Apple App Store Rolls Out a Big Search Update

November 30, 2015 - 3 minutes read

Studies have shown that around half of Apple App Store downloads are discovered via keyword searches within the app store. That puts an enormous amount of responsibility on Apple’s search bar; it can literally decide the fate of an iOS app developer’s app.

So, iPhone and iPad app developers will be thrilled to hear that Apple has rolled out some cutting-edge updates to their search algorithms, allowing for more extensive and targeted listings that more accurately reflect the value proposition of competing apps within a keyword niche.

While the search algorithm has been in a state of constant evolution from the get-go, the newest changes (which started kicking in around the beginning of November) are having surprisingly large effects on ranking orders compared to previous updates. In fact, sources like TechCrunch are even speculating that it may be signalling a move toward Apple’s own version of the PageRank system, as they figure out how to order results in a manner that reflects value without being susceptible to keyword manipulation.

The biggest change seems to be the expansion of keyword reach, meaning that many apps have found themselves ranking for keywords that aren’t explicitly listed in their metadata or title. This is good news, since predicting keyword usage is notoriously difficult, and users expect to be delivered results that meet their need even if the query is oddly-worded.

Another big change that spells potential big gains for paid apps is that the new results are showing less emphasis on free apps. Formerly, download rates were a big and largely unmediated search factor, meaning that free apps almost always showed up above paid apps. It could even be argued that this search deficiency could be part of the drive towards the “freemium” pricing structure that has been rising in popularity for years. Will new updates usher in the return of paid apps as the norm? Unlikely, but it certainly spells opportunity for San Fransico mobile app developers eager fo more varied pricing structures.

While it’s too early in the game to see how radically the changed search order will affect startup and app developer revenues, it’s expected to have a similar effect as big Google updates like Panda had for web pages; rewards for the virtues, and downgrades for the keyword-manipulators.

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