name, keywords or in-app purchase names. If that’s the case, that would be the first time Apple has opened up their App Store keyword search algorithm outside those fields. I haven’t come across this yet, but do believe we’re going to start to see something like this in 2016.

Apple must move away from such an arbitrary way to display apps in the App Store. (I’ve previously written about what I would do to change App Store search, including suppressing apps that don’t make any updates or support new operating systems.) I understand the comparisons to the web, where developers create their page title and add keywords to their content in hopes of ranking high. That’s similar here, but in a much more limited way — you’re only able to rank for words using four fields that total maybe 200 characters.

With the release of Apple’s App Store API Validation Tool, the company is basically telling developers what they want to see online and how it bridges that world with their iOS apps. That’s data that Apple is capturing to use somehow and most likely benefit those who comply. The opening up of Spotlight search in iOS 9 also shows that in-app content and context matter even more now than ever before.

Last month, Google said they’ll start displaying app-only content in their search. This is HUGE. For apps like Winery Passport and Brewery Passport, which are app-only products that are leading their respective industries, this is a game changer. Now when someone searches “ABC Winery” on mobile, they’ll see Winery Passport’s listing — I haven’t implemented yet, but it’s on the roadmap.

I have to believe by Apple allowing developers to make their content available in Spotlight search, they’ll eventually use that in the App Store. Why wouldn’t they? More than 50% of the time apps are discovered through App Store keyword search.

With hundreds of millions of users, now is the time to give them what they want: apps they’re actually searching for.

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